The Definitive Best – Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982

Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982 - Malevolent Dark

Malevolent Dark is taking charge and compiling the definitive Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982. Overall, 1982 didn’t blow us away across the board, but a couple of widely held classics entered the horror lexicon in 1982. In addition, a few obscure low-budget flicks popped on the scene. The Italian horror machine continued to run at full speed and predictably contributed to the big list. A few long-awaited franchise sequels also debuted in 1982.

In addition to laying down the Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982, Malevolent Dark will also unveil one of its favorite 1982 turds! Maybe, along the way there might be some honorable mentions. Let’s get started!

Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982
Jason Voorhees and the iconic hockey mask

10. Friday the 13th Part 3

Coming off the heels of two really good opening salvos in the Friday the 13th Franchise, the third installment debuted to very high expectations. Franchise character Jason Voorhees dons his signature hockey mask for the very first in this film. Unfortunately, for director Steve Miner and producer Frank Mancuso, they struggle to recreate the magic of the previous entries. Truth be known, Friday the 13th Part 3 turns out to be one of the weaker of the franchise through the first 7 episodes.

This film suffers from several things. For starters, the film tried to capitalize on the popular 3D craze that was popping off that year. Accordingly, this approach requires in your face shots that sacrifices pragmatism and style for a momentary sight gag. Years later when the producers release the film on VHS, the gag vanishes to leave only the corny cinematography.

Additionally, this marks the first film in the series that literally parades the cast in front of the camera like lambs to the slaughter. Sure, in other films we knew the characters were in for death sentence, but at least they cared whether or not we liked the a bit first. It wouldn’t be until Jason X that the series would pay less regard to their cast.

Regardless of its weaknesses, the film still features Jason Voorhees. It is iconic for its role in developing sporting goods into murder gear. Friday the 13th Part 3 barely sneaks onto the Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982.

Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982 - Alone in the Dark
Alone in the Dark – Martin Landau as the lunatic creep Byron “Preacher” Sutcliff

9. Alone in the Dark

Alone in the Dark is a lesser known film from 1982. It is much too good not to get a mention. Alone in the Dark marks the first entry into the New Line Cinema horror Catalog. The decision to place this film on the list rests solely on the director Jack Sholder’s casting decisions.

Starring Jack Palance, Martin Landau and Donald Pleasence, Alone in the Dark unleashes a supernova of fantastic talent into a densely packed film. The film concerns an escaped band of lunatics on a revenge mission against their doctor. Not generally aligned to the horror genre, Landau proves incredibly creepy as an escaped lunatic. He is joined by Jack Palance and two others as they converge on the families home during a power outage. Alone in the Dark manages to sneak a little double-dealing twist in the end.

Skipped over by many, Alone in the Dark incorporated a great cast and some wacky violence to earn its place on this list.

Top 100 Horror Movies of 1982 - Basketcase
Belial, the disgruntled brother

8. Basket Case

Directed by Frank Henenlotter, Basket Case could easily be mistaken for low-budget fiasco. The plot couldn’t be more ridiculous. A man named Duane walks the streets of New York with a large basket under arm. Eventually, he finds a cheap hotel to call his home. Unbeknownst to the landlord, he took on two tenants that day. The wicker holds his deformed brother, Belial. A surgically removed co-joined twin, Belial wants revenge on the doctors that separated him.

Hennenlotter manages to take his ridiculous just seriously enough to maintain the horror motif. Yet, he understands that story wanders well outside the bounds of what should be taken seriously. Packaged in this low-budget monster movie are some compelling practical effects as well as some laughable but lovable stop-motion scenes. Surprisingly Basket Case even pulls on the heart strings a bit by casting Belial and his love for his bifurcated relationship with his brother in a sympathetic light.

Basket Case performs well above its expectations and deservedly sits on the Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982.

Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982 - Q: The Winged Serpent
Quetzalcoatl – The Aztec Winged Serpent

7. Q: The Winged Serpent

Those familiar with my writing will periodically see references to the local horror show growing up, Saturday Night Shockers. As a kid there was so much that I didn’t know about what was happening, and I depended on that show to bring me the blood. Q: The Winged Serpent served as one of those deliciously bloody monster movies to fill an otherwise boring Saturday Night.

Directed by Larry Cohen, Q: The Winged Serpent stars Cohen staple Michael Moriarty as tough-luck small time crook Jimmy Quinn. Malevolent Dark favorite David Carradine stars as Detective Shephard. An ancient Aztec god in the form of a winged monster named Quetzalcoatl terrorizes New York as it broods its flock. In parallel, strange Aztec rituals and strange cult-oriented murders confound the police.

By today’s CGI standards, Q looks campy and dated, but at the time this films actually did really solid job using practical effects to create a Godzilla like threat to civilization. Additionally, the film exhibits some pretty gnarly murder scenes including a man relieved of all his skin. Q: The Winged Serpent retains a bit of that hokey late night cable mystique, but at the same time delivers a really cool little horror film.

Halloween 3 - Season of the Witch
Halloween III and the curse of Silver Shamrock

6. Halloween III: Season of the Witch

I know some of my people are going to hear my words and exclaim, “Preach Brother”. Halloween III: Season of the Witch not only isn’t a bad movie, but it’s a pretty damn good movie, and it always has been. Haters hate. But seriously, I couldn’t be more happy that modern audiences are dusting this film off and re-evaluating it outside the shadows of Michael Myers. People don’t like change, and the obviously the film-going audience of 1982 was ill prepared to let go of the past.

Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace and produced by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, Halloween III completed ditched the slasher idea in favor of a Celtic plot to unleash ancient magic to take over the world. This plot concerns a company named Silver Shamrock that produces Halloween masks that respond to signals sent over the air-waves. These waves trigger a microchip that an attacks anyone wearing the mask, turning their corpses into deadly bug factories.

The ever-awesome Tom Atkins plays the lead protagonist. He and Stacey Nelkin work to uncover the evil plan. What could be more horrific than a sinister plot to murder all of our children on Halloween night? That’s right, not much. Sure the movie meanders a bit. Some of the special effects border on lame. Regardless, Malevolent Dark proudly includes Halloween III: Season of the With on the list of Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982.

Tenebrae - Italian giallo
Tenebrae – Fountains of deep crimson

5. Tenebrae

Tenebrae may be the most accomplished film on the list of Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982 when judged purely on artistic merit. Directed by the great Italian director Dario Argento, Tenbrae delivers a standard Italian giallo film while also making a profound statement concerning the duplicity of society.

Tenebrae, packed with fantastic cinematography is replete with deep contrast and visually stunning, and totally dated, sets. Fulfilling its destiny as an 80’s Italian horror film, Tenebrae comes complete with a period correct European synthesizer soundtrack. Adding generous splashes of deep crimson, Argento creates kills that are as beautiful as they are brutal. In true giallo form, he does it while also juggling a complicated murder mystery that doesn’t reveal itself until the final frames.

Argento’s Tenebrae is a classic example of highly stylized Italian horror and a fantastic movie. True cinephiles may find that this film ranks higher in their personal list than it ranks on this list.

Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982 - Creepshow
Creepshow – The lovely Adrienne Barbeau

4. Creepshow

Written by Stephen King and directed by George Romero, Creepshow creates the childhood excitement of horror comics and transposes it to the screen. The film compiles 5 individual stories, and loosely anchors them on a loose narrative that involves a boy, his magazine and disapproving parents. Tom Atkins makes his second appearance on this list as the boy’s disapproving father.

