Here I sit on a rare evening with a few minutes to spare, watching Hellraiser and tipping a cold one, so I figured this fine film would be excellent background for bashing out a blog post of my Halloween monster movie picks for this Halloween.
I’m excluding the usual suspects — no vampires, werewolves, or zombies here. Although I enjoy just about any kind of horror movie — from classics to slashers and everything in between — I thought I’d offer up a few straight monster movie selections some of you may not have heard of but would probably enjoy. So, consistent with my theme on this blog, I speak from a place of nostalgia and list here some of the more obscure selections from the wide array of fright flicks churned out in the 1980s.
To get some of the preliminaries out of the way, I don’t really consider Pumpkinhead or From Beyond to be “obscure” flicks, though they have solid cult followings (and From Beyond is one of my all time favorites), they’re pretty widely known, I think. At least relatively speaking. Is now a good time to show off this excellent German limited edition box set that my dear wife got for me recently? Why yes, of course!
A disclaimer: I am known to enjoy slimy creature flicks done well, done traditionally (real effects not CGI), with a suitable amount of blood and violence. Although it helps, I do not require these kinds of movies to be well-acted; I can enjoy a good monster movie without award-winning performances. That is to say, I like movies other people find to be pretty bad. For instance, I enjoy Lucio Fulci movies, which should tell you all you need to know. If you’re a horror aficionado, you’ll probably have fun with these. If your favorite movie is Twilight, this list ain’t gonna work for you. So, with that out of the way … let’s get started!
Xtro – This has been one of my favorites for a long time. Made in the UK, it has a strange feel and atmosphere, awesome monster effects, and some seriously creepy scenes. The raw form of the creature in this film really deserves some props, and the things it does, for the era in which the film was made, are pretty gruesome. If you haven’t seen this one, you’re missing out.
The Being – I saw this one originally on some crappy clamshell VHS version and loved it. When it came out on DVD some 25 years later I watched it with a whole new sense of awe and glee. At first glance you’ll think this movie is going to be a piece of crap, but I promise it’ll take you by surprise.
The Kindred – Another one that sneaks up on you with some unexpected awesomeness. “Anthony” is a long lost brother who should have stayed lost. Great effects, even kind of well-acted. Unfortunately, as of this writing, I don’t think it has been released on DVD. (Please note: this isn’t Kindred: The Embraced, the TV show, which is something completely different.)
Parasite – I love this movie and consider it a criminally overlooked gem of SF monster horror. Yes, it’s campy, but the creature effects are great, and the post apocalyptic setting really appeals to the Gen-Xer in me. It’s also directed by Charles Band, back in his hey day, and features Demi Moore in her first feature role. Lots of fun. (Be aware there’s another horror movie out there called Parasite — I saw that one too and didn’t like it near as much as I did this one.)
The Brood – Early Cronenberg that follows in his vein of “body horror” I really think this is one of his creepiest entries into the genre. It starts off slow, but when it gets going, you’ll be glued to the screen till the end — and what a pay-off! Yes, this is late-70s but it’s my blog post and I’ll break my own rules if I want to!
The Unnamable – Given that I’m a fan of the slasher genre and any and all Lovecraft adaptations, it’s no surprise at all that I love The Unnamable as much as I do, since it blends the two concepts quite well. It’s currently unavailable in the US in anything but used VHS formats, but I’ve come across it on Netflix streaming and FearNet has shown it at least once. This is one of my favorite monsters ever.
The Boogens – Stephen King recommended this to me via his 30-year-old blurb on the cover. Apparently this cool little 1980s horror flick was out of print until a couple of years ago. Very traditional in its plot, but surprisingly well-acted, and effective. It helps for me that it’s set in snowy mountains west of Denver, so it kind of reminds me of home (and makes me shudder at the memory of crawling through old abandoned mines).
Slithis – Okay, another one from the late 70s, but this is a favorite for purely nostalgic reasons. Others may not get as much enjoyment out of it as I did, but I will say that I watched my Code Red DVD version of this not too long ago and felt like it stood up as a solid entry into the radioactive monster genre. Give it a shot!
Rawhead Rex – So, from what I can gather, Clive Barker wasn’t terribly fond of the treatment of the screenplay he wrote adapting this story from his Books of Blood, Vol. 3. It seems like he didn’t hate it, but he didn’t love it either. Sorry Clive, I thought it was great. Yes, there isn’t much to the plot the way it was filmed, but the creature effects are great, with lots of blood, and a little bit of that slasher philosophy sneaks in here, too. It’s very rare in the US in any edition, but used versions are actually pretty cheap from the UK.
Nightbeast – I was going to end my list with Rawhead Rex, but I wanted to throw this one out there. The reason I didn’t want to leave it off the list is because the beginning of the movie is a perfect 1980s monster movie. Unfortunately, the end of the film, including perhaps the most squirm-worthy awkward sex scene ever put to film, grinds to a halt and ends with a dud. It was available for free on Hulu for a while, but trust me … the end isn’t worth the wait. Right about the time you start to get bored, it’s safe, and even advisable, to just shut it off.
I hope this list has been helpful for folks looking for some cool obscure monster movies from the 1980s. Great for the fall season or Christmas presents for the horror fan in your life — or yourself!
Enjoy and have a safe, happy Halloween!