The 1980's was the time of excess for media. Horror was being mass produced, and spread like wildfire due to the rise of the straight to video market. With so many films, its easy to forget how much amazing horror television was around during the 1980's, which is exactly what we are hear to remind you of.
8. Tales From The Dark Side
Tales From The Darkside is yet another in the long list of anthologies that make up the majority of horror television. Darkside however is a nice change of pace because it doesn't take itself to seriously, the entire series is shrouded with dark comedy. Case in point there is an episode in which a lady in desperate need of weight loss orders a pair of “weight loss goggles”. The goggles give every piece of food a face, and a personality. So this leads to a woman having serious life discussions with a muppet banana. The series was created by George A. Romero after the success of Creepshow. Since the rights for Creepshow were not owned by Romero he opted to create his own series with a similar tone, but retaining nothing else from the feature film.
There were episodes directed by the likes of Tom Savini, and Jodie Foster. Alongside the directing expertise the series had a lot of brilliant genre writers. Horror mainstays like Stephen King, George A. Romero, Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison, and Clive Barker all contributed to the four season horror series. The series led to a feature film in 1990 bearing the same name.
7. The 13 Ghosts Of Scooby Doo
Scooby Doo is the most well known childrens horror icon, and The 13 Ghosts Of Scooby Doo is easily his greatest venture. It may sound ridiculous to have a favorite Scooby Doo series, or even bring it up on this list but the character has been a mainstay in introducing children to horror since 1969. For horror fans The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo is must see for one very specific cast member, Vincent Price. Those familiar with horror know Price as one of the genres greatest stars. He did not often lend his brilliant voice to animation, but when he did, it was a wonder to behold. The plot is as such Scooby, and Shaggy accidentally open up the “chest of demons” which unlocks 13 of the most devious ghosts to ever walk the earth. Only the person who opened the chest can capture the ghosts. It's a simple idea, and the fact that they are dealing with real “ghosts” in the series adds to the tension.
The series has a few mainstays like Daphne, and Scappy-Doo but it makes real efforts to diversify the cast by adding Flim-Flam, a Latino youngster. Unfortunately the entire plot was not completed due to cancelation, still it's worth a watch.
Monsters shares the same producer of Tales From The Darkside, and it began the same year Darkside ended. It keeps the slightly tongue in cheek tone of Darkside, and adds to it by having some outstanding makeup designs. The intro to the series, and really the only pseudo explanation for why the stories exist is outstanding. The show opens with a family of Monsters getting together for “family time”, and watching their favorite show, which is “monsters”. It's a really fun idea, and its executed rather well. Plots range from dumb hillbillies murdering old ladies, to drunken faith healers attempting to exorcize demons. Much like Darkside there is an insane range of styles, and talents involved in the series. Yet again we see Stephen King, and Robert Bloch write episodes, but we also get surprising artists like Michael Reaves, and Paul Dini contributing scripts.
For those unaware, both Reaves and Dini were instrumental to the outstanding cartoon Batman: The Animated Series, though neither are especially known for their work in horror. The craziness does not stop there however as we have Meat Loaf, Tom Noonan (both acting and directing), Linda Blair, Wil Wheaton, Frank Gorshin, Steve Buscemi, Abe Vigoda, Matt LeBlanc, David Spade, and even Pam Grier acting in the series. While you may not have heard of it, Monsters allowed a lot of soon to be famous stars some well deserved screen time.
On paper Freddy's Nightmares can appear to be pretty awful. Freddy does nothing more than pop up to say quips, and the kills are all unbelievably over the top. However Freddy's Nightmares is a ridiculous amount of fun, and with one simple conceit turns the “anthology horror” genre on its head. Episodes usually start with the problems of one specific character, and oftentimes said character finishes their arc within the first half of the episode. Normal anthology shows would use the extra time to cram in a whole new story that isn't connected in any way to the first half. What Freddy's Nightmares does is shift focus halfway through an episode to show the ramifications of the arc introduced in the first half. Perhaps the main character dies halfway through the episode, the perspective will then shift to someone close tp them, and deal with how they were affected by the persons death. This leads to what is essentially a brand new story, but you have emotional investment that carries over from the first half.
