I’ve got a problem. The year 1984 is on my mind and I can’t quite get rid of it since Ryan Murphy announced the year as the theme for American Horror Story season nine.
That first teaser has us thinking it’s a throwback 80s-themed slasher with its own masked killer, and while none of us can ever fully trust Murphy to show his whole hand in the early teasers for the show, it has me thinking back to all of the glorious films from 1984 he could draw upon for inspiration.
Now, admittedly, I was only seven years old in 1984, growing up in conservative. religious family, so I didn’t get to see a lot of these movies that year. Luckily for me, however, many of them became iconic.
More than one franchise was born that year. New chapters continued older stories. Cult classics were released upon the world, and Stephen King saw two of his stories come to life on the big screen.
It was just a really great year for horror films!
With that in mind, I thought I’d invite our readers along for a walk down memory lane looking at the films that I love from 1984!
A Nightmare on Elm Street
I mean, is there anywhere else to start?
Wes Craven brought Freddy Kreuger (Robert Englund) onto the big screen via New Line Cinema and horror fans stood up and took notice.
Who can ever forget the first time they heard those knives screech along boiler room pipes? Who can ever forget Johnny Depp in that half shirt?!
Seriously, though, the horror landscape changed with the addition of Kreuger and a brand new crop of scream queens including Heather Langenkamp and Amanda Wyss from that first film alone, both of which have become genre mainstays.
Silent Night, Deadly Night
Elm Street wasn’t the only franchise born in 1984, though it was the most successful by far.
No, the year also brought us Silent Night, Deadly Night.
Charles E. Sellier, Jr. directed the film which centers on Billy (Robert Brian Wilson). As a child, Billy witnessed his family being murdered by a man dressed in a Santa suit after being told by his grandfather that Santa punishes naughty people.
Raised in an orphanage where the nuns underlined that anything of a sexual nature was also naughty, poor Billy spends most of his life confused and terrified. When his boss forces him into a Santa suit at Christmas, his carefully crafted veneer begins to crack, and pretty soon Billy’s on the loose leaving a trail of bodies in his fur-lined red-suited wake.
The film enraged parents at the time, and even Mickey Rooney came forward declaring how terrible it was that a film would use Santa Claus to create something evil…that didn’t stop him from appearing in one of the sequels, however!
Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) really should have listened to that old man in the curio shop. Neither he nor his family were prepared to have a Mogwai as a pet.
Still, when things went awry in this film, they were so gleefully wild we’re glad he brought Gizmo home with him!
Directed by Joe Dante and written by Chris Columbus, Gremlins was the holiday creature feature we didn’t know we needed with an outstanding cast that gave themselves over to the film’s lunacy with gusto!
Aside from Axton, the film featured Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Corey Feldman (did he ever take breaks in the 80s?), Dick Miller, and Polly Holliday.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
Of course, we know it wasn’t the final chapter, but it certainly made for good marketing!
There was so much to love about this particular chapter in the Jason Voorhees saga. Not only did it bring in Corey Feldman and introduce the character of Tommy to the franchise, it also was the last of the films to pick up exactly where the last film left off.
And then there’s Crispin Glover performing the most gloriously bad dancing we’d seen in a horror film EVER. He would hold the title until Mark Patton showed him up in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 the following year.
The Hills Have Eyes Part II
The sequel to Wes Craven’s 1977 hit The Hills Have Eyes came into this world troubled and stayed that way.
Craven had already started filming The Hills Have Eyes Part II when production was halted due to budget concerns by the studios. After the success of A Nightmare on Elm Street, studio heads begged him to come back and finish the film with the caveat that he use only the footage he already had.
According to the director, filming had only been completed on about 2/3 of the project, and he was forced to cut, re-cut, and then pad out the rest of the film with archival footage from the first in order to create a feature length film.
Upon its completion, Craven washed his hands of the film and never looked back.
While it is decidedly inferior to the original, there are still enough good moments and cool concepts in the film to have garnered its only cult following.
Dennis Quaid, Max Von Sydow, Kate Capshaw, Christopher Plummer, Eddie Albert, David Patrick Kelly, George Wendt…everyone was in Dreamscape–except for Corey Feldman.
