Horror films in 1981 brought us classics from the likes of Lucio Fulci, David Cronenberg, and Sam Raimi – as well as the two greatest werewolf movies of all time. 1982 brings us two of the few horror remakes worth a damn, an underappreciated Halloween sequel, and the best movie about murderous conjoined twins ever conceived.
As we truck along with our year-by-year breakdown, we present to you the 15 Best Horror Films Of 1982.
15. The Dorm That Dripped Blood
Directors: Stephen Carpenter, Jeffrey Obrow
Stars: Laurie Lapinski, Stephen Sachs, David Snow, Pamela Holland
On the eve of Christmas vacation, a college dormitory stands condemned – the dark halls now vacant, and unsafe. Student Joanne Murray and her close friends volunteer to help close down the building, unaware a psychopathic lunatic is hiding in the shadows. As the students disappear one by one, Joanne discovers the horrifying reality that if she is to survive, she alone will have to find a way to slay the brutal murderer.
The Dorm That Dripped Blood (also known as Pranks and Death Dorm) is a bit of a mixed bag. The movie’s production value is pretty low and the story, for the most part, is pretty routine – there’s even a creepy bum hanging around for a red herring. In fact, much of the story’s build-up is pretty forgettable, save for one or two brutal murders. But the movie is really made better and essential saved by its surprisingly intense climax and one fairly bold, unconventional conclusion. We won’t spoil anything, just check it out.
14. The Living Dead Girl
Director: Jean Rollin
Stars: Marina Pierro, Françoise Blanchard, Mike Marshall, Carina Barone
Cahterine Valmont, a rich heiress died a young death and is buried in a burial chamber underneath the chateau that she lived in. Two years later some fellows are attempting to hide some chemical waste down there and they accidentally knock it over, thus bringing Catherine back to life. Catherine is now a walking undead, and she feeds on the flesh and blood of her victims. With each kill she becomes stronger and more human like. She manages to call her best friend Helene, whom discovers the secret and decides to help bring her fresh victims in hopes of getting her old friend back.
As Catherine becomes more self-aware, she feels conflicted about her “evil” existence in which she must drain others of life to survive. Once she finds her humanity she doesn’t wish to continue. Meanwhile Helene, trying to preserve her friendship by any desperate means necessary, becomes more monstrous as she tries to force victims on Catherine, and killing anyone who may threaten the livelihood of her love – now more Helene’s obsession. There’s something intriguing about watching Helene slowly become the true monster as Catherine grows more aware of her unnatural existence. It’s interesting, and the finale really is a triumph in effective horror filmmaking. The Living Dead Girl has plenty of flaws, but director Jean Rollins was passionate about the films that he made. That passion shines through with The Living Dead Girl and turns it into a B-level horror film well worth watching.
13. Cat People
Director: Paul Schrader
Stars: Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, John Heard, Annette O’Toole
Whenever we want to prove that we as horror fans don’t immediately recoil at the thought of remakes, we invariably point to The Thing, The Fly, and The Blob, the triumvirate of ’80s updates that are defensible on many grounds. One frequent refrain insists that they were justified due to the advancements in effects and Hollywood’s leniency with what those effects could now show compared to their relatively prudish ancestors. Perhaps we shouldn’t lump Paul Schrader’s Cat People in with those three, but it certainly benefits from the same thing; even though the Val Lewton original was a sultry allegory for femininity and sexuality, he and director Jacques Tourneur could only go so far. For example, they couldn’t also make it a story where a creepazoid brother needs to bone his own sister in order to ward off an ancient curse, which is exactly where Schrader took the material.
That’s probably a little reductive and facetious, as Schrader isn’t just concerned with amplifying the exploitation; in fact, calling it an erotic update of the Lewton is not only a disservice but an outright fallacy. Consider the prologue, which acts more of an evocative, tasteful overture: Giorgio Moroder’s moody synth strains rumble over an ethereal desert landscape where leopards seductively lounge in barren trees, awaiting the arrival of a young human female for a mysterious, sexual ritual. It’s a sequence that speaks to the divide of a film that simmers with desert heat, yet remains cold and distant throughout.
