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Bleeding Skull 50: The Best Trash-Horror Films of the 1980s

Cocaine. The Eighties wouldn’t have happened without it. This was the sleazy, frenetic era of 24-hour parties, teased hair, trashy lingerie, and false metal. It was a time when filmmakers picked up cameras to translate their coke-fueled visions to the screen, without irony, self-awareness, or even experience. The Eighties gave us some of the most iconic horror films to come out of studios, but it also gave us an endless treasure of amateur work that often eclipsed their big-budget brothers. And that’s what this list is all about. The DIY ethos and sincerity of films like Hallucinations, Slumber Party Massacre, and Tales from the Quadead Zone proved how much you could do with so little. The goopy homemade effects of Basket Case, Slime City, and Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare showed that you didn’t need a several million dollars to bring bloodthirsty beasties to life. The Bleeding Skull! team brings you our 50 favorite trash-horror films from the 1980s. These movies changed our lives. They will thrill, amuse, disgust, and terrify you, and they’ll give you a deep appreciation for aerobics, possessed cats, and killers in copper masks. Also cocaine. It’s not cranberry sauce, but it is Garbage Day! Please enjoy.

50. Violent Shit (Andreas Schnaas, 1989)


Violent Shit is the greatest title for a movie in motion picture history. Combining the ecstatic spirit of Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste with a WWF wrestling match from hell, this is a SOV burlesque of a snuff film that follows Karl The Butcher Shitter as he roams around and obliterates random people. But all of the dick-ripping and vagina-stabbing somehow feels quaint because of the sheer outrageousness of the mayhem. You haven’t lived until you’ve watched the three-minute scene of someone driving down a road in Violent Shit. (JZ)

 

49. The Video Dead (Robert Scott, 1987)


A TV meant to be delivered to the Institute of Paranormal Research finds its way into a suburban home. Soon zombies climb out of the TV and strangle, gouge, and tear victims apart. They even throw someone in a washing machine and set it to the spin cycle. Now Jeff and Zoe must stop the zombies and end the killings, but first Joe needs to quit smoking weed and Zoe needs to reason with the undead and make them feel at home. The Video Dead is a film where you revel in its practical effects; the zombie make-up is triumphant and the dry ice is plentiful. Somehow this movie feels wholesome, even with the epic chainsaw battle, and that’s because of the doe-eyed actors, roly poly side characters, and the zombies that just want to get back to their normal lives. The Video Dead is a genuine joy to experience from start to finish. (AC)

 

48. Nail Gun Massacre (Bill Leslie and Terry Lofton, 1985)


If all you have is a nail gun, a motorcycle helmet, a bottle of fake blood, and people willing to take off their clothes, then I guarantee that you will have yourself a good time and a great horror movie. Nail Gun Massacre gets a ton of mileage out of its titular weapon and every kill is a triumph in low-budget filmmaking. Heads, hands, chests, and eyes get nailed. Even a woman’s boob gets nailed. As does a man’s crotch. No body part is safe here. Nail Gun Massacre is sleazy and violent, and it’s a document of the Eighties when sordid exploitation ran freely along with the fake blood. While it may not be the goriest film ever shot in Texas, it is the best one that features an actual gun that shoots actual nails. And for one hot second, it’ll make you consider taking up carpentry. (AC)

 

47. Nightbeast (Don Dohler, 1982)


Prepare to be DOHLERIZED! With Nightbeast, late backyard filmmaker/fanzine publisher Don Dohler adjusted the wearisome-yet-quaint formula of his previous PG hits (The Alien Factor, Fiend) and made room for the stuff that puts butts in seats. Nightbeast follows the trail of an alien monster in a silver tuxedo as it ravages the foggy Baltimore suburbs. Cheap gore! Laser guns! Pool party padding! And the most phenomenally awkward sex scene ever captured on 16mm film. A teenage J.J. Abrams wrote and recorded part of this movie’s synthesizer soundtrack. Too bad his career fizzled out after this. (JZ)

 

