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  • Written By: John Kenneth Muir
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company
  • Pages: 842
  • Price: $59.95

HORROR FILMS OF THE 1980’s

By Tim Janson     November 30, 2007


HORROR FILMS OF THE 1980’s by John Kenneth Muir.
© McFarland & Company
It can be argued that the decade of the 1980’s was the most important ever for horror films. While the films may not have always been good, and many were downright terrible, the advent of home video soon taught filmmakers that they could turn a profit even with direct-to-video releases. “Horror Films of the 1980’s” by John Kenneth Muir, is an exhaustive guide to perhaps the most memorable era of horror films. Over 300 films are covered in detail within this massive, 800 plus page hardcover tome.
 
Anyone who has ever read one of the fine books from McFarland knows that they don’t do fluff, and this book is no different. This isn’t merely a listing of films and stars like you get in some books. Each film gets at least two pages of coverage that includes full cast and crew credits, rating (one to four stars) running time, detailed plot synopsis, commentary by Muir, as well as selected critic’s comments from the time that the film came out.
 
The films are listed alphabetically, by decade, beginning with “Alligator” in 1980 and ending with “Stepfather 2” in 1989. Even if you think you know your 80’s horror films well, you’re sure to find some films you probably never heard of such as The Killing Hour, Bloodkill, and New York Ripper.
 
As I thumbed through the book I felt like I was looking at an old scrapbook or photo album of friends and family members that I had not seen in many years. I have not seen a lot of these films since their original debuts over twenty years ago and I fondly recalled many nights at the drive-in where I saw quite a few of these films. I loved reading about these old friends, Motel Hell, One Dark, Night, Gates of Hell, The Keep, Near Dark, Night of the Demons, and countless others.
Muir, and his small group of reviewers show a depth of knowledge, but more importantly, a true love of this era of horror films, often resulting in ratings that are a bit more generous than I would have given. A lot of films included here are not true horror films. There are sprinklings of sci-fi (Saturn 3, Lifeforce, Moontrap, Terminator), thrillers (Ten to Midnight, Jaws 3D, Blood Simple, Body Double) and comedy horrors (Ghoulies, Critters, Gremlins), but their inclusions are welcome nonetheless.
 
The book concludes with several interesting appendices that feature the 1980’s Horror Hall of Fame, Recommended Viewing Then & Now, and Memorable Ad Lines. Heres’ something fun…read one of the ad lines and see if your friends can guess the film. This is simply one of the finest horror reference books I’ve ever read. Well worth the $60 price tag!

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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EagleManiac 11/30/2007 7:47:48 AM
I have been looking for The Keep on DVD for a long time. I wish someone would produce that DVD and release it, since I LOVE that movie and thought that thought it was truly a classic of the '80's horror films. I may pick up this book just for the "walk down memory lane".
Xenophobe 11/30/2007 10:45:33 AM
I enjoyed The Keep but I do not conisder it a Horror film.
kingghidorah 11/30/2007 3:30:32 PM
Personally I feel the 70's were the best decade for horror films. I have a VHS copy of THE KEEP and it is a great film. But as for Quatchopf...How the hell do you not consider this a horror film!!! What do you think it is then ? Please indulge me..
Xenophobe 11/30/2007 4:33:22 PM
It is what we now call......get this.....Sci FI! There was no Horror in this movie at all.
kingghidorah 11/30/2007 6:26:01 PM
SCI FI huh !! where is the science in this fiction ? We are talking about a keep that imprisons a freakin' demon not an alien or some maniacal robot. In fact the original script called for the creature to be a vampire but switched it to a demonic type being at the last minute of pre-production. My idea of SCI-FI is LOST IN SPACE,STAR TREK OR E.T. ect. But to call a film that's setting is an ancient castle with a cavernous keep that imprisons a demon warded off by silver crosses imbedded into the walls SCI-FI !! I guess that you and I have different opinions on what is SCI-FI and what is HORROR...
Xenophobe 12/1/2007 12:35:51 AM
Your idea of Sci Fi is limited. Recheck your thinking process.
kingghidorah 12/1/2007 11:25:12 AM
You have made absolutly no point to what your saying is or is not SCI-FI or HORROR. I've made mine so why are you so limited in telling me your idea of SCI-FI...or are you still checking your thinking process ??
snallygaster 12/1/2007 1:16:39 PM
The Keep is a horror movie based on a horror novel by F. Paul Wilson. I don't see any basis for categorizing The Keep as sci-fi. As a genre, Horror is defined by the intent of the author/writer/director/creator. If the intent is to frighten the audience, you've got horror. Clearly, that's the intent of The Keep, both the novel and the movie. Science fiction and fantasy are not defined by the author's intent, but by what is presented - which is the fantastic, that which does not (or cannot) exist in our world. The difference is that sci-fi explains the fantastic by basing it - to some degree or another - on science. Fantasy explains it through magic or other supernatural means (or doesn't try to explain it at all). Thus Captain Kirk teleports by the use of a transporter (sci-fi), while Dorothy teleports via magic ruby slippers (fantasy). SG-1 uses the Stargate to get to other worlds, while Alice achieves this by walking through the looking glass or going down a rabbit hole. In A.I., David is an artificial android boy, while Pinocchio is a puppet given life by a fairy. And so on and so on. The horror genre often overlaps with the fantasy and sci-fi genres. Horror sci-fi gets you such movies as Alien and Frankenstein. Horror fantasy creates supernatural horror, as with Dracula or The Excorcist. And of course horror can also overlap with the non-fantastical psychological thriller, resulting in the likes of Psycho and Silence of the Lambs. The Keep falls squarely into the supernatural horror genre. The "bad guy" is an ancient demonic figure, while the origins of the fortress itself are unknown. The Keep is part psychological thriller, part speculative historical fiction, part dark fairy tale, and part supernatural horror in the tradition of H.P. Lovecraft. But until I see a convincing argument telling me how science is involved in explaining any of the fantastical elements of the story, I can't see how it can be considered science fiction at all.
Xenophobe 12/1/2007 2:32:04 PM
I must have watched a another The Keep then because that monster thing did not Horror fy me nor did any of the movie cause me to become scared. Its Sci Fi
snallygaster 12/1/2007 4:41:39 PM
I said that horror is defined by the intent of the creator to frighten the audience. That doesn't mean it always succeeds. It's the intent that counts. A lot of older horror movies do not scare modern audiences; it doesn't mean they are not in the horror genre. And if The Keep is not horror, then it is a fantasy movie, not sci-fi, because there's no attempt to scientifically explain the fortress, the beast, or any other fantastical elements. As kingghidorah has pointed out, you've made no convincing argument to prove that the movie is sci-fi.
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