Countdown to Halloween: My Favorite Films (1980-1989)

Pumpkinhead
Speaking of Stan Winston (Aliens, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Predator), this marked his directorial debut. Inspired by a poem by Ed Justin, Pumpkinhead tells the story of a man who conjures a mythical humanoid demon to avenge the death of his son. What ensues isn’t pretty, but it is fun. Lance Henriksen (Aliens, Alien 3, Near Dark) is the distraught father. Tom Woodruff Jr. plays Pumpkinhead, who was created by Stan Winston Studios.

Re-Animator Diego's pick
Based on a series of short stories by H. P. Lovecraft, Re-Animator pays homage to the Frankenstein story. A horror-comedy that’s campy, gory (24 gallons of blood were used), and slightly disturbing thanks to one scene involving a naked woman (who’s been tied down), a re-animated headless body and his decapitated head.
Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West delivers the best deadpan lines ever. I love this guy.
Silver Bullet
Ok, I admit there’s nothing excitingly new here, but for some reason Silver Bullet gives me the chills every time I see it. It gets to me, so the filmmakers “got it right”. Based on “Cycle of the Werewolf” by Stephen King, “silver bullet” has a double meaning:  In addition to being the only way to kill a werewolf, it’s also the name of the souped-up wheelchair the main character (Corey Haim) uses for transportation. Gary Busey (Predator 2) plays the crazy cool uncle who custom-built the wheelchair/motorcycle. Everett McGill acted-out most of his scenes in a werewolf suit and is suitably sinister. Special effects by Carlo Rambaldi (Flesh for Frankenstein, Blood for Dracula, Alien).
Teen Witch
Nice bit of 1980’s-imbued fluff about a teen who discovers she’s a reincarnated witch who’ll come into her power on her 16th birthday.
Cast:  Robyn Lively, Zelda Rubinstein, Joshua Miller (Near Dark), Dick Sargent (of Bewitched fame), Marcia Wallace (in a great role), Shelley Berman, and Cindy Valentine as Shana the Rock Star.
The Bride Diego's pick
The Bride borrows from Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein and Pygmalion (Greek mythology). It’s a love story with gorgeous costumes and luscious cinematography. Stars Sting, Jennifer Beals, Clancy Brown, David Rappaport, Timothy Spall (Gothic), Cary Elwes (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Shadow of the Vampire), and German model/actress Veruschka.
The Company of Wolves

From a short story of the same name by Angela Carter and directed by Neil Jordan (Interview with the Vampire), it’s a retelling of Red Riding Hood which includes several cautionary tales entwined with the main story itself. More “Women Who Run With the Wolves” than werewolf, it’s a sumptuous feast for both the eyes and the soul.
Cast:  Sarah Patterson, Angela Lansbury, Stephen Rea (Interview with the Vampire), David Warner, hunky Micha Berges, and an uncredited Terence Stamp.

The Fly
David Cronenberg (Nightbreed, Rabid) co-wrote and directed this ambitious reworking of the 1958 classic – infusing his trademark themes of sexuality, body horror, and personal identity. Repulsive and heart-breaking, this remake features genetic fusion (genetic engineering), “vomit drop”, maggot baby, and the sympathetic character of Brundlefly (Jeff Goldblum). It also stars Geena Davis (Beetlejuice), and John Getz.
It won an Oscar for Best Makeup. (Fortunately for me, a fused baboon-cat scene was deleted from the film.)


“The design of Brundle’s telepods was inspired by the engine cylinder of Cronenberg’s Ducati Desmo.” (Wikipedia)
The Howling
Director Joe Dante deftly weaves tongue-in-cheek humor into this modern-day werewolf story which involves a serial killer and a secluded resort where all the “patients” are shapeshifters. I particularly enjoyed Elisabeth Brooks‘ turn as nymphomaniac Marsha Quist. Dee Wallace plays a TV anchorwoman sniffing-out the serial killer and gets more than she expects. The werewolves are terrifying and the ending’s a nice surprise.
“…one of the three high-profile wolf-themed horror films released in 1981, alongside An American Werewolf in London and Wolfen.” (Wikipedia)
There are plenty of in-joke references:  the big bad wolf (from Ub IwerksLittle Boy Blue, 1936), Wolf brand chili, “Howl” (written by Allen Ginsberg), Wolfman Jack, Wolfen-brand medicine, and a picture of a wolf who killed a sheep within the flock.
Co-stars Patrick MacNee, Christopher Stone, John Carradine (Bride of Frankensten, House of Frankenstein, The Sentinel), Kevin McCarthy, Slim Pickens, Meshach Taylor, with cameos by Roger Corman (The Wasp Woman) and Forrest J. Ackerman (“Famous Monsters of Filmland” fan-zine). Special effects:  Rob Bottin (An American Werewolf in London, The Witches of Eastwick, Mimic)
Trivia:
Growing-up I was a huge fan of Ackerman and had every copy of “Famous Monsters of Filmland”. I sent him a class photo which was published in an issue. Short story:  I got to talk to Mr. Ackerman on the phone thereafter. I don’t remember how my Dad got his number, but he made it happen for me. What a thrill that was!
The Hunger
Adapted from the Whitley Striber novel of the same name, this is another stylish and visually-lush vampire outing starring Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, Susan Sarandon (Rocky Horror Picture Show), Dan Hedaya (The Addams Family), Ann Magnuson, Willem Dafoe (Cirque due Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, Shadow of the Vampire), John Pankow, and Bauhaus (performing “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”).
I wrote an article on The Hunger earlier this year.
The Lost Boys
A modern-day vampire movie for the 80’s crowd. Most of the film was shot in Santa Cruz, CA and boasts a killer soundtrack featuring Tim Capello (who performs “I Still Believe” in the movie), Echo & the Bunnymen, INXS, Lou Gramm, Roger Daltrey, and Mummy Calls. Great cinematography and cast. Dianne Wiest (Practical Magic) plays mother to Jason Patric and Corey Haim (Silver Bullet) who come to live with their grandfather (Barnard Hughes) in Santa Carla. Corey Feldman and Jamison Newland are self-proclaimed vampire hunters who also work in their parents’ comic book store. There are two love interests:  Edward Herrmann and Jami Gertz – the latter of whom is a half-vampire/groupie attached to the local gang of undead:  David (Keifer Sutherland), Paul (Brooke McCarter), Dwayne (Billy Wirth), Marko (Alexander Winter), and Laddie (Chance Michael Corbitt). One interesting scene links disappearances (Have You Seen…) with the possibility that they were victims of vampires. Directed by Joel Schumacher.
Trivia:
The title refers to the “lost boys” in J. M. Barrie‘s stories of Peter Pan and Neverland.
They were handing-out copies of the movie poster at the premier in San Jose, CA and I snagged one. It’s framed and hanging in the hallway.

