25 Of The Most Underrated Horror Films From The 1980s

8. Monkey Shines (1988)

Monkey Shines An Experiment In Fear (1988)

Rotten Tomatoes – 52%

IMDb – 6.2

When an athlete, Alan (Jason Beghe), is struck down by a car, he is rendered a quadriplegic, ending his career. With Alan struggling to come to terms with the devastation, a friend gives him a supremely intelligent monkey to help with household tasks. Unbeknownst to Alan, the monkey has been injected with human brain tissue and begins to act out Alan’s vengeful fantasies against his will.

This largely forgotten offbeat George. A Romero effort most definitely remains as one of his most interesting films behind his revered ‘Dead’ trilogy and ‘Martin’ but has since faded into obscurity.

When ‘Monkey Shines’ kicks into gear it becomes a rather intense affair (the ‘monkey vision’ dream sequences are especially startling) but it is also bolstered by its sentimentality and an underlying layer of melancholy regarding Alan’s situation. A uniquely impressive film.


7. Pet Sematary (1989)


Rotten Tomatoes – 43%

IMDb – 6.5

A doctor and his family arrive at their new home in New England to discover that the pet cemetery located nearby reanimates whatever corpse is buried in it. It is a perfect setup that intertwines what people love the most, and what they fear the most which the film (for the most part) successfully carries out.

Reportedly, ‘Pet Sematary’ is the Stephen King film adaptation that he himself is most satisfied with; it is no surprise however considering that he wrote the screenplay himself and even has a brief cameo as a Minister. However, few people would hold this up there with the likes of ‘The Shining’ or ‘Carrie’.

The film features a series of clunky flashbacks, characters going through with extremely dumb decisions and it also trims out many elements of the book (notably the ‘Wendigo’ spirit and Judd’s wife). But on the other hand, it does produce an abundance of extremely ghastly moments (chiefly, the horrifying Zelda scenes) and it maintains the full essence of morbidity that the source material had in spades.


6. The Entity (1981)

the entity

Rotten Tomatoes – “No Score Yet…”

IMDb – 6.6

Carla Moran, a single mother who lives with her three children, is violently raped repeatedly by what appears to be a malevolent spirit. She seeks psychiatric help before finally turning to the help of paranormal investigators. Barbara Hershey gives a terrific central performance that went almost totally underappreciated as well as Ron Silver as her shrink who believes that Carla herself is the cause of the attacks.

This polished early 80s shocker remains quite an alarming picture even to this day. Despite it being overshadowed by ‘Poltergeist’ which was released around the same time, and to a lesser extent ‘The Exorcist’, ‘The Entity’ holds its own as a great horror film that has surely had more than a slight influence on the ‘Paranormal Activity’ franchise.

The film is sometimes criticized for being too talkative, but conversely, the paranormal vs. medical discussions actually give it some substantial weight and elevate the film’s standards above that of the typical haunted house flick.


5. The Beast Within (1982)

The Beast Within (1982)

Rotten Tomatoes – 14%

IMDb – 5.4

17 years after a woman is raped, her son starts to behave erratically and becomes increasingly ill. The woman and her husband travel back to the scene of the crime in search for answers.

‘The Beast Within’ has an astonishingly low score on Rotten Tomatoes considering how great it actually is. Certainly, the film could be accused of attempting to capitalise on the similar themed Werewolf films of the time, but uniquely, this film opts for a teenager-to-Cicada transformation instead of a typical Werewolf transformation!

The film is definitely a little rough round the edges, but it tackles the whole venereal/hereditary disease aspect sufficiently and features a jaw-droppingly hideous transformation scene. To say this is essentially a film about a kid who turns into a Cicada, the film itself is totally straight-faced, and it miraculously pulls it off! That is surely a feat that demands respect for ‘The Beast Within’.


4. Shocker (1989)

Shocker (1989)

Rotten Tomatoes – 8%

IMDb – 5.3

When a serial killer is executed via the electric chair, he uses the electrical current to come back from the dead and take over people’s bodies to carry out his revenge on those who turned him in. Mitch Pileggi (‘The X-Files’ Walter Skinner) chews up the scenery as the over-the-top, one-liner spouting maniac killer and Peter Berg serves the film well as the ESP experiencing lead character, Jonathan.

