EJ Moreno pits 1983’s horror line-up against 1993’s… which year scared us more?
Horror is the genre that reflects our current time the most. We often see cultural fears and concerns thrown back at us in the scariest of ways.
Looking back at the genre 30 or 40 years ago can give us a clear picture of where we were as a society. So, that’s exactly what we’ll do with this list. We will compare a film from 1983 and one from 1993 to see which film stood out the most.
Comparing these two years feels strange, as they don’t capture their respective decades’ highlights. 1983 lacks the booming, bodacious horror you’d expect from the genre’s heyday, and the early 90s was still trying to shake off a few genre low points. Still, there are some delightfully delicious entries here to look back on.
1983 vs. 1993: Which year of horror gave us the most chills and thrills? Let’s find out…
Sleepaway Camp (1983)/Leprechaun (1993)
Launching a horror franchise isn’t easy; most of the time, slashers are started with no real intention of multiple entries. One of these films had no clue they’d have four sequels, while the other intended to become the next horror icon. Somehow, both have stayed with fans for decades.
Sleepaway Camp is undoubtedly the most low-budget of the films, but it packs just as big of a punch as some blockbusters here. There are more WTF moments during this runtime than most of these other horror films combined, and that’s not even including the iconic ending to this. The crafty quality of Sleepaway Camp, mixed with its sheer insanity, has let this cult classic stick around with the heavyweights.
Looking a decade ahead, we see another low-budget horror trying to find an audience, but this time, the filmmakers wanted this to be a horror titan. Defunct studio Trimark pushed Leprechaun to the moon, and the marketing campaign helped propel this to heights no one could see. Star Warwick Davis would stick around for five (!!) sequels before the franchise saw two reboots. That’s the power of a good horror film.
WINNER: Leprechaun (1993)
Videodrome (1983)/Cronos (1993)
David Cronenberg vs. Guillermo del Toro feels like the type of debate still happening all over film school campuses. These arthouse powerhouses dropped essential works in their legacies during these two years: one filmmaker coming into his own and another bursting onto the scene.
Based on his other 1983 release, The Dead Zone, this is the year Cronenberg was cemented as the horror filmmaker to watch. Not to dismiss his prior work, but Videodrome felt like a filmmaker understanding his true potential. It’s horrifying and sexy, grounded by one of James Woods’ best roles, and feels ahead of its time. Cronenberg knew what horrors lie in the entertainment world, and he captured it so well.
Guillermo del Toro is one of the best filmmakers of our lifetime. From award-winning animation to bone-chilling horror, he could do it all, and that all started with 1993’s Cronos. In his first feature film, we get del Toro’s tone and style almost instantly, but it does feel a bit rough around the edges compared to his later work. Classic vampire horror needed a refresher in the 90s, though, and this was the start of that movement.
WINNER: Videodrome (1983)
Psycho II (1983)/Jason Goes To Hell (1993)
Horror sequels aren’t easy, and following one of the most iconic movies seems nearly possible. It’s why so many franchises never get off the ground or stagger to the finish line. But these two films come at very different points for their franchises: one starts sequels, while the other kills.
Yes, there is a Psycho II; hell, even a Psycho III and a fourth made it straight to TV. But focusing on the 1983 sequel, we see the impossible try to happen; we see an attempt at a Hitchcock sequel. Strangely enough, this isn’t half bad. It’s chaotic and messy, yet the charm of the original still feels like it lives within this film’s bones. It’s a vastly underrated horror film and one of Anthony Perkins’ best works.
Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday is nobody’s best work. Sadly, as a massive fan of the Friday The 13th franchise, this is often considered a near-franchise killer. Jason Goes To Hell has its few fleeting fun moments (hello, Creighton Duke), but it’s a mess in the worst possible way. In a franchise filled with sheer “how is this even possible” moments, Jason Goes To Hell takes the hockey mask-shaped cake.
WINNER: Psycho II (1983)
Jaws 3-D (1983)/Return of the Living Dead III (1993)
Being the middle child is easy for no one. Tell that to any third installment in a film franchise. Looking at these deep-cut third movies gives us an odd picture of the state of franchise filmmaking around these times. Not surprisingly, Jaws and Living Dead didn’t survive long after these movies.
Jaws 3-D is a hilariously bad look at what happens when a studio turns a prestige horror film into a soulless cash cow. Steven Spielberg’s Jaws invented summer blockbusters, and by the time the third Jaws rolled around, it was time to mock those blockbusters. The best thing I could say about this trip to the third dimension is they were competent to cast Dennis Quaid and Lea Thompson pre-fame.
The Return of the Living Dead franchise boasts none of Jaws‘s prestige, but its sequel remains less troublesome than the shark movies. Return of the Living Dead III does include some of the best moments from this overlooked zombie franchise, including a kick-ass leading performance from Melinda Clarke. Jaws 3-D didn’t have Spielberg’s charm to help, but Living Dead 3 had the power of horror master Brian Yuzna.
WINNER: Return of the Living Dead III (1993)
Christine (1983)/Army of Darkness (1993)
Like the last list, pitting 2003 vs. 2013, there’s been an attempt to theme each match. But here, we dive into two random horror films from their respective years, and they somehow or other made the most challenging match-up yet. Let’s look at the wild battle between Carpenter and Raimi.
Between 1976 and 1986, John Carpenter was on the run of some of the best genre films of all time: Halloween, The Fog, The Thing, and this beloved 1983 film. While not as popular as Halloween, there’s no denying how much Christine feels like peak John Carpenter. Silly, chilling, and always cool, Christine is the type of horror that can only come when Carpenter adapts the work of fellow legend Stephen King.
Sam Raimi has one of the most recognizable horror franchises of all time, Evil Dead, so audiences were shocked when he flipped the formula for 1993’s Army of Darkness. Gone was the gritty cabin horror, and we are in the middle ages with Bruce Campbell fighting new hell-ish monsters. It’s not as instantly iconic as the other Evil Dead entries, but Army of Darkness keeps the charm you’d expect from Raimi.
WINNER: Christine (1983)
In my eyes, 1983 just squeaks past 1993 for a better year. Neither produced their respective decades’ best work, but both had many memorable options. 1983 feels more original, transgressive, and not weighed down by what came before it. Also, who doesn’t love the horror genre about to enter its creative prime?
Which year do you prefer for horror, 1983 or 1993? Let us know on our social channels @FlickeringMyth, and if you’d like to get on board and involved with our very own horror movie, then please take a moment check out the crowdfunding campaign for The Baby in the Basket. We’re currently 101% funded(!!), and we’ve got a whole got a bunch of perks available, including producer credits, voice roles, on-screen thanks, physical and digital media and more!