Ronnie Angel’s Top Criminally Underrated Films of the 80’s
For my first article here, I thought I would make up a list of those underrated films near and dear to me. I still watch all of these on a regular basis, but it amazes me how many people have not given them a proper chance. These ones may not be the most well known. In some cases they are known, but sadly get passed over time and time again. Why some of these films are not more widely known is beyond me. All of these have their own charms to them and prove that sometimes when you dig into those obscure corners, you can find some really good stuff!
10. SCARECROWS (1988)
-Although incredibly cheap looking at times, Scarecrows is one hell of an awesome movie. I equate it to Aliens in a cornfield. A group of military men pull off a huge heist, making off with millions. Soon, one of them screws over the team and parachutes out of the plane with the cash. Unfortunately for him, he lands on an abandoned farm full of evil, murderous scarecrows. The team tracks him down and soon find themselves the targets of the guerrilla scarecrow attacks. Despite the low budget and several noticable flaws, this is still a hell of a fun film. The setting is very creepy and works incredibly well here. Some of the scarecrows are actually quite monstrous looking and the deaths are pretty gory and brutal. At times, the movie even takes on an Evil Dead type of form. Even though the scarecrows themselves have almost no back-story, the film-makers still manage to make them intersting. One of the best things about this one is the fact that it’s actually scary at points with some amazing scare scenes!
9. THE BOOGENS (1981)
–The Boogens is one of the more often overlooked horror films of the 80s. In fact, for a while there it was almost impossible to find! Thankfully we live in a time where lost films like this are becoming more accessible. This one, brought to us by the same man who gave us the classic (and controversial) Silent Night, Deadly Night, focuses on a group of miners who open up a supposedly cursed, abandoned mine. Just like in Friday The 13th, they should have listened to the old timers. Soon the monsters are out and chowing down on the locals. You don’t actually see them until the end and it’s a bit disappointing when you do, but you don’t need to. This one has enough suspenseful moments and retro charm to keep you plenty entertained.
8. VAMP (1986)
-Vampire strippers? Hell yes! This one follows a group of frat boys in search of strippers for their big frat party. Their search leads them into the bad part of town where they start to encounter all kinds of weird characters. Eventually they end up at a strip club run by the ever freaky looking Grace Jones which is populated by tons of vampires. How could you not love this movie? It’s not really a great movie by any means, or even remotely scary, but it sure is entertaining. It can be hilarious at times too! Plus, it has Gedde Watanabe in it!
7. SURF NAZIS MUST DIE (1987)
-Okay, let’s admit it. We all know that Troma is not known for high end films. In fact, they make some of the most unapologetically weird crap on the market today and they wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s exactly what I was expecting when I first saw this one: just a weird, weird, hokey, borderline stupid, cheesy movie. I was shocked then, that not only did they play this one pretty straight forward (especially with a title like that!), but it was a pretty good movie in general! It also boasts some of the best cheesy action film lines of all time. Plus, the fact that they go for an unlikely hero makes it even more interesting. It really proves you don’t want to mess with mama! Sure it’s still bad, but not as bad as you might be expecting from a movie like this.
6. LINK (1986)
-There’s always room for a monkey movie! Especially one about a super intelligent, murderous, former circus monkey. Future star Elizabeth Shue stars as a student in England who agrees to join her professor over the break at his isolated estate, doing research with his intelligent monkeys. Unlucky for her, this is also the time that “The Master of Fire,” the suit wearing monkey butler Link, decides to kill the professor. This leaves her in a house alone with the killer ape and that’s when the real fun begins. There are some amazing scenes that really prove that Link himself is the star of the show here and it’s fun to watch him terrorize her. My personal favorite is a creepy scene with Link checking her out in the shower, making her very uncomfortable. You’ll never forget it! It even takes a turn into slasher territory near the end. This one definitely needs more recognition.