12. Halloween III: Season Of The Witch
Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Stars: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O’Herlihy, Michael Currie
No matter how undeniably great a film John Carpenter’s original Halloween was, by the middle of Halloween II some of us – seven or eight of us anyway – were already pretty bored with the idea of watching Michael Myers carving up even more teens. That’s why for that small handful, 1982’s Halloween III: Season Of The Witch, no matter how different and unexpected and strange it was (and precisely for those reasons), came as a blessed relief.
In the film, an apparent murder-suicide in a hospital emergency room leads to an investigation by the on-call doctor, which reveals a plot by an insane toymaker to kill as many people as possible during Halloween through an ancient Celtic ritual involving a stolen boulder from Stonehenge and Halloween masks. Overacted and generic in some parts? Sure. But the first step in appreciating this film is to accept its inherent cheesiness and ignore the “Halloween III” part of its title altogether. The next step is to embrace its storyline, in all its anti-children, corporate America-hating, nihilistic glory. You can keep your Michael Myers, tense plotting, and minimal aesthetics. Give us melting heads, screaming men with mustaches, and the catchiest jingle this side of a Meow Mix commercial!
11. The Slumber Party Massacre
Director: Amy Holden Jones
Stars: Michelle Michaels, Robin Stille, Michael Villella, Debra Deliso
The Slumber Party Massacre is what happens when feminist writer, Rita Mae Brown, and director Amy Holden Jones parody the slasher genre which, to this day, is mainly focused on half-naked women running from a psycho in a mask. In the film, 18-year-old Trish decides to invite some friends over for a slumber party one night when her parents are out of town. The pretty, new girl Valerie, who lives next door to Trish, is invited to the festivities but declines to take care of her younger sister. It’s going to be a long night for all of them, though, because a crazed murderer armed with a power drill is in the neighborhood – and he definitely wants to join the party.
In the commentary for the film, Jones makes mention of how producer Roger Corman required a certain amount of nudity in the opening half of the flick, which certainly explains the long, lingering shots of naked, soapy bodies in the opening shower scene. She didn’t seem happy about it. Her quote was something to the effect of “Here’s your nudity, all up front, now let’s be done with it.” Overall, this is still a very underrated slasher film that’s both bloody and extremely fun.
10. Alone In The Dark
Director: Jack Sholder
Stars: Jack Palance, Donald Pleasence, Martin Landau, Dwight Schultz
Dan Potter is a new doctor at an asylum run by the wacky Dr. Leo Bain. Several inmates believe Potter killed their old doctor and vow revenge. The gang escapes when a massive blackout strikes. As the Potter family prepare for a quiet candle lit dinner with friends, the psychopaths move in for the kill.
For those accustomed to typical slasher movie conventions, Alone In The Dark may not be your cup of tea. There’s a moderate amount of gore (a nasty throat ripping by way of a small garden rake; throat slashing; meat cleaver in the back…), but nothing close to a Friday The 13th movie, or similar picture. What it does have, are some strikingly lunatic performances, some choice suspense and scares and a strong script. For a lot of people, that is more than enough. This ’80s horror entry is an unappreciated hidden gem and highly recommended.
Director: Juan Piquer Simón
Stars: Christopher George, Linda Day, Frank Braña, Paul L. Smith
In 1942, a boy is piecing together a puzzle of a nude woman, only to be discovered by his father-hating mother who wishes to burn the sinful plaything. Angered, the young kid takes a mental turn for the worst, brutally attacking his mother with an axe and chopping her up into little pieces. Tricking the authorities into believing that it was a grown murderer who committed the act, the boy is sent to live elsewhere. Forty years later at a university, murders start up again as a mystery killer cuts up pretty girls with his chainsaw, stealing specific body parts.
Nobody is ever going to confuse Pieces as a “piece” of classic horror cinema, but more of a “classick” of the nauseating kind of dirty filth that once dominated the exploitation cinema chains across the US. The over the top zaniness, the illogical actions of the characters coupled with the disturbing violence makes for a great slice of entertaining trash – if you enjoy that sort of thing (which we assume you do).
