The year 1988 brought classic and cult classic films, Heagle said, noting that like classic films before them they turned the monster into the leading man.
“Child’s Play,” the first film that stars Chucky, a red-haired doll possessed by the soul of a serial killer, was released in 1988.
That same year, “Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood” slashed on to screens with the famous hockey-masked killer Jason Voorhees, who returns from the tomb to go on another killing spree at Crystal Lake.
The creature feature “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” was released as a science fiction, horror and comedy film. A clan of evil aliens, who resemble circus clowns, arrive on Earth and invade a small town capturing, killing and harvesting humans for sustenance.
The razor gloved-hand Freddy Krueger returned in 1988 for the fourth installment of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise with “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.”
The fourth film in the chiller Halloween series came out with “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.”
Pinhead made his second appearance in 1988 in the gruesome “Hellbound: Hellraiser II.”
One of Heagle’s favorites from 1988 is “Phantasm II,” a science fantasy action-horror film about the Tall Man, a supernatural and malevolent undertaker who turns the dead of the Earth into dwarf zombies to be sent to his planet and used as slaves.
“I hadn’t seen the first “Phantasm” but was traumatized by the trailer at the drive-in theater when it came out in 1979,” Heagle said. “It’s this strange, nightmarish movie about collecting bodies. It is very surreal.”
The first “Phantasm” was an independent film with a lower budget. The second one had a bigger budget. “It’s very slick,” Heagle said. “The bad guy is funny. It’s done with panache and eyebrow rolling. To me, it was the right blend. A little bit of terror and plenty of laughs.”
Heagle believes people love the horror and slasher genre because, as the horror film director Wes Craven has said, it allows people to experience death.
“It is a rollercoaster of near-death experiences in a controlled environment,” Heagle said of the horror genre. “The films allow us to experience our fears from the comfort of our theater seat.”
Erik Evensen, UW-Stout associate professor and program director for the Master of Fine Arts in design, said he has been looking forward to Heagle’s book.
“Michael has an encyclopedic knowledge of 1980s media, especially what people call ‘B-culture,’ the media that never quite breaks through to the mainstream,” Evensen said. “These movies may not win awards, but they're usually full of social commentary that the mainstream won't dare to include. The villain Freddy Krueger in the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series is a manifestation of the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, and the first sequel was a famously coded exploration of homophobia during the early years of the AIDS epidemic. Michael's expertise allows him to do some serious deep dives into niche and obscure topics — he's a pop culture folklorist.”
The 1990s and the move toward computer-generated graphics helped end the 1980s slasher era, Heagle said. The new decade ushered in green screens and horror that didn’t imply gore but showed it on the screen, losing much of the magic of a real, filmed event, even if it was a rubber mask or costume.
The ability to create other worlds in film appeals to Heagle. He has been making films since he was in fifth grade, using a Super 8 camera. This year Heagle provided motion graphics for the Blu-ray release of the 1980s fantasy film “Beastmaster,” directed by his horror hero, Don Coscarelli, director of “Phantasm 2.”
Heagle is co-creator of the “Transylvania Television” show. The show is a 100% puppet cast, designed very much in the style of Jim Henson’s Muppets, but they are adult characters in an adult world. The storyline for the show is a 900-year-old vampire running a beat-down television station in Transylvania. The show can be seen on the independent streaming network Seeka.tv.
Heagle also wrote the book “Synthesizers and Saxophones: Montage Pop and Musical Movies of the 1980s,” an exploration of the relationship between 1980s pop music and movies. The totally tubular book tackles everything from movie musicals like “Purple Rain” and “Streets of Fire” to cult movies like “The Last Dragon” and “Howard the Duck.”