We’ve already looked back at the best genre offerings of 2017 and our most anticipated films coming in the year ahead, but January’s also the perfect opportunity to reflect on the entirety of horror history. We recently brought you the Top 10 horror movies turning 40-years-old in 2018 and, today, we’ll be looking back on those celebrating the big 3-0. Get ready to feel old! Over the next few weeks, we’ll continue to look back with lists of the best horror films celebrating their 25th, 20th, and 10th Anniversaries.
Related Article: Top 10 Horror Movies Turning 40-Years-Old in 2018
The films below have all left a lasting legacy by heavily influencing the direction of the horror genre moving forward. Give this article a read and let us know what you think in the Comments section. Are you familiar with all the films on this list? Which one do you believe has left the most significant impact on the horror genre as a whole. Let’s discuss!
Child’s Play (Directed by Tom Holland)
Release Date: November 9, 1988
Official Synopsis: Gunned down by Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon), dying murderer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) uses black magic to put his soul inside a doll named Chucky — which Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) then buys for her young son, Andy (Alex Vincent). When Chucky kills Andy’s babysitter, the boy realizes the doll is alive and tries to warn people, but he’s institutionalized. Now Karen must convince the detective of the murderous doll’s intentions, before Andy becomes Chucky’s next victim.
The late 1980s saw changes to established slasher formulas, introducing new villains who are more than just semi-mute brutes (I’m looking at you Leatherface, Jason, and Michael). Chucky certainly broke the mold when it came to the day’s antagonists, proving size doesn’t always trump an evil heart. Child’s Play and Chucky also reinvigorated the creepy dolls subgenre of horror and remains an active, high-quality franchise to this day.
Related Article: 10 Things You May Not Know About Chucky
Hellbound: Hellraiser II (Directed by Tony Randel)
Release Date: September 9, 1988
Official Synopsis: Confined to a mental hospital, young Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) insists her supposedly dead father is stuck in hell, controlled by sadomasochistic demons after being betrayed by his evil, occult-obsessed wife, Julia (Clare Higgins). Few believe Kirsty, except the thrill-seeking Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham), who is intrigued by S&M and the young woman’s lurid stories. So when Kirsty and fellow patient Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) head to hell for a rescue, Channard and Julia are close behind.
Though not directed by original Hellraiser director & scribe Clive Barker, Hellbound: Hellraiser II is nonetheless a worthy successor, one that plays out like a companion piece to the first film. The reemergence of Julia (Higgins), and the introductions of Tiffany (Boorman) and the nefarious Dr. Channard (Cranham) make this the greatest of all Hellraiser sequels, and the only follow-up that can be considered a genuine classic.
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Killer Klowns from Outer Space (Directed by Stephen Chiodo)
Release Date: May 20, 1988
Official Synopsis: When teenagers Mike (Grant Cramer) and Debbie (Suzanne Snyder) see a comet crash outside their sleepy small town, they investigate and discover a pack of murderous aliens who look very much like circus clowns. They try to warn the local authorities, but everyone assumes their story is a prank. Meanwhile, the clowns set about harvesting and eating as many people as they can. It’s not until they kidnap Debbie that Mike decides it’s up to him to stop the clowns’ bloody rampage.
Simultaneously a send-up and a celebration of 1960’s Era B-Movies, Killer Klowns of Outer Space has built an enviable cult following in the 3 decades since its release. This makes the fact that a sequel hasn’t materialized both perplexing and frustrating. Still, Killer Klowns enjoyed a resurgence recently thanks in part to a beautiful Blu-ray re-release from the folks at Scream Factory; it’s a must-have for all serious horror collectors.
Related Article: Will We Ever Get a “Killer Klowns From Outer Space” Sequel?
Pumpkinhead (Directed by Stan Winston)
Release Date: October 1988
Official Synopsis: After his son dies in a hit-and-run accident, Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen) seeks revenge against the teenagers responsible. With the help of a local witch (Florence Schauffler), Ed summons the vengeful demon Pumpkinhead to hunt and kill the group of friends. But when Ed discovers a bond between himself and the creature, he begins to have second thoughts about employing the vicious monster, and he fights to end Pumpkinhead’s murderous rampage before it is too late.
Legendary FX pioneer Stan Winston stepped way outside the workshop to helm the entire production, making Punmkinhead a testament to his incredible skill set. Bolstered by a genuinely emotional performance from genre icon Lance Henricksen and a crackling script, Pumpkinhead remains a compelling examination of justice vs bloodlust.
The Blob (Directed by Chuck Russell)
Release Date: August 5, 1988
Official Synopsis: In a tiny California town, high school students Brian (Kevin Dillon), Meg (Shawnee Smith) and Paul (Donovan Leitch) discover a strange, gelatinous substance that melts the flesh of any living creatures in its path. The deadly substance gets into the town’s sewer system, where it begins growing uncontrollably, occasionally emerging to feast on unsuspecting townspeople. A military clean-up crew is sent to eliminate the menace, but it may end up doing more harm than good.
Often forgotten in discussions of cinema’s greatest remakes, 1988’s The Blob is less a sci-fi reboot and more of a body horror; a spiritual cousin to the filmography of David Cronenberg, even.
