10 Underrated Horror Movies From The 1980s (And Where To Watch Them)

Few decades were as definitive as the 1980s when it comes to horror, with the building blocks of the past falling into place to shape the genre as we know it today. The heyday of slashers, as well as a time when bizarre and surrealist themes could still be found in mainstream films, these were the glory days of the genre.

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Era-specific greats like Fright Night and The Lost Boyshaunting otherworldly villains in Hellraiser and A Nightmare On Elm Streetand new twists on old classics like Poltergeist are all part of what made this such an important time. Still, there are plenty of underrated hidden gems hiding in the vaults that may be less known but are no less worth the watch.


‘Gothic’ (1986)

The night when Mary Shelley conceived the idea of Frankenstein remains one of the most famous in literary history and has been the subject of multiple films, TV episodes, and short stories over the years. Lord filmmaker Ken Russell leans into the surrealist, manic energy that he is still known for today, creating a nightmarish realization in Shelley as she comes to understand that we all give life to our own monsters.

Featuring an A+ cast and a truly wild script, goth combines historical rumors and scandals with a knockout performance from the underrated-in-her-own-right Natasha Richardson. Though the story is full of dread and meaning, the fast-paced escalation that Russell excels at is ultimately what drives the haunting nature of the film. goth is available to watch on Tubi.

‘Vamp’ (1986)

This horror comedy revolves around two friends that make plans to attend a strip club, only to discover that the dancers are vampires. With one of them transforming into a vampire against his will and the other refusing to hurt his friend, this essentially crude B-Movie starts to take on surprising life.

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to this day, vamp remains best-known for the dance sequence featuring the incredible Grace Jones, and it’s true that any movie would be worth watching for that alone. Beyond that, there are a number of funny and even kind of moving moments to be found, clocking this for a hidden gem in the vampire canon.vamp is available to watch on Tubi.

‘The Howling V: The Rebirth’ (1989)

The Howling is one of director Joe Dante’s early meta masterpieces, but the sequels are notoriously bad, even among the already questionable realm of horror sequels of the 80s and 90s. However, once it made it to the fifth entry, creators decided to try something new by going the route of Agatha Christie’s massively influential And Then There Were None by inviting a large cast to an isolated castle and picking them off one by one.

To be clear, this is definitely a low-budget sequel in a long life of sequels, so if you’re here looking for high art, this might not be the film for you. However, the unique premise and interesting cast make this a lot of fun, and well worth seeking out for werewolf fans that have otherwise run the gamut. The Howling V: The Rebirth is available to watch on Tubi.

‘Princess of Darkness’ (1987)

When a Catholic priest invites a physics professor and several of his students to help investigate a mysterious cylinder of green liquid, the mood is initially light. However, tensions flare as it becomes clear that there is something amiss and even world-threatening about this object. Apparently holding the embodiment of evil, these science-based minds are forced to confront the limits of their field before its too late.

Though easily among filmmaker John Carpenter’s best works, Prince of Darkness remains something of a cult movie. However, by merging questions of the spiritual nature of technology with overarching theological concerns, this is easily one of the underrated greats of the decade and well worth checking out. Prince of Darkness is available on Shudder.

‘Celia’ (1989)

Celia is devastated by her beloved grandmother’s death and haunted by foreboding dreams. The paranoia of the time period, combined with some terrifying instances of bullying, lead Celia to take drastic action to protect herself against threats both real and imaginary.

It’s not every day that a horror movie gets comparisons to classic films like The 400 Blowsbut celiac is just that good. Combining the existential horror of the red scare of the 1950s with the fantastical imagination of a child, this film manages to create an atmosphere that has seldom been equaled in film. celiac is available on Shudder.

‘Pumpkinhead’ (1988)

When he was a boy, Ed’s father refused to open the door to grant refuge to a stranger lost in the woods, and the man was killed by a terrifying figure known as Pumpkinhead. Years later, when his own son is injured, Ed calls on Pumpkinhead to take vengeance on those that have done his family harm.

The first movie directed by special effects master Stan Winston, pumpkin head is a gothic mini-masterpiece that marries local lore with a father who will stop at nothing to protect his boy. Strange, haunting, and surprising, this is one of the greats of the 80s horror canon. It’s said that there is a reboot in the works, so there’s no time like the present to see what all the fuss is about. pumpkin head is available to rent on YouTube.

‘The Company of Wolves’ (1984)

Kicking off in the modern-day, teen Rosaleen dreams that she lives in a fairytale forest in which her parents are killed by a wolf, and she goes to live with her grandmother. Gifted with a symbolic red shawl, she is warned never to stray from the path. Aggressive advances from a local boy and attacks by a wolf coincide, forcing Rosaleen to grow up before her time.

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Based on a screenplay written by Jordan Carter and underrated fantasy-horror pioneer Angela Carterthis film took inspiration from what is today perhaps Carter’s best-known work, a collection of short stories titled The Bloody Chamber. Capturing the unearthly terror of ancient folklore through a then-modern lens, this is a must-watch for werewolf aficionados. The Company of Wolves is available on Tubi.

‘Life Force’ (1985)

The crew of a space shuttle called the Churchill find a mysterious spaceship filled with strange bat-humanoid creatures and three ethereally beautiful figures in suspended animation. The crew goes quiet, and a rescue mission is launched, but it’s clear that everyone on the Churchill is now dead, and the space shuttle is missing. That, folks, is how space vampires got to earth.

Sci-fi vampires are an underrated subgenreand few are as well-made and interesting as life force. Directed by famed horror creator Tobe Hooperthe knack for gruesome implication meets a surprising sense of futuristic stylism that pushed him into a whole knew realm as a filmmaker. life force is available to watch on Pluto TV and Tubi.

‘Opera’ (1987)

The star of the operatic rendition of Macbeth is injured and replaced by her understudy, who is targeted by a killer that traps her and forces her to watch him commit murders by pinning her eyes open. Leaving as quickly as he arrives, this has a gaslighting effect on our protagonist as she attempts to understand what is even happening and who the killer might be.

director Dario Argento is best known for his work in the world of Giallo with classics like Suspiriaand Opera certainly qualifies as an entry in this subgenre. However, this is one often overlooked entry in his portfolio, and it’s a shame because it is truly off the wall. With a fast-paced plot and commentary on the traumatic childhood of its lead, the film is strangely telling and even, at times, hopeful, while still absolutely reading the creative community for filth. Opera is available to watch on Tubi and Vudu.

‘Next of Kin’ (1982)

Linda inherits an estate that her family has long used as a home for the elderly after her estranged mother passes away. Almost immediately, people start dying, which she initially tries to ignore due to their high-risk status. However, as she begins uncovering her mother’s childhood diaries, it becomes clear that there has always been something a little off about the place.

Next of Kin is a truly wild ride and juxtaposes a creepy haunted house story with something that turns into borderline action horror by the end of the film. One of those movies that must be seen to be believed, this is one that will surprise you at every turn. Next of Kin is available to watch on Tubi.

Keep Reading: 10 Bizarre Horror Movies of the 1980s

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