The 80s cinema, and especially horror cinema, are in again. Not that they were ever out, but Netflix’s dynamite hit Stranger Tings brought it back for good with its relentless references and obvious admiration for the classics.
It’s been a trend, however, for some time among horror movie directors, especially in the indie circuit – a few of the most notable horror flicks of recent years have been inspired by this 80s revival in one way or another.
So here are 10 more modern horror films that pay homage to the 80s, just in case Stranger Things was not enough for you. Enjoy.
10. Down the Road (2012)
Low-budget horror habitué Brian Gallagher plays a scorned father with a personal vendetta against any and all teenagers indulging in excessive alcohol and sex in Down the Road, a slasher B-movie that delivers what it promises, and keeps things old school. Director/writer Jason Christopher Mayer might not be gifted with an elevated sensibility, but Down the Road’s sincere throwback vibe more than pays off for genre aficionados.
Down The Road is devoid of any overarching ambitions, but it is a fun, bloody, somewhat thrilling ride through the 80s slasher playbook, delivering the goods with creative death scenes and a scary, theatrical central performance. Of course most of the killer’s victims are disposable two-dimensional characters, but isn’t that what you’d expect?
9. Teeth (2007)
Mitchell Lichtenstein’s deeply weird, tremendously clever allegory of a horror comedy, Teeth, may inherit its bloodier tendencies from more contemporary films like Saw and Hostel, but it uses their willingness to “push the envelope”, so to say, to illustrate and modernize a creepy/funny cautionary tale that relentlessly brings things back to the 70s and 80s.
Those were the times when sexuality (especially young females’ sexuality) was a common topic for horror movies, and their politics about it were muddled at best.
The feeling one has when watching Teeth, a simple story about a girl who discovers she has teeth in her vagina, is that Lichtenstein, in his way, is trying to course correct those same films he seems to idolize and reference, making what’s possibly the weirdest allegory to female empowerment to ever be made into film.
8. Severance (2006)
British production Severance anchors itself on a mixture that only English filmmakers would ever think of: corporate drama, black comedy and slasher horror. The thing is the film is really good at all three of those subgenres, managing in a spectacular fashion to be touching, hysterical and genuinely shocking/creepy.
When the fodder for the crazed killers (yes, plural) are not dumb teenagers but supposedly smart adults on a business retreat gone wrong, things are bound to get really interesting, or really boring.
Writer/director Christopher Smith manages to escape the latter alternative by way of a smart narrative that keeps the pace up while always holding back for increasingly shocking twists and turns to the story. At 96 minutes, Severance sustains itself brilliantly as a piece of entertainment and as a fun twist to the 1980s slasher formula.
7. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
It really is a shame that Nathan Baesel’s career didn’t manage to take off after Behind the Mask in 2006, because judging by his interpretation of Leslie Vernon, he had something special about him.
In turns terrifying, charming and scathingly funny in its satire of other who came before him, Baesel’s performance is completely in sync with the film, an affectionate yet cutting (pun intended) parody of all the clichés of slasher horror while also commenting on the bloodthirsty element of today’s media.
For extra enjoyment, check out Robert Englund, Freddy Krueger himself, in a supporting role. A treat for genre loyalists with a critical eye for the failings of the objects of their affection, Behind the Mask seems incredibly modern even ten years later. The news that it’s getting a belated sequel are more than welcome.
6. The Final Girls (2015)
I want meta? We can give you meta! The Final Girls tells the story of Max (Taissa Farmiga), a grieving teen who attends with her friends the screening of the slasher film her late mother was famous for starring in – when Max and company are unexplainably sucked into the movie’s universe, she has to unite with her mother’s character to escape de machete-wielding killer on the loose at Camp Bloodbath.
Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Alexander Ludwig, Nina Dobrev, Alia Shawkat, Thomas Middleditch and Adam DeVine make for a winning team as horror/comedy casts go, and The Final Girls even has some things to say about grieving, moving on and personal sacrifice. Its goofier parts are fun send-up’s of the genre’s worst impulses, especially the sex = death situation, and at 88 minutes Final Girls flies by like any truly fun cinema experience.