Acid Wash Jeans and Bad Blood: The Best of Shot on Video Horror From the 1980s
The 80s were known for many things, including gory horror films and bad clothes. But the pinnacle of the decade was the now mostly forgotten shot on video horror movie craze. These low budget horror obscurities, known as SOVs, represented the first DIY batch of genre films made by budget-strapped and amateur directors. While the shot on video fad died out with the advent of DV cameras and the rise of the mega video store, its homegrown charm lives on. I’ve compiled my personal list of the top ten best SOV movies from the era.
1. Truth or Dare? A Critical Madness (1986) directed by Tim Ritter
As a result of adultery, a married man embarks on an adventure of murder and self-mutilation in a demented game of truth or dare. This film, from arguably the king of shot on videos, Tim Ritter, is widely considered a horror/slasher classic. For some time, this was very difficult and/or expensive to get a hold of. Fortunately, the folks at SRS Cinema recently released a limited edition 30th Anniversary Blu-ray and DVD. You can grab the blu-ray here while it’s still in stock. There’s also a cheaper DVD over at Amazon.
2. Killing Spree (1987) directed by Tim Ritter
Another great one from Mr. Ritter. A man reads what he believes is his wife’s diary and convinces himself she has been cheating on him with various men. He goes on the hunt for those men and embarks on a gruesome killing spree, only to have those killed return as zombies. There’s a great, inexpensive 80s Retro DVD of this film on Amazon from the amazing Camp Motion Pictures. If you are a collector, there’s also an impressive Limited Edition Director’s Cut Blu-Ray/DVD combo on Amazon that is worth the splurge.
3. Boardinghouse (1983) directed by John Wintergate
A boarding house is reopened a decade after gruesome murders were committed there. A group of nubile young women quickly move in and the killings begin all over again. The film is notable for being the first horror film to be shot on video. It also used a movie gimmick titled Horror Vision, wherein a warning would pop up on the screen to let audiences know that a violent scene was happening soon. The original DVD is out of print and expensive if you can find it. but Slasher House released a two-disc special edition DVD with the Director’s Cut in 2015. Grab that one here.
4. Splatter Farm (1987) directed by John and Mark Polonia
Two young twins are sent to spend time at their aunt’s farm. What nobody knows is that the aunt’s handyman is a psycho serial killer who dismembers his victims and stores their body parts in the barn. This one is also part of the Camp Motion Pictures Retro 80s Horror Collection, and you can grab the DVD here. This is also one you can stream on Amazon, so you can watch without the commitment.
5. Long Island Cannibal Massacre (1980) directed by Nathan Schiff
Nathan Schiff is famous for receiving major DVD releases of low-budget horror features he shot in Super 8mm while in his teens. Long Island Cannibal Massacre was his second film, made when he was just 17. In the film, a series of cannibalistic murders prompts a massive police investigation. Grab this one on DVD. Check out a scene from this insane film below.
6. The Deadly Spawn (1983) directed by Douglas McKeown
Alien creatures invade a small town, and it’s up to the town’s youth to stop the creatures. In some territories, this sci-fi/horror film’s title was changed to Return of the Aliens: The Deadly Spawn or The Return of the Alien’s Deadly Spawn in an attempt to cash in on the worldwide success of Ridley Scott’s 1979 film Alien. You can watch this one for free on YouTube. There’s a special edition DVD from Synapse available, that you can grab here, as well as a lovely Region 2 DVD from Arrow that you can buy here. There’s also a super sexy blu-ray from Elite Entertainment, but it’s out of print and not cheap to pick up.
7. Day of the Reaper (1984) directed by Tim Ritter
The wonderful Tim Ritter makes our list yet again. In Day of the Reaper, five women on vacation are stalked by a hooded cannibal killer in the town of Sunnyville Florida. This one is hard to track down. Sub Rosa (SRS) released the film on limited DVD, Blu-Ray, and VHS. But these are no longer available to purchase. However, there is a pop up video edition of the film from SRS that you can stream online here.
8. Sledgehammer (1983) directed by David A. Prior
A young boy murders his abusive mother and her lover with a hammer. Ten years later, he starts off where he left off and only a handful of partying teens can stop him. Grab a cheap copy of the Sledgehammer DVD from Amazon or watch this one for free on YouTube. Watch a scene from the film below.
9. Blood Cult (1985) directed by Christopher Lewis
Blood Cult is a 1985 slasher film and one of the first to be released on the home video market. Female students on a college campus are being killed and their body parts used for blood sacrifices. You can stream this with ConTV for Amazon, or pick up the DVD.
10. Cannibal Hookers (1987) directed by Donald Farmer
As a sorority initiation, two girls have to pose as hookers. Then they turn into zombies and start killing and eating the locals. It’s a little on the pricey side, but you can get the DVD from Eden Entertainment here. Unfortunately, that seems to be the only legal way to watch this one outside of the original VHS. You can check out a scene from this low budget, shot on video classic below.