80s horror movies vs 21st century horror movies


Gabrielle Jadotte

A debate on whether the horror films produced in the 80s, in which Generation X were teens, or the 21st century with Generation Z, are the scariest.

Horror is a diverse genre, scoping from psychological twists to gore-ridden slashers. It’s been a notable addition to the film industry for generations, but became most prevalent in the 80s and is making a resurgence in the 21st century.

The ’80s was a trendsetter for the horror genre, as it produced many classics and truly created the slasher genre. The ’80s brought famous movies like “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, “The Shining”, “Poltergeist”, “The Thing”, and “Friday the 13th”.

80s horror ran under many of the same basic requirements. Clichés and tropes like the final girl, are meant to be reused over and over again. If there’s a sequel- the body count must be higher, and the killer always comes back for a final scare. This checklist was used to make sensational horror movies in the 80s and some are still being used today, but how film industries go about it has changed.

“Back in the ’80s, the movies spent more time building up the suspense…the action was slower [and] there was more dialogue…also there was more attention placed on the music,” Florida resident and horror film enthusiast Andy Numa explained. “Modern horror movies are fast paced right from the beginning…there is more violence, more blood, and more jump scares.”

Numa, having been a teen during the ’80s horror craze, notes that the horror was primarily drawn from Catholic based fears, to subtly push teens of the decade away from activities that weren’t proper for Catholics or Christians. Films like “Prince of Darkness” or “Children of the Corn” involved heavy elements of religious rebellion and the dreadful results of such.

“‘The Exorcist’ was the scariest movie of my teen years because it was based on the demonic possession of a teen girl, and I went to a Catholic school,” Numa said. “It had all the right elements I could relate to: a teenager as the main character, Catholicism, eternal damnation, great special effects/makeup (for its time), a solid plot, and a great cast of characters.”

The standard for Horror has consistently swapped between pulling at peoples religious fears and societal commentary. (Gabrielle Jadotte)

Horror has evolved in the time between the 80s and the 21st century through the development of special effects, the introduction of new figureheads in the horror industry, like Blumhouse, and a divergence from the reused clichés, by instituting a empathy for the wicked. But where horror movies have gotten better, some aspects of originality, that were statements in the 80s, have fallen flat.

“[I] think movies now are kinda repetitive,” freshman Isabelle Jadotte said. “They’re either really good or just another remake of some ’70s horror movie.”

The 21st century produced a slew of horror movies that were originals, sequels, or reboots of films from previous eras. Movies like “Paranormal Activity 2”, “Saw II”, and the reboot of “Halloween” in 2018, did well in the box offices but showed no original thought. The “Conjuring” series reawakened the generational religious fears from the ’80s as well.

“The Nun freaked me out,” Jadotte says.” How she looks is…really unsettling.”

The scariest movie to me is “Life“, the 2017 film directed by Daniel Espinosa. It employs many clichés that are shared with ’80s films like “Alien”, but combined with the special effects of the 21st century, the film changes from a cheesy overused plot to something that kept me awake at night looking at the air vents.

Personally, where the 21st century fails in building a consistently interesting narrative, rather than making remake after remake, it remains scarier than movies produced in the ’80s. The ’80s relied on sudden crescendos and frequent pop-ups to frighten the audience, while the 21st century scares start subtle, building slowly in complete silence, which have a tendency to scare me more than a guy in a hockey mask chasing after teens with blaring music.