Horror films in 1986 brought us the original Hannibal Lecter, Jason Voorhees rising from the grave, and one of the greatest horror movie remakes of all time. 1987 brings us the first of many appearances of Pinhead, the best Nightmare On Elm Street sequel, and an underrated John Carpenter masterpiece.
As we truck along with our year-by-year breakdown, we present to you the 15 Best Horror Films Of 1987.
15. Creepshow 2
Director: Michael Gornick
Stars: George Kennedy, Lois Chiles, Domenick John, Dorothy Lamour
Whoo-Hoo! Masters of Horror Stephen King and George Romero couldn’t let a good thing go by the wayside, so five years after the original Creepshow, they returned for more anthologetic mayhem (the duo handled writing duties but handed the director’s hat to original Creepshow cinematographer, Michael Gornick). Like the original, this is yet another interesting foray into the world of classic comic book style horror.
This time around we get three more bone-chilling tales that include a vengeful wooden Native American, a monstrous blob in a lake, and a hitchhiker who wants revenge and will not die. Like most sequels, Creepshow 2 isn’t as effective as its predecessor. However, it certainly has its moments and is still far more enjoyable than many other anthologies out there.
Director: Jörg Buttgereit
Stars: Bernd Daktari Lorenz, Beatrice Manowski, Harald Lundt, Colloseo Schulzendorf
Don’t let the title fool you – there’s absolutely nothing “romantic” about this German freak show. Well, unless you consider a married couple’s decision to spice up their sex life by swinging with a rotting corpse to be the stuff of Danielle Steele novels.
Nekromantik tells the story of a middle aged depressed man named Robert Schmadtke who works at a Street Cleaning Agency, a company that cleans up the mess after traffic collisions and removes dead bodies from public areas. In a sick twist, Robert has a hobby of collecting body parts and conserving them in formaldehyde. One day he gets his hands on a particularly appealing rotting corpse and instead of having the dead body buried, he takes it home to his girlfriend. This is where the fun begins. This includes a scene where the girlfriend wraps a condom around a steel pipe and straddles it during their naughty time with the stiff. But looking beyond the shock factor of watching people frolic with corpses, the best thing about Nekromantik is the title of its sequel – Nekromantik 2: Return Of The Loving Dead. That’s just great.
Director: William Friedkin
Stars: Michael Biehn, Alex McArthur, Nicholas Campbell, Deborah Van Valkenburgh
William Friedkin made Rampage in 1987 but it never received a US release. It is the story of a serial killer and the man who prosecuted him. It was said to be critical of the death penalty at a time when that wasn’t the way to be (The Reagan years). It was also said to be too intense for American audiences. Actually a large part of the problem was that the distributor, DEG, went bankrupt freezing this film and many others. The film drifted into legend with only the most determined of horror connoisseurs having actually seen it.
Rampage delves into the subject of legal insanity, so often the default defense in modern-time gruesome crime trials. We meet Charlie Reece, an outwardly normal guy who goes on incredible killing and mutilating sprees until (and even after, when he escapes for a short time) he’s captured. When he comes to trial, the liberal DA is torn between his own leftist leanings and the reality of the heinous crimes for which the accused is being tried. He must argue for the death penalty. And with that, we are presented with a powerful in your face drama, thriller, psychological horror film, that brings the wonderment of a twisted scenario to the viewer watching. Highly recommended due to its thought provoking nature and disturbing finale – the end’s question is an answer you must decide on your own.
Director: Stuart Gordon
Stars: Ian Patrick Williams, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Carrie Lorraine, Guy Rolfe
The chewy, plotty center: Car trouble and a bad storm forces a family to seek shelter at the spooky house of a seemingly kind old couple. Soon after, a motorist and two punk rock girl hitchhikers he picked up arrive at the house as well, and they all start to find out that this doll maker and his wife – and their plethora of dolls throughout the house – are not at all what they seem to be.