How this warped and deliriously entertaining free-for-all sci-fi horror film scores so low among critics and audiences is a total mystery. Wes Craven’s 1989 effort (his second entry on this list) might not be his best film and it may recycle a handful of his signature themes, but in the end – it sure is one hell of a fun watch and it is certainly not one of the director’s worst films.

The eccentric peculiarity of the film make this one so entertaining; ‘Shocker’ boasts strange 80s special effects, an interesting exploration of the falsity of TV and a humorous showdown inside of the television world. Sure, this film will require an extensive suspension of the audience’s disbelief and it may run on a little too long for some – but if you perceive those as flaws, then ‘Shocker’ will just aggravate you.


3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (1986)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (1986)

Rotten Tomatoes – 44%

IMDb – 5.5

13 years after the events of the original, a series of grisly chainsaw-related deaths have gained the attention of strung-out cop, Lt. “Lefty” Enright, (Dennis Hopper) whose nephew was a victim in the first film. Along with a peppy DJ he aims to dispense his own brand of justice on ‘Leatherface’ and his cannibalistic family – who have relocated to an abandoned underground theme park.

‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2’ is most definitely one of the most polarizing sequels of the 80s, largely because of how it eschewed the raw, gritty, cinema verité qualities of the 1974 original. Instead, Tobe Hooper opted for a brutally demented, anarchic gore-fest – something of a conscious critique on 80s excess. Stephen Thrower described it as a stretched, elasticated and distorted rendering of the successful elements of the first film.

‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2’ may require repeat viewings for detractive audiences to accept the deliberately gratuitous carnage that is on show in this ultra-violent and energetic sequel. Even so, it is still a whole lot better than the subsequent sequels and the soulless, banality of the remakes and prequels that followed.


2. Society (1989)

Society (1989)

Rotten Tomatoes – 43%

IMDb – 6.5

Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) has it all: rich parents, high school popularity, a cheerleader girlfriend – but still he feels that he does not ‘fit in’. Why are they rumours of his family and friends getting up to taboo-breaking orgies together, and why are his parents fascinated by slugs?

‘Society’ has received ridiculously low ratings despite being such a brilliant little horror movie. Brian Yuzna’s directorial debut garnered barely any attention in the U.S (hence it being shelved until 1992) but the ideas it espoused were subsequently embraced by European audiences who still largely consider it to be a minor classic. The concept of paranoia regarding the behind-closed-doors activities of the rich and famous are nothing new, but this film’s approach is beyond even David Icke’s reptilian-obsessed imagination.

‘Society’s’queasy tone which is generated by some absurdly disorientating visuals and its slyly oblique humour does nothing to prepare for one of the genres’ greatest and shockingly disgusting ‘body-horror’ climaxes – courtesy of Screaming Mad George’s absurdly demented latex effects.


1. Psycho II (1983)

Psycho II (1983)

Rotten Tomatoes – 59%

IMDb – 6.4

22 years had passed since the original motel murders and Norman Bates has returned home from his institutionalization, but has Mother returned with him? With Norman intending on getting the motel back to ship-shape and being employed at a local diner, who is committing the grisly murders in and around the Bates residence.
The ‘Psycho’ sequels can almost be compared to the ‘Exorcist’ sequels; asking them to recreate the monumental impact of the original films would be insurmountable and because of that impact, people often forget that their sequels even exist (for better or worse). ‘Psycho II’ however, is one of the best horror sequels ever made.

This film was ironically released in the height of the ‘slasher’ films prominence and it is a well-paced and restrained addition to a subgenre that the original film helped create. It packs some effective twists and revelations during the proceedings but its Perkins’ edgy reprisal of Norman Bates that is genuinely astounding as it centralizes the entire film as well as managing to gain sympathy towards such an unpredictable character.

Many people will be diametrically opposed to the very existence of a ‘Psycho’ sequel and that is fair enough – but those who actually give this a chance will be rewarded with a credible and terrifically creepy film that stands up on its own.

Author Bio: Liam Hathaway has a lifelong passion of watching and reading about any/every sort of film which has lead him to be a Film Studies student at Sheffield Hallam University. His favourite directors at the moment are John Carpenter, Ben Wheatley, Werner Herzog and Martin Scorsese.