Heavy metal band Lizzy Borden wrote a song about the movie:

The Return of the Living Dead
A spoof of Night of the Living Dead written and directed by Dan O’Bannon (Alien). It’s got in-joke references, punks, brain-eating zombies (“More Braaiinnsss!”) and plenty of slapstick humor. Scream queen Linnea Quigley (Innocent Blood) gives a dynamite performance as Trash.
Soundtrack includes “Partytime” (45 Grave), “Surfin’ Dead” (The Cramps), and “Tonight (We’ll Make Love Until We Die)” by SSQ.
The Witches of Eastwick
Based on John Updike‘s novel, it stars Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer (What Lies Beneath, Batman Returns, Wolf), Susan Sarandon (The Hunger, The Rocky Horror Picture Show), Veronic Cartwright (Alien), and Carel Struycken (The Addams Family, Addams Family Values) – with Jack Nicholson (Wolf) as Daryl Van Horne (aka The Devil).
John Williams (Dracula, 1979) composed the score.

Last year I wrote an article about The Witches of Eastwick.
They Live
This gem is a cult classic filled with political and social satire. It concerns subliminal messages in mass media (!) which are controlled by the elite (!) who perform “glamour” on the citizens of the USA so they can’t see who they really are:  grotesque aliens reaping the rewards of (our) consumerism. These elite can only be revealed via special sunglasses which are being distributed covertly by an underground movement. Written, directed, and scored by the multi-talented John Carpenter.

“The more political elements of the film are derived from Carpenter’s growing distaste with the ever-increasing commercialization of 1980s popular culture and politics…He remarked, ‘I began watching TV again. I quickly realized that everything we see is designed to sell us something… It’s all about wanting us to buy something. The only thing they want to do is take our money.'” (Wikipedia)
They Live is definitely one of the forgotten masterpieces of the Hollywood Left. … The sunglasses function like a critique of ideology. They allow you to see the real message beneath all the propaganda, glitz, posters and so on. … When you put the sunglasses on you see the dictatorship in democracy, the invisible order which sustains your apparent freedom.”
https://web.archive.org/web/20131005043700/http://www.bbfc.co.uk/releases/perverts-guide-ideology
They Live is based on a short story by Ray Nelson (Eight O’Clock in the Morning) and stars Roddy Piper as John Nada, Keith David (Pitch Black), and Meg Foster.
Trivia Time:
They Live holds the record for having the longest on-screen fight (between Piper and David).
Trick or Treat Diego's pick
Next to The Lost Boys, this is my favorite horror-themed movie from the 80’s. Teenage outcast Eddie Weinbauer (Marc Price) is a heavy metal fan. (Yay!) His room is covered with posters of Judas Priest, Anthrax, Raven, Twisted Sister, Mötley Crüe, Ozzy Osbourne, Poison, Kiss, and Lizzy Borden. But his hero is Sammi Curr (gorgeously played by Tony Fields) who recently died in a hotel fire days before he was set to perform Halloween night at Eddie’s high school. A local DJ (Gene Simmons) knows how much Curr meant to the kid and gives him a copy of an as-yet-unreleased album by Curr. When Eddie plays the record backward he brings Sammi back from the dead and all Hell breaks loose. (Yay!)
Co-starring Doug Savant, Lisa Orgolini, Elaine Joyce – with a cameo by Ozzy Osbourne as a televangelist – Trick or Treat marks the directorial debut of Charles Martin Smith. Music by Fastway. Kevin Yagher (A Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors) provided the cool special effects and has a small cameo as lead singer/guitarist for the band playing in lieu of Sammi Curr.
Wolfen
Another film adaption of a Whitley Striber novel. This is a nifty and well-acted horror-crime drama that combines elements of Native American mythology and shapeshifting. No CGI wolves here, either. The excellent Albert Finney stars, along with Diane Venora, Edward James Olmos, Gregory Hines, and an uncredited Tom Waits (Bram Stoker’s Dracula).
Trivia:
“The film is known for its early use of an in-camera effect to portray the subjective point of view of a wolf.” (Wikipedia)

My favorite (Halloween) films from 1950-1959
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1960-1969
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1970-1979
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1980-1989
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1990-1999
My favorite (Halloween) films from 2000-2009
My favorite (Halloween) films from 2010-2017

ℳ –

4 responses to “Countdown to Halloween: My Favorite Films (1980-1989)

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