46. The Dead Next Door (J.R. Bookwalter, 1989)


Anonymously produced by Sam Raimi under the name “The Master Cylinder” and crafted with love by gore-prodigy J.R. Bookwalter, this is the greatest zombie chunk-blower to ever be lensed with a Super 8 camera in Akron, Ohio. Watching this movie is like eating fourteen bowls of Lucky Charms that were doused with Pepsi instead of milk and then staying up for three days while daydreaming about being a member of a mercenary team called The Zombie Squad. And you thought that Akron was only good for birthing Devo. (JZ)

 

45. Beyond Dream’s Door (Jay Woelfel, 1989)


What happens to dreams when they’re forgotten? Do they just fade away? Or do they take the form of the monster that menaced your childhood nightmares—meaning, do they look like an inside-out dinosaur? Beyond Dream’s Door is a surreal, beautifully shot and edited film about nightmares haunting reality. So yes, it feels like a Nightmare on Elm Street rip-off at times, but Beyond Dream’s Door is much, much more. It’s a testament of ambition, with its experimental dream sequences, impressive trick photography, and low-budget practical effects that never feel cheap. If there’s one thing I take away from Beyond Dream’s Door, it’s knowing that all my forgotten dreams will attack me. (AC)

 

44. Blood Lake (Tim Boggs, 1987)


This is the only SOV slasher capable of receiving a stamp of approval from both David Lee Roth and Andy Warhol. A group of party animals, including adolescent horn-dog Lil’ Tony, embark on a weekend trip filled with Jet Skis, a keg of Busch, and a game of quarters. But there’s also a supernatural killer on the loose who wears cowboy boots and a silk shirt with a rose stitched on it! Made by real-life friends from Oklahoma on a real-life vacation, Blood Lake is a rewardingly lethal collision of ‘80s slasher video-vomit and twisted cinéma vérité madness. (JZ)

 

43. Bloody Moon (Jess Franco, 1980)


As they say in the movie, “Suffering is good for pleasure!” Produced to cash in on the first American slasher wave and directed with grace by Jess Franco, Bloody Moon is the apex of Spanish slash-trash eloquence. It contains incest, disco-synth dance-offs, beautiful landscapes, an unforgettable decapitation scene, and a little kid who gets run over by a Rolls Royce. Visually exotic and rarely conventional, this movie deserves a place in your perverted heart. (JZ)

 

42. The Children (Max Kalmanowicz, 1981)


After exposure to toxic waste, killer kids with black fingernails wipe out a small rural town named Ravensback. And they do it with hugs—radioactive, skin-melting hugs. Simple, uncluttered, and careless in all the right places, The Children is the type of humble trash-horror that is often idealized, but rarely actualized. No effort is made to convey relatable emotions or experiences, and there’s no heaviness to sort through. This is where high camp meets taboo violence and we all win. Don’t miss the ending, which involves a samurai sword. (JZ)

 

41. Anthropophagus (Joe D’Amato, 1981)


Watching Anthropophagus is just like taking a vacation, but with Tisa Farrow, a demonic cannibal, and an unlucky fetus tagging along. One part beautiful travelogue, one part trash-goth tone poem, and all parts nihilistic doom, this movie is discombobulating bliss. It’s Joe D’Amato’s defining moment and a tentpole of irresponsible-yet-stylish Italian sleaze. Anthropophagus also has one of the finest cat jump-scares of all time. (JZ)

 

40. Mystics In Bali (H. Tjut Djalil, 1981)


From Special Silencers to Lady Terminator, Indonesian horror movies are riddled with images that are impossible to scrub from our brains. But none is as beautifully shocking as the sight of a witch’s head and spinal cord levitating out of her body to haunt the night in search of fetuses to eat. Mystics In Bali might be slow. But its roots in Indonesian folklore and delivery of astonishing (and deranged) visuals make this movie a seminal—and fascinating—touchpoint in trash-horror history. (JZ)

 