Quaid stars as Alex Gardner, a psychic recruited by the government to participate in a program which will allow him to enter the dreams of other people to implant suggestions into their minds.
Gardner soon realizes, however, that someone in the program has figured out a way to kill people in their dreams, and it’s up to him to find out whose taken the program to this dark extreme.
It’s action-packed, more than a little scary, and made use of every special effect they could throw at it!
The Company of Wolves
There’s a dark, fairy tale-like quality to Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves. Blending elements of fantasy, thriller, and horror, he created a werewolf tale that was unlike anything we’d seen before, and because of that, the film got off to a rather bumpy start.
The film boasted an impressive cast including Jordan’s often seen collaborator Stephen Rea, Angela Lansbury, Terence Stamp, and David Warner.
The film told the story of a young girl named Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson) who falls asleep in her home and dreams of a medieval landscape where her grandmother (Lansbury) tells her stories of werewolves along with more than a few warnings about the ways of men themselves.
The Company of Wolves was nominated for multiple BAFTAs and laid the groundwork for Jordan’s reputation as a capable and imaginative director and writer. It was loosely based on the writings of Angela Carter, an accomplished author who helped pen the script, as well.
Night of the Comet
A couple of Valley Girls find themselves fending off zombie-like creatures after a comet buzzes the Earth and wipes out most of the population.
It’s kind of ridiculous. It’s also 80s horror gold.
Thom Eberhardt wrote and directed Night of the Comet and viewing it now, it seems as though everything is concentrated. The emotions, the settings, the clothing, and the dialogue all effectively scream 1984 at anyone who gets near it, and while that works against some films, for whatever reason Night of the Comet endures.
In fact, the film has gone on to inspire other filmmakers. Joss Whedon, for example, credits the film as inspiring him while he was writing the initial drafts of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
“They’re not staying down there anymore!” proclaimed the tagline from 1984’s C.H.U.D.
When you think cult movies from the 80s, this one has to at least cross your mind once.
People in New York City are being murdered in the most gruesome manner, and no one is sure why until a ragtag group of New Yorkers band together to get to the bottom of things.
They’re search takes them into the sewers of the city, only to discover that they’re not so much looking for a “who” as a “what.” Cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers or C.H.U.D. as they call them are the culprit and it’s up to them–of course it is–to rid the city of these horrifying beasts.
If you’ve never seen it once, you owe it to yourself to watch this one. Where else are you going to get dialogue like, “Are you kidding? Your guy’s got a camera. Mine’s got a flamethrower?”
Okay, maybe you’ll find it in Night of the Comet as well, but still you owe C.H.U.D. at least one courtesy watch.
Children of the Corn
To this day there are still few opening scenes for a horror film that chill me quite the way that Children of the Corn‘s did.
Watching those kids lock down that diner and murder everyone in it was just shocking.
Seeing what the town became after the massacre took it to a whole new level.
Stephen King’s short story of the same name centers on the small town of Gatlin, where the children rise up under the cultish leadership of Isaac (John Franklin) and his goonish enforcer Malachai (Courtney Gains).
Isaac rules with an iron fist, preaching the word of He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Included in the strict code of conduct is an effective age line. There can be no adults in Gatlin and as the children reach a certain age, they sacrifice themselves to their deity by walking out into the corn.
Naturally, all hell literally breaks loose when a young couple (Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton) find themselves trapped in the town, pursued by the children.
There are moments in this film that are completely unforgettable, and Jonathan Elias’s score is still as haunting as it ever was.
Thanks to a set of experiments Andy took part in years before along with his wife Vicky (Heather Locklear) not only did they walk away with psychic gifts, but their daughter was born with an exception and deadly ability to start fires with her mind.
Vicky was killed by The Shop when they came for Charlie, and Andy, with his ability to influence people’s thoughts, is doing everything he can to keep her safe.
The novel was adapted by Stanley Mann and directed by Mark L. Lester with an exceptional cast that further included George C. Scott as John Rainbird, a mercenary on The Shop’s payroll who views the chance to kill Charlie as equal to killing a God.
This ends well for no one, of course, and the film is an excellent reflection of the book.
Those are some of my favorites from 1984. What are yours?!