From angst-filled teen movies (The Breakfast Club) and Steven Spielberg blockbusters (Raiders of the Lost Ark) to scary slashers (Friday the 13th) and big-muscled action movies (The Terminator), 1980s cinema had it all. In a great decade filled with great movies, the ’80s gave generations of movie-goers timeless and memorable classics.
However, amidst the popularity of High-Concept blockbusters, there was a sub-genre of films that gained cult status or, at least, attracted a loyal and devoted fan-base: the horror-comedy. With the spooky season well and truly here and for those looking to add some hilarious horror to the Halloween watchlist, these are the best horror comedies the decade had to offer.
‘Evil Dead II’ (1987)
After surviving a previous demonic attack, Ash (Bruce Campbell) returns to another secluded and isolated cabin in the woods. And just like last time, he must battle evil spirits when they attack again.
Following the cult success of the first film, The Evil Dead, several years earlier, Sam Raimi and Campbell reunited and teamed up for another movie about evil books and flesh-possessing demons. Yet, where its predecessor was disgustingly horrific and genuinely terrifying, Evil Dead II introduces more of the comedic elements (while staying true to the blood-fest of the original) that the story and franchise are known for. Goofy and gory, Campbell also manages to deliver one of the great horror-comedy movie performances in Evil Dead II. “Groovy!”
‘The Lost Boys’ (1987)
Lucy (Dianne Wiest) and her two sons, Sam (Corey Haim) and Michael (Jason Patric), move to a new seaside town. When Michael joins a group of rebellious and troublesome bikers, however, he becomes a vampire and seeks help from Sam to break the curse.
Directed by Joel Schumacher with his signature techno-pop visual flair, 1987’s The Lost Boys is a highly-entertaining movie about teen vampires. The film also features a group of popular stars of the decade (such as Corey Feldman, Kiefer Sutherland, Jami Gertz, and Alex Winter) in what is a great ’80s cast. Throw in a killer synth-infused soundtrack, crazy costumes, wild hairdos, and a guy playing the sax within the first 10 minutes as well, and The Lost Boys is, perhaps, the most ’80s movie to ever exist.
When New York is under attack from evil spirits, a team of ghost hunters – Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) – are called into action to remove these ghoulish threats that are lurking in the city.
Helmed by Ivan Reitman, 1984’s Ghostbusters is widely regarded as an ’80s classic. From its cast of the decade’s most-loved and cherished actors to a memorable giant Stay Puft Marshmallow man, the blockbuster hit is a special effects-infused Halloween treat for any horror-comedy movie fan. Ghostbusters also contains a naturally charismatic and funny performance from Murray as fan-favorite Venkman, which is a true highlight, and an iconic and catchy song that is fabricated into the DNA of the movie.
Billy (Zach Gilligan) is given an adorable pet Mogwai for Christmas with three specific instructions. However, when he breaks all three rules, Billy unleashes a group of ravenous creatures and chaos quickly ensues in a small suburban town.
Back in ’84, Gremlins was released at a time when child-friendly movies terrified younger viewers. Also starring Corey Feldman and Phoebe Cates, two popular ’80s teen actors, Gremlins is a wonderful mix of kid-like fun and mystery while depicting a glorious festival of violent mayhem. The charming nature, the silliness of the story, and the imagination from Joe Dante (who has crafted some underrated 1980s films like Explorers and The ‘Burbs) make Gremlins a childhood classic of horror and comedy.
After his aunt dies, famous horror novelist Roger Cobb (William Katt) moves into her house. When he arrives, Roger is haunted by creepy monsters and apparitions from his troubled past.
In a great imitation of past haunted house movies, 1985’s House is a hidden gem of a horror-comedy from Steve Miner. Entertaining and bonkers, House not only tricks its main character but manages to trick the audience, too, with all the twists and turns it takes in the process. The special effects hold up surprisingly well, the scares are well-executed and genuinely terrifying, and George Wendt brings comic relief as Harold, Roger’s friendly neighbor.
When Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) starts his class and moves into his apartment, Dan (Bruce Abbott) and his girlfriend, Megan (Barbara Crampton), are involved in West’s weird scientific experiments in which dead brain tissue is re-animated and living organisms come back alive.
In under 90 minutes, 1985’s Re-Animator is full of gory horror and hammy performances from its cast. Containing a mysterious-yet-wonderful score from Richard Brand, Stuart Gordon’s low-budget movie is a splatter fest and a treat for those looking to watch a good schlocky horror. With a razor-sharp script filled with funny lines of deadpan dialogue and some gruesome and highly-effective special effects, Re-Animator is a 1980s hidden gem.
‘Little Shop of Horrors’ (1986)
In a bid to save his failing florist shop, Seymour (Rick Moranis) purchases a plant from a local street vendor. As the plant quickly grows and demands to be fed, Seymour’s chances of romance and success are threatened.
Directed by Frank Oz, 1986’s Little Shop of Horrors is an addictive musical of horror and comedy that features a brilliantly crafted puppet with the giant man-eating plant known as Audrey II (voiced by Levi Stubbs). Filled with catchy and memorable songs, like “Suddenly Seymour,” Little Shop of Horrors is a charming and entertaining horror-comedy as well as one of the best modern movie musicals. The film also stars Steve Martin, who plays against-type as a troublesome motorcycle-riding dentist, in a scene-stealing and hilarious cameo.
‘Teen Wolf’ (1985)
When Scott (Michael J. Fox) mysteriously turns into a werewolf, he learns from his father, Harold (James Hampton), that this is a family curse that has been passed down. As a result, Scott decides to use his new-found wolf powers to help his high school basketball team and his chances of teen romance.
Infused with light-hearted humor and a charismatic performance from Michael J. Fox, Rod Daniel’s Teen Wolf is a cleverly-written fantasy comedy that nicely executes the horrors of growing up and the trials and tribulations of adolescence. Also filled with fantastic werewolf make-up that holds up well, 1985’s Teen Wolf has since gained cult status and has most likely left pre-teen viewers with one terrifying question: is puberty really that horrifying?
‘Killer Klowns from Outer Space’ (1988)
After a comet crashes nearby, Mike Tobacco (Grant Cramer) and Debbie Stone (Suzanne Snyder) decide to go and investigate it only to discover the comet is populated with extra-terrestrial clowns. While the young teen couple seeks help, the clowns go on a murderous rampage as they terrorize a small town.
Since its release in 1988, Killer Klowns from Outer Space has become a cult classic and horror-comedy fan-favorite over the years. The film also stars John Vernon (Animal House) as Curtis Mooney, whose defining character trait is ‘old man hates teenagers’, and boasts a memorable theme song. With a stupid-yet-fun premise, some grotesque, terrifying, and killer clown make-up, and wildly inventive production and set designs that are wacky and creative, Killer Klowns from Outer Space is an entertaining and enjoyable festival of nightmares.
When they fatefully drown after a car accident, Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) come back as ghosts and decide to haunt the family who has recently moved into their former home to try and scare them away. Failing, the young married couple decides to contact bio-exorcist Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton) and things soon take a twisted turn.
Brilliant and bonkers, 1988’s Beetlejuice is a cartoonish hellscape of wacky comedic sketches and well-crafted puppetry, stop-motion animation and special effects. A perfect mix of horror, humor and the bizarre, Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice is a must-watch Halloween treat for movie fans and a memorable ’80s classic. Keaton’s show-stealing and deliciously electric performance as the wildly out-of-control Betelgeuse, otherwise known as Beetlejuice, is also a joy to watch. Just try not to say his name three times unless you want Keaton’s zany antics roaming free in your life.