39. The Oracle (Roberta Findlay, 1985)


Roberta Findlay is a firecracker that explodes with every project she touches. And her vocal hatred of the horror genre only makes the madness of The Oracle that much sweeter. On Christmas Eve, a supernatural force wreaks havoc on a NYC tenement. Meanwhile, a woman named Farkas murders people in a sex dungeon and drives a car on a crowded sidewalk. Meanwhile, meanwhile, a ceramic hand channels messages from beyond the grave while monsters decapitate people. The Oracle is the sleaziest, most inexplicable Christmas movie to ever crawl from the sewers of NYC. (JZ)

 

38. Bloodstream (Michael J. Murphy, 1985)


When filmmaker Alistair’s latest slasher (also called Bloodstream) is rejected by a scumbag producer, all seems lost. But when Alistair finds out that the rejection was a ruse to cut him out of the profits, he does what any self-respecting weirdo would do—he dons a skull mask, calls himself The Angel Of Death, and embarks on a revenge-fueled bloodbath. Bloodstream explodes with several movies-within-movies and a meta-enhanced commentary on the Video Nasties era. Shot on Super 8 in the back alleys of London and completely unreleased to this day, this is the Argento-lite of DIY trash-horror. (JZ)

 

37. Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (John Fasano, 1987)


This is the only “heavy metal” horror movie you’ll ever need to see. Jon Mikl Thor and his bandmates end up in an old house, which was the site of a brutal satanic killing. Soon evil beasties possess groupies, three full Thor songs are performed, and everyone makes love for a very, very long time. The creatures may or may not look like penises with googly eyes and wigs. The practical effects of Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare are only eclipsed by Thor’s hairless, ripped bod. You will see more Thor than you are comfortable seeing, but the leather studded banana hammock is so worth it. In true Canadian form, Rock n’ Roll Nightmare is polite, generous, and cares deeply that you are comfortable and have a good time. There is only one true Thor. Long live his reign! (AC)

 

36. Iced (Jeff Kwitny, 1988)


Just when you thought it was safe to snort cocaine and go back to the ski slopes . . . you get Iced! Easily the finest movie about skiing, killing, and humping that you’ll see this week, Iced is the soap-opera-slasher of your demented dreams. From the synth-funk soundtrack to the insane freeze frame ending, this movie is a force to be reckoned with. The sex is nasty, the gore is ridiculous, and a couple gets killed with an icicle. Also, someone wears a “Rockadiles” shirt that features a crocodile shredding on an electric guitar. (JZ)

 

35. Nightmares In A Damaged Brain (Romano Scavolini, 1981)


This is primeval sludge of the highest order. A schizo-OCD-psychopath named George escapes from an asylum and embarks on a murder trip from NYC’s 42nd Street to Orlando, Florida. Filled with psychosexual kinks, ferocious gore, and soap opera freak-outs, this grim slasher is an explosion of feel-bad grime. It’s all here: The suburbs. Woodgrain television sets. Haunting synths. A man wearing a rubber mask while attacking a kid wearing cartoon pajamas. Nightmares delivers on all fronts. (JZ)

 

34. The Abomination (Bret McCormick, 1986)


Shot on Super 8 in Poolville, Texas and crammed with neon barf, intestines, and ambitious latex monsters that resemble vaginas, The Abomination is a benchmark in direct-to-video madness. Falling somewhere between the calculated gross-out of Street Trash and the hallucinogenic dream-world of H.G. Lewis’s The Wizard of Gore, this movie heaves with mismatched post-dubbing, constant jump cuts, and tape-manipulated synthesizers until it EXPLODES with the stench of wet cow intestines, burning Bibles, and pissed jeans. It’s psychedelic anxiety, 1980s style. (JZ)

 

33. The Boogeyman (Ulli Lommel, 1980)


If you love to see haunted mirrors eviscerate priests, this is your movie. A collaboration between director Lommel and writer-star Suzanna Love, The Boogeyman is a classic haunted house story coated in the awkward pizzazz of a low-budget slasher. With telekinetic gore-slayings and surprisingly perverted twists, the movie plays out like Amityville Horror meets Halloween as directed by Lucio Fulci’s third cousin who never graduated high school. Add the finest bedroom synthesizer soundtrack of all time and you’re guaranteed 80 minutes of gentle slasher angst. (JZ)

