The Princess Bride (1987, dir. Rob Reiner)

A grandfather reads a fairy story of true love to his ill grandson. Excellent distillation of the William Goldman novel, with the right balance of thrills, jokes, well-sketched characters, and a cast that knows exactly the movie they’re in. Lots of fun throughout.

Here’s the trailer

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial [AKA E.T.] (1982, dir. Steven Spielberg)

A boy befriends a stranded alien. Still-powerful Christ allegory dressed up as a child-friendly sci-fi comedy. Works in all kinds of ways, and is technically astounding throughout. What shines is the quiet confidence on display, and Spielberg’s ability to tell story through character moments and shot composition. Recommended.

Here’s the trailer

Trancers (1984, dir. Charles Band)

A vengeful 23rd-century ex-cop is sent to 1984 LA to capture the man who killed his wife. Zesty low-budget The Terminator variant with a sense of humour and of being playful with its budget limitations. Loads of fun, a few satiric jabs, and great lead performances. Five sequels followed.

Here’s the trailer.

In Search of Darkness, Part II (2020, dir. David Weiner)

A continuation of the documentary exploration of 1980s-made (mostly) US horror. Much more (4.5 hours) of the same, though with some deeper cuts this time around. Depth is sacrificed for breadth, and the pattern of trailer clip plus talking head per movie gets repetitive, but there’s affection on display for the genre throughout.

Here’s the trailer.

The Evil Dead (1982, dir. Sam Raimi)

Five students spend the weekend in a remote shack: demons are unwittingly raised. Gleeful no-holds-barred horror. What’s most striking is the sheer confidence on display, plus Raimi’s grasp of camerawork and the spectrum of lo-fi practical effects possibilities. Sequels, a remake, and a TV series followed, each taking a more comic route through the core material.

Here’s the trailer.

C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. (1989, dir. David Irving)

Teenagers steal a cadaver, and unwittingly cause a zombie outbreak. Generally sprightly loose sequel, played squarely for laughs this time out. A surprising amount of it works, even if the loose plot is little more than a frame for gag sequences. Contains one of the few John Huston jokes in horror cinema.

Here’s the trailer.

C.H.U.D. (1984, dir. Douglas Cheek)

A cop, a photographer, and a charity worker each investigate the disappearances of New York street people. Quirky horror-comedy with an anti-authoritarian streak. Benefits from location shooting and a solid cast in depth, even if the story is slight. A sequel followed.

Here’s the trailer.

Death Ship (1980, dir. Alvin Rakoff)

A cruise vessel sinks after a collision: survivors find shelter on a ship that may be haunted by Nazi ghosts. Clumsy, dull, and poorly-directed horror/disaster hybrid. A couple of strong ideas lurk, but this is lumpen stuff that doesn’t have much in the way of focus or story.

Here’s the trailer.

Terror Train (1980, dir. Roger Spottiswoode)

A chartered train hosting a student fancy dress party has a vengeful killer on board. Okay though somewhat tepid slasher pic, enlivened by excellent photography, a decent Jamie Lee Curtis performance, and a sense of production value. A young David Copperfield performs tricks in support.

Here’s the trailer.