Romero employs several tactics that would be recreated in later comic book films like Dick Tracey and 500. First, he employs lots of background colors to emulate comic book frames. Second, he transitions seamlessly from animated sequences to reality, further pushing the comic book metaphor. Finally, usually to punctuate the demise of a character, Romero uses a wide frame portrait shots that again mimic a comic book frame. These techniques are used individually and together to create a very cool effect for the time.

Tom Savini performed the practical effects for this film. Most of the effects are fantastic, but the stand-out creation is a monster named Fluffy. Fluffy appears in the short-story “The Crate”. For anyone that grew up in the era of the news-stand and the horror comic, Creepshow really brings child-like wonder to the screen. Romero did this in a highly artistic and highly stylized way that still catering to the weekend movie-goer of the time. Did I mention that the wonderfully awesome Adrienne Barbeau stars in “The Crate” as well?

Some of you may think that Creepshow scores a bit high on the Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982, but in Malevolent Dark’s book, this film really nailed what it means to be a horror fan. It completely deserves its place on this list.

Amityville II: The Possession
Amityville 2 – The Possession of Sonny Montelli

3. Amityville II: The Possession

We had to keep our bearings as we plowed through the list. The goal is a list of the Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982, all factors considered. If it was a list of scariest films of 1982, Amityville II: The Possession might have topped it. Whether the horror of a man murdering his whole family while they sleep, or the incestuous undertones of a brother and sister or demons slowly shambling towards a broken clergy man, this film creeps us out.

Truth be know, this film triumphs over all other Amityville episodes including the original. Shockingly, the world doesn’t always agree with Malevolent Dark, as evidenced by its low scores on Rotten Tomatoes. Here at Malevolent Dark, we can only lead people to the cold black waters of the fountain of knowledge. We can’t always make them drink.

In truth, there are some problems in this one as well. About two-thirds of the way through the film, the film makes a hard left-hand turn from a supernatural murder story to a Blatty-like exorcism plot. Both pieces are independently effective, but possibly it is too much for one film. The transition is clumsy, and quite frankly the film would have been better had it just ended after the first piece.

This film ranks high on the Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982 simply because it scared the hell out of me and never left my mind after 38 years of its existence.

Poltergeist - Heather O'Rourke as Carol Anne Freeling
Poltergeist – Heather O’Rourke as Carol Anne Freeling

2. Poltergeist

Written by Stephen Spielberg and directed by Tobe Hooper, Poltergeist has everything from Hollywood glitz, astounding special effects, supernatural horror and even a smattering gore. The producers wrap all of this in a warm blanket with Heather O’Rourke, JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson.

In addition to being an exquisite horror film, Poltergeist carries a heavy emotional element. One can’t help but to love the innocence of Carol Anne Freeling, played by Heather O’Rourke. When abducted by malevolent spirits living in the Freeling’s home, the families reaction is appropriately anguished, and Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams sell every bit of that emotional peril. It all enforces the steadfast belief that some of the best horror movies are just regular movies cut with an especially deep slice of darkness. It is horrifying, yet beautiful.

Finally, is there a child that wasn’t permanently damaged by the thought of clowns ever since they saw Poltergeist? Not Likely. Deservedly, Poltergeist sits high on the Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982.

Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982 - Johns Carpenter's The Thing
The Thing and Rob Bottin’s incredible special effects

1. The Thing

Here we are, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, number 1 on the Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982. That movie is none other than John Carpenter’s The Thing. The Thing may very well find itself on the list of Top 10 Horror Movies of all time. John Carpenter’s The Thing is arguably the best sci-fi horror film ever made. I’m not trying to pick a fight with Alien(1979) fans, but the conversation is legit.

What about The Thing horrifies us so? It starts with claustrophobia. A team of men are hopelessly lost and without assistance on their Antarctic research station. There is nowhere to run and they need each other to survive. They must live on-top of each other, yet the monster hides among them. They can trust no one. The cast on this icy rock is outstanding. Kurt Russel plays R.J, MacReady, the prototypical anti-hero. Keith David plays Childs, another strongman foil to Russel. Wilford Brimly, Charles Hallahan and others round out the fantastic supporting cast.

