There are two qualities the ‘80s had in spades: disturbingly terrible hair, and horror movies that featured young people being murdered in a wonderful variety of creative ways. Those who survived the decade will tell you firsthand: horrors and regrettable perms were all the rage. With this in mind, we’ve assembled a definitive list of films from the era that were terrifying not just for their gruesome and violent content but, more importantly, for their characters’ positively frightening hair. We give you the 13 scariest hairstyles from ‘80s horror movies.
Image: YouTube/Alexandra Moretz
13. Amy Peterson (Amanda Bearse) – Fright Night (1985)
When it comes to classic ‘80s horror flicks, Tom Holland’s 1985 outing Fright Night ranks near the top of the list. It has everything you could want in a scary movie: a next-door neighbor who’s really a vampire, grown-ups who simply refuse to believe that a bloodsucking fiend is after the kids, and some truly ghastly frizzy hair. In fact, when Amy Peterson (played by Amanda Bearse), the girlfriend of protagonist Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), turns vampire herself, it’s open to debate as to which is more revolting: her blood-lusting face – complete with super-enlarged, lurid grin – or her ginger perm. The film was rebooted with a 3D remake in 2011, followed by a 2013 straight-to-DVD sequel, Fright Night 2: New Blood. Because that’s how lazy Hollywood is, these days.
12. Cheryl Williams (Ellen Sandweiss) – The Evil Dead (1981)
Sam Raimi’s 1981 horror classic The Evil Dead upped the genre’s gore factor, sending a group of youngsters into an isolated cabin, with predictably fatal consequences. More importantly, though, the movie upped the ante when it comes to repulsive coiffure after Cheryl Williams’ (Ellen Sandweiss’) decidedly unfriendly run-in with some trees leads to her demonic possession and – worse – her gray, burnt-out hair. The film became one of the biggest cult hits of all time and kick-started the career of Raimi, who of course would go on to reap considerable success as the director of the Spider-Man trilogy, starring Tobey Maguire.
Image: Vimeo/Mighty Worm
11. Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein) – Near Dark (1987)
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (yes, the same Kathryn Bigelow who won an Oscar for helming The Hurt Locker), 1987 flick Near Dark is about a roving group of vampires, and – you guessed it – it showcases all manner of monstrous ‘80s hairdos. The standout, however, has to be that of no-nonsense lady vamp Diamondback (played by Jenette Goldstein), who boasts a blown-out bleach job with some suspiciously dark roots. Despite a pretty putrid showing at the box-office, Near Dark has gone on to garner some long-term cult love, rightly claiming its place among great ‘80s horror movies – bad hair or no bad hair.
10. Queen Katrina (Grace Jones) – Vamp (1986)
Hey Millennials, did you know that kickass vampires existed in film before Stephenie Meyer got her greasy mitts on the idea and turned them into the wimpy characters seen in the Twilight books and movies? True story. In Richard Wenk’s 1986 horror comedy Vamp, for instance, vampires are less in the business of falling deeply in love and more into seducing and then murdering college kids. Three such targets run afoul of the wrong vamp when they attempt to procure the services of Queen Katrina (played by Grace Jones) with a view to her doing a striptease at a college party. Needless to say, things don’t just turn sour because she aims to kill them and dine on their blood; it’s also down to that quasi-futuristic haircut, which makes her somehow resemble the alien from 1996’s Independence Day.
Image: YouTube/Jackson G
9. Stooge (Hal Havins) – Night of the Demons (1988)
Important message to high school students everywhere: do not attempt to communicate with unearthly spirits while attending an out-of-the-way party. And if you must do so, for God’s sake, kids, please don’t hold that party in a morgue! The group of ne’er-do-well teens in Kevin Tenny’s Night of the Demons have to learn that lesson the hard way, after their séance turns deadly when the partygoers unleash a demon. One of the kids, a tubby goofball with a bizarrely buzzed punk cut who goes by the brilliantly apt name of Stooge (played by Hal Havins) ends up getting possessed and emerging as a demon as well. Of course, this is bad because of his newfound murderous urges, but what’s downright terrifying is his blatant disregard for style.
8. Violet (Tiffany Helm) – Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
In 1984, the fourth Friday the 13th movie promised to be “The Final Chapter” – that is, until yet another sequel was released the following year, under the title A New Beginning. Nice save, guys. Director Danny Steinmann’s twisty turn on the Friday series features a mysterious killer terrorizing a group of troubled teens in a halfway house (as if they didn’t have it bad enough already). Among the crew is a new-wave goth girl with an attitude named Violet (played by Tiffany Helm), who sports a fiercely crimped cut and some skunk stripes to boot. With a hairstyle like that, you’ve surely got it coming in any slasher film worth its salt.