Fresh off of Re-Animator and From Beyond, veteran director Stuart Gordon brought to life this grand old American cheese fest and packaged it like a serious Italian horror film (which, if you watch the credits, is because it was shot in Italy, with what seems to be an entirely Italian crew). This is one of the film’s finest points, as stylistically it’s brilliant. Dolls is purposefully over-the-top and crazy, like a Looney Tunes short re-envisioned by Freddy Kruger. They don’t make horror movies like this anymore, and it’s a damn shame.
Director: Dario Argento
Stars: Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson, Urbano Barberini, Daria Nicolodi
A young opera singer gets her big chance when the previous star of a production of Verdi’s Macbeth is run over by a car. Convinced the opera is bad luck she accepts, and becomes the target (in horror master Dario Argento’s unmistakable style) of a psychopath – a man she has been dreaming of since childhood.
Opera is a masterful giallo of the more modern ’80s age. The sub-genre, of course, had been around for a few decades prior, but by the time films like A Blade In The Dark, Opera, and Stage Fright (a movie we’ll be getting to in a minute) were made, they seemed to draw a heavier influence from their American “body count” slasher cousins than they did the original pulp Italian detective films that started the giallo. Opera features a much stronger emphasis on the murders and the stalking by the killer, and less emphasis on the investigation. In fact, the one detective on the case is given very little to do from Dario and Franco Ferrini’s script. The mystery aspect of the film is actually one of Dario’s weakest, but to those who have never seen it, it does work well enough to pass. The killer’s presence is chilling enough to keep you on edge. Agento’s killers are often ghost-like in their movements and execution of murder sequences, and the masked and black gloved assailant in Opera is just as good as any of the killers in his other more recognizable films. With its grand scale and brooding themes, the art of opera fits neatly with Argento’s lavish stylistics and dark preoccupations as a filmmaker.
10. The Stepfather
Director: Joseph Ruben
Stars: Terry O’Quinn, Jill Schoelen, Shelley Hack, Stephen Shellen
After murdering his entire family, a man remarries a widow with a teenage daughter in another town and prepares to do it all over again.
The Stepfather is refreshing because it turns the ‘80s horror paradigm on its head, finding a monster not in teenage sexuality but rather in the conservative patriarchy that is normally the ideological hero. This monster of patriarchy does not wear a mask nor wield some iconic weapon. His costume is the same costume many men have long worn as they play out the daily role of hard-working suburban family man: tie and jacket for work, sweater over a button-down at home. Indeed, what makes The Stepfather so compelling is that it starts from a simple truth about human life (the everyday lives we lead are performances) and takes it to a horrifying though honest extreme. Unlike Chucky or Jason Voorhees, the monstrous title character of The Stepfather is both plausible and a rich metaphor for the danger of a tradition in a world largely trying to move beyond that.
9. Stage Fright
Director: Michele Soavi
Stars: Barbara Cupisti, David Brandon, Mary Sellers, Robert Gligorov
A theater troupe working on a musical suddenly find themselves the target of an escaped lunatic. When the seamstress is murdered in the car park during rehearsals, the director sees an opportunity to cash in on the free publicity and orders the actors to work all night so the musical can open early. After the doors of the theater are locked and the keys hidden away, the troupe discover the killer (donning an enormous owl mask) still walks among them. The actors begin a desperate search for the keys while trying to survive the night.
Stage Fright is one of the last great Italian slashers and one of the best released after the genre’s golden age. The film’s mix of atmosphere, tension, frights, and shocks indeed makes it a cut above the rest. Also, because of Stage Fright, the world is able to see an owl decapitate someone, ram a power tool into someone’s belly, dismember people with a chainsaw, and stick a pick-ax into a person’s mouth. It’s an ornithologist’s nightmare come to life.
8. Angel Heart
Director: Alan Parker
Stars: Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro, Lisa Bonet, Charlotte Rampling
The year is 1955. We meet Harry Angel, a washed-up, grimy private eye, in the vein of parody-esque Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Here though, it’s played completely straight, and it completely works. He’s hired by a man named Louis Cyphre to track down Johnny Favorite, a jazz crooner whom Louis had made famous during his early days and who’d vanished after the war. Angel takes the job, but there’s one problem. Every lead he follows turns up dead. And there’s little else we can say without spoiling the film. The plot is fairly simple once everything’s made clear, but there are twists and turns to be had, twists and turns we’d like not to ruin.
