The 15 Best Cheesy Horror Films From the '80s & '90s
By Mat Elfring on
While there are a plethora of movies perfect for the Halloween season that will scare you half to death, there's a whole world of cheesy and/or bad horror movies that are a ton of fun to watch. Bad horror films have been around since the genre's existence, and the 1980s and '90s have some of the best cheesy horror movies around. We're taking a look at 15 horror films from that era and letting you know why you need to check them out.
What is it about? More than a decade before Stay Alive hit the theaters, there was another movie that tried to mix video games and horror: Brainscan. Edward Furlong (Terminator 2) stars as a kid bored with video games, until he finds a new one, which feels way too real. In this game, he kills innocent people and later finds out these murders are happening in real life. It's the ultimate VR experience.
Why should you watch it? T. Ryder Smith (Sander Cohen in BioShock) plays The Trickster, a poorly named, confusing character who guides Furlong's character through the game. Trickster randomly pops up from time-to-time, and it's unclear whether he's the comic relief or not. Regardless, he's a good laugh and so is the game Furlong plays.
Chopping Mall (1986)
What is it about? A few teenagers are trapped in a shopping mall after dark. What they don't realize is that this mall has a new robotic security system. The robots malfunction after lightning strikes the building, damaging a computer, and they kill everyone in sight.
Why should you watch it? It's unintentionally hilarious. It's an incredibly '80s movie. It hits on every bad horror movie cliche: sex, drugs, drinking, parties, and again, malls. By far the most amusing part of the movie is that these kids are having an after-hours party in a furniture store.
Critters 4 (1992)
What is it about? When the horror well has run dry, franchises tend to take their monsters to space (Friday the 13th, Leprechaun, Hellraiser). That's pretty much the plot to Critters 4, as the monstrous little Critters head to a space station in the year 2045, where they eat and kill everyone.
Why should you watch it? The Critters franchise could have only happened in the '80s. Cashing in on the Gremlins craze, like other films (Ghoulies, Munchies, Hobgoblins), the film tries to go the comedy/horror route and fails miserably. In addition, there's nothing more fun than seeing what low-budget movies from the '90s thought the future was going to be like.
Dead Alive (1992)
What is it about? Lionel Cosgrove's mother gets sick and dies. She comes back to life and starts killing and eating people. While it seems like a traditional and cheesy horror film, it's worth mentioning this was directed by Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit).
Why should you watch it? If you're a horror fan, you've probably seen this movie. If you haven't, then you've surely heard about the scene where someone uses a lawnmower on a horde of zombies (NSFW video here). Dead Alive isn't a bad movie, per se. It did, however, open a lot of people's eyes to the horror genre in New Zealand and Australia, which has its own quirky style. This is a must-watch for that reason alone.
Friday the 13th VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
What is it about? After spending years killing off campers at Crystal Lake, Jason Voorhees hops on a boat and heads towards Manhattan, killing everyone he runs into. So when does he actually get to the city that never sleeps? Roughly 80 minutes in. We're only telling you so you don't get your hopes up.
Why should you watch it? There are some bad movies in the franchise, but this is--by far--the most misleading and poorly executed. Jason Takes
Manhattan A Boat Trip still offers all the fun kill scenes featuring one of the most iconic characters in horror, and it has a ridiculous, over-the-top ending you have to see for yourself.
The Gate (1987)
What is it about? What do you get when you mix tiny monsters like we've seen in Ghoulies and Critters, mixed with the evils of '80s heavy metal music? You get The Gate. A portal to a netherworld opens up in a family's backyard, and demons start coming through and terrorizing everyone. How did it open? Playing a heavy metal album.
Why should you watch it? To watch this kid rock out to some metal. It's such a weird movie that tries to capitalize on a whole bunch of elements that made the '80s a great decade for movies, but it falls flat on its face. The film is a bit of a mess, but you'll like the Gate demons, which look hilarious.
What is it about?Before the Ghoulies went to college, they were just tiny monsters, swimming in people's toilets. A man and woman move into an old home, but what they don't realize is that it's crawling with ancient demons. Yes, it's another tiny monsters movie, but this time, it's supposed to be funny.
Why should you watch it? Ghoulies isn't a parody, per se, but in hindsight, it feels like one. It's a silly movie, but it's intentionally fun and a good palate cleanser if you just tried to watch one of the other "tiny monster" horror films.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
What is it about? Remember Halloween and Halloween II where Michael Myers killed a whole bunch of people? Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a lot less slasher and a whole lot more pod people. The original Halloween writers John Carpenter and Debra Hill didn't want to do a direct sequel to Halloween II but rather an original film. What they came up with was the story about a costume company named Silver Shamrock that made masks that killed kids and turned their faces into bugs and snakes.
