Retro Film Report #38: Nine 1980s Horror Movies You Haven't Seen

Okay, I know there's a lot of horror buffs out there that have seen every movie on this list multiple times; so, please don't cause a ruckus over the title.  It simply means I'm taking a look at some horror titles that the vast majority of you haven't seen, or even heard of.  Let's face it, who needs a review of Nightmare on Elm Street at this point?  Or even Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (groan).

I'm digging deep here, folks. Like the dwarves who dug too deep in the Mines of Moria, I'm in danger of unleashing the Balrog.  Not to worry, - Gandalf Gilligan is here to get us through.  One word of warning up front: Most of these movies are forgotten for a reason.  When you're this deep in the mines, you're not likely to strike gold.... but when you do, it is all the sweeter.

Society (1989)

A commentary on the upper classes about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the groin. The rich folk are all grotesque monsters underneath, invisible to the naked eye.  The film is done with lots of flair and gore, with nary a dull moment courtesy director Brian Yuzna.

[Below] Starring Billy Warlock - a soap opera staple, and Baywatch beefcake who begins seeing the monsters underneath the upper crust's posh veneer.  Devin DeVasquez - wife of Ron Moss, from the band Player ("Baby Come Back") provides some much needed eye candy.

The final scene where the gore hits the fan was unfortunately filmed under this annoying red lighting - some unbelievable horror effects were sabotaged by this pointless red light.  It drove me fricking crazy.

Society is a must for gorehounds, but everyone else should probably leave this one alone.

Scalps (1983)

A group of retarded teenagers (they look like they're forty, but okay) disturb an Indian Burial Ground. A pissed-off monster Indian with a grudge starts killing them. (yawn)  Skip this one.

Perhaps my review is tainted by the horrible VHS transfer I watched, but I hated this movie.  I hated it for its lightweight gore, its lack of scares, its bad acting, its tired-ass plot, its lack of T&A  (this is a Fred Olen Ray film - you expect T&A).... it's simply worthless.

The Dead Pit (1989)

I sought this one out when I saw it in Fangoria's 101 Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen book.  I wasn't as impressed as Fangoria, but wasn't punching myself in the face for spending an hour and a half watching it either.

The Plot: Something about a renegade doctor punished for doing illegal brain surgeries emerges from an earthquake crevasse to once again run amok in a hospital.  Some exceptionally gory moments, and lots of the smoking hot Cheryl Lawson running around in panties and a tiny tank top.

It's Nightmare on Elm Street... but in a hospital.... and no Freddy Krueger, just some dopey resurrected doctor.  There's precious little to find scary here.... but did I mention Cheryl Lawson runs around in her panties a lot?  By the guy that brought you Lawnmower Man.

Offerings (1989)

Very much like Halloween, following that slasher movie template religiously - except they forgot to make it scary.  They didn't forget to make it unintentionally hilarious, though.  (Yes, I know this makes no sense, but neither does this movie).

You might enjoy the sheer 80s-ness of it all - there's acid washed jeans and pastel colors up the yin yang.  But it's just hopelessly low budget, and poorly executed.  No T&A whatsoever, no gore to speak of, and a soundtrack that's a direct rip-off of John Carpenter.  I'd suggest he sue, but given the production value of this clunker, it probably wouldn't be worth his time.  Skip this one.

Lady, Stay Dead! (1981)

This piece of Ozploitation has special meaning for your humble host.  I watched when it was on VHS in the early eighties - back when video stores were operated out of homes and dingy convenience stores. Back when you had to provide your a deposit, birth certificate, credit rating, liability insurance, etc. just to rent a shitty tape.  But I digress...

This movie disturbed the hell out of me back in '83 and I never forgot it.  Years afterward, I would look for this to come on TV or DVD, to no avail.  Thankfully, with the Power of the Interweb, I was able to acquire this film some thirty years later.

It's always disappointing to rewatch something you have fond memories of, only to sit there, bitterly disappointed, wondering what kind of person were you to have enjoyed such crap.  

Basically, the story revolves around a pathetic loser who has enough of this rich bitch and drowns her in an aquarium [above].  The dead woman's sister arrives and problems ensue.  Other than a rather graphic rape and murder, this could've been an episode of Mannix or Columbo.  It's well crafted, rather disturbing in tone, but way, way, way below the expectations I had set for it many years ago.

Memorial Valley Massacre (1989)

By the late 1980s the slasher genre was a parody of itself.  The holidays had started with the obvious creepy ones like Halloween and Friday the 13th, and by '89 we were on to Memorial Day.  This time the "slasher" is an incredibly goofy looking caveman.... Captain Caveman would've been an improvement.  Picture Gary Busey crossed with Chaka from Land of the Lost.

The only reason that this could conceivably be worth a watch is the dialog.  Truly, I say unto thee, this has some excitingly awful dialog.... by that I mean, it's so terrible, you'll be begging for more. My personal fave: "Those yay-hoos couldn't punch their way through a wet cracker!"

I'm reminded of a song from Weird Al Yankovic's second album called "Nature Trail To Hell":   I cannot conceive of a world where a single audience member in 1989 enjoys this picture, but i can see a 2013 audience delighting in its foolishness.  Like Troll 2 and its ilk, 

Just Before Dawn (1981)

Memorial Valley Massacre and Scalps are both examples of "wilderness horror", a genre which has Deliverance and Texas Chainsaw Massacre as the high watermarks.  But unlike Memorial Valley Massacre (can I just abbreviate this to MVM? Tired of writing it out... oh, never mind) and Scalps, it doesn't wallow in its low budget or rely on cliches.