Related Article: An Ode to 1988’s “The Blob”
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (Directed by Dwight H. Little)
Release Date: October 21, 1988
Official Synopsis: The apparently comatose Michael Myers (George P. Wilbur) is being transferred from one hospital to another, but he wakes up when the ambulance crew talk about his surviving niece, Jamie (Danielle Harris). After slaughtering his attendants, Myers sets out to find his one living relative who is, fortunately, being cared for by a kind and resourceful foster sister named Rachel (Ellie Cornell). Meanwhile, the ever-cautious Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) remains on the killer’s path.
In many ways, 2018 is already the year of Halloween. Slated to coincide with the 40th Anniversary of John Carpenter’s original, a Halloween remake is brewing at Blumhouse with original protagonist Jamie Lee Curtis reprising the role of Laurie Strode and original Shape actor Nick Castle donning the fish-belly white latex mask. But in addition to being Halloween’s 40th, 2018 is Halloween 4’s 30th Anniversary. Though this timeline was retconned out of existence, many Halloween uber-fans love the subplot of Laurie’s daughter Jamie (played by Danielle Harris).
Related Article: Danielle Harris Gets Real About Her Exclusion from “Halloween” 2018
They Live (Directed by John Carpenter)
Release Date: November 4, 1988
Official Synopsis: Nada (Roddy Piper), a wanderer without meaning in his life, discovers a pair of sunglasses capable of showing the world the way it truly is. As he walks the streets of Los Angeles, Nada notices that both the media and the government are comprised of subliminal messages meant to keep the population subdued, and that most of the social elite are skull-faced aliens bent on world domination. With this shocking discovery, Nada fights to free humanity from the mind-controlling aliens.
Somehow, They Live is even more relevant in 2018 than it was in 1988. The themes of a political elite exploiting the masses by manipulating media and promoting a consumption lifestyle have never been more timely—or terrifying.
Related Article: Ahead of Its Time & Incredibly Relevant: “They Live”
Phantasm II (Directed by Don Coscarelli)
Release Date: July 8, 1988
Official Synopsis: Years after surviving his encounter with the sinister Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), Mike Pearson (James LeGros), now a mental patient, still has nightmares about the evil gaunt mortician. Upon being released from the institution, Mike and his friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister) set out to track down the Tall Man and end his murderous and macabre practices. Also involved is Liz Reynolds (Paula Irvine), a pretty young woman who has a psychic connection to both Mike and the Tall Man.
As hallucinatory and nightmarish as the original, Phantasm II further established the mythology of The Tall Man as Mike and Reggie transition from reluctant heroes to full-on, sphere splitting bad-asses of epic proportions.
Related Article: Remembering Angus Scrimm’s Epic “Phantasm” Parody
Dead Ringers (Directed by David Cronenberg)
Release Date: September 23, 1988
Official Synopsis: Elliot (Jeremy Irons), a successful gynecologist, works at the same practice as his identical twin, Beverly (also Irons). Elliot is attracted to many of his patients and has affairs with them. When he inevitably loses interest, he will give the woman over to Beverly, the meeker of the two, without the woman knowing the difference. Beverly falls hard for one of the patients, Claire (Geneviève Bujold), but when she inadvertently deceives him, he slips into a state of madness.
Featuring the most disturbing threesome in horror movie history, Dead Ringers is as ahead of its time as all of David Cronenberg’s movies. One of the most bizarre films you’ll ever see that really is based on a true story.
Related Article: Top 10 Most Disturbing Nightmare Scenes from Horror Movies
Lady in White (Directed by Frank Laloggia)
Release Date: April 22, 1988
Official Synopsis: Locked in the cloakroom after school as a Halloween prank, Frankie (Lukas Haas) meets the ghost of a young neighborhood girl, Melissa Anne Montgomery (Joelle Jacobi), who had been found strangled to death 10 years before. Frankie soon learns that nine other children have been killed in the years since, and with the spectral help of Melissa and her mother, a grieving apparition known as The Lady in White (Karen Powell), he attempts to discover the murderer before he becomes his latest victim.
This young adult horror movie is as terrifying as any R-Rated slasher of the era, and smarter than just about any genre offering made. Lady in White never dumbs itself down for its audience, going to some legitimately dark places. Lady in White received a boost in popularity following a Blu-ray re-release from Scream Factory.
Lair of the White Worm (Directed by Ken Russell)
Release Date: September 14, 1988
Official Synopsis: On a farm owned by Eve Trent (Catherine Oxenberg) and her sister Mary (Sammi Davis), young archaeologist Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi) discovers a large and inexplicable skull, which he soon deduces belonged to the D’Ampton Worm, a mythical beast supposedly slain generations ago by the ancestor of the current Lord D’Ampton (Hugh Grant). The predatory Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe) soon takes an interest in both Flint and the virginal Eve, hinting that the vicious D’Ampton Worm may still live.
“Retro” wasn’t a term used or even understood in the 1980s, which made Ken Russell’s Hammer-esque Lair of the White Worm an anomaly in its day. Wildly imaginative and subversively sexy, this underappreciated gem is definitely worth your attention. Lair of the White Worm recently received a Blu-ray re-release, courtesy of Vestron Video.