Baptized in Blood: How 80s Horror Films Defined My Love of the Macabre

As a lifelong horror fanatic born in 1984, the bloody blockbusters of the late 70s and 80s baptized me in terror and left an indelible mark on my darker sensibilities. My earliest memories are huddling with friends to gorge on VHS frightfests rented from our local video store. Hands trembling as we fed the chunky plastic tapes into the VCR, we held our breath through the garish previews, knowing the horrors to come would fray our nerves to tatters.

These formative experiences instilled in me a love of horror’s grittier roots – the grimy, practical effects-driven slashers and supernatural tales that poured from the genre in the 70s and 80s. Movies like Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Exorcist, and Hellraiser shaped my tastes for tense suspense, shocking gore, and unrelenting villains who stalked their victims through recurring nightmares. I was hooked for life.

Video Store

As a 90s horror kid transfixed by the previous decade’s groundbreaking classics, I actively sought out every grubby VHS cover that looked promisingly scary. My friends and I continually tested our terror thresholds, daring each other to keep watching as the on-screen carnage mounted. We’d leave the lights off and huddle under blankets, ready to bury our eyes at the first chilling glimpse of Michael Myers’ mask or Freddy Krueger’s claws. Those late-night viewing sessions were my cherished rite of passage into hardcore horror fandom.

Watching now as an adult, I’m amazed at how well so many of those films hold up decades later. While the analogue effects look dated to modern eyes, the stories themselves retain the power to unsettle and scare. Beyond the visceral shocks, the best slasher and creature flicks had a mythic scope and resonance that kept me fixated. These movies granted iconic status to villains like Jason Voorhees, Pinhead, and Chucky – the stuff of playground legend.

Today, as a professional critic and lifelong genre devotee, I view modern horror through the lens of those formative VHS favorites. They set my expectations for atmospheric tension, slowly-building suspense, empathetic protagonists, and villains who seethe menace with little dialogue. Practical gore effects carry a tangible, squirm-inducing impact CGI rarely replicates. I remain eternally fascinated by body horror and cosmic dread, two facets the 80s perfected. Those seminal films shaped the blueprint for horror I still love.

While trends evolve, at its core horror must retain the primal, gut-level thrills distilled so potently in the 70s and 80s classics. Techniques and diversity have progressed lightyears since then, with more elevated horror and representation becoming the norm. But the old-school aesthetic – gritty, darkly humorous, gleefully gory – shouldn’t be lost as the genre expands its boundaries. Just as vintage slasher icons endure, grimy practical effects and sinister synth scores remain eternally effective when well-executed. Mastery of the basics continues to distinguish horror that unnerves from cheap schlock.

At its best, horror whisks me back to that happy video store kid discovering the genre anew every weekend. I relive the passed-around tales of which films terrified our friends’ older siblings or caused someone’s parents to ban certain movies. I remember the giddy adrenaline of choosing an especially graphic rental behind the adults’ backs, or sneaking over to a friend’s to watch forbidden horrors like The Exorcist. Those mischievous first viewing experiences bred a lifetime appreciation for horror’s hypnotic thrills.

Three decades later, I maintain the excited perspective of a wide-eyed young fan even as my tastes expand. The horror gems of the 70s and 80s retain a nostalgic magic as my initiation to all things terrifying and strange. Their influence permeates the genre today and always will – the terrors of our youth leave the darkest imprints. Though horror continues evolving in promising new directions, for me the macabre will forever be ancient VHS clamshells promising ghastly delights and chilling my innocent imagination after bedtime. I was baptized in blood…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.