Why should you watch it? We're underselling this movie a bit. It's a terrible Halloween sequel, but it's not a bad movie by any means, as long as you forget what the title is. Some of the effects don't stand the test of time, and the story seems a bit laughable. However, it's a pretty dark and sinister film that's all about killing children. That's pretty messed up. However, when you get to the ending, when the villain reveals his overly convoluted plan, be prepared to do a spit-take.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
What is it about? A small town becomes infested with an alien menace. What's special about this threat is that they look just like clowns. The title tells you everything you need to know about the movie.
Why should you watch it? If you're a fan of cheesy horror films, you've watched or at least heard of this movie. Killer Klowns doesn't take itself seriously but still managed to give me nightmares as a kid, mainly because there were scenes of people cocooned in cotton candy. It's laughable now, but that ruined my childhood. Anyway, Killer Klowns is iconic because it's one of the silliest horror films of the '80s.
Maximum Overdrive (1986)
What is it about? Master of horror Stephen King directed this mid-'80s horror flick about machines coming to life and killing people. Most notably, it's known for the semi-truck with the Green Goblin's face on it.
Why should you watch it? The trailer alone should be enough to sell you on this flick. Man vs. machine is a story we see again and again because it's all based on our fears of machines rising up and killing us all or turning us into human batteries. However, it's hard to get scared when one of the villains is a vending machine, shooting Cokes out at people. Emilio Estevez is in this as well, and I like to imagine he's playing Gordon Bombay in a Mighty Ducks prequel.
Night of the Demons 2 (1994)
What is it about? A group of teenagers from a Catholic school throw a Halloween party in a haunted mansion, where a demon named Angela kills them all off, one-by-one.
Why should you watch it? Once again, Night of the Demons 2 plays off every overused trope in '80s horror cinema. If you're having sex, you die. If you have a party at an abandoned house, you die. If you read satanic verses into a mirror, you'll eventually die. It's a film that lacks originality, but that's what makes it so much fun to watch. You know what's coming.
Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988)
What is it about? A group of kids find a barrel of mysterious gas that turns people into zombies.
Why should you watch it? The idea that zombies eat brains comes from this movie franchise. What separates this series from George Romero's zombie films is that the Return franchise is undoubtedly a comedy. There's one part of this film where a zombie dressed like Michael Jackson does the Thriller dance. It's silly and fun, and like most '80s horror films, the effects don't hold up as well.
Slumber Party Massacre II (1987)
What is it about? A group of girls, who are in a band, head to a house to party. While they are enjoying a vacation, a rockabilly ghost kills them all off with his signature drill-guitar. Slumber Party Massacre II is the most underrated cheesy horror film of all time.
Why should you watch it? While the movie is listed as a comedy, it's pretty apparent that's not what the filmmakers were going for originally. The movie doesn't really start until an hour in, so what's the rest of the film contain? Musical numbers. There are three total musical numbers--four if you count the drummer writing and singing on the couch--two of which are from the band and one from the Driller Killer, who breakdances his way into our hearts. It's a movie that doesn't know what it wants to be, featuring one of the most memorable monsters in bad horror. This is a must-see.
What is it about? A family gets a new satellite dish, but it starts receiving signals from an alien planet. It quickly becomes a portal to that alien world. This movie features monsters that are always dripping with slime.
Why should you watch it? The plot is completely nuts. Spoiler alert: when you actually dig deeper into TerrorVision, you learn that an alien planet is turning their garbage into energy and shooting it into space, which gets picked up as a television signal. However, the signal turns into a trash monster that eats people. It is such a dumb movie that is a lot of fun to watch, unless slime creeps you out. There's a lot of wet aliens in this movie.
Troll 2 (1990)
What is it about? A bunch of trolls plan to eat humans in a small town. You know this movie. You might not have seen it, but you've quoted this scene at least once in your life.
Why should you watch it? This infamous film is unintentionally hilarious. It has such a large cult following, there was a documentary made about it. There are so many specific moments we could talk about in Troll 2, like a kid turning into a plant or the dinner sequence, but you should just take our word for it. Grab a drink and enjoy the second worst horror movie of all time. Sorry, we still think the original cut of Manos: The Hands of Fate holds that title or worst horror film.