In short, Angel Heart is amazing. Beautifully shot and perfectly performed, it captivates from start to finish. The scares come mostly from dripping atmosphere. The cinematography, the pulse-pounding music, the unexpected twists and turns, the oozing blood from… well, again, you don’t want it ruined for you. Perhaps the narrative is a bit too simplistic, but it’s elegant that way. A slick neo-noir detective story with a supernatural twist, Angel Heart unquestionably delivers a unique experience.
7. Bad Taste
Director: Peter Jackson
Stars: Terry Potter, Pete O’Herne, Craig Smith, Mike Minett
There are low-budget movies, there are zero-budget movies and then there’s Bad Taste. Peter Jackson shot this piece of glorious nonsense on weekends over four years with his friends. He’s credited with writing the script (with additional material by Peter Hamman and Tony Hiles) but in fact the whole thing was improvised. And the credits thank “Mum and Dad” as special assistants to the producer. How sweet. Basically all the things that made Peter Jackson amazing start here. The camerawork, hyper violence, gore, comedy and over the top situations are all here in their beta form.
In the film, the population of a small town disappears and is replaced by aliens that chase human flesh for their intergalactic fast-food chain. Highlights: There is a guy with his brains constantly falling out of his head. A human sludge faucet. Shootouts, chainsaws, fights, Morris Minors and special FX masks baked right out of the oven of Peter Jackson’s mother. The film will literally go from X-Files to a thriller to an action movie and end up smack dab into some sort of splatterpunk, sci-fi, late night matinee grindhouse date film. You may be distracted by its B-movie spirit. However, give it a moment and trust that it will absolutely grow on you.
6. Prince Of Darkness
Director: John Carpenter
Stars: Donald Pleasence, Lisa Blount, Jameson Parker, Victor Wong
A sinister secret has been kept in the basement of an abandoned Los Angeles church for many years. With the death of a priest belonging to a mysterious sect, another priest opens the door to the basement and discovers a vat containing a green liquid. The priest contacts a group of physics graduate students to investigate it. Unfortunately, they discover that the liquid contains the essence of Satan himself, and they also discover that he will release HIS father – an all-powerful Anti-God! The liquid later comes to life itself, turning some of the students into zombies as the Devil comes forward to release his father. Will these students be able to stop him?
Crossing the boundary at the outer reaches of the physical world where science meets superstition and reason collides with the irrational, Prince Of Darkness tells a tale as miraculous as the Bible and as dry as any technical text. This is not a dream, indeed!
5. A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Director: Chuck Russell
Stars: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Patricia Arquette, Craig Wasson, Jennifer Rubin, Ken Sagoes, Rodney Eastman, Penelope Sudrow, Laurence Fishburne, John Saxon
Hands down, the greatest Nightmare On Elm Street sequel, Dream Warriors was like a breath of fresh air after the relatively disappointing Freddy’s Revenge. Co-written by original NOES creator Wes Craven, the film follows our favorite dream-stalking psychopath Freddy Krueger as he takes his deadly crusade away from Elm Street to a psychiatric hospital for troubled teens.
This movie has so many wonderful qualities but let’s start with the kills. Dream Warriors offers some of the best death scenes of the franchise; from Freddy turning a kid into a human puppet using his own veins and tendons to Freddy posing as a topless nurse only to reveal his true self. Another thing to point out is the fact that none of the kid characters in the film are annoying. In a horror film such as this, that is a true rarity. When each one of the kids get killed you genuinely feel bad about it, you want them to succeed. It’s no wonder that this is the third entry of the series. In this instance, the third time was most definitely the charm.
Director: Clive Barker
Stars: Ashley Laurence, Doug Bradley, Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins
It’s the classic that officially ushered British genre master Clive Barker into Hollywood, and, boy, is it one hell of an introduction. Throughout the author’s many works of fiction (namely his Books Of Blood short story collections), Barker routinely covers terror of the sexually disturbed, bodily revolting, and fantastically nightmarish varieties; Hellraiser, bless its cinematic soul, falls into all of those categories, sometimes in one given scene.