5. THE WRAITH (1986)
-Before all the drugs, before he was winning, before he even hit it big in Hollywood, Charlie Sheen starred in The Wraith. This one has sadly been over-looked by many over the years despite the cool concept. A small Arizona town is overrun by a gang of asshole racers, the leader of which is the murderous type. Soon, a mysterious driver, dressed from head to toe in a concealing getup, shows up in his ass kicking car and starts to kill off the gang members one by one. It turns out that he has a lot to do with a man who was killed years earlier by the gang. This one of those essential 80’s movies. From the movie, to the effects, to the badass car, this one rocks! Sure, it can be cheesy and dated at times, but it deserves to be right up there with some its more famous brothers of the time.
4. MEET THE FEEBLES (1989)
-In terms of dark comedies, it doesn’t get much darker than this! I can easily describe this one as Muppets gone bad. Some are into heavy drug use, some are banging groupies, one thinks he has AIDS, another works with the mafia, another has crazy Vietnam flashbacks and more. Yes, this is about as wacky as they come. Every time I show somebody this one for the first time, the reaction is always the same: dropped jaw and the words “what the…?” That reaction is usually even more so when I tell them that it was made by the same guy who brought us Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson! Yes, this moviee is insane on so many levels and definitely not for kids.
3. ALONE IN THE DARK (1982)
-Speaking of crazy, this one is just off the charts bonkers. When a new doctor takes over at a mental hospital, the really dangerous patients are sure that he killed their old doctor. They make a pact and soon break out during a city wide blackout while the security system is down. Their destination? Why, the good doctor’s house of course, with the good natured plan to terrorize and kill his family! What really makes this movie stand out are the characters. Jack Palance and Martin Landau are completely crazy here as two of the nutcases and incredibly entertaining acting as such. Erland Van Lith (Dynamo from The Running Man anyone?) also makes a great childlike psycho. There’s even a killer with a hockey mask called “The Bleeder” because of his penchant for nose bleeds while in the act of killing! Donald Pleasance also gives an insane performance as the pot smoking head of the hospital. Kind of a stoner Dr. Loomis. This is one of those films you just can’t help but smile at. It’s a slasher film at its heart, but there’s so much more in the characters.
2. GHOST STORY (1981)
-With how popular paranormal films are these days, it boggles my mind just how few people have heard of this classic. When it comes to my list of the top horror films of all time, this one is near the top for me. It’s a classic ghost tale that really manages to stand the test of time. John Houseman, Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. make up the all star cast in this story of an exclusive New England society that shares a dark secret from their past. It soon turns in some nice scares as a vengeful spirit starts to bump them off one by one. The best part of it though? It still has some downright scary parts and is still effective. Plus, it has some monstrous effects to boot; the ghost itself can be terrifying at times. Hell, I remember it giving me nightmares as a kid! If you like your horror old school, then this one is a must!
1. CLASS OF 1984 (1982)
-When it comes to revenge films, this has to be my all time favorite. In fact, it’s one of my favorite films period! I first caught it on USA Up All Night years ago during a night of insomnia and have been hooked ever since. This is one of those school revenge flicks that has been played out many times since, but none match this one in terms of character and sheer brutality. The story follows Andrew Norris (Perry King), the new teacher at a tough inner city high school. In his acts to clean up the school, he soon runs afoul of a local gang and all shit hits the fan soon after. It’s amazing just watching the progression of the back and forth revenge schemes the two sides throw at each other, each escalating further and further into extreme territory. By the time it reaches that last bloody act, you’ll be cheering for the extreme levels of violence that play out! Timothy Van Patten does an amazing job here playing the manipulaitve leader of the gang Stegman. In fact, I rank him as one of my all time favorite villains. Roddy McDowall also adds a certain amount of class and is the most likable character here. Watch for a chubby Michael J. Fox as well in an early role. Plus, it features the forgotten Alice Cooper song “I Am The Future.” What’s not to like? If you haven’t seen this, just go watch it now. Seriously, stop reading and go watch it!