The series is worth watching by hardcore Nightmare On Elm Street fans because the stories all take place within Springwood. So whilst Freddy is off presumably dream killing some teens you get to have a glimpse on the inner workings of the town. New Line Cinema's famous producer Robert Shaye appears in one of the better episodes of the series. Robert Englund appeared in every episode of the series, and even got to direct two episodes himself. Other notable talent involved in the production were: Tobe Hooper, Jeffrey Combs. Brad Pitt, and George Lazenby.
The Hitchhiker was a mystery anthology series running from 1983 to 1991. Starting on HBO for the first 39 episodes, and the remaining 46 episodes spent on the USA Network. The titular Hitchhiker of the show was the host of the series, who introduced us to the mystery of every episode. Yet again another anthology show, and while this one doesn't particularly stand out for altering its style, or plot structure it is consistently enjoyable.
It nails style, and tone very well with some well placed gore effects. Being on HBO it is a lot racier than other shows of the time period, which ensures that it doesn't feel neutered for Television. Game Of Thrones fans might want to give the episode written by George R. R. Martin a watch, and comic book fans may want to check out the episode written by Jeph Loeb. Whichever episode of Hitchhiker you chose to watch, chances are it will be quality.
3. Friday The 13th The Series
Unlike Freddy's Nightmares, Friday The 13th The Series has nothing in common with Friday The 13th asides from producer Frank Mancuso Jr., the name Friday The 13th was slapped on merely to obtain viewers. You'd think such blatant trickery would lead to a disappointing series, after all what is Friday The 13th without a Voorhees. Against all odds however Friday The 13th is an outstanding series. It nails tone spectacularly, and has a really fun lore. The pilot of the series has Micki, and Ryan two cousins who inherit an antique store from an Uncle they never met. Whilst they attempt to sell off the old antiques, and sell the property the pair discover its actually an accursed antiques store run by the devil. It turns out their uncle was given eternal life by the devil in exchange for selling off the devils artifacts. The series tackles all of the typical horror scenarios, but does it in a really amazing, and unique way.
The series is heavily focused on its main cast of characters, and showcases some truly inspired episodes. One of the best features a man whose fiancee was bitten by a vampire many years ago, and he has since become a vampire hunter in attempts to get her back. In his obsession he becomes the very thing he swore to destroy, a monster. The episode has some outstanding emotional beats, and you really feel for the characters. Asides from a very young Sarah Polley the series doesn't feature too many famous faces, which makes the superb quality all the more surprising.
This series is essentially Bill Bixby's Incredible Hulk, if instead of turning into a green monster the protagonist turned into a rabid murderous Werewolf. It is amazing. The episodes flow by really well, and the Werewolf effects are solid. The series does not shy away from collateral damage caused by his transformations either. Whenever he transforms people die, and oftentimes its quite a gruesome death. The series usually paints the people who die in a negative light, but there are moments where completely innocent people get killed by our hero. The entire series is a cat and mouse hunt with Eric Cord (the protagonist) hunting down the originator of the Werewolf curse, and in turn Eric is being hunted by a bounty hunter named “Alamo” Joe Rogan. Well written, and well acted this under seen gem is worth a watch.
In the modern age most shows are separated into two major categories. Comic book shows, and Horror shows. Interestingly enough Tales From The Crypt brings the two genres together, and ends up being the best 80's show of both genre's. Most of the shows stories, and concepts come directly from issues of the 1950's EC Comics. While feature films like Creepshow heavily paid homage to EC Comics, Tales From The Crypt used them directly. Again HBO stepped up to the plate delivering more amazing Horror Television. Running for 7 seasons Tales From The Crypt has an insane amount of talent involved, and to list them all would take up an entire list of its own. Here are some of the craziest: Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Tom Hanks directed episodes.
As for famous unexpected actors: Steve Coogan, Jeffrey Tambor, Dan Aykroyd, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Ewan McGregor all show up for surprise roles all being well established at the time. The series had two spinoff films, and even had a Saturday morning cartoon show in the 90s. The array of talent, and the awesome stories easily make this the best horror series of the 1980's.