Forgotten SCIENCE FICTION HORROR movies from the 80s.
Science fiction is the most grateful film genre for exploring the unknown and giving it meaning. Human curiosity about the surrounding world, as well as the worlds above us, allows you to broaden your horizons and provides you with new opportunities. While all of this sounds beautiful, and it really is, there is often a dark side to our desire to explore. Pushing all kinds of boundaries too far brings unpleasant consequences. Technological development or the conquest of space then turns into a terrifying struggle for survival, the horror of war against something that we used to call evil for ease and convenience. Science fiction and horror are therefore closely related genres. And in many different ways. Filmmakers are well aware of this, which has been reflected in cinema from almost its very beginning. However, the greatest popularity of this species hybrid came at the end of the 1970s. It was then that the legendary Alien had its premiere. In the 1980s, filmmakers eagerly rode the Ridley Scott wave, as evidenced by the creation of many unforgettable sci-fi horrors, as well as many now forgotten. In the list below, I will focus on the latter.
Night of the Comet (1984)
Are you in the mood for an entertaining, funny and a little scary post-apocalyptic movie? Here you go! In the 1980s, they had it too. Night of the Comet by Thom Eberhardt is a real energy firecracker, which was created on the basis of a survey conducted by the director among teenagers. Obtaining answers from young girls about what they would do if the world suddenly ended and they were the few left alive, Eberhardt created perhaps the coolest female character of the 80s cinema – Reg, brilliantly played by the wonderful Catherine Mary Stewart. Perhaps I will sound like a stale 37-year-old, but it seems to me that films like Night of the Comet, full of enthusiasm, joy, inventiveness and cool atmosphere, will probably never come back. Lucky those who have VCRs in the attic and a lot of VHS with titles from the 80s.
If it has ever crossed your mind (which I doubt) that there has never been a movie about space vampires in the history of cinema, you are very wrong, because there is such a creation. It’s called Lifeforce and it was made in the 1980s, and its director is the lamented Tobe Hooper. Lifeforce is a completely unique, large-scale work based on the novel by Colin Wilson. For some, Hooper’s production is a bunch of nonsense and absurdities, for others an addictive high-budget sci-fi horror reminiscent of Hammer films. I always enjoy ifeforce, because I see it as a wonderful mess, a combination of Kubrick, Scott, Roeg and Spielberg influences with the charming insolence of Hooper’s work.
Deadly Friend (1986)
Written by Bruce Joel Rubin (who wrote the screenplay for the later blockbuster Ghost) and directed by Wes Craven, Deadly Friend is a pretty well-balanced mix of horror, science fiction and dark comedy. I wrote that quite well, because Craven’s production fell victim to the demands of Warner Bros., whose authorities ordered the creator of the memorable Nightmare on Elm Street to add more blood and fear elements to Deadly Friend. As a result, a rather bizarre creation was formed, at times even absurd, but in some twisted way fascinating. Personally, I see Deadly Friend primarily as a competition between two men for control over a certain woman. One is an abusive father, the other is a genius who is in love with the girl next door. Craven’s picture additionally has a wonderful BB robot and emanates a climate characteristic of the youth cinema of the 80s.
Night of the Creeps (1986)
Night of the Creeps looks as strange as the Polish title of this film sounds. It’s a postmodern rip and at the same time a homage born out of love for genre cinema. Fred Dekker has created an escapist film that will make you forget the troubles of everyday life, an ode to all the horror movies he loved. It’s fun, but also really scary at times. All this thanks to a clever script, bold direction and great special effects. It is also worth appreciating the acting in this production with the brilliant Tom Atkins as Detective Cameron. Night of the Creeps is the quintessence of the 80s!
The Hidden (1987)
Jack Sholder’s The Hidden is the ultimate proof that suspenseful, brilliant and well-aged sci-fi horror doesn’t require a big budget. All you need is an intelligent script, great actors and the cleverness and ingenuity of the creators. The film centers on two law enforcement officers (one is a federal agent) tasked with catching a serial killer. However, this task is even more complicated than usual, because the criminal is actually a cosmic creature resembling those black, slimy naked snails from our gardens, which takes over the bodies of people and animals. I will skip a few additional matters important in the context of the plot of The Hidden, so as not to spoil the fun for all those who did not have the opportunity to commune with this film in the heyday of VHS. Let me just mention that the movie by Jack Sholder is a real genre chameleon. The Hidden changes the convention quite a lot. So you’ll get an action movie, a black comedy, a thriller, and of course a mix of horror and science fiction. AND! One more important announcement. The always great Kyle MacLachlan plays here, and Danny Trejo has a very small cameo (maybe 3 seconds).
Leviathan by George Cosmatos is Alien and The Thing in one. Not enough attractions for you? Well, how about the fact that its action takes place 95% of the time under water, and the most important prop for the whole plot is Soviet vodka? The picture of “European Spielberg” (as the Florentine-born director was once called) is the story of a group of underwater geologists whose difficult mission to extract heavy metals from the seabed was about to end, but their discovery of the wreck of the Soviet ship called Leviathan brought them troubles. As you can imagine, many of the crew never returned to the surface. Cosmatos’ sci-fi horror is a well-executed, suspenseful film with many characteristic actors in the cast. Noteworthy here is a good set design, quite solid special effects and music by Jerry Goldsmith. So, you ask, why isn’t Leviathan as much talked about as Alien or The Thing these days? Well, despite all its splendour, Cosmatos’ production is simply B-class cinema. Do not look for depth (apart from the depth of the sea), symbols, hidden meanings, mastery here. Leviathan flies the schemes so nice. The creators do not care at all about, for example, redefining the genre. Cosmatos’ goal was to create a decent sci-fi bogeyman, and I admit that for most of the duration of the film, he did it quite well.
BONUS: Xtro (1982)
There are movies you just can’t forget, and I think Xtro is one of them. So I included it in this list as an exception, due to the fact that it is practically unknown to the broader audience. It is worth changing this, because the production of Davenport’s Harry Bromley has an almost hypnotic charm. I know it sounds strange in the context of a film so ugly, dirty, grim and nihilistic, but in all its madness, bleeding and grossness, Xtro is simply epic, iconic, different. Disturbing and effective at evoking strong emotions through imaginative special effects, Davenport’s film is an absolute must-see for any fan of the horror/sci-fi hybrid. I warn you! It’s impossible to fall in love with the Xtro. You can hate it but appreciate it or hate it in every way.
What sci-fi horror movies from the 80s do you consider forgotten? Be sure to let us know in the comments!