17. Don’t Go In The House (1980)
Rotten Tomatoes – “No Score Yet…”
IMDb – 5.6
After growing up under the strict care of his mother and being punished by having his hand held over naked flames, the insular Donny becomes a pyromaniac. When his mother dies, he begins to hear voices in his head telling him to punish the “evil women” – which he does so with a flamethrower. The slow-burning pace does not harm the film’s sense of pervading anxiety as we see Donny later go full-psycho. Also, the slightly simplistic effects of the flame-engulfed bodies and charred corpses really do get under your skin.
Despite ‘Don’t Go In The House’ being an obvious ‘Psycho’ rip-off – this low-budget slasher flick actually proves to be a grim and downright disturbing piece of work that unsurprisingly found itself on the D.P.P’s Video Nasties list. The film was also released amongst a plethora of other ‘Don’t Go…’ films such as ‘Don’t Go In The Woods’, ‘Don’t Go To Sleep’ and ‘Don’t Go Near The Park’, etc making it rather easy to be overlooked.
16. Deadly Blessing (1981)
Rotten Tomatoes – 20%
IMDb – 5.5
After her husband is found dead under mysterious circumstances, a woman invites her friends to stay for support at her isolated farmhouse which neighbours a secluded religious sect of Amish-like people known as “Hittites”. The film, surprisingly, possesses a slow-building narrative which helps the tension to mount effectively, assisted by sufficient jolts which are dotted around the proceedings. It also makes the sinister pay-off all the more potent despite a somewhat divisive – ‘Carrie’-inspired final moment.
‘Deadly Blessing’ is certainly one of Wes Craven’s most peculiar films – Donald Guarisco astutely observed it as bridging the gap between Craven’s raw early work and the more polished films which followed soon after. Nowadays, ‘Deadly Blessing’ is often noted as being the first major Sharon Stone appearance in a film but it surely deserves more recognition than that – even if it does not rank as one of Craven’s absolute best films.
15. Creepshow 2 (1987)
Rotten Tomatoes – 30%
IMDb – 5.9
‘Creepshow 2’ is a slightly belated sequel by usual 80s horror terms – arriving a full five years after the original. It retains the familiar style of the original by retaining the telling influences from EC comics of managing to be successfully creepy with a winking humour, but this time the film tells three stories instead of five.
The first segment involves a Native Indian statue coming back to life to exact revenge for its owners death; the second sees a group of jocks head out to a raft in the middle of a lake where an amorphous mass of slime dissolves them one by one in a ‘Jaws’ meets ‘The Blob’ tale; and the final third part sees a women commit a hit-and-run on a hitch-hiker for his bloodied spectre to keep appearing for the rest of her journey.
‘Creepshow 2’ does not have the flair or the success of the wicked humour present in the first film, but it was not helmed by George A. Romero (only scripted). The first sequence falls flat and the segues are plain annoying, but the second and third sequences remain highly entertaining and very gruesome, if a little insipid at times. ‘Creepshow 2’ is satisfactory follow-up!
14. Friday The 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
Rotten Tomatoes – 54%
IMDb – 5.8
After Jason’s corpse is struck by lightning, the ‘Friday The 13th’ saga was reactivated for more teenagers to be slain yet again. It took five sequels to realise that Jason Voorhees was simply being repeatedly killed off so many times in an attempt to finalize the saga for him only to be resurrected again, and again, and again for the sake of profit.
‘Part VI’ acknowledges this absurdity with a James Bond-styled opening credits and characters giving self-deprecating lines. “Why’d they have to go and dig up Jason? Some folks sure got a strange idea of entertainment!” one character says whilst breaking the fourth wall. And in another instance – “I’ve seen enough horror movies to tell that any man wearing a mask is never friendly”. The humour works and makes for a fresh, slightly kitsch entry to a waning franchise.
The inwardly directed humour helped gain some sort of credibility before the totally deplorable 7th feature (‘The New Blood’) came along and trampled over it. That said, ‘Jason Lives’ does fall within the same formula trappings of people merely being butchered one after another, but at least this time the audience is given a little more invention with the kills (triple-decapitation, double-bike-machete-skewer or simply folded in half). Part VI is quite possibly the very best ‘Friday The 13th’ sequel and its higher than usual Rotten Tomato score prove it.
13. The Fly II (1989)
Rotten Tomatoes – 27%
IMDb – 4.8
Set almost directly after the events of the first film – ‘The Fly II’ stars Eric Stoltz as the larvae offspring of Seth Brundle who is being studied in the Bartok laboratories where the telepods are also being repaired. He is growing at a phenomenal rate and will soon metamorphose into something hideous…
‘The Fly II’ certainly qualifies for what one could call an unnecessary sequel; the film pays scant attention to plot details and is essentially a vehicle for displaying some utterly disgusting special effects. Nevertheless, if the film is considered merely as a monster movie and nothing more (what the director intended as he mentioned in the film’s commentary) – it proves to be a rather excellent watch.