Hellraiser graphically depicts the tale of a man and wife who move into an old house and discover a hideous creature – the man’s half-brother, who is also the woman’s former lover – hiding upstairs. Having lost his earthly body to a trio of demons, the Cenobites, he is brought back into existence by a drop of blood on the floor. He soon forces his former mistress to bring him his necessary human sacrifices to complete his body… but the Cenobites won’t be happy about this one bit. You can best believe that the pain will be legendary!
3. The Lost Boys
Director: Joel Schumacher
Stars: Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Dianne Wiest, Kiefer Sutherland, Jami Gertz
The Lost Boys tells the story of Sam Emerson, whose parents’ divorce sees him moving to the small beach town of Santa Carla along with his mum and brother Michael. Eager to get involved with the local nightlife, Sam and Michael go to a party where Michael becomes enamored with a girl called Star. Unfortunately, Star hangs around with a dodgy crowd, a crowd who don’t like the daylight, if you catch our drift. They’re not fans of garlic. They can’t see themselves in mirrors, if you follow what we’re saying. They’re freaking vampires! So, in an attempt to get in with the in crowd and win Star’s heart, Michael decides to join the gang and become a vampire too.
If you want to see how to do a teenage vampire movie properly, here’s a handy guide. Step one – take the Twilight films (either DVD or Blu-ray format). Step two – shove them right up your arse. Step three – watch The Lost Boys instead.
2. Near Dark
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Stars: Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton
Charming cowboy Caleb meets the wrong girl on a dark night and receives a life-changing hickey which launches vampirism into his blood. Under the guidance of Mae and her extended bloodsucking family, he’s about to learn about the hardcore night life the hard way. Once Caleb is turned into a vampire, he’s expected to kill to fit in the group. Thing is, he’d rather not. He’s just not a killer, plus, he realizes this isn’t your typical refined group of sharp-teethed killers. Hell, they don’t even suggest breaking into a blood bank.
Released in the summer of 1987, Near Dark went head-to-head with the more brashly comic The Lost Boys and, in box office terms at least, took a heavy beating. Yet it was the superior movie for sure. Its mix of edgy romanticism (the film is also a love story) and haunting melancholy makes it, as an immediate proposition, less accessible but far more memorable. These are vampires of a postmodern world in which belief has faded to the point where the paraphernalia of myth and religion are no longer effective. Director Kathryn Bigelow, echoing the games the Coen brothers play, reconstructs genre conventions from the inside out. Near Dark is a subtle study in the seductiveness of evil and a terrifying ride to the edge of darkness.
1. Evil Dead II
Director: Sam Raimi
Stars: Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Dianne Wiest, Jami Gertz
The old horror philosophy of “give ’em more insanity in the sequel” must have been daunting for Sam Raimi and his Evil Dead colleagues. The Evil Dead, released independently in 1981, shocked and awed the film community with low-budget ingenuity, going way overboard with geysers of blood, freaky ghouls, and tongue-in-cheek humor. So when it came time to send the anti-heroic Ash back to the demon-infested cabin in the woods, Raimi did the only logical thing: He crapped on good taste and delivered a flick that bashes subtlety with a spiked hammer.
Evil Dead 2 achieved something rather unique; it twisted the genre on its decapitated neck and made it fun to laugh while at the same time, crap your pants. While most horror movies stayed true to the format of kill, kill, and kill some more, Evil Dead 2 went in a different direction while also managing to stay on the same path. Gone were the other cabin-dwellers from the original; a quick back-story showed Ash cutting up his demon-possessed girlfriend with a chainsaw. But for some reason, although macabre, it wasn’t scary. Perhaps because she wouldn’t stop nagging him while he was sawing her up. Indeed, just when things start getting too grisly, Raimi rushes in with a hilarious, sendup joke to remind us that all this blood and guts is meant in spooky Grand Guignol fun. Evil Dead 2 is a grade-A masterpiece of morbid mayhem. Find us a horror geek who doesn’t agree and we’ll take a chainsaw to a body part of your choice.
What was your favorite horror movie of 1987? Let us know in the comments below.