8. The New York Ripper
Director: Lucio Fulci
Stars: Jack Hedley, Almanta Suska, Howard Ross, Andrea Occhipinti
There’s a serial killer on the loose in the streets of New York. Somewhat like the infamous Jack the Ripper, this Big Apple psycho targets young women and, with a gloved hand, uses bladed weapons to murder and disembowel his victims. Lt. Fred Williams and “genius” psychoanalyst Dr. Paul Davis attempt to profile and track down the killer. The New York Ripper takes you into the sex shows, seedy alleys, and backrooms of New York City in a giallo full of red herrings and misdirection. Even up until the final act, the killer’s identity isn’t resolved until we see him or her speak in the miscreant’s tell-tale voice: the voice of a ridiculous cartoon duck.
The New York Ripper was banned in many countries and only shown in “adult” cinemas in others for clear reasons. It features some harrowing and unflinching depictions of physical violence against women. The killer is fond of using edged blades to savagely cut at women’s abdomens and chests, especially in a key scene that will make any boob-lover cringe: the slicing of a nipple and breast with a razor blade. Director Lucio Fulci doesn’t pull away from the violence; he lets it fill up the entirety of the screen. By today’s standards, some of the prosthetic torsos used to create the kills look quite phony, but the breast mutilation and eye trauma remain as convincing today as in 1982.
7. Friday The 13th Part III
Director: Steve Miner
Stars: Richard Brooker, Dana Kimmell, Paul Kratka, Tracie Savage, Jeffrey Rogers, Catherine Parks, Larry Zerner, David Katims, Rachel Howard, Gloria Charles
As classic as the original Friday The 13th is nobody can really deny that a few of its sequels are far superior. The first film was a surprise hit, the second film tried its best to top it and it wasn’t until the third film that the franchise started to find its swagger.
Indeed, the third chapter of the Jason Voorhees saga was where the direction got a bit more audacious, thanks in no small part to the film being released in 3D, which had seen a resurgence at the time. Even without the glasses, however, Part III benefits from the “Hey! Look at me, ma!”-brand of shooting, adding a more galvanic visual pace and rhythm to the sequel where the first two films leaned heavily on their sober B-movie style. The story here is boilerplate, with some amusing detours, such as the three toughs that bully the teens at the gas station and then make a trip to their cabins to harass them some more. Beyond this, Part III also deserves special placement for being the volume where Jason finds his infamous hockey mask, taken off a particularly annoying, curly-haired teen who gets his kicks scaring his fellow counselors and friends. He should’ve known that Jason is not much for competition.
6. Basket Case
Director: Frank Henenlotter
Stars: Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner, Robert Vogel
Possibly the ultimate 42nd Street exploitation movie experience, Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case, a film made for the cost of a car, captures all that scuzzy NYC ambiance that’s as extinct as the dinosaurs these days. Two Siamese twin brothers – one human and the other looking like a mound of pizza dough with teeth – look up the doctors that literally separated them for some messy surgery of their own.
First of all, the over the top campiness of this film itself sets it apart from so many others. Like Hershell Gordon Lewis before him, Henenlotter took the bare bones of an obscure yet darkly hilarious situation, a scant budget and a couple of talented special effects makeup artists to create a movie that has to be seen to be believed. The obviously rubber mutant Belial with his globular, legless body and glowing red eyes launches himself from the floor and onto the craniums of his victims like a fleshy facehugger and uses his sharp, thick fingernails to rake them to death in grunting, blood spattered glory. The best parts of the movie are when Belial needs to get around outside of his basket. This was 1982, before CGI, and no one could afford robotics, so Henenlotter used the next best option – stop motion. When he gets displeased, Belial makes his way around the room by jerking and sliding along the floor like one of Tim Burton’s worst anxiety dreams, throwing televisions and slamming beds with insane abandon. It’s all so wonderful…
Director: Dario Argento
Stars: Anthony Franciosa, Mirella D’Angelo, Veronica Lario, John Saxon
Legendary Italian horror director Dario Argento’s Tenebrae was his return to giallo after a series of fantasy works. Facing endless criticism and questions about his perceived misogyny and love of brutally violent scenes, the film is a playful middle-finger to his detractors. Peter Neal, a successful American murder-mystery author, visits Rome to promote his new novel, Tenebrae. Shortly after his arrival a string of murders takes place that seemingly imitate scenes from the book. Beautiful women with their throats slashed by a cutthroat razor are discovered, and Neal becomes involved in a spiraling descent into murder and mystery as yet more deaths occur and he begins to receive letters from the killer.
