6. House (1986)
Troubled author Roger Cobb is going through a rough patch in his life, to put it mildly: separated from his wife after their son disappeared without a trace, he moves into his aunt’s house, who had recently committed suicide.
Trying to settle in and write a new book, instead he starts having nightmares and experiencing strange occurrences around the house, including grotesque demons that begin to appear. With his neighbor, Cobb begins investigating what’s going on, eventually finding a portal to another dimension in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom.
Mixing horror with comedy, House is a cult horror film that 80s horror fans will enjoy immensely. Teetering on the edge between being silly and displaying well-crafted practical effects, House is a well-written horror film that creates a solid, spooky horror film without ever taking itself too seriously.
A modest hit when it was released, House proved popular enough for horror audiences to spawn a series of films–but none of the follow-ups ever quite matched the success of the original. For horror fans, House is a cult hit not to be missed.
7. Near Dark (1987)
Caleb is a young man that was bitten on the neck one night by a strange woman and (of course) turns into a vampire himself. He’s brought into the vampire coven of the woman who turned him and begin to join them on their hunt. After a violent apprenticeship, Caleb’s father rescues him from the group and successfully reverses the effects: but when his sister is kidnapped by the vampires, Caleb must rescue her before she’s turned as well.
Part horror, Western, and biker movie, Near Dark was produced during the late-80s revival of the “serious” vampire movie. Released just two months after The Lost Boys, Near Dark was not the hit that movie was, not even making its budget back. But it’s a stylish, original vampire film (directed by Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar in 2009) that–while critically acclaimed–has flown under the radar, instead finding a cult following over the years.
8. I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988)
After his brother dies from overdosing on gold chains, soldier Jack Spade (Keenan Ivory Wayans) returns home to Any Ghetto, USA and forms a superteam (with people named Kung Fu Joe and Flyguy) to take down Mr. Big, a gangster whose gold chains have created an epidemic in Spade’s neighborhood. But the plot is only in service to the film’s actual purpose, which is to parody Blaxploitation films from the 70s and action movie tropes in general.
Written, directed, and starring Wayans (in his directorial debut), I’m Gonna Git You Sucka is a gag-a-minute type off parody movie, a Naked Gun for black cinema. Shot in 45 days on a budget of just $3 million, this movie has since become a cult classic and an enjoyable low-budget riff on a once-obscure film genre whose popularity has risen in the ensuing decades of its grindhouse heyday.
Sending up many aspects of black American culture without ever being offensive, this film also features many notable stars of the Blaxploitation genre, including Jim Brown and Isaac Hayes. It’s a cult comedy that may be parodying films from over 40 years ago but still holds up today.
9. Gandahar (1988)
Imagine a world far stranger than any you’ve ever seen before, where the laws of physics, physiology, and general sense-making have seemingly never applied, and you have Gandahar: an animated fantasy movie that you would never show to children and may even be too strange for most adults.
The plot is as follows: Gandahar is invaded by robots known as Men of Steel, who invade the town, turning its population into stone, and then bring them back to their base where they create more Men of Steel out of them.
A young man named Sylvian is tasked with investigating what’s going on: he meets the Deformed, a grotesque race of people as a result of genetic experimentation in the past, a young woman named Airelle who joins him on his journey, and a giant brain in the middle of the ocean, which Sylvian is ordered to kill. Then the plot gets kind of weird.
Made by Rene Laloux–who also created the cult animated film Fantastic Planet–Gandahar (released in America as Light Years) is a sophisticated and visually intriguing animated film. Taking place on a strange planet far, far away, it’s a fantasy whose characters, plot, and visual style are far from anything produced before or since.
When brought to America through the then-fledgling Miramax studios, studio head Harvey Weinstein placed his name on the director’s credits (the voices were re-cast to appeal to American audiences and a new prologue and hired Isaac Asimov to rewrite some of the story, so he must have guessed that makes him the director). For fans of weird cinema, films don’t get much weirder than Gandahar.
10. The ‘Burbs (1989)
Ray (Tom Hanks) is on a week-long summer vacation from his job. Deciding to hang around the house and relax, Ray tries to enjoy the quiet life in the suburbs. However, his nosy neighbor Art begins to fill his head with ideas about their new neighbors, the reclusive Klopeks, who have moved in next door to Ray: that they may be cannibals, Satanists, or worse.
From this starting point, Ray is corralled into investigating these (potentially) evil neighbors alongside survivalist Rumsfield (Bruce Dern) and over-enthusiastic teenager Ricky Butler (Corey Feldman) into finding out whether the Klopeks are actually sinister murderers or if it’s just their collective paranoia running wild.
Directed by Joe Dante, who brings his overblown comedy-fantasy style to the suburban setting, The Burbs is a surprisingly slick satire on suburban life, transforming the familiar trappings of domesticity into a magical realm. And of course it’s very funny. While not a hit at the time, The Burbs has since become a cult comedy film that’s both a silly fantasy and a satire of how the blandness of the suburbs can drive even the most mild-mannered among us crazy.
Author Bio: Mike Gray is a writer and editor from the Jersey Shore. His work has appeared on Cracked and Funny or Die, and he maintains a film and TV blog at mikegraymikegray.wordpress.com.