Though not the most memorable year for horror, 1981 DID produce some classic movies, many of which influenced the genre in undeniably profound ways. It saw the progression and innovation of the werewolf and zombie sub-genres, and even provided us with the first entry into the Evil Dead series, which remains one of the most renowned films to emerge from the 80s. Below, I've compiled my list of what I deem to be the best (or at least my favorite) 10 movies of 1981. So, let's begin!
Although I was never a gigantic fan of My Bloody Valentine, I always appreciate holiday-themed horror movies. The film had a great premise, but the execution couldn't quite live up to its potential. Still, the unique setting helps to manifest a consistently tense atmosphere, making this slasher a worthwhile viewing.
9. Halloween II
Though never nearing the quality of its predecessor, Halloween II continues the story appropriately and serves as a decent entry in the series. The score enhances suspenseful moments and helps to manifest the aura of the original to a greater extent than any of the other sequels.
8. The Burning
Though often considered a rip-off of Friday the 13th, I've always found The Burning to actually be the superior film. While never really seeming original, the film recognizes its tropes, allowing for an excellent implementation of traditional slasher devices.
House by the Cemetery, although vaguely incoherent at parts, manages to transmogrify this apparent jumbled narrative into a sort of surrealistic nightmare. Featuring Fulci's traditional brutal depictions of violence and gore, House by the Cemetery remains one of my favorites from the Italian auteur.
6. The Funhouse
The Funhouse perfectly manages to utilize it's awesome setting (a funhouse/carnival) to great effect. Although naturally creepy, the movie does an excellent job of further enhancing the inherent ethereal aura of the carnival setting with a great score and a consequent tense atmosphere.
5. The Beyond
The second Fulci movie on the list, The Beyond mirrors (and even surpasses) the nightmarish and incongruous aspects of House by the Cemetery. Having a seemingly ubiquitous disorienting effect on the viewer, The Beyond always remains intriguing, puzzling and undeniably brutal.
4. The Howling
Often considered one of the best werewolf films of all time, The Howling serves as one of the crowning achievements of the 80s in terms of creature effects. An intriguing story supplements these great effects, resulting in a very enjoyable viewing experience. Essential viewing if only for the magnificent transformation scene.
Resulting in what can best be described as a gory roller coaster ride of excellence, The Evil Dead provides a one of a kind viewing experience. Featuring innovative camera techniques, off the wall ideas and an unforgettable protagonist, The Evil Dead remains one of the best horror films of the 80s.
In what can only be described as the greatest werewolf movie of all time, An American Werewolf in London exemplifies what a dark comedy should be. Perfectly synthesizing what often seem to be antithetical elements, AWIL holds up amazingly well. One of the truly great and original horror movies of the 80s.
Perhaps a surprise to many, Possession's otherworldly atmosphere demands recognition. While the film constantly experiments with genres and never allows itself to be boxed, it is, at its core, a terrifying, utterly original work of art. Nothing short of a masterpiece, Possession feels ageless and proves itself as the best film from 1981.