Image: YouTube/Cengiz Sandra
7. Debbie Stevens (Brooke Theiss) – A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
Renny Harlin’s 1988 slasher sequelA Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master sees Freddy Krueger (portrayed by Robert Englund) return yet again to haunt the dreams of a group of high school friends – who are sure to meet their doom upon getting a case of the yawns. The fourth set of kids to endure Freddy’s wrath include a tough gal named Debbie Stevens (played by Brooke Theiss), who possesses perhaps the most thoroughly teased hair of the ‘80s. That is, until (spoiler alert) she’s turned into a bug and squished like one. Small mercy, some might say. This particular Freddy outing ended up being the most profitable film up to that point – thanks in no small part, we’d argue, to the monstrous spectacle that is Debbie’s out-of-control mop-top.
6. Trash (Linnea Quigley) – The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
If you were around during the ‘80s, you’ll know that the counterculture hairstyles of the time evolved from the flowing free love locks of the hippie movement into parent-abhorred spiked and colored cuts. Dan O’Bannon’s The Return of the Living Dead, a loose sequel to George A. Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead, attempted to tap into the zeitgeist by including a ragtag group of punks with unflattering names like Suicide, Spider and Scuz. But the fiercest punk ‘do was worn by spirited the Trash, whose fiery dome is a shade of red that could catch the attention of low-flying airplanes.
5. Peter Loew (Nicolas Cage) – Vampire’s Kiss (1988)
In Robert Bierman’s 1988 black horror comedy Vampire’s Kiss – about an unstable literary agent who thinks he’s turning into a vampire – the hair of Peter Loew (played by Nicolas Cage) is a different kind of scary. Neither teased to excess nor colored and cut into oblivion, his locks are evidence of one of the most terrifying creatures the ‘80s ever birthed: the urban career-climbing executive. An increasingly insane Cage sports the uniform of this strange specimen throughout the movie – wearing a suit, a tie, and a truly disturbing slicked-back head of hair. Believe it or not, back in the day this look actually implied high status and sophistication.
4. David (Kiefer Sutherland) – The Lost Boys (1987)
The cut of vampire gang leader David (played by Kiefer Sutherland) in Joel Schumacher’s campy 1987 teen vampire classic The Lost Boys is everything you could ask for in awful ‘80s hair. Over-the-top, blindingly blond bleach job? Spiked-up punk cut? Bonus rat tail at the back? Check, check and triple check. The Lost Boys helped launch the career of Sutherland, who henceforth would be known as more than just Donald’s kid. We can’t help but wonder if Kiefer will revisit the throwback hairdo if he ever returns in the long-discussed proper Lost Boys sequel. We can but hope.
3. Veronica Quaife/Seth Brundle (Geena Davis/Jeff Goldblum) – The Fly (1986)
With all the brilliantly disgusting internal and external bodily decline of Seth Brundle (portrayed by Jeff Goldblum) in David Cronenberg’s 1986 horror/sci-fi classic The Fly, it’s easy to lose sight of the true awfulness of Brundle’s business-in-the-front, party-in-the-back hairstyle. Like Brundle himself, the tresses deteriorate throughout the film, transforming from a Pantene Pro-V-approved flowing mane into a ratty, sweaty mess. Brundle’s female complement, Veronica Quaife (played by Geena Davis), also sports a horrific hairdo, in the shape of a perm that’s been curled to near-ridiculous extremes. A true ‘80s double-act.
2. Glen Lantz (Johnny Depp) – A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Before Johnny Depp was a bonafide movie star and getting made up all pale-like by Tim Burton – in fact, even before he was breaking out as a teen heartthrob in 21 Jump Street – he landed his first major role as Glen Lantz in Wes Craven’s iconic 1984 slasher flick, A Nightmare on Elm Street. Glen meets his grisly end after being sucked into a bed by the claws of nightmare-haunting Freddy Krueger (portrayed by Robert Englund) and then exploding into a ridiculous gusher of blood and carnage. Still, it’s the memory of his hair – a revolting bouffant – that really continues to haunt us to this day.
1. Chucky (Brad Dourif) – Child’s Play (1988)
During the ‘80s, awful, terrifying hair wasn’t just reserved for living, breathing, non-demonically possessed human beings. Case in point: the mini mullet on everyone’s favorite childhood toy-cum-serial killer, Chucky. In Tom Holland’s 1988 horror Child’s Play, Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif) flaunts a mop that starts out laying neatly about his plastic head but wilds out as the murderous mayhem hots up. There’s been no relent, either; his gingery locks are back in full force for the sixth time in 2013’s Curse of Chucky.