12 Trashy '80s Horror Movies With Zero Redeeming Values
There is a great tradition of horror movies tackling topical and social themes. Whether it's the cold war paranoia of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the consumer satire of Dawn of the Dead, or Jordan Peele's dissection of race relations in Get Out, horror is the perfect vehicle to explore a wide range of social issues within an accessible context.
But, of course, for every intelligent, socially conscious horror movie, there are a dozen with absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Never was this more true than in the 1980s. This was the era of some of the genre's most disreputatbale subgenres, including slasher, rape revenge, and cannibal movies, and the arrival of VHS ensured that even if a film didn't reach a theater, it could still find an audience at home.
These were movies whose only intention was to make money, and the more shocking the content, the better chance it had of getting noticed in the video store. Many of the most notorious films of the era came from Italy, but there are plenty examples of gratuitous horror trash being made in the US as well. And while most of these films now seem dated, there is still something fascinating about them that makes them worth watching today--if only to scratch our heads and wonder how they ever got made in the first place.
These aren't the movies to win over non-horror fans, or to prove to those who condemn the genre just how intelligent and artistic it can really be. It's the opposite in fact--these are the movies that prove the horror haters right. But hardcore fans know that morally dubious and manipulative trash is as vital a part of the genre as the prestige pictures and the revered classics. So here are some of the most notorious and trashiest horror movies of the 1980s.
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12. Nightbeast (1982)
Many years before he was the director of two of the biggest movies of all time, a teenage JJ Abrams worked on this ridiculous alien horror movie. Abrams was in correspondence with director Don Dohler, who asked him if he'd like to write the music for the movie. So 16-year-old Abrams sent him tapes of his score, despite Dohler never having even heard anything Abrams had written in advance. As for the movie, it ticks all the boxes of a low budget early '80s Alien rip-off: gore, nudity, bad acting, and a surprisingly cool looking creature.
11. Anthropophagous (1980)
Italian director Aristide Massaccesi--aka Joe D'Amato--made a wide variety of sleazy movies during the '70s and '80s, and Anthropophagous is one of his most infamous. The film's reputation really derives from two scenes, in which the movie's brutish main character, played by genre icon George Eastman, indulges in some gruesome cannibalistic behaviour. The scene in which he eats his own intestines is actually the less offensive of the two sequences, while the other--well, you'll know it if you've seen it.
10. Blood Rage (1987)
While some slasher movies have continued to be horror favorites over the years, others have had to wait for their moment. Blood Rage was released under several other titles during the '80s, and was largely forgotten until Arrow Films gave the movie a deluxe 2-disc blu-ray release in 2017. Some viewers might question whether a movie this terrible really deserves such prestigious treatment, but Blood Rage is terrible in all the right ways. The non-stop gore is matched by the bizarre storyline (involving a murderous twin setting out on a Thanksgiving massacre) and an absolutely demented performance from Louise Lasser.
9. Don't Go in the House (1980)
Some horror movies are fun, while some are purposefully dark and upsetting. Don't Go in the House is definitely the latter. A disturbed young man obsessed with fire lures women back to his house, where he locks them in a flame-proof room and proceeds to kill them with a flamethrower. It certainly isn't for everyone (or anyone, frankly), but director Joseph Ellison generates an impressively grim atmosphere, while Dan Grimaldi is a memorably intense leading man.
8. Evil Dead Trap (1988)
Horror filmmakers in South-East Asia have long pushed the boundaries of the genre, and Evil Dead Trap is no exception. It's an incredibly gory slasher in which a TV crew attempts to discover the source of what seems to be a snuff video and instead find themselves trapped in a warehouse by a crazed killer. This movie makes most US slashers seem bland by comparison, as director Toshiharu Ikeda pushes everything to the max. The atmosphere is steeped in dread, the storyline is increasingly bizarre, and the violence--some of it sexual--is shocking and gruesome.
7. Nightmares (1981)
This notorious slasher is best known for being a key part of the so-called "video nasty" scandal of the early '80s in the UK, a media-led campaign against the wave of violent horror movies hitting VHS at the time. The UK distributor of the movie, veteran exploitation and porn distributor David Hamilton-Grant, was sentenced to 12 months in prison for releasing the movie. As for the film itself, it's a tale of a psychotic man who, 20 years after he butchered his parents, is released and embarks on another splattery killing spree. While many shockers of this era promise more than they ultimately deliver, this one lives up to its reputation.
6. Frozen Scream (1980)
There weren't many female filmmakers working in the world of low budget horror during the '80s, but Renee Harmon was an exception. The German born trash-auteur not only directed Frozen Scream, but also wrote, produced, and starred in this insane epic. The plot revolves around an experiment to create immortality that results in cryogenically frozen black-robed zombies. Add some hilariously deadpan narration, eye gouging, axe attacks, and one of the worst bands ever to perform in a movie, and you have 75 minutes of B-movie bliss.
5. Night of the Demon (1980)
There aren't nearly enough Bigfoot movies in the horror genre, but thankfully we have Night of the Demon. It focuses on an anthropologist and his students as they set about trying to prove the existence of Bigfoot and find themselves at the mercy of not only the terrifying creature, but a cult of depraved Satanic Bigfoot-worshippers. The film is badly made, badly acted, and very stupid. But it has a genuinely weird and creepy atmosphere, tons of totally over-the-top gore, and a wild synth score.
4. The New York Ripper (1982)
Italian horror director Lucio Fulci is much-loved by horror fans for gothic zombie movies such as Zombie and The Beyond, but his most controversial film is The New York Ripper. The title says it all--a killer is stalking innocent women in Manhattan, and killing them in a variety of very nasty ways. The weird duck voice that the killer uses on the phone adds a level of bizarre black comedy, and the movie certainly captures the gritty vibe of the city during this era. But the violence remains repulsive, and the movie continues to divide horror fans to this day.
3. Boardinghouse (1982)
This demented supernatural horror about telekinetic killers has the dubious honor of being the first theatrically-released horror movie to be made entirely on video. Director John Wintergate shot Boardinghouse on the Betacam format to keep costs down, and the result is a garish, amateurish, tonally inconsistent, and utterly bizarre experience that makes you feel like you are going slightly insane the longer you watch. 88 minutes is enough for anyone, but for the truly brave, the 2013 DVD special edition features a 157 minute directors cut.
2. Cannibal Ferox (1981)
The Italian cannibal movie cycle of the late '70s and early '80s delivered some of the most unpleasant movies of the era, and there are few as notorious as Cannibal Ferox. It's got the same basic plot as the likes of Cannibal Holocaust and Eaten Alive (First World explorers are caught and eaten by Third World cannibals), but the level of sadism and nastiness is cranked to the max, as director Umberto Lenzi and effects whiz Gianetto de Rossi deliver some convincingly brutal scenes. The marketing claim that Cannibal Ferox was "banned in 31 countries'' seems unlikely, but it does hint at what lies within.
1. Pieces (1982)
This gloriously terrible Spanish campus slasher has become a true cult classic over the years. From the over-the-top gore, utterly gratuitous nudity (including male, which is still a rarity for the genre), incomprehensible plot, and bizarre dubbed dialogue, Pieces is the perfect cheesy horror to watch with like-minded horror fans and some liquid refreshments.
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