You could say it drags at times - but sometimes a film needs to drag.  It makes the scary scenes all the scarier.  The film takes the usual trope of having a bunch of youngsters out of their element confronted with backwoods murderers.... and George Kennedy.  But, for some reason, director Leiberman decided to give this film some TLC, rescuing it from becoming another forgettable backwoods horror film.  Instead, it's well acted and truly frightening at times.  Is it as good as Deliverance? Not by a mile.  But it still rises above its slasher film compatriots and well worth watching.

Slugs: The Movie (1988)

When the chick on the boat takes her shorts off for no reason whatsoever [above] in the opening scene, I knew this movie had promise.  But then I heard the dialog between her and her boyfriend (painfully bad) and saw the boyfriend's lame death scene at the hands of some lake slugs (atrocious), I knew it was going to be a rocky ride to the end of this film.  

From the director of Pieces, comes this dubbed film, which for some reason was ALWAYS to be found in your local video store in the horror aisle.  I'm not sure why it was so widely distributed on VHS; but even so, it never garnered a cult following.  It just doesn't have that umph, that heart, that energy which can elevate a low budget flick in the cult classic category.

The couple [above] are about to experience the wrath of a thousand slugs.  Look out.  As cheesy and as this is, there's something about a slug burrowing through your skin that is just beyond frightening. The gal above falls naked into a pile of them, all chewing themselves into her body..... brrrr, gives me the willies.

 FYI - This film was actually based on a novel by Shaun Hutson.  

Madman (1982)

Yet another example wilderness horror - youngsters stuck in a Cabin in the Woods, grisly murders ensue.  It could've been so forgettable; instead, it's pretty damn good.  Sure, it paint by numbers, but it's still a well done slasher movie.  

It takes a while to get going, but things really do take off, becoming a frantic game of survival between the Final Girl and Madman Marz.

If you're the type who enjoyed New Year's Evil, The Burning and Sleepaway Camp - this may be up your alley.  The hot tub scene is a must:  The blonde [above] and TP go at it to some of the worst (i.e. best) damn music you've ever heard in your life. A taste of the lyrics:
"Magician does his magic, fools you with a sliptrick, you never know how he makes it happen, find yourself just clappin and feelin goooood"


  1. Wow, for the first time you have made a list of movies that I have never seen or even heard of. Usually I get at least one or two, but this time you found a list I was totally unfamiliar with.

    Very impressive.

  2. Haven't seen any of these, I don't think. I added Madman and Just Before Dawn to my TV Locator.

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  4. Devin Devasquez' real claim to fame at this point was that she was Playmate of the Month for June 1985, though I didn't know she was married to a member of Player, and I had no idea that that guy was Ridge Forrester on The Bold and The Beautiful, a soap my wife used to force me to watch with her.

  5. I'm impressed. I thought I'd read this article and be, like, "seen that," "yep, seen that one too," etc... but I legitimately have not seen any of these movies. The title of your post did not lie. Kudos to you, Sir Gilligan.

  6. Looks like Jeff Goldblum in "Lady, Stay Dead! "

  7. Slugs looks like it could be a spiritual kin to Attack Of The Killer Shrews.

    Thanks for the reviews.

  8. Add me to the list of people who said: I haven't see any of those. That's an impressive feat.

  9. Regrettably, "Lady, Stay Dead' and 'Memorial Valley Massacre' are the only ones I have NOT seen yet, and after reading your reviews, I thank you most sincerely from sparing me the loss of yet more brain cells. I'm gonna avoid those like Lyme disease (which you get camping in the woods, where about half of all craptacular slashers take place).

    And 'Slugs' has the best...slug...hand puppet...EVER !

  10. I couldn't make it through Just Before Dawn. The pacing was just too lopsided. Great opening kill, then nothing for nearly an hour. I think I'll give it another chance, better have one hell of an ending though!

    The nicest find I made this Halloween was Silent Scream (1980). It gets unfairly lumped in as a slasher. But it's more of a 'desperate college girl rents a room in an old creepy house with a dark secret' kind of movie.

    Nice to see Yvonne Decarlo as the matriarch of the creepy family. Also nice to see Cameron Mitchell in a GOOD horror movie for a change!

  11. I just watched Slugs on Youtube, pretty funny. I like how they got rid of the slugs and blew up the town at the same time, all except that one slug. (dun dun dun)!!!

  12. Surprisingly I haven't seen any of these...and I used to watch A LOT of CRAP back then!

  13. Dude....I saw Society and it freaked me the F* out. I gotta say. Also saw slugs, cant remember if it was on USA up all night, but probably. GREAT list!

  14. Holy Crap! You've seen Offerings? I worked that film as a grip and got a check for a couple of dollars as my 'profit share'. It was fun to help with but pretty much unwatchable. My hat is off to you, sir!

  15. The horror movies are always great and we all love to watch these movies. With all these many Sexy pinup model did a great work in these movies. these are so great movies and I like your list you have shared here.

  16. I have heard of MADMAN !! I've never seen the film , but I t was really good .