The Thing has a bit of sci-fi, a bit of monster movie and a bit of psychological horror all wrapped in to one package. This burning ember of horror goodness gets a heaping helping outstanding practical effects created by Ron Bottin. John Carpenter wraps it with an ambiguous ending that says, everything is okay, right?

Honestly Alien can lay claim to many of the accomplishments of The Thing except one. The Thing gets in your face, and stays in your face for the duration of the film. The audience has to deal with the monster face-to-face and the monster is relentless. It really is a triumph and wholly deserves to be at the pinnacle of the Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982.

1982 Honorable Mentions
The 1982 Honorable Mentions

The Films that Missed the Cut

There are only so many spots on the Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982, so somebody has to lose. Still, there are a few other decent horror movies that didn’t make the list that are still worth watching.

Pieces

Pieces is a little story about a boy with a bad relationship with his mother. After dismembering her, it turns to a life-long obsession with piecing together human remains in a life sized jigsaw puzzle. As far as low-budget horror movies go, its pretty decent. It struggles under the weight of poor dialog and poor production, but it is still a decent pull for horror fans, just not fit for the Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982.

Slumber Party Massacre

The release of Slumber Party Massacre made a definitive statement to the horror movie industry, “We aren’t trying to tell a story anymore”. Slumber Party Massacre simply rounded up a group of young co-eds and slaughtered them with an industrial size power drill. Regardless, anyone that saw this film at 2:00AM on Cinemax remembers it. The drill is iconic and the film brings a sense of nostalgia. Don’t get me wrong, its an enjoyable watch, but simply doesn’t deserve to share any list with The Thing.

Madman

This film tells the story of Madman Marz. Marz went crazy one day and murdered his family with an axe. He escaped the clutches of law enforcement and has been hiding in the woods around a local campground ever since. Unlike Slumber Party Massacre, the producers opted to wrap this generic slasher with a bit of mythology. It all works okay, but overall the film is rather plain. Madman is notable for starring Gaylen Ross of Dawn of the Dead fame. I hear all the time that Madman is criminally underrated, but Malevolent Dark thinks it should sit right about where it is.

Again, it’s still a fun little horror movies, but lacks the chutzpah to be considered for the Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982.

The Worst Horror Movie of 1982
It really is this bad

The 1982 Golden Turd Award goes to…. Parasite!

Sometimes I wonder why I have it out for Parasite so much. Actually, I do know, I hate this movie for looking so cool when I was a kid and being so bad when I finally got around to watching it 30 years later. I wrote in a previous blog, “If you like Parasite, you like shamelessly bad movies“. The story is bad, the acting is worse. The special effects are embarrassing.

Parasite tells the tale of a scientist commissioned to create a deadly parasite. The parasite looks like what a fishing lure would look like if the optimal configuration for a fishing lure were a foot-long turd. The parasite burrows into humans to gestate before erupting violently from the chest. The scientist accidentally infects himself, and must escape to find a cure. Amazingly enough, this film features the debut of Demi Moore. Sadly, she fails to save this burning dumpster.

Don’t Take My Word for It

While doing research for this article, I ran across “My Top 10 Horror Films of 1982” written by a fellow blogger and Internet friend Alex Vorkov. Alex also writes horror and science fiction novels. Be sure to check out his work. You can find him @AlexVorkov on Twitter. It was interesting to see where he and I overlap and where we disagree.

Notably, Alex mentions one of two Lucio Fulci films to be released in 1982, The New York Ripper. While not a favorite of mine, don’t sleep on it if you are on a Fulci binge and need another fix. Fulci also release Manhattan Baby the same year, but I am unable to comment because I have yet to watch it.

Thanks for reading Malevolent Dark’s Top 10 Horror Movies of 1982 list. We’ll bring more chills, spills and kills soon!

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