 

32. Truth Or Dare?: A Critical Madness (Tim Ritter, 1986)


Truth Or Dare?: A Critical Madness is the greatest movie about adultery ever made in Palm Beach. Mike Strauber (John Brace) finds his wife in bed with his best friend, then takes out his psychological traumas on the world. This includes rolling over a baby with his car and using an Uzi to rearrange a senior citizen’s face. Featuring a spazzoid performance from Brace, ass-shaking synth arpeggios, and a scene where a child gets cut in half by a chainsaw, Truth Or Dare is a triumph of bad taste and nunchucks, all courtesy the reckless abandon of teenage filmmaker Tim Ritter. (JZ)

 

31. The Uninvited (Greydon Clark, 1988)


The fact that humans conceptualized this movie—and convinced other humans to make it with them—is a miracle. A group of spring break party dawgs get on a yacht with grandpa gangsters who are traveling to the Caymen Islands. But holy shit! There’s a cat on board with a mutant that lives in its stomach! And the cat mutilates people and infects them with rabies until their appendages explode!! The Uninvited is exceptional chaos that is only gifted to our planet once or twice every millennium. So don’t pro-cat-stinate—see this movie and make all nine of your lives happier. (JZ)

 

30. Day of the Reaper (Tim Ritter, 1984)


You might be bored by Day of the Reaper. You might hate it. But you’ll never see anything else like it. Shot in Florida for $1,000 on Super 8 by teenager Tim Ritter (Truth Or Dare), this is a psychotropic daymare as captured through the lens of a malfunctioning Kodak Instamatic. Waves of plastic Yamaha synthesizers and scratched emulsion roll over a landscape that feels like an adaptation of The Babysitters Club made by the Kuchar brothers while dropping acid. There’s also a killer wearing a black hood. If you want to leave the planet for 70 minutes, this movie is your best option. (JZ)

 

29. Slugs (Juan Piquer Simón, 1988)


I like to think of slugs as snails that have lost their houses. They’re just slithering their way quietly across some grass, looking for some lettuce to call home. I like that slugs leave an adorable slime trail and have cute antennae that shrink when you get near them. But deep down I know that slugs are vicious monsters capable of decimating a small town. They slaughter unsuspecting gardeners, devour naked lovers, poison people’s salads, and even kill unsuspecting hamsters, which is fine because we all know hamsters are incredibly overrated pets. Slugs is a movie that reminds you that one slug is harmless—maybe even cute—but a shit-ton of them is vile and gets under your skin (literally). Slugs takes the insect horde genre (Ticks, Creepers, The Swarm, etc.) and adds toxic sewage and fiery explosions into the mix. What’s there not to love? (AC)

 

28. Slime City (Greg Lamberson, 1988)


After moving into a new apartment in the slums of NYC, Alex eats neon “Himalayan yogurt” with a skuzzoid neighbor and has sex with another skuzzoid neighbor. Therefore, Alex transforms into a pile of melting ooze with an insatiable urge for death and sex! Slime City is a lovely mix of satanic mumbo-jumbo, incredible one-fingered synth solos, breathtaking no-fi effects, and punks with a flair for interpretive dance. Is the plot an allegory for STDs? WHO CARES! This is the perfect complement to Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case and it’s unmissable. (JZ)

 

27. Killer Workout (David Prior, 1987)


Spandex. Sweat. Open mouths. Leg warmers. Formidable synth-pop. And people in the throes of sexually suggestive aerobics while a maniac with a giant safety pin terrorizes a spa. Shot in Hollywood by David and Ted Prior (Sledgehammer), Killer Workout kicked off an entire sub-genre of “fitness slashers,” which included Slashdance and Dance Or Die. But nothing that followed came close to the ass-shaking, unequivocal ridiculousness of this movie and its aerobicizing swag. (JZ)

 

26. Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (Lee Harry, 1987)


