Goregirl’s TOP 10 Favourite Horror Films From 1981

If you missed last week’s post, every week for the next ten weeks I will be posting my top 10 favourite horror films for each year of the 1980’s. To see the list for 1980 click here. Now on to 1981, a banner year with some killer entries!

#10 SCANNERS
Directed By: David Cronenberg

Cronenberg takes on the topic of telepathy in Scanners. Pacing issues and a cheesy ending do hurt the film a bit but it is still a pretty interesting film with some great characters. The effects in this one are quite impressive and are really its best asset, and I always enjoy me some Michael Ironside! Definitely not my favourite Cronenberg but still a memorable entry.

#9 THE HOWLING
Directed By: Joe Dante

Having seen many werewolf films since, I must say The Howling werewolf transformations are still top-notch. The films biggest downfall is you have to wait too long for the first transformation. It has an interesting subplot and some very decent performances. Some might be disappointed at the action, especially for a werewolf flick, but I find The Howling damn entertaining!

#8 DEAD AND BURIED
Directed By: Gary Sherman

Dead & Buried is a great under-rated horror-thriller that has some impressive tension, a bit o’gore and a little dark humour. Unfortunate visitors end up dead in the quaint little town of Potters Bluff. Sherman does a great job of creating an atmosphere that will have you hankering to find out how it will all end.

#7 THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY
Directed By: Lucio Fulci

The House By The Cemetery has it all! It’s a horror sub-genre stew that covers the supernatural, mad scientists, zombies and slashers. Fulci serves up a delightful array of gore including impalements, decapitations, maggots and lots of blood. It takes a bit too long to get to the good stuff, it’s a bit illogical and at times is unintentionally funny (Dr. Freudstein…really?!) but it also has great atmosphere and a surreal hallucinatory vibe. It’s not perfect but when it gets going it is a shitload of fun!

#6 THE EVIL DEAD
Directed By: Sam Raimi

What can I say about The Evil Dead that hasn’t already been said? It’s the horror film that even half-hearted fans have seen. This first entry in the series was pretty much a straight-up horror intended to scare. There are a few laughs here and there but its pretty much horror first. Raimi was working with a pretty tight budget on this one but does one hell of a job. The makeup and effects are top notch particularly for the time. It’s gory, high energy, intense, creative as hell, and a gal gets raped by a tree! It’s a classic.

#5 THE ENTITY
Directed By: Sidney J. Furie

The Entity is absolutely fascinating. Barbara Hershey is a fucking revelation! Hershey’s portrayal of a woman raped again and again by an unseen “entity” is easily worth the price of admission. It has an amazingly creepy atmosphere and is an intensely personal and voyeuristic look into the life of a woman interrupted. A slow-burner that had me captivated from beginning to end.

#4 FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2
Directed By: Steve Miner

Admittedly I have leftover fond memories of childhood with this one. Friday the 13th Part 2 had nudity and gore and it was the introduction of Jason to the world before he became a hockey fan and was still hiding his face with a bag. I like the bag. Personally, after the balaclava and the stocking, I think the bag is my favourite stalker camouflage! He’s a kid that has been living in the woods foraging for berries for X amount of years. It’s amazing he even thought to cover his head at all. What’s more amazing is how he manages to find out where his mothers killer lives! Yeah, it’s illogical at times and yeah I’ve torn recent slashers a new asshole over less but what can I say? I’m a sucker for Jason.

#3 THE BEYOND
Directed By: Lucio Fulci

You just can’t summarize The Beyond in a few short sentences! The premise cut really short is one of the seven gateways to hell has been breached. This gateway lies beneath a hotel the main character inherits. Crazy shit happens, some of it’s illogical but every last bit is a fascinating, visual treat. People are nailed to walls, eaten by tarantulas, melted by acid, and of course there is classic Fulci eye trauma! And there are zombies! Beautiful, rotted wonderfully vial zombies! Don’t worry about a perfect logical narrative; just let the nightmare wash over you! Classic Fulci at his gory best!

#2 AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON
Directed By: John Landis

An American Werewolf In London is the perfect marriage of comedy and horror. The film has lots of laughs but still manages intensity and even a few shocks. The effects are amazing and the werewolf transformation, in my opinion has never seen its equal to this day. David Naughton and Griffin Dunne are the perfect duo and both deliver great performances. It continues to entertain the hell out of me even after multiple viewings!

#1 POSSESSION
Directed By: Andrzej Zulawski

Possession is a little known gem from the 80’s, and in my opinion is one of the best horror films to come out of the decade. At its core it is a love story, or more accurately an anti-love story full of sexual tension. Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani are both excellent. Zulawski’s direction is brilliant and although he clearly has much to say amongst the films many layers it is Anna’s monster lover that is the films biggest horror pay-off. It is relatively light on the blood and gore but what you get will stay with you long after the credits roll. Possession is a wonderfully moody, well-acted, intense horror film that oozes atmosphere from every pore.

