The ’80s weren’t kind to fashion, healthy hair, or movie trilogies, especially if that movie was presented in the “third dimension.” Filmmakers got the idea that titular wordplay in the form of a swooping “3D” typeface (extra points if you incorporated it into the title) was just the visual puffery studios needed to sell tickets.
And in most cases, they were successful because even back then celluloid fandom would eat up anything just to give their opinion about it later. With 3D horror movies in the ’80s, there was a sweet spot though; on one hand, you got another movie from your favorite franchise, and you got to watch it come off the screen. One obstacle was that theater hopping meant you had to forage through the garbage for discarded glasses.
But imagine the excitement, as you dig through old popcorn and soda in anticipation, seeing Jason in another sequel but this time his kills jump into your lap—take my money! Or the blockbuster of all blockbusters, Jaws, getting a second sequel, but this time the shark (and Dennis Quaid) invade your personal space and it seems like you can reach out and touch them. Take my money! Or the Amityville Horror…okay, even I have my limitations.
Below are the best (worst?)’80s 3D horror films that I thought were great at the time. I actually saw all of them at the theater and for the most part, I was impressed. The magic may not be as thrilling now but some DVD/Blu-Ray releases do include a 3D transfer if you like.
Here they are in no particular order:
Friday the 13th 3-D
Today, if it was announced that another Friday the 13th movie was being released in 3D, I think people would support it. Jason films are just that prolific! Today the big trend is reboots and retcons. However, Jason’s lifespan will always match that of his franchise and if Pirhana can do it so can Mr. Voorhees.
“Get Out!” has become one of those indelible movie quotes solidified in pop culture. It was uttered by the presence in the first Amityville Horror movie. The same sentiment describes what ticket holders should have done once the trailers were finished ahead of this clunker. Amityville 3-D does have some pretty good 3D effects including a pre-Final Destination 2 windshield gag, but overall it radiates poor quality in acting, storyline, and special effects.
It’s surprising this film got made. The premise is so preposterous it almost seems Universal employed several monkeys and left them in a room with a typewriter. Just listen to this: a great white shark breaches the security gates of Sea World in Florida and begins to eat its employees. Hardly the suspenseful thriller the original was, or its sequel for that matter.
Jaws 3-D capitalized on a couple of things at the time; the name and the 3D gimmick, but left everyone awestruck at how bad the effects were and why Academy Award winner Louis Gossett Jr. signed the contract to appear in this swamp pit. But I will say there is one effect–a dismembered arm gag–that got audible audience adulation. Pirhana 3D took this gag a little further with a more intimate appendage back in 2010.
Jaws 3D ended up being a turkey. However, the famous theme playing over a three-dimensional first-person view of the ocean floor is a bit emotional, to be honest.
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Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn
Here is one of my favorite 3D movies of the 80s. It has mutants, it has a post-apocalyptic world, it has action and explosions, it had Richard Moll from Night Court for cripe’s sake!
Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn was the ultimate in ’80s sci-fi cheese (save Krull). It’s a Charles Band picture so you know anything goes and in this movie everything does. The 3D effects are pretty great and the action non-stop. It made those uncomfortable cardboard glasses almost bearable. Good thing you can enjoy this movie even without them.
Soap opera actress Demi Moore was just a baby when Parasite came out; another Charles Band joint. Unlike some of the others above, this film is technically superior. Yes, it’s a schlock-fest with B-grade theatrics but overall it’s got chutzpah and if you’re going to spend money on something that rips off Alien, you’re going to want a little chutzpah.
Gruesome and sticky, Parasite is a fun film that hits its stride half-way through before devolving into a low-grade monster mash. Still, it’s great for a fun night of 3D movie watching and lethargic couch flopping.