The metaphysical sewer depths that Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 manages to reach will cut off your circulation and leave you for dead. Comprised of roughly 40 minutes of footage from the first movie, this is the ultimate exploitation rip-off . . . and it feels so good! This is the perfect movie for people who like redundancy and Christmas parties and a psychotic muscleman screaming mundane statements like “GARBAGE DAY!” directly into the camera. So, you know, pretty much everyone. (JZ)

 

25. Class of Nuke ‘Em High (Richard W. Haines and Lloyd Kaufman, 1986)


Class of Nuke ‘Em High is my favorite toxic-beastie-crust-punk-high-school-art-barf celebration. Introducing the STD panic of David Cronenberg’s Rabid to a 1980s neon slime playing field, this is the rare horror-comedy that filters dozens of schizophrenic ideas into a unifying whole—all thanks to the pure intentions and electric energy of the filmmakers. Class of Nuke ‘Em High is easily Troma’s second greatest contribution to our planet after The Toxic Avenger. (JZ)

 

24. Night of the Demon (James C. Wasson, 1980)


People love Bigfoot. That’s why there are so many movies about him—Legend of Boggy Creek, Demonwarp, Shriek of the Mutilated, and, sure, Harry and the Hendersons. But only one has a scene where Bigfoot tears off a guy’s johnson. Night of the Demon goes where no other Bigfoot has gone before, in that Bigfoot is a lanky man with brunette wigs glued to his arms and legs. This is a movie that knows what you want: a series of kill scenes where Bigfoot tears apart half-naked lovers, impales victims with trees, and sets people on fire. The languid pace of people talking while wandering around the woods only sets up the thrilling viciousness of the murders. So go ahead, commune with the great outdoors. (AC)

 

23. The Deadly Spawn (Douglas McKeown, 1983)


What’s better than watching a movie with a vagina-shaped alien dismembering humans in a basement during a thunderstorm? NOTHING! Unless, of course, the movie in question was made for less than the price of a used washer/dryer combo. Crammed with ambition, unbelievable practical effects, brutal gore, and a scene where senior citizen vegetarians are consumed by lil’ beasties, The Deadly Spawn builds a special, self-contained universe that holds no ties to rational thought. If perfection existed, this movie would eat it for breakfast. (JZ)

 

22. Death Spa (Michael Fischa, 1989)


This is the irrational, workout-themed Nightmare On Elm Street rip-off that you’ve been waiting your whole life to see. Michael owns the Star Body Health Spa. It’s a very futuristic place, because “the computer runs the spa.” Star Body is plagued by an unseen supernatural force, which causes graphic gore, full-frontal nudity, and leotards to erupt in flames. A guy’s face falls off while making out with a girl. Another guy gets ripped apart by a workout machine. A girl BLOWS UP while staring at a mirror. There are still 40 minutes left. (JZ)

 

21. Slumber Party Massacre II (Deborah Brock, 1987)


Slumber Party Massacre II is indeed “The ultimate slumber party!” and yes, “Rock ‘n’ roll never dies, baby!” It’s not every day that one film can combine the most successful elements from Satisfaction (Girls with guitars!), A Nightmare On Elm Street 3 (one-liners!), and Phantom Of The Ritz (The fifties!) and DESTROY THEM ALL! Although this sequel contains none of the subversion of the first movie, it does have a wise-cracking killer who materializes from a dream and takes time out for a breakdance segment with his DRILL-TAR. This is how life should be. (JZ)

 

20. Ogroff (N.G. Mount, 1983)


Ogroff is a slasher perversion from the foothills of France that was shot on Super 8. It’s also a benchmark of no-fi surrealism. Ogroff is a WWII veteran who wears a metal mask and ski cap. He murders anything that enters his magical forest. After a chainsaw duel with a lumberjack, Ogroff meets a girl. And things will never be the same again. Director Mount’s kinetic madness on all visual, technical, and constitutional levels achieves an iconic trash perfection that is only equalled by fellow idiosyncratic filmmakers like Doris Wishman and Chester Turner. This movie is not for civilians. (JZ)

 

