The Underappreciated Monsters of 80’s Horror


The 80’s gave us so much: a hole in the Ozone Layer (no doubt a byproduct of excessive Aqua Net abuses), hair bands (see that last one), and the confidence to “just say no” to drugs and alcohol. But even if you are too young to have lived through this memorable decade, there are other ways to immerse yourself in the wonder of the 1980’s.

Many have forgotten that this era was also the decade that gave us some of the best horror characters ever committed to celluloid. Forgotten freaks, ghosts and ghoulies abound, ready for you to return to their particularly wacky breed of terror.

Let’s talk a walk back down memory lane to the days of Reaganomics, the Walkman, and some truly awesome movie monsters!



The directorial debut of celebrated special effects wizard Stan Winston, Pumpkinhead has established itself as a cult favorite in the years since its 1988 release. The film follows a man named Tom Harley who, with the help of a local witch, resurrects the corpse of the deformed Pumpkinhead to avenge the death of his son at the hands of some teenagers. The catch is that as Pumpkinhead gradually starts to pick off the teens and kills them, Tom sees all the murders in his mind, as if he was there. He soon experiences remorse and disgust at what he’s done and tries to get the witch to reverse it before it’s too late. The body count rises and the camp in rich in this horror film perfect for those spooky autumn months.



This 1984 film plays on a few popular urban legends, namely the “monsters living in the sewers” of New York City rumor and the subsequent potential for toxic waste-created creatures. This being the 80’s, things are pushed to excess – and we meet a unique social strata of “Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers”. The C.H.U.D.s live in the sewers of NYC and have been eating the homeless. Despite having full knowledge of this uncomfortable fact, the authorities have been trying to keep it covered it up.  But they’ve soon got a major problem on their hands: the C.H.U.D.s food source (street people) has been depleted, and they must come to the surface for more food. The film, which is being run on the El Rey network this month (check here for details), is a far fetched, delightfully cheesy look back at how far horror has come as a genre in recent years. If you find yourself hungry for more C.H.U.D. after the movie fear not, as there was a sequel: 1989’s C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D.



When Jonathan Graves discovers his late father’s occult collection after moving into his old house, he makes the grave mistake of trying use this dark paraphernalia to imbue himself with supernatural powers. As so often is the case when playing with demonic spirits, this has unintended and unfortunate consequences. The result is an invasion of the house by Gremlin-esque “Ghoulies”. As the tiny terrors reap havoc on the house Graves and his girlfriend must fight for their lives. Like many 80’s films, this spawned a franchise that includes Ghoulies II, Ghoulies Go to College and Ghoulies IV, all equally bad yet so, so good.


The Deadly Spawn

In another tried-and-true premise, this 1983 film focuses on an alien invasion following a meteor strike near the central family’s home. Unbeknownst to the members of the household, the alien is living in the basement, picking off family members one by one and spawning off dozens of smaller offspring. As the tadpole-like creatures start to leave the basement a particularly eventful (and unintentionally hilarious) scene occurs during a luncheon gone horribly, horribly wrong. Soon enough the entire town is aware of this evasion and prepares to go to battle, but how can one fight something you know nothing about?

Of course, the freaks in these films are likely in the wheelhouse of any true horror aficionado, but for those who haven’t had a chance to see these gifts of 80’s special effects they are certainly worth the effort. These films, along with so many more from the decade, harken back to the times of low production values and high camp, in the best way possible. They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore…