5. You’re Next (2011)
Adam Wingard’s home invasion film borrows a lot from the genre playbook established mostly on the 80s – it has a secretly kickass female protagonist, played with gusto by Sharni Vinson; a background of family intrigue treated with hints of black comedy and a campy sensibility; creepily masked killers who also have their own quibbles with each other; and a duplicitous characters who shows himself at the end.
It’s a delicious little throwback, a violent, bloody thriller with a satirical way of looking at its characters and a very self-conscious ending. Every one of its actors is on-board, building a smartly composed ensemble piece that gets torn apart one by one. Afflictive, fun and full of interesting subtext if you can read between the lines, You’re Next also brought a talented writer/director duo to everyone’s attention.
4. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Maybe the most famously referential horror pic of recent years, The Cabin in the Woods is a terrifically smart thriller from Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, referencing so many different subgenres and weary clichés that it almost becomes a big spoof of itself.
Whedon and Goddard don’t let it happen, though, playing an intelligent and refined game with the spectator as The Cabin in the Woods slowly unlocks its secret, going from a throwback homage to the 70s and 80s horror to a surprisingly contemporary story.
It’s like a “millennial film” mashed up with an old-school horror/sci-fi thriller, and the fact that it works is proof of Whedon’s and Goddard’s talent for balancing their narratives. Don’t look for great performances and big emotional moments here, but The Cabin in the Woods is fun and referential in a way that none of the other films on this list dared being.
3. Let Me In (2010)
Swedish gem Let The Right One In is terrifying and amazing in a lot of ways, but that’s no reason to disavow this American remake, a smart alternative take on the same story about a lonely boy slowly beginning to develop a true obsession for his new neighbor, a mysterious girl played by Chloë Grace Moretz.
Set in the 1980s and filmed with quiet wonder and a slightly off-kilter energy by director/writer Matt Reeves, Let Me In is a tense exercise in suspense and a growing up story above everything else.
That’s what it shares with its close cousins from the era that it portrays – it’s a vampire story that saves the blood for the ending, a heartrending story about two children who stand at the verge of society and who, in a way, feel neglected by their own families (or lack thereof). Let Me In talks of a childhood that’s terrifyingly perceptive, much in the way children were depicted back then.
2. It Follows (2014)
David Robert Mitchell’s masterpiece of a horror movie, It Follows, deals in heavy issues like the ominous fear of mortality, old age, abandonment, sexual violence and disability, but it wouldn’t be the same without its synth-heavy soundtrack, a cool and clear reference to the John Carpenter films of yore.
There’s also the 80s element to the story, which never really lets us pinpoint the era in which is set – there’s phones but only old TVs broadcasting old movies. It Follows is like a throwback gem with the substance of a modern classic.
From its scare strategies to its creepy suburban vibe, it borrows what worked best about those 80s classics, creepy growing up stories full of deeper meanings behind its monsters and jump-scares, while making a movie that connects to its younger audience because the experience of entering post-adolescence and facing everything you’re afraid of in life is relatable no matter what’s your generation.
1. The House of the Devil (2009)
There’s 80s homages, and then there’s The House of the Devil. Director Ti West is so pervasive in his references and so scrupulous in his simulation of a different era of filmmaking that The House of the Devil often feels like a real lost 80s movie, not a modern homage.
From the camera movements in its beautiful cinematography to the slow build-up until the chaotic ending, West’s film is a rare piece of throwback entertainment that takes its mission to emulate the 80s seriously and thoroughly.
The plot comes with the obligatory funny best friend trying to keep the protagonist from making an obvious mistake, the creepy yet polite-enough-to-not-scare-her-away host of the title house, the cold-as-ice family matriarch, and even a rapid-fire climax that takes viewers by surprise and plunges everything into pure chaos. If you’re really missing the 80s, The House of the Devil is your movie.
Author Bio: Caio Coletti is a Brazilian-born journalist, a proud poptimist, and has too many opinions to keep them all to himself.