The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Time: Do 80s Horror Films Still Stack Up?

Written by: Ron Bricker

Image Like many people, every Halloween I rent a horror film. It’s a ritual that is as synonymous with the holiday as ringing doorbells. I typically try to pick out a movie that I haven’t seen before. My hope is that I’ll get a good scare. It reminds of my youth. I would go to a friend’s house and we would pop in a videocassette of a slasher movie, preferably one our parents didn’t want us to watch.  We would jump at every unexpected scene and every strange noise coming from the house. It was fun being scared. 

This year I decided to revisit two “classic” horror films from the 80s. I wanted to know if these movies still held up as scary. Before I divulge what those movies are, let me ask you this question. Scary or funny: a burn victim with razor blades for fingernails or a mentally deranged murderer seeking vengeance?

Unless you had a penchant for only break dance movies during the 80s (and I have a friend named The Worm who does), you probably can guess the films I’m talking about:  Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th

Let’s start with Nightmare on Elm Street. It was released in 1984 and directed by Wes Craven. It’s the story of a child murderer named Fred Krueger who years before was killed and set on fire by a mob of angry parents. Now, he’s back haunting the dreams of the kids of these parents, with one twist: if Freddy kills the kids in their dreams, they die in real life too. Throughout the movie the kids try and keep one another from falling asleep. They all fail at this and are sliced up by Freddy one by one. On paper, this movie sounds horrifying. I mean, how do you outrun a crazy knife-fingered freak that lives in dreams? Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) manages to pull Freddy out of the dream and she takes him through a series of booby traps in her house. He takes a sledgehammer in the gut, but keeps on coming. Overall, there are some scary scenes, most notably when Nancy’s friend, Tina, visits her during a dream in a bloody body bag. And frankly, every scene is scarier with that creepy song about Freddy. 1, 2, Freddy’s coming for you…

Next, we have Friday the 13th released in 1980 and directed by Sean S. Cunningham. The story takes place at the recently reopened Camp Crystal Lake. It was closed for years because two counselors were mysteriously killed. And the pool was not up to code. And they ran out of Popsicle sticks for the crafts. Mostly, because of the killed counselors.

Anyway, the camp is opened for business. Monkey business.  A new breed of weed smoking, horny teens have arrived to whip the camp into shape. Hey, is that Kevin Bacon? The problem is that counselors are getting killed one by one. I won’t reveal the killer to you, in case you have not seen it, but I will link you to an article that will. The beginning scene of this film is quite scary. In some ways, the killer is a whacko, but strangely you may feel sympathetic. And that’s rather frightening. Check it out again or for the first time. If you dare, Ch Ch Ch Ha Ha Ha.

Between the two films I have to say that Friday the 13th still holds up as scarier compared to Nightmare on Elm Street. Who knew that later in life Jason and Freddy would meet up in a battle royal cleverly titled Freddy vs Jason. Who won? That’s for another day. If you don’t remember Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th, then rent them again. There are few jump out of your seat moments. Mostly you’ll get some laughs, especially at yourself for being so scared of these movies when you were young. Happy Halloween.