80s and 90s horror movies have a style all their own, and it’s not just the monsters and the music. Another distinguishing factor is the use of neon “lightning” or “electrical” effects. You know what I’m talking about. Picture the bright red beam from a proton pack and you get the gist. In comparison to today’s standards, it is a seriously low-grade effect that often resembles a Snapchat filter. From poster art to plot mechanism, here are 10 uses of the awesomely outdated effect and the movies that feature them:
10. Cyber-technology in Brainscan (1994)
Brainscan was released in the mid-90s and features a villain that is perfect for horror obsessed, video game loving teens. Trickster, played by T. Ryder Smith, emerges from the cyber world of a CD-ROM game and leads Michael (Edward Furlong) down a dangerous and deadly path. With the subject matter, the film is ripe for scenes of electrical effects. At the time of the film’s release, the FX were fittingly high-tech. Now, all of it seems dated, but the movie maintains a strong mid-90s feel throughout its running time.
9. The Ghostly Image of Mr. Boogedy (1986)
Disney first aired Mr. Boogedy as part of their weekly “Disney Sunday Movie”. The story revolves around a family that moves into a new home that turns out to be haunted. The film’s ghost, Mr. Boogedy, is always surrounded by a neon green “glow” that screams 1986. The film features lots of imagery that precisely fits the bill of this article. Aside from Boogedy’s perpetual “glow”, he is also able to emit streams of electricity (neon green, of course) from his fingertips. Mr. Boogedy was followed a year later by Bride of Boogedy.
8. A Lifeline in Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)
Simply put, a lifeline is an object, special power, or idea that is able to save the day. In Elvira’s big screen debut, one of the featured lifelines is that of an heirloom ring that is able to transmit laser-like bolts of electricity. Toward the end of the film, Elvira attempts to employ the power of the ring to defend herself from the film’s antagonist. And, when tied to a burning stake, she uses the ring to shoot a bolt of electricity toward the night sky. The nifty trick results in a downpour of rain that extinguishes the flames.
7. Electricity-related Death Scenes in Ghost in the Machine (1993)
Ghost in the Machine is mostly a forgettable attempt at creating a new horror franchise. The film features a lackluster killer and not so special effects. However, within all of the tedious mediocrity there is a very memorable death scene. Shevonne Durkin (Leprechaun 2) plays a babysitter who finds herself alone in the kitchen. The scene quickly evolves into one that would be fitting in a Final Destination sequel. An overflowing dishwasher and a loose plug result in Durkin’s character being electrocuted in a manner that makes it look like she’s inside one of those novelty plasma balls.
6. The Resurrection of Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
The film starts on a stormy night when Tommy Jarvis plans to dig up the Jason Voorhees’ body with the intention of destroying it. Unfortunately, a bolt of lightning reanimates the corpse before Tommy has the chance to set it on fire. Of course Jason is not the only horror villain that a lightning strike has resurrected, but this scene in Friday the 13th Part VI sets the stage for what has become a fan-favorite entry of the series.
5. The Killer in Shocker (1989)
One thing is certain: a movie from 1989 about a murderer being executed via the electric chair and then returning from the dead as a body jumping entity of electricity is sure to have PLENTY of scenes that fit the bill. Director Wes Craven delivers big on this concept and features serial killer Horace Pinker in all sorts of situations that lead to electrical horror and mayhem.
4. The Sanderson Sisters’ Magic in Hocus Pocus (1993)
You would have to be living under a rock to have never seen this Halloween classic. Released in the summer of 1993, the film was not a huge hit at the box office. Regardless of the ill timing, Hocus Pocus has since become a seasonal staple. The film revolves around three witches who come back to present day Salem and are intent on becoming immortal. The trio of actresses (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy) nail their roles, but the electrified zaps that come from the hands of Winifred add an extra jolt of fun.
3. The Force in The Tommyknockers (1993)
This TV miniseries is based on a novel by Stephen King and uses an ominous green glow as a plot device. Set in a small New England town, Tommyknockers revolves around a mysterious object in the woods and the way it affects the residents. The glow is not merely a cool visual. Instead, it is the force that is controlling the townspeople and causing turmoil. In the trailer, we see it cutting through asphalt, zapping a man inside a phone booth, and being harnessed and controlled by way of a lipstick tube (not kidding).
2. The Transfer of Life in Sleepwalkers (1992)
The film revolves around a pair of shape-shifting catlike creatures that move to a new town and are soon hellbent on taking the lifeforce of local girl next door, Tanya (Madchen Amick). Stephen King wrote the script and Mick Garris directed. Sleepwalkers features cool creature effects and a stylish 90s teen horror tone. It’s a fun movie that deserves a second look. The reason that it made the list is the Snapchat-like imagery of the cat creature taking the lifeforce from Tanya.
1. Poster art for Warlock: The Armageddon (1993)
Last but definitely not least, lots of movie posters and VHS covers from the 80s and 90s feature the same imagery as the movies mentioned here. Warlock: The Armageddon is just one of the movies that had this type of artwork. On the poster, blueish bolts of lightning surround star Julian Sands. Additionally, several steady beams emanate from the palm of Sands’s open hand. The artwork is a sign of the times and hints at the supernatural horror of the movie itself.
There you have it: 10 movies that feature awesomely outdated effects of “lightning” and “electricity”. Are you a fan of this 80s/early 90s horror movie kitsch? let us know on Twitter or on the Horror Movie Fiend Club Facebook Group.