What is it that distinguishes science fiction and 1980s horror so much? Even though these genres have entertained moviegoers since the turn of the 20th century, it’s interesting how this decade is viewed as a golden age for sci-fi, horror movies, or a mix of the two. Not only did the era spawn many notable films like An American Werewolf in London, The Terminator and Predator, but it was also when the careers of leading filmmakers like James Cameron, David Cronenberg and John McTiernan has really taken off.
And when people say “they don’t make movies like they used to,” they’re probably referring to the 1980s. Before CGI became mainstream in the 1990s, horror and sci-fi had to be based on good old-fashioned techniques like puppets, animatronics and prosthetics to bring their visuals to life. As a result, some of the most stunning and innovative visuals ever seen in theaters come from movies of the 80s.
While there are obvious choices on which sci-fi horrors stood out the most during this time, there are a few lesser-known films that deserve just as much credit.
David Cronenberg is known as a juggernaut in the film world, primarily for popularizing the concept of body horror. There were elements of this concept in his early works such as The Brood and Scanners, but Videodrome helped cement Cronenberg’s distinctive cinematic style.
In the film, Max Renn runs a television station that broadcasts violent and sexual programs. Always on the hunt for a new form of entertainment, Renn stumbles upon Videodrome – an obscure channel that focuses on extreme sadomasochism. Believing that this kind of entertainment is the next big thing, Renn tries to integrate the show into his network.
Videodrome has many sickly visuals of humans merging with technology, which was made possible by the extraordinary make-up, Rick Baker. Despite a small budget, many special effects still hold up (the torso slit is still capable of making modern viewers nauseous). If you find the movie a little confusing, don’t worry, everyone is doing it. Videodrome was never meant to be understood, only experienced. It might not be Cronenberg’s best film, but it probably sums up body horror better than any of his works.