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20 Must-Watch Retro Horror Films

By Jonathan Shuping 

October 4, 2016

The last two decades have delivered many great instant classics in the horror genre with Event Horizon, What Lies Beneath, 28 Days Later, Pan’s Labyrinth, Dawn of the Dead, and The Cabin in the Woods, just to name a few. However, the Golden Age of Hollywood horror took place before the postmodern terror flicks of the ‘90s and beyond. Before the recent vampire love sagas and the zombie show-pocalypse, back when the box office was dominated by the likes of Schwarzenegger and Stallone, it was the horror genre that transcended with some of the first strong, resourceful, kick-ass female protagonists in movie history. It was an era when extra-practical effects, mutilated monsters with maniacal mythologies, and creepily creative killings ruled.

Here are our top 20 vintage scarefests along with each movie’s freakiest moment or most unforgettable line.

20.) Jason Lives:  Friday the 13th Part VI (1986)

“Why’d they have to go and dig up Jason? Some folks sure got a strange idea of entertainment.”

19.) Monkey Shines (1988)

When that crazy-ass monkey electrocutes that poor lady in the bathtub.

18.) Child’s Play (1988)

“Hi, I’m Chucky. Wanna play?” and any time Chucky curses which is pretty much any time Chucky talks.

17.)  Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

The strobe-lit club scene when that lizard thing came up between Elizabeth Pena’s legs. Also, when I realized I could never un-see this movie.

16.) Fright Night (1985)

When Chris Sarandon’s face melted off. Yay sunlight!

15.) The Fly (1986)

Jeff Goldblum almost ripping a guy’s arm off. I don’t really remember a whole lot else about it except that it gave my little brother nightmares for weeks, which was a great source of appreciation for me.

14.) Halloween (1978)

That single, continuous opening shot from young Michael Myers’ point of view—still unsettling as hell.

13.) Cujo (1983)

A giant St. Bernard terrorizes the mom from E.T. and the kid from Who’s the Boss? for 90 minutes. The whole thing is insanely intense, but I guess I’ll say the worst part is when that bat bit Cujo on the nose because he seemed like he’d be a really awesome big-ass dog if he didn’t have rabies.

12.) Tremors (1990)

The time when that huge underground worm was ripping through the desert headed straight for Kevin’s Bacon.

11.)  The Lost Boys (1987)

When Jason Patric’s fried rice turned into maggots. Equally upsetting to me were people who thought Corey Haim was cooler than Corey Feldman.

10.) Evil Dead II (1987)

Of course, when every dismembered head shrieks “Dead by dawn!” but also when Bruce Campbell attaches the chainsaw to his freaking arm after using it to remove his own possessed hand!

9.) A Nightmare on Elm Street 3:  Dream Warriors (1987)

When dream-stalking pun master Freddy Krueger says “Welcome to prime time, bitch” before smashing a girl’s head through a TV. Bonus points for casting a young Larry Fishburne.

8.) Poltergeist (1982) 

That. Mother. Bleeping. Clown.

7.) The Exorcist (1973) 

Linda Blair’s head-spinning green vomit.

6.) Gremlins (1984)

Phoebe Cates emerging from the pool in a red bikini then—wait, no, wrong movie. When they were waiting for the gremlins to attack in the department store and she tells Billy about her dad falling down the chimney and breaking his neck and that’s how she found out there was no Santa. (I was, like, seven when I saw that and neither of my parents even said “spoiler alert!”) If you already knew that bit of info, the next creepiest part was the skipping Johnny Mathis record looping “Do You Hear What I Hear?” before Billy’s mom ultimately purees one gremlin in a blender and explodes another in a microwave.

5.) Rosemary’s Baby (1968) 

Obviously the dream sequence (or is it really happening?) but also, “He has his father’s eyes.”

4.) Alien (1979)

So first that parasite thing attaches itself to John Hurt’s face. Gross. A little while later he starts convulsing. Yuck. Then a baby alien freaking busts out of his stomach?? Bwah!!!

3.) The Thing (1982)

In John Carpenter’s masterpiece, any scene in which the titular “Thing” morphs into its latest victim, usually followed by Kurt Russell blowtorching it into theoretical oblivion, qualifies.

2.) Aliens (1986) 

Sigourney Weaver seething, “Get away from her, you bitch!” But a close second is Bill Paxton’s “Game over, man. Game over!”

1.) The Shining (1980) 

Stephen King + Stanley Kubrick = too many to choice moments to choose from. The twins? Red rum?  All work and no play makes Jack dull boy? “I’m not gonna hurt you. I’m just gonna bash your brains in.” And of course, “Heeere’s Johnny!”

Ayrsley Cinemas’ Retro Horror series kicks off September 29 and runs through November 2. Check out the full schedule at AyrsleyCinemas.com.

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