19. Boardinghouse (John Wintergate, 1982)


Rick James once said, “Cocaine is a hell of a drug.” But he was obviously talking about Boardinghouse. Jim, a psychic who wears a leopard-print thong while practicing telepathy, rents a haunted house to “beautiful women with no ties.” From there, this movie transforms into a hallucinogenic shitstorm of gore, sex, chainsaws, pie fights, jacuzzis, beds that eat people, a new wave band called 33 and 1/3, and a leading lady known as Kalassu. Boardinghouse is the first shot-on-video horror film to be blown up to 35mm and released theatrically. And there will never be anything like it again. (JZ)

 

18. Blood Rage (John Grissmer, 1987)


Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without a viewing of Blood Rage. Todd and Terry are twin bros with twin problems — namely, one of them is an axe-wielding maniac! After a literal drive-in massacre, Todd is blamed for the carnage and institutionalized, while Terry goes free. Ten years later, Todd escapes from an asylum on Thanksgiving aka it’s time for blood to raaaaage! Produced by whip-smart filmmaker Maryanne Kantor and shot in Florida, Blood Rage is what happens when you combine Thanksgiving, Louise Lasser, a killer synth score, and unbelievable gore effects courtesy Ed French. Just remember: “It’s not cranberry sauce!” (JZ)

 

17. Sledgehammer (David Prior, 1983)


Sledgehammer is the first shot-on-video horror movie ever made for the home video market . . . and so much more. Ted Prior (Deadly Prey) leads a cast of self-loathing party animals who face off against a dimension-leaping ghost with a fondness for homicide and wearing a flannel. By the end, guts, brains, and beers are splashed across every inch of the shitty condo walls. Directed by David Prior (Killer Workout), this is a feel-good collision of slow motion abuse, unintentional surrealist art, homoerotic pathos, and slasher video-barf. Bleeding Skull’s Zack Carlson said it best: If you survive Sledgehammer, you’ll never, ever forget it. (JZ)

 

16. The Toxic Avenger (Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman, 1984)


For over 30 years, Lloyd Kaufman’s Troma Entertainment has produced an endless string of hamfisted films rife with shameless irony, self-aware camp, and wanton nudity. But there are glittering gems in the catalog that remind you of Troma’s humble beginnings, before it turned into an endless parade of jiggling bare breasts. The Toxic Avenger is a sincere, goopy masterpiece that proves how much you can do with so little. The Technicolor gore, DIY make-up effects, hand-sculpted prosthetics, and genuine fun reaffirm your love for low-budget horror films. This is a glorious movie that is a pure joy to watch, from its creative onscreen deaths (deep fryer, weight machines, dryer) to its epic, sizzling transformation scene. Revenge never looked so fun. (AC)

 

15. The Slumber Party Massacre (Amy Holden Jones, 1982)


Amy Holden Jones turned down an editing job on E.T. to direct this movie. She made the right choice. Written as a commentary on the inherent sexism of slashers by feminist icon Rita Mae Brown (but shot completely straight), The Slumber Party Massacre is a terrific inside joke that also delivers the goods as a skid row photocopy of Halloween — complete with a killer who gets figuratively castrated when the tip of his power drill is hacked off. FYI, I’d like to be buried with this movie’s evocative homemade Casio score by Ralph Jones. (JZ)

 

14. Don’t Panic (Rubén Galindo Jr., 1988)


This is the greatest movie you’ve never seen about a 30-year-old teenager who wears dinosaur pajamas while battling a satanic demon named Virgil. Don’t Panic is one of dozens of Mexican horror movies from the late 1980s that transformed familiar American tropes into beautiful abstractions from reality. Using A Nightmare On Elm Street and Saved By The Bell as jumping off points, this movie ignores its own defects. And that only helps to fuel its dinosaur-jammies-and-unibrow-fueled power. (JZ)

 

