6 Horror Films from the 1980s that Still Haunt Us

Kim Taylor-Foster
Movies Horror
Movies Horror

The 1980s produced some startling horror films. Many classics of the genre were born in the decade of excess. While many of those left their mark in our minds, it wasn’t always the most acclaimed that gave us nightmares.

Here are six 80s horror films that deeply affected us, and still haunt us today.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Wes Craven’s 1984 film was the first and best in the long-running franchise featuring Freddy Krueger. A child killer burned to death in a parental vigilante-justice attack, returning to stalk teenagers in their nightmares, killing them in real life while they sleep.

Why it will haunt your nightmares:

The most famous, and bloody, scene is arguably the sequence when Johnny Depp – in his movie debut – gets pulled down into his mattress by the razor-gloved one before being spat out again as an eruption of blood. But, it’s not the most disturbing. That accolade goes to the scene where protagonist Nancy’s friend Tina is slaughtered in, off and around her bed — including on the ceiling — while her boyfriend watches. It follows a tense stalking sequence through a boiler room. It’s the film’s first kill and sets up a whole host of inventive deaths to come.

Ghoulies II (1988)

In 1984, Luca Bercovici’s Ghoulies introduced a batch of little critters from the beyond. Inadvertently summoned by paranormal shenanigans, they mete out their own brand of terror. The sequel moved the diminutive demons to a funhouse, where they terrorise a new batch of amusement park visitors.

Why it will haunt your nightmares:

Otherwise pretty forgettable, this dated comedy-horror sequel has one scene that lives on in the minds of all those who watched it as kids. You know what we’re talking about – the toilet scene. One expendable douchebag gets his comeuppance when he sits on the loo, only to be greeted by the unfriendly face/claws of a mischievous Ghoulie. It made an entire generation scared to go to the bathroom.

Hellraiser (1987)

Clive Barker both wrote and directed this adaptation of his own novella The Hellbound Heart. A puzzle box holds the key to an alternate dimension populated by hellish beings known as Cenobites. When one man’s curiosity opens the gateway, he is torn apart by the freakish bunch of otherworldly sadists, headed up by Doug Bradley’s Pinhead. Years later, his brother Larry moves into their deceased mother’s property with wife, Julia, played by Clare Higgins. Frank is resurrected by some of Larry’s spilled blood, and he recruits Julia, who is under his spell, to bring him more blood to complete his renewal. During the course of the film, Larry’s daughter Kirsty finds the box and winds up coming face to face with Pinhead and his gang of monstrous cohorts of questionable attractiveness.

Why it will haunt your nightmares:

The sight of Frank as a half-formed being will never leave you, much as Clare Higgins’ troubling portrayal of the woman entranced by her flayed lover sits uneasily in your psyche forever. What she’s prepared to do is horrifying. And that’s without taking into account the scene where Frank is initially ripped apart, and the bizarre Cenobites who you’ll find yourself both drawn to and repelled by. Just me? OK, then…

Creepshow (1982)

Horror anthologies are hit-and-miss affairs, and George Romero’s Creepshow, penned by Stephen King, is no different. But there are a couple of stories here to trouble your mind for years to come. The most disturbing is “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” in which the titular character, played by Stephen King, gets a mysterious substance from a meteorite on his skin. It causes a horrific reaction, with a green plant-like parasite spreading over his skin. It transfers to everything he touches, and he – and his surroundings — end up completely covered. He eventually shoots himself in the head while we’re left with a television weather forecast warning of heavy rains — something that will cause this water-loving organism to flourish.

Why it will haunt your nightmares:

The sight of Stephen King’s buck-toothed, boss-eyed, low-IQ yokel gradually succumbing to the itchy, green alien vegetation will put you off touching anything unfamiliar ever again.

Videodrome (1983)

David Cronenberg is the master of body horror. Videodrome revolves around James Woods’ Max Renn, a television executive who stumbles upon a signal broadcasting scenes of extreme violence. After viewing it, he starts to hallucinate. It transpires that the whole purpose of Videodrome’s existence is to exterminate a huge swathe of the population of North America deemed to be fixated on extreme sex and violence. What Renn experienced was a side effect of viewing Videodrome, he’s told, a programme designed to trigger brain tumours in those who watch. It ends with him following instructions to defeat Videodrome once and for all – by shooting himself in the head.

Why it will haunt your nightmares:

Once seen, you’ll forever call to mind the scene in which a scar in Renn’s stomach opens up. He pushes his gun inside and loses it when it closes back up. It also doubles up as an impromptu video player – which simply requires the insertion of a tape. The imagery overtly evokes genitalia and the act of sex, and it’s literally stomach churning.

The Vanishing (1988)

Dutch director George Sluizer presided over the 1993 American remake of his own film, but it was the 1988 original, Spoorloos, that was the creepier version. More often described as a thriller, the film follows a man’s attempts to trace his girlfriend after she disappears on the road. She is abducted by a psychopath who eventually reveals that he wanted to commit a heinous act following his saving of a young girl from drowning — just to see which felt better. He says to find out what happened to his girlfriend, the man must experience it for himself. After drinking drugged coffee, he wakes buried alive.

Why it will haunt your nightmares:

If you ever had an irrational fear of being buried alive, this film will compound it. After you’ve seen this film, expect to always be checking behind you for evermore, on the lookout for potential assailants armed with chloroform.

Kim Taylor-Foster
Kim Taylor-Foster is Entertainment Editor for Fandom in the UK. She was raised on an unsteady diet of video nasties and violent action flicks.
Become a
Pop culture fans! Write what you love and have your work seen by millions.