Here are the rest of the films that made the shortlist: My Bloody Valentine, Cannibal Ferox, Absurd, Murder Syndrome, Happy Birthday To Me, The Funhouse, The Hand, The Burning, Halloween 2, The Prowler, Strange Behavior

21 Responses to “Goregirl’s TOP 10 Favourite Horror Films From 1981”

  1. bizarre_eye Says:

    Nice picks again GG. I was trying to pre-empt what you were going to pick, and aside from Friday I would have to pretty much agree with your choices! 😉

  2. I prefer the burlap sack too.

    I haven’t seen The Entity (ghost movies are my faves), is it one of those “Solve the mystery of who killed the ghost” kinda movies or is it a “Normal person trying to live her life day to day except that this ghost is freaking her out” kinda ghost movies?

  3. This is a great list; alas the only one I haven’t seen is Possession, no US DVD, so one day I’ll break down and buy a boot of it. Love Adjani!

  4. You’ve given me a few new movies to look out for… and on a side note, I’d love to live in that House by the Cemetery. That is a gorgeous house. I have a thing for eclectic architecture on old houses. If I ever had a bus load of money, I’d probably go around adopted unloved houses.

    • goregirl Says:

      Candace: 1981 was a damn fine year of horror! …And that is definitely a cool old house, I love it too.

      Will E.: I found Possession on VHS at a garage sale, what a find! Possession is so freaking great.

      FRC Ruben: Good to meet a fellow admirer of the burlap sack. And The Entity is definitely of the normal person just trying to live their life variety.

      Bizarre Eye: I know you like your Fulci…glad to know other people appreciate Possession and Dead and Buried!

  5. wow i never knew how important 1981 was to horror, I’ve actually seen half this list without knowing the connection. Great read!

    • goregirl Says:

      I’ve done 80, 81 and 82 (82 not posted yet) so far and 1981 has been by far my personal favourite year! There are some great horror classics here! I’ve kept rated lists of every film I’ve seen for years now and trolling through them all has turned out to be a much bigger project than I anticipated!

  6. The Film Reel Says:

    I’ve heard of all of those films and yet I’ve only seen about half of them. As time goes on I start to wonder if I’ll ever get caught up on all the great film I’ve missed. Instead I’ll just have to read your reviews and pretend like I’ve seen them all until I can get my greedy hands on them!

    • goregirl Says:

      Hagi-I will never EVER catch up on newish releases! They always lose out to older stuff. Now that I have a VCR again I am a bit obsessed with picking up as many VHS as I can! I LOVE paying .50 for a movie!

  7. Bartleby Says:

    American Werewolf is tops for me, but good call on Possession. I feel very few people have seen that one.

    Also, gotta give you props for Dead and Buried.

    Was Wolfen this year too? I probably would have traded out The Howling for that one.

    Awesome list though!

    • goregirl Says:

      Hey Bartleby! How are ya? I recently found myself once again in possession of a VCR! I’ve scored a bunch of VHS tapes from thrift stores and garage sales. Someone left six horror vhs under some stairs in my building also!! That is partially what inspired me to put together a top 10 list for every year of the 80’s.

      Possession has long been a personal favourite. Dead and Buried is one of the VHS I rangled. I must admit I had completely forgotten how much fun it was! Wolven Wolfen made the long-short list and does have a great cast, but to be honest, I found it just a bit dull.

  8. […] my top 10 favourite horror films for each year of the 1980′s. I have already posted 1980 and 1981 and this week I take on 1982. Graceland is open to the public, Andy Kaufman is voted off of […]

  9. If Possession is better than An American Werewolf In London I have to see it ASAP! American Werewolf is one of my favourite films of all time and easily one of the greatest horror films. Some terrific choices on this list – in particular The Entity, which is actually quite a frightening film because it is so well executed (as well as being supposedly based on a true story) and as you say Barbara Hershey is perfect in the lead role.

    • goregirl Says:

      While I enjoy Possession and American Werewolf equally, I’ve re-watched Possession more often so I gave it the #1 spot. You should absolutely check out Possession…I recommend it highly!

  10. Damn, a movie I’ve never even heard of beat out American Werewolf. GOTSTA see that shit. And Scanners is way too boring, but that sure is one hell of a headshot.

  11. Great entry! Thanks a lot. Me and my girlfriend are trying to watch 1 great horror movie per year of the 1980s and I was stuck on 1981, not sure which were good (that I hadn’t seen already). Possession it is!

    • goregirl Says:

      Thanks Steve! I’m a sucker for 70s and 80s horror.
      Possession is heavy on the psychological and is not a typical horror film. If your tastes sway from the mainstream you and your girlfriend might just dig Possession as much as I do.

  12. Go figure, the only one I haven’t seen is sitting in at #1. First heard about it years ago when I fell in love with another film by director Andrzej Zulawski (That Most Important Thing: Love, 1975). A friend of mine and I were actually talking about wanting to see Possession a few days ago. Going to have to bump it up on my to-see queue. Great list from a great year in movie history.

    • Thanks David…and I can’t recommend more highly checking out Possession…brilliant! I’ve never seen any other Zulawski film other than this one that I’m aware of. I will have to add That Most Important Thing Love to my queue…and look up the rest of his resume for that matter!

  13. […] Although I have never honored The Howling with a review, it has made two lists on ye olde blog; My TOP 10 Favourite Horror Films From 1981 and My Top Ten Favourite Werewolf Films. Unfortunately I do not have the original Pino Donaggio […]

  14. I love this list, beautiful mix of international treasures both well known and obscure. Possession is one of the most powerful and disturbing films I’ve seen, and American Werewolf is just precious to me. 🙂

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