13. Frozen Scream (Frank Roach and Renee Harmon, 1981)


Renee Harmon is completely overlooked for her tireless work on otherworldly exploitation and horror movies like Lady Street Fighter and Jungle Trap. In Frozen Scream, a scientist (Harmon) invents computer chips that turn people into zombies on Halloween night. And she does it all in the name of answering life’s most important question: love or immortality? Filled with insane dubbing, goopy gore, and a refusal to do anything by the rules, Frozen Scream is a delirious no-budget slasher that feels like it was filmed by a committee of dementia patients. (JZ)

 

12. Don’t Go In the Woods (James Bryan, 1981)


Approximately three-hundred-thousand slashers were released in the 1980s. All of them are worth your time. But there is only one Don’t Go In the Woods. When a large, hairy psychopath with beads on his face slaughters a group of campers, the local Fat Sheriff arrives to investigate. What follows is a maniacal amalgamation of gross-out gore, surreal sight gags, and an overpowering sense of sinister doom. Peerless, ferocious, and intentionally hilarious, this is the unrelenting assault that put outlaw filmmaker James Bryan (Lady Street Fighter, Jungle Trap) on the map. (JZ)

 

11. Silent Night, Deadly Night (Charles Sellier, 1984)


Silent Night, Deadly Night is the most anti-holiday statement since the Christmas morning tussle in John Waters’ Female Trouble. With its high production values, cheap gore effects, and staggering lack of taste, this movie is a landmark in exploitation cinema. Especially if you are, or ever were, twelve years old. The film really shines when it loses all footholds on reality, and relies on jaw-dropping jolts (a priest shot dead in front of a dozen kids while he’s dressed as Santa) to keep the fix going. The goals are clear—ruffle as many feathers as possible, exorcise some religious demons, and deliver a fast-paced slasher filled with loads of sex and bloodshed. NAUGHTY! (JZ)

 

10. Hallucinations (Mark and John Polonia and Todd Michael Smith, 1987)


In 1987, three high school juniors made a SOV movie called Hallucinations that feels like a mutant three-way between Kenneth Anger, Tex Avery, and David Cronenberg in David “The Rock” Nelson’s basement. Eerie, dream-like, and built on outrageous violence (knife-shitting, shower attacks by a giant penis monster), Hallucinations is slowly engulfed by sexual animosity and off-handed psychology. That’s what makes it so impressive and fascinating. The movie ends with a surprisingly mature—but still violent—statement on family dynamics. Polonia Powa forever. (JZ)

 

09. Long Island Cannibal Massacre (Nathan Schiff, 1980)


Long Island Cannibal Massacre is the second of four films produced by teenager Nathan Schiff on a budget of less than $500. It follows Long Island’s version of Dirty Harry as he investigates a series of murders wherein people are maimed with knives, a lawnmower, a katana, a pickaxe, and a cinder block. There is a cannibal monster who looks like a decomposed watermelon. This movie taps directly into the eyes, ears, and heart of a horror-obsessed teenager with a movie camera. It is also the touching story of someone who is trying to keep their father alive by feeding him human flesh. (JZ)

 

08. Burial Ground (Andrea Bianchi, 1981)


Imagine a pizza and a plate of spaghetti bolognese had a love-child with serious mommy issues and a taste for human flesh. What you get is Burial Ground, which is quite possibly the most Italian beast ever committed to celluloid. It’s ripe with gratuitous violence, even more gratuitous nudity, stunning make-up effects, lumbering zombies, and severe nipple trauma, all against the picture-perfect background of a cursed villa. The Italian cinematic universe has given us masterpieces by Fulci, Argento, and Bava, but only Bianchi has given us Michael, a grown-ass man playing a nine-year-old boy who just wants to suckle his mom’s teat. Burial Ground manages to out-Italian the Italians, not an easy feat given that the undead are a well-worn territory. You’ll never see breasts the same way again. Molto italiano! (AC)

 

07. Things (Andrew Jordan, 1989)


Things is the best drug that I’ve ever taken. Somewhere in Canada, three friends arrive at a house in the woods to watch TV and drink beer. Little do they know that they’ve stepped into a black hole to another dimension, one that’s dripping with giant mutant bugs, gore-soaked chainsaw battles, and violence against all forms of logic. While watching this non-sequitur collage from anti-reality, your central nervous system will be consumed by every emotion that’s essential to being alive—excitement, hilarity, outrage, fascination, confusion, repulsion, and exhilaration. (JZ)

