14. Possession (1981)
Mark (Sam Neill) is an international spy who returns home and discovers that his wife, Anna (Isabelle Adjani) is seeking a divorce. Although he wants to work things out, she claims that she is in love with somebody else. Upon separating, Mark begins to obsess over Anna, who leaves their son abandoned and disappears frequently.
Things escalate worse when he confronts her new lover, Heinrich, who also is uncertain about Anna’s erratic mood swings. Eventually, Mark hires a private detective and begins seeing a woman named Helen (also Adjani) whom resembles his wife.
Directed by Andrzej Zulawski and co-written with Frederic Tuten, “Possession” was inspired by the director’s own divorce. The story is three films in one: drama, supernatural horror and action. Released in Europe in 1981 and after a limited run in the UK it was later banned and listed as a Video Nasty.
By the 1983 release in America, the original running time of one-hundred-and-twenty-four minutes was edited down to ninety-seven minutes. In 1999, England lifted the ban and released it on video uncut. June 2016 the uncut Blu-ray will be available with a bevy of extras.
15. Absurd (1981)
Mikos (George Eastman) is a Greek citizen with healing factors but driven to insanity by the church. He trailed by a priest who attempts to disembowel him. however, Mikos recovers in hospital, escapes and goes on a killing spree. The priest informs the authorities that the only way to defeat the monster is to destroy the brain.
Meanwhile, Mikos has been struck by a hit and run driver, Mr. Bennett, who is on his way with his wife to watch a football game at a friend’s house. The monster discovers the home of the Bennetts’ house and proceeds to mutilate everyone there.
Directed by Peter Newton (aka Joe D’Amoto) and written by John Cart (George Eastman), “Absurd” also known as “Horrible” is the follow-up to “Antropophagus” in the Italian series of zombie films.
To make it more marketable to American audiences, the director made the setting in the states even though shot in Italy. Many comparisons to “Halloween” and “The Boogeyman”, but with a greater European emphasis on gore.
16. Bloody Moon (1981)
At a masquerade party, the facially disfigured Miguel, attempts to seduce a young woman, but things go wrong and he ends up stabbing her to death with scissors. He is committed to an insane asylum for the next five years. When his time is served, Miguel is released to the care of his incestuous sister, Manuela, and they live with their invalid aunt.
His sister runs a women’s boarding school in Spain and one of students is a beautiful brunette named Angela. Miguel begins to stalk her, yet still wants to resume his relationship with Manuela. Eventually, many of Angela’s friends begin turning up horribly mutilated at the hands of a masked assailant.
Directed by Jesus Franco Manera (aka Jess Franco) and a script by Rayo Casablanca (aka Erich Tomek). “Bloody Moon” was released in Germany and Spain in 1981, but didn’t make it to the US until 1983.
Banned in the UK, labeled as one infamous Video Nasties during the 1980s and wasn’t released on DVD until 2008. It also contains many alternative titles such as “The Saw of Death”, “The Bloody Moon Murders” and “Colegialas Violadas (Violated School Girls)”.
17. House by The Cemetery (1981)
In New York, the Boyle family is gearing for a move to Boston. Norman is bringing his wife, Lucy, and their son, Bob, to a former colleague’s house, who killed his mistress and then committed suicide. When they arrive, the Oak Mansion is in poor condition, while the cellar door is locked and nailed shut.
Strange sounds are heard at night and later come to discover an infestation of bats along with the tombstones of the previous owners, the Freudsteins. The family wants to be relocated, but are told they will have to wait a few days. Meanwhile, Norman discovers that Dr. Jacob Freudstein was conducting illegal experiments in the cellar.
Directed by Lucio Fulci, “House by the Cemetery” is the third part of the director’s Death Trilogy, which includes “City of the Living Dead” and “The Beyond”. Released in Italy and other parts of Europe in 1981, but banned and censored in the UK.
By 1983 it was released in the US, but the VHS issues had the reels out of order and confused the audiences. In the 2000s, the film was restored and made available on DVD uncut.
18. Evilspeak (1981/82)
During the Dark Ages, a Satanic priest, Father Estaban (Night Court’s Richard Moll) has been banished from Spain and conducts a human sacrifice. In the present day, Stanley Coopersmith is an orphaned outcast at an American military school and is abused and ridiculed by the other cadets and various instructors.
As a form of punishment, he forced to clean the church’s cellar and in a darkened room, he discovers books of black magic along with a diary that belonged to Father Estaban. Fascinated, he uses the computer to translate the text from Latin into English. Realizing the power within, he begins to conduct a Black Mass and plots revenge upon those who have done him harm.
Directed by Eric Weston and a script co-written with Joseph Garofalo, “Evilspeak” was originally titled “The Foundling”. Although it’s an American film (shot in California), it was first released in Japan of 1981, the in the US by 1982. To avoid an “X” rating for gore and nudity, the film was edited down to ninety-two minutes, but was still banned in the UK for violence and the glorification of Satanism.
By the 2000s, it was released uncut on DVD and Blu-ray with its original running time of one-hundred minutes. A supportive following from filmgoers and critics built up around the movie, including the late founder of the Church of Satan, Anton LaVey.
19. Unhinged (1982)
Three college women, Gloria, Nancy and Terry, head off to a music festival. While speeding during a thunderstorm, their car hits a log and crashes into a ravine. When they come to, they take shelter in an old mansion owned a mother and daughter.
It is advised that they spend the night and over dinner, Mrs. Penrose goes a tangent about how horrible men are, mentioning her adulterous ex-husband. While the guests try to sleep, they hear disturbing sounds in addition to noticing other peculiarities within the family.
Directed by Don Gronquist and a script co-written with Reagan Ramsey, “Unhinged” was shot in Portland, Oregon for a budget of $100, 000. Briefly released in the UK, then the video release was banned and added to the list of Video Nasties because of violence and nudity. In 2004, it was released uncut on DVD and obtained an 18+ certificate in the UK.
20. Tenebre (1982)
American horror novelist, Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) arrives in Italy to promote his new book “Tenebrae”. Accompanied by his agent Bullmer (John Saxon) and assistant Anne (Daria Nicolodi), but is unaware that his ex-wife is following them. Shortly before he arrived a shoplifter was murdered in her home with a straight razor and pages of his book stuffed in her mouth.
Soon after, Peter begins to received collaged messages from the killer, who goes on a killing spree. When the author goes on television show, the host/interviewer has an unusual interest in his work, but is later one of the murderer’s victims. Eventually, more killings occur and the authorities suggest that Peter should leave the country for his safety.
“Tenebre” was written and directed by Dario Argento, who was inspired by an obsessed fan who would telephone and criticize him making psychologically damaging films. Despite editing much of violence of the UK still banned it.
Three different edits of the feature were released, but once restored to its original one-hundred-and-ten-minute version, it would be revered as one of Argento’s best films, when previously it was a modest success and received negative reviews from critics. In 2016, a fully restored and uncut version was released on DVD and Blu-ray.
Author Bio: James Leon is a screenwriter/director currently residing in the Bay Area of California. His first feature length film, “Dropping Like Flies”, is gearing up for a release in September of 2015. He loves cats, coffee & collage art.