It goes without saying that this is a sequel that does not come close to either originals – but with Chris Walas directing, (who provided the Oscar winning SFX of the first film) it is ensured that the vomit-inducing gore is going to be taking centre stage making the film repellent for some, and gratifying for others. On another note, the film’s climax displays one of the most grotesque comeuppances in horror cinema and the scenes with the mutated Golden Retriever are truly heart-breaking.
12. Maniac! (1980)
Rotten Tomatoes – 43%
IMDb – 6.5
An unblinking glimpse into the mind of a pathological killer. ‘Maniac!’ focuses on Frank Zito – a rather disturbed individual who brutally murders anyone who takes his fancy whilst having a strong fondness for scalping his women victims and placing their hair atop one of his collection of mannequins which resemble a horrifyingly twisted makeshift family (some of which, he shares the same bed with…)
Zito could be one of the most reprehensible characters in all of horror cinema (a disturbingly subtle performance from Joe Spinell) – he literally has zero redeeming qualities and his lumbering, unkempt, grubby appearance make him all the more scarier, thus accentuating his brutal crimes. We only see glimpses of the charming, or at least functional person he may once have been, but this is all part of his subterfuge to lure in more victims.
In the same vein as ‘Peeping Tom’ and the often compared ‘Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer’, the audience is forced to share most of the screen time with the monster – to get inside his mind as he trudges the grungy New York streets and see the world from his skewered perspective. ‘Maniac!’ is one ugly, but compulsive movie.
11. Prince Of Darkness (1987)
Rotten Tomatoes – 57%
IMDb – 6.7
An ominous canister of swirling green slime is discovered in the bowels of an old church by a priest; he approaches a team of quantum physics students to investigate. The discovery also coincides with freakish occurrences such as swarming insects, solar eclipses, startling behaviour from the local vagrants (including a rough-looking Alice Cooper) and an eerie shared subconscious vision between the characters.
‘Prince Of Darkness’ is John Carpenters second instalment to his unofficial ‘Apocalypse trilogy’ released in-between the classic ‘The Thing’ and ‘In The Mouth Of Madness’, another underrated gem. The film also saw Carpenter team up with Donald Pleasence for a third and final time.
Despite baring many similarities to Carpenter’s own ‘Assault On Precinct 13’ with the characters barricading themselves inside a building from an exterior threat – the intelligent (if sometimes perplexing) supernatural spin and the almost constant apocalyptic score ensures that ‘Prince Of Darkness’ oozes with a feeling of horror.
Also, in keeping with the other ‘Apocalypse trilogy’ films – the film also packs some effective cinematography as well as a fantastic ending. One of Carpenter’s most underrated films.
10. Nightmare On Elm Street II: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
Rotten Tomatoes – 42%
IMDb – 5.3
After the events of the original film, a new family have moved into Nancy’s old house where the nightmares of Freddy return to haunt the teenage son (Mark Patton). The inclusion of a male lead and his onscreen antics (shower room bondage and S&M bar visits) lead ‘Freddy’s Revenge’ to be analysed as having a glaring homoerotic subtext – which did not so much hurt the film as it made it a something of a cultural oddity.
The inclusion of this largely, but unfairly maligned sequel may prove to be a highly controversial one – but when compared to some of the utterly dreadful sequels the franchise subsequently spawned, (most notably ‘Dream Child’ and ‘Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare’) ‘Freddy’s Revenge’ is not all that bad. This sequel still rubs fan and critics the wrong way as Krueger is here allowed to venture outside of the dream world and into reality. In retrospect, the rules and gimmicks of the franchise were not yet set in concrete so the producers did not see anything wrong with this.
All in all, this film contains some of the most effective moments of the franchise – such as the startling opening and closing school bus rides and when Krueger literally cuts his way out of the lead character. It is a shame that it exists in the shadow of ‘Dream Warriors’ (an admittedly better film nonetheless), because ‘Freddy’s Revenge certainly is one of the better ‘Nightmare’ sequels.
9. Just Before Dawn (1981)
Rotten Tomatoes – “No Score Yet…”
IMDb – 6.3
Films like ‘Squirm’ and ‘Blue Sunshine’ prove that Jeff Lieberman was one of the most overlooked horror/thriller directors of the 70s and 80s. ‘Just Before Dawn’ undoubtedly remains one of his best films. Five young campers (who were evidently not fazed by ‘Deliverance’) head off into the American countryside for a few days of drinking, skinny-dipping and adventure. Before long, they have attracted the attention of some rather odd local folk who proceed to stalk and slash them one by one.
Instead of relying on gore and superfluous onscreen murders, the film opts for rational characters (that are effectively performed) and creeping suspense that give a refreshing lift to the simplistic hillbilly horror premise instead of going for the jugular straight away. For these reasons, ‘Just Before Dawn’ is given an edge that run-of-the-mill slasher films could never have hoped to possess – it also displays Lieberman’s uncelebrated skill as a director.