Given Tenebrae’s content, it is unsurprising that it found itself on the UK’s infamous “Video Nasty” list. Throughout its duration, buckets of blood spurt from every human orifice all over the screen, accompanied by the oh-so-common motif of a helpless, shrieking young female, and wide-eyed cover art that suggested misogynistic violence was on the way.
4. The Entity
Director: Sidney J. Furie
Stars: Barbara Hershey, Ron Silver, David Labiosa, Margaret Blye
Carla Moran awakens one night to find herself being beaten and raped by an unseen presence. Terrified of what’s happening to her, and shunned by friends and family who think she’s lost her mind, she seeks help from parapsychologists. The researchers soon discover that evil spiritual force has been drawn to Carla and is responsible for the violent attacks. The question now, however, is how do they stop it?
None other than Martin Scorsese considers The Entity to be one of the scariest horror films of all time and it’s easy to understand why he feels this way. The film bluntly confronts the idea that is suggested by so many horror films but seldom spelled out – that the attack of the obligatory monster is willed by its victims, that the horrible being is an external manifestation of internal torments. Another good example of this is Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook. Here, there are legitimate terrors – legitimate because they come from a real and terrible place. And for those who enjoy at least some defiance of natural laws, The Enity has that too.
Director: George A. Romero
Stars: Hal Holbrook, Leslie Nielsen, Adrienne Barbeau, Leslie Nielsen, Carrie Nye, E.G. Marshall, Viveca Lindfors, Ed Harris, Ted Danson, Jon Lormer, Elizabeth Regan, Stephen King
EC Comics, to those who aren‘t aware, was a force to be reckoned with in the 1950s. They had such titles as Crime Illustrated, Weird Fantasy, and Shock Illustrated. What they were best known for though, and ended up getting in trouble for, were such titles as Tales From The Crypt and The Vault Of Horror. It is within these horror comics that thee Stephen King and George Romero found the inspiration for the anthology film Creepshow.
Five tales of terror are presented. The first deals with a demented old man returning from the grave to get the Father’s Day cake his murdering daughter never gave him. The second is about a not-too-bright farmer discovering a meteor that turns everything into plant-life. The third is about a vengeful husband burying his wife and her lover up to their necks on the beach. The fourth is about a creature that resides in a crate under the steps of a college. The final story is about an ultra-rich businessman who gets his comeuppance from cockroaches. Everyone has their favorite moment, what’s yours?
Director: Tobe Hooper
Stars: Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Heather O’Rourke, Zelda Rubinstein
Poltergeist is to the haunted house sub-genre as Halloween is to the slasher movie: It wasn’t the first of its kind, but it elevated things to a whole new level of style, excess, and intelligence. Coming largely from the mind of co-writer/co-producer Steven Spielberg, Poltergeist, directed by Tobe Hooper, established several tropes that have since been copied to death: the little kid who becomes the evil spirits’ conduit; the freaky apparitions that haunt a youngster in his bedroom, at night, while mommy and daddy are snoozing; the medium and her sidekicks who move into the house to exorcise the demons.
The difference being, of course, that, in Poltergeist, all of those story components work, resulting in an alarming show that blasts viewers with one ghoulish set-piece after another (try to sleep in a room with a clown doll ever again) before a showstopping and crowd-pleasing bit involving a terrified mother, an in-ground pool, and tons of wet, rotting cadavers.
1. The Thing
Director: John Carpenter
Stars: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, T. K. Carter
John Carpenter finally intersected with his longtime idol Howard Hawks when he remade the director’s 1951 classic The Thing From Another World as The Thing, an altogether different beast that hedged closer to the original John W. Campbell short story. The film, of course, followed a crew of researchers trapped inside an Antarctic research station as a shape-shifting creature picks them off one by one.
Here, Carpenter is at the top of his game, combining a colorful band of well-fleshed-out, likable characters with amazingly practical effects and genuine shocks. Here, a man’s chest becomes huge jaws that bite off a doctor’s arms; a head disengages from a torso, sprouts legs and eyes on stalks, and then scurries off; a hairless, slimy dog head explodes from a man’s chest. Throughout The Thing, man and creature merge in horrific, bloody contortions that would give Hieronymus Bosch nightmares, and almost everyone dies horribly. Brilliant.
What was your favorite horror film of 1982? Let us know in the comment section below.