 

06. Basket Case (Frank Henenlotter, 1982)


Frank Henenlotter is a national treasure, and it’s all thanks to the gutter-trash symphony known as Basket Case. Stealthily filmed in the toilet bowls of Times Square and chock-full of demented fury, Henenlotter’s debut is a celebration of real-life NYC sleazers, stop-motion shocks, and the beautifully grotesque puppet monstrosity known as Belial. Basket Case is disgusting, hilarious, and over-the-top in every way possible—kind of like if Herschell Gordon Lewis directed Freaks on the set of Taxi Driver. I want to adopt Belial. (JZ)

 

05. Pieces (Juan Piquer Simón, 1982)


Lucio Fulci and Doris Wishman were multidimensional prodigies who made the world safe for bad taste. But even they can’t claim responsibility for Pieces—the ultimate in limb-slicing, chainsaw-rending, pants-pissing lunacy!! This movie is like the Justice League Of Degenerates making a scumbag variation on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in Spain. But with more Giorgio Morodor rip-off songs, intestine withdrawals, and the single greatest twist ending of any movie on this list. The next over-the-top step after Sleepaway Camp and Nightmares In A Damaged Brain, Pieces is the feel-bad college campus slasher of the 20th century. (JZ)

 

04. Tales From The Quadead Zone (Chester Turner, 1987)


Tales From The Quadead Zone, a three-story anthology made in Chicago, is Chester Turner’s second and final dig into self-released SOV sludge following Black Devil Doll From Hell. Rules of language, structure, and general awareness do not exist in the Quadead Zone. It’s a tight package of non-stop delirium, featuring Turner’s homemade Casiotone score, kitchen utensil bloodbaths, and psychedelic Video Toaster effects. Surprises hide beneath every plastic-covered couch, dirt floor basement, and clown nose. The credits say “Tales From The Quadead Zone Will Return” and I await forever. (JZ)

 

03. Sleepaway Camp (Robert Hiltzik, 1983)


Films like Madman, The Burning, Twisted Nightmare, and the entire Friday the 13th franchise have taught us that the Eighties was a particularly heinous time to go to camp. But no other film has combined cinematic gore, a snot-nosed butthole named Judy, and death by boiling water with the darker themes of bullying, child molestation, and transphobia. Sleepaway Camp remains exploitatively shocking and a raucous good time, with a final scene that still has people reeling over 30 years later. This is a film that has not only stood the test of time, but has also slaughtered it with a glimmering blade in a cabin shower. (AC)

 

02. The Last Slumber Party (Stephen Tyler, 1988)


The Last Slumber Party is a gift of life, one that’s wrapped in exquisite non-professionalism, inexplicable madness, and a song called “Just A Nightmare” by skid-row metalheads Firstryke. Made in three days for no money in Louisiana by the unfortunately named Stephen Tyler, watching this slasher is like making an agreement with your body to forever reject anything that is not this slasher. And then there is Chris, played with mucho-gusto by Jan Jensen. Chris is the foul-mouthed, sex-crazed Final Girl whose actions will forever leave an imprint of happiness on our collective souls. (JZ)

 

01. A Night to Dismember (Doris Wishman, 1983)


Doris Wishman was a boon to humankind. And A Night to Dismember is her gospel. Vikki Kent (80s porn star Samantha Fox) returns home after a stint in a mental institution. From there, this movie pretty much forges a genre of its own. The pace moves like a bullet, loosely throwing together erratic violence and dream-like visuals with the collage aesthetic of an early Guided By Voices record. Soundtrack cues comprised of Jazzercise schlock, spooky library music, and wailing 80s shit-rock overlap. Dialogue is dubbed in the “Doris Wishman Style,” which means that we hear voices, but don’t see mouths moving and the camera focuses on an ashtray. Every frame of this movie is a tiny masterpiece. (JZ)

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