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June 26, 2011

Midnight Top 5 - The '80s Horror Month "Didn't Quite Make My 31 Favorites List" Edition

Yeah, yeah, I know.  Lists, lists, lists.  All month long it's been lists.  But you think you could cover all the awesome horror films of the '80s individually in just one month? I DIDN'T THINK SO.

If you don't know by now, the king of those lists has been my countdown of my 31 favorite horror films of the '80s, which should end Wednesday when I reveal the Top 5 of said list.  But I would be doing a disservice to a few films if I didn't mention them this month....even though they didn't quite make the list.  So, let's take a look at the five(ish) films below, many of which may inspire you to want to assassinate me once you realize that I have less fun with them than I do with Waxwork or The Entity.

As I always say - I REGRET NOTHING!  (Just don't ALL start hating me, OK? I need like one or two readers left, please.)

The Believers
(1987, Dir. by John Schlesinger.)
OK, this one probably won't inspire too much sadness in all y'all, but I simply had to bring it up because I occasionally feel like I'm one of the film's only fans left.  If you don't know The Believers (and if you don't get it confused with Believers), it stars Martin Sheen as a New York City dude who gets caught up with a strange voodoo cult.  It's one of those '80s movies that takes its stuff really seriously - probably the influence of established director Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy, Marathon Man) - and features a slew of recognizable faces (Jimmy Smits, Harris Yulin, Robert Loggia), but it also features some first rate creepiness thanks to an incredibly imposing head voodoo dude and a suspenseful final act.  If you can survive the first scene (which is a classic "I know this is supposed to be sad but it's kinda funny" moment), you may find it to be one of the decade's more thought provoking horrors.

The Friday the 13th Series
(1980-1988, Dir. by Several Dudes.)
If you've read FMWL regularly, you've probably heard me whine about the Friday the 13th films.  Despite the fact that two of them have been Midnight Movie of the Week picks already and despite the fact that I'll gladly watch any of them (except maybe Part 8 and Jason Goes to Hell) almost any time, I simply have never embraced them like most horror fans do.  Are they fun? Sure.  Are they good movies? That's debatable.  Would they go with me on the horror movie ark? Well, maybe parts 4-6 would....but they'd have a lot of competition.

I'm just not a slasher guy.  So sue me. (Don't actually sue me, please. That'd be mean.)

Killer Klowns from Outer Space
(1988, Dir. by Stephen Chiodo.)

This was a really tough one to leave out.  Basically, I got down to the last few movies to make the list and I was like "Y'know, I got The Blob on the list....and I got Clownhouse on the list.....Can't I just combine them to make Killer Klowns from Outer Space?  Are they the blue and the yellow to KKfOS' green?  Maybe...

But, I do dearly love Killer Klowns from Outer Space, despite all the controversy it caused in FMWL's March Midnight Madness Tournament, because it's one of the most fun horror comedies of the era.  It just didn't quite make it over the crowded field into my list.  And that makes me sad.

A Nightmare on Elm Street
(1984, Dir. by Wes Craven.)

I'd imagine it's safe to say that this is the omission that is most going to chafe people's bums.  While I could simply apologize to all the Freddy-holics out there, I'm going to do something else here.  I'm going to argue my point.

There's no denying that the original Nightmare reaches some of the more amazing heights that any horror film of that decade achieves.  We've got an iconic killer who is menacing, we've got a survivor girl that might even trump the great Laurie Strode, and we've got some great visuals, sound effects, and music courtesy of Craven and crew.  But here's the thing - THAT ENDING IS FREAKING TERRIBLE.

I'm assuming studio bosses, test audiences, and assorted other general morons freaked out pretty mightily when our heroine simply turns her back on the diabolical villain and he evaporates into thin air.  BUT THAT WAS THE LOGICAL CONCLUSION TO THAT FILM. In fact, it was not only logical, it was empowering. It stood for something. It looked every horror fan who's ever bravely watched a bit of onscreen terror in the face and said "Hey, good for you guys.  You're stronger now because you can face your fears and then walk away from them."  Nancy Thompson's final act of that film represented one of my favorite things about horror - the idea that the strong CAN face down their fears and walk away with no fear left in their mind.

But noooooooooooooooooooooo.  Either the studio or Craven (who has proved to be an idiot at times, so maybe it's all his fault) decided we needed that final scene which combines a) one last dose of Ronee Blakely's horrible acting, b) a stupid car gag that negates Nancy's actions throughout the final act, and c) what appears to be a blow up doll being awkwardly pulled through a window.  Because clearly THOSE things will send the audience home happy. Right. 

Ugh.  I freaking hate you, ending of A Nightmare on Elm Street.  You make it impossible for me to love an otherwise fantastic horror film.

The Return of the Living Dead
(1985, Dir. by Dan O'Bannon.)
Clu Gulager and Thom Mathews and Linnea Quigley are all awesome.  I agree that the "Send more paramedics." thing is one of the coolest things ever.  But I've just never really loved it.  I would say that I'm just a Romero guy, but I don't really dig Day of the Dead I don't know what my problem is.  But I know that I considered The Return of the Living Dead for the list...and then I looked at everything else I wanted to put on the list - including The Entity, I know - and I just decided that The Return of the Living Dead was gonna sit this one out.  Doesn't mean I don't dig it, I swear. y'all doin?  Y'all mad at me?  Well, I promise I'll do the best I can to redeem myself when the Top 5 is unveiled this week!  In the meantime, I'm sure I'll pay for the heartbreak I've given!


Unknown said...

Craven hates the ending too. Bob Shea made him put that in for a last scare-Craven's end was the friends driving off and the little children skipping rope to the Freddy nursery rhyme sans the getting taken over by freddy bits

The Mike said...

OK, that's kinda what I thought, but couldn't remember for sure. Thanks much!

Morgan said...

Sad to see that Killer Klowns from Outer Space and Return of the Living Dead didn't make the list, but I'll get over it. I'm happy though that A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors did make it over the first one. :-)

Can't wait to see the Top 5!

Marvin the Macabre said...

Whew... I almost did hate you for a second there, but you said more complimentary things about Elm Street than negative ones, and you're absolutely right about the ending. While there are silly-looking special effects throughout the film, that one is the absolute worst. I still love it though. While Lost Boys got me started in the horror realm, Elm Street was the one that really pushed me over the edge into this morbid pasttime.

Enbrethiliel said...


Wow. And I thought #s 11 to 15 were brutal cuts. =P

While I would have totally predicted that A Nightmare on Elm Street was in your Top 5 (and totally lost that bet, beggaring myself), I fully agree with you about the ending, which was cheapening. Yes, we all know that Freddy will be back for a sequel, because franchises are to Slashers what tie-in merchandise is to Disney full-length animated features . . . but this twist's cool disregard of Nancy's character arc (not to mention her courage) in the name of "one last scare" was just . . . well, there's no other word for it, so I'll just use the adjective I went with the first time: cheapening.

Since I grew up with that ending, I pretty much accepted it and didn't bother to look at it too critically . . . until I saw the reboot, which patterns its own ending after it. And then, finally, I was disgusted.

So thanks a lot, Bob Shea. It's all your fault this movie didn't make The Mike's list at all.