The 17 Most Underrated Horror Films of the 1980s
The 1980s offered the world a different type of horror than had been seen before, or since. A perfect slurry of technological advancements, to political climates, to shifting cultural landscapes offered the horror genre fertile ground in which to sow its malevolent seed… and sow it did, with abandon, churning out some of the greatest classic franchises of all time and offering up a world of nightmares for audiences around the globe.
Just as the original birth of horror films arose out of the real-world horror birthed in the trenches of World War I, 1980s horror matured within a stark landscape. There was the paranoid politics of the neoliberal capitalist craze, the culmination of many decades of Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation, the rise of rampant consumerism and new technologies, and the rise of the AIDS epidemic that would go on to claim over half a million lives and impact countless more. These all fueled a weariness and subconscious darkness that still lurks in the Western world today.
That sort of psychological pressure needs a release valve, a way for people to externalize and understand what is occurring, and the horror genre provides a ready-made set of symbols from which to build this reflective map of our collective psyche. Everything from They Live (1988), to _Windows (1980) offer a view into the crisis of the time.
Some horror, Windows in particular, strike at a different chord: a surge of repressiveness aimed at the LGBTQ+ community (though not always with that intention). Indeed, a reaction against earlier counterculture movements can be seen sharply in many of these films, with conservative values oddly standing in the blood-runneled background. But there were surges against this as well, moments of breakthrough that took jabs at the status quo and the deliverers of a new brutal economic and social order.
Within all of this, a great sense of style also emerged, building on the latest technology to form reality from the unimaginable; to take formless fear and give it form, provide it shape within the prosthetics, lighting, and molded plastics of the age. This great aesthetic, cultivated in the horror of the 1980s, remains with us today, and adds to the nostalgia of the era with its over-bright film stock and its synth-rock overtones.