1980s “Scary” Movies for Different Ages

Our movie guy, Paul McGuire Grimes from Paul’s Trip to the Movies gives us his suggestions for spooky movies to check out.

BEETLEJUICE (1988) – For Families

Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin star as Barbara and Adam, a recently deceased married couple who can’t accept the fact that a new family has moved into their new home. Charles and Delia Dietz, along with daughter Lydia, have a gothic morbid sensibility. Barbara and Adam are now ghosts and only Lydia can see them haunting the house. After their haunting techniques with sheets and ghostly sounds don’t work, they hire a poltergeist named Beetlejuice to pull out all the stops and scare the Dietz’s out of their beloved home.

-Starring: Michael Keaton, Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin, Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones, Winona Ryder

-Directed by Tim Burton who clearly made his vision known with his gothic and wicked sense of humor.

-Michael Keaton was primarily making comedies before this and blurred the lines between comedy and horror. Don’t say his name three times! It’s an iconic performance and one of Keaton’s best in his lengthy career.

-Adapted into an animated series that ran four seasons and a successful Broadway musical in 2019. Both Producer Christian and I have seen it on Broadway!

-Won the Oscar for Best Makeup!

-I watched this alllll the time as a kid and can quote a lot of it.


CRITTERS (1986) – Creature Feature For Teens

An alien spacecraft crash lands in a rural Kansas farm town unleashing little furry creatures known as the Crites. Hot on their trail are two body hunters who can morph into the body of humans including the town sheriff and a famous rock star. These Crites/critters attack a family of four with the sharp teeth, red eyes, and spikes that shoot out of their furry bodies.

-Starring: Dee Wallace, M. Emmett Walsh, Terrence Mann

-The film is clearly capitalizing on the success of Gremlins which has a similar premise. The screenwriter claims this was written years prior to Gremlins release

-Great for teens or people who don’t want something overly scary. There’s a campy vibe with these critters. They may be vicious, but the sounds they make when they cackle are quite funny.

-I used to play this for friends in high school when we had scary movie nights.

-Dee Wallace frequently played the mom in genre movies like E.T. and The Howling.

-Spawned three sequels. A young Leonardo DiCaprio appears in Critters 3 and Angela Bassett is in Critters 4.

-Now Streaming on HBO Max


THE THING (1982) – Creature Feature for Adults

The Thing is a terrific “creature feature” set in frozen Antarctica that many herald as director John Carpenter’s (Halloween) best. A Norwegian pilot lands on a research base in Antarctica after chasing around a wild dog. The pilot seems disturbed and is shot and killed. Mystery and intrigue surround who he is and where he came from for this team of scientists on the base. Later, one of the sled dogs is infected by an alien killing the other dogs, morphing and shifting its shape into other humans and creatures. The alien creature quickly ascends over the research compound terrorizing anyone who’s able to make it out alive.

-Starring Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley

-remake of the Howard Hawkes film The Thing from Another World. Originally received poor reviews but it has garnered quite the fan following since its release.

-The practical effects used for the extra-terrestrial objects that infect the other humans and dogs is top-notch and far more grotesque and eerie than anything CGI could do. It’s still terrifying all these years later. There’s a relentless quality that doesn’t feel dated.

-It’s bleak and cold as this team wonders what’s buried in the Earth and in the ice waiting to be unleashed.

-There’s an element to the film where the men on this outpost don’t know who’s infected and who they can trust that certainly plays differently in the COVID world we live in.

-The score by Ennio Morricone plays into the dread, hopelessness, and fear of what’s to come.


PROM NIGHT (1980) – Slasher flick for Adults…or Teens

Prom Night becomes deadly for four high school seniors after they each receive threatening phone calls. They’re all harboring a secret from their childhood after a game of hide and seek turns deadly when their friend Robin fell out the window and died. Someone knows their secret and is now seeking revenge on the greatest night of their high school days. At the same time, a catatonic schizophrenic escapes a mental hospital, and the police believe he’s the one who killed Robin.

-Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielson

-Prom Night was the first of three scary movies starring Jamie Lee Curtis that were released in 1980 with The Fog and Terror Train. Curtis became the Scream Queen with this run of scary movies following Halloween.

-The movie clearly feels like a rip off of Halloween and Carrie trying to capitalize on those films. It would go on to be referenced in Scream and it’s clear I Know What You Did Last Summer drew inspiration from this movie.

-This has all the ingredients of a campy slasher flick: horny teens, drinking drugs, a deranged killer all wearing black with a black ski mask

-Disco soundtrack!

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