Cracking Open the Time Capsule: Obscure or Lesser Known Horror of the 80s & 90s

Hey there demons, it’s me, ya girl, and it’s that time of the year: Spooky Season!  Halloween is the most wonderful time of the year for us horror hounds, and to celebrate I present to you a list of criminally underrated horror gems of the 80s and 90s.

Dead Alive/Braindead  (1992)

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Before Peter Jackson took us to the Shire to go adventuring with a bunch of hobbits, he took us on a blood-soaked adventure with a bunch of zombies.  After his mother is bitten by a “Sumatran rat-monkey” and is turned into a zombie, Lionel must hide his mother as well as the mounting corpses of the undead from being discovered and wreaking even more havoc.

Still living up to being one of the goriest movies ever made, Dead Alive, also billed as Braindead, never lets up on the goofy, slap stick horror.  So if you’re a fan of the Evil Dead and Drag Me To Hell movies, you’d want to add this one to your repertoire.

Society (1989)


This movie is absolutely disgusting, and I say that with extreme adoration.  Bill, a popular rich kid from Beverly Hills, feels he doesn’t quite fit in with his family and his peers. Boy is he right. As strange things start happening around him, Bill has to uncover the truth about high society (hehe get it).

This movie’s climax is both horrific and hilarious. A body horror movie that would make even David Cronenberg  proud.  Pro tip: skip the snacks while watching this one.

Phenomena/Creepers (1985)


This movie stars a pre-Labyrinth Jennifer Connelly as the teenage daughter of a film star that’s been sent to a Swiss boarding school where a serial killer has been murdering teenage girls.  Jennifer, yes her name is actually Jennifer in the movie, must use her abilities to communicate with bugs to help solve the mystery.  Also there’s a chimpanzee.

Ok so ridiculous premise aside, it’s one of my favorite films by Dario Argento ( father of that other Argento).  The movie is actually pretty creepy. It succeeds in building this air of isolation around Jennifer. Plus it also has a musical score that slaps.

Night Of The Creeps (1986)


Not the most obscure movie on the list, but it definitely gets over looked in favor of the more popular movies. Night Of The Creeps takes pretty standard horror fare and amps it up.  It’s starring a love sick college boy, his crush, a tormented detective, and alien slugs that crawl into your brain and turn both the living and the dead into blood thirsty zombies.

Listen, I am always here for a flame thrower being a means to take down a horde of zombie frat bros.  If you watched and loved 2006’s Slither, then you’ll love the source material. And if you missed Slither, go ahead and make it a double movie feature and watch them both. 

The Kiss (1988)


This movie single-handedly made me extremely terrified of escalators when I was a kid. Ask my mom. To this day I’m still leery around them. Ok so this movies isn’t about escalators (to hell with them and the infamous scene though).  It’s actually about a familial curse.  After her mother’s tragic death, Amy is visited by her long lost aunt, Felice.  And Felice is determined to pass along a sinister family heirloom to her teenage niece.  Spoiler alert: it ain’t a haunted broach either.

If you can get past a white woman doing “African voodoo” then this should be a good time.

Possession (1981)


Since I can’t concisely articulate what exactly this movie is about, I’m going to let Wiki do the hard work for me like I did in high school.  “The plot obliquely follows the relationship between an international spy and his wife, who begins exhibiting increasingly disturbing behavior after asking him for a divorce.”- Wikipedia

Now that’s just a broad synopsis of this movie, because holy mother of balls Batman, it’s a doozy.  It’s madness from start to finish, but it’s after the first hour where things really start picking up.  Isabelle Adjani gives every ounce of her soul to her role as the disturbed Anna (she actually plays two characters).  She’s basically the Joker and Possession is her Dark Knight.

I will say this, this movie is really tough to find.  It was banned back in 1981 and then re-released in 1983 with an extremely chopped down version that makes absolutely no sense. If you are interested, you’ll want to find the 2hr uncut version.  Trust me, it’s worth it.

Honorable Mentions/Lagniappe 

Now I know this list explicitly says “horror movies from the 80s and 90s”, but there are a few movies in recent years that deserve some recognition.

The Monster (2016)


This. Movie. Will. Make. You. Weep.  A troubled, young mother takes a road trip with her daughter with the intent on handing her over to her father who’ll then take full custody of the child. The trip is cut short when they’re stranded on a dark, isolated road where something evil lurks.

This movie is terrifying and heartbreaking. Through flashbacks it’s revealed just how tumultuous this mother/daughter relationship is and how it affects their present night of terror.  The Monster is in the same class of horror movies such as Train To Busan, The Devil’s Backbone, and The Orphanage. Horror movies that are so well written, well acted, with lots of tenderness that you become extremely invested in not only the character’s survival but the characters themselves.

Boarding School (2018)

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Twelve year old Jacob is sent away to a boarding school for troubled youth by his parents.  Once there he starts to uncover the truth about the boarding school and its mysterious inhabitants.  It’s a macabre coming of age tale. Although not without its faults, Boarding School has such a refreshing take on modern horror with a satisfying climax and a killer ending to boot.