Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Junesploitation 2022 Day 28: '80s Horror!


  1. TWO FROM '88!

    Tony Randel's HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II (1988, 35mm screening at Brooklyn's Nitehawk Cinema at Prospect Park, 97 min.).

    Very nice of the folks at Nitehawk Prospect Park to schedule a 35mm screening (mint and scratch-free print!) of the sequel to Clive Barker's "Hellraiser" the evening before 80's Horror! day here at Junesploitation! I love it when watching a movie in a crowd brings non-ironic laughter out of situations that don't come across as funny when watched at home. Every scene with Kyle (William Hope), the assistant to obsessed-with-puzzle-box-myth Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham), became a laugh riot because of his awkward line delivery and goofy scenes with Kristy. That said, Kyle doesn't last long and for most of its running time the packed theater was invested in "Hellbound" in quiet, awed silence. Except for Channard-as-a-Cenobite's terrible one-liners, though, which brought out a cacophony of audible groans from everybody. :-(

    This first "Hellraiser" sequel (this and "Hellraiser III" are the only one's I've seen) isn't as coherent and visionary as its predecessor. Clive Barker is basically sidelined creatively despite the producers using his name and story credit to try and sell the product. It still packs enough of the DNA from the original (Doug Bradley, Ashely Laurence and Clare Higgins returning, Christopher Young continuing to score, etc.) and creates its own world building vignettes (the human origins of Pinhead's past, the Leviathan puzzle, the mattress, etc.) to make this a satisfying gorefest with purpose within its internal twisted logic. Even when the special effects (stop-motion sequences and matte paintings galore) fail to live up the filmmakers' ambition, the effort is appreciated because what works (Julia's early post-resurrection wet look, Tiffany's carnival visions, etc.) still feels/looks like atmospheric, prosthetic-driven horror at its late 80's finest. 3.75 CLOWNS TOSSING GOOEY EYEBALLS AROUND (out of 5).

    Toshiharu Ikeda's EVIL DEAD TRAP (1988, Amazon Prime, 102 min.) for the first time.

    To steal/bastardize the tagline from Argento's "Suspiria," 'The Only Thing More Terrifying Than The First 75 Minutes Of This Film Are The Last 22. The first two acts of this has-nothing-to-do-with-Sam-Raimi's-movie-series Japanese flick are an excellent slasher set in an abandoned American military facility, with the (mostly female) crew of a late night TV show investigating the origins of a snuff video submission showing young women getting murdered in elaborate ways. A masked stranger stalks and murders them one by one, but there's also a stranger (Aya Katsuragi) that helps Nami (Miyuki Ono) survive the bloody booby traps throughout the base. It looks/feels like OG "Resident Evil" videogame (the lighter!), but with rape! :'( Then the filmmakers go for broke with a third act that switches genres, amps the stakes dramatically and mind-fucks the audience without warning. My future replays of "Evil Dead Trap" can never be as glorious as this first-time viewing, but for anyone watching this for the first time because of my recommendation... you're welcome! :-D 4 MUSIC LOOPS THAT SOUND/FEEL RIPPED-OFF FROM A LUCIO FULCI ITALIAN HORROR SOUNDTRACK (out of 5).

    1. When the shift happened in the story, the Italian horror vibe was so strong that it did not seem accidental, J.M. I found the slasher part of the film not as interesting, but I am not the biggest fan of that genre. The surprise of everything made the viewing experience memorable; I doubt I could get as much enjoyment out of any additional watches.

    2. I also watched HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II, and I liked it pretty much. I haven't seen it before, and it has been a while since I've seen the first, so it would be interesting to watch them back to back to really compare the quality. That being said, I thought that the first half is stronger than the 2nd part within the maze. The self-slashing of the person the doctor brings to his home to summon Julia is gruesome and cruel, but really well-made gore-wise. I had a lot of fun overall.

  2. EVIL DEAD TRAP (1988, dir. Toshiharu Ikeda) – I have not gotten to enough Japanese films this month, so this was first on my viewing list for today. Evil Dead Trap rivals any Italian horror film for lack of logic and bizarre plot. I cannot say this is a good film, but it is one that you will probably not forget for a while. Mr. J.M. Vargas described the "story" of the film very well. The ending had my mind reeling from the strangeness of everything.

    1. The Mahoning Drive-In has a screening of Hellraiser tonight. Perfect timing for today's theme, so I will probably be there.

  3. The Gate (1987, dir. Tibor Tak√°cs)

    When kids left home alone find a gateway to a demon dimension in their back yard, they accidentally summon nightmare demons, shapeshifting demons, tiny stop-motion demons, giant slug demons, reanimated corpses, swarms of insects, demonic heavy metal albums with backwards messages, melting telephones, teenage slumber parties, and 80's fashion.

    There's no discernible logic to the horrors coming out of the gate or the way they're defeated (spoiler!), but that also means the filmmakers could let their imaginations run wild. The movie takes a while to get going, but once it does it's a fun ride in a corny, Amblin-y kind of way. The lead is played by a 13-year-old Stephen Dorff in his first film role.

  4. Friday the 13th Part III (1982)

    Wanted something summer-y and figured I would check out the first hockey mask entry since I had never seen it. What a silly movie. I'm sure it's been said a million times that more attention was paid to the 3D gags than anything else, but I didn't really mind. Definitely wish it had been a little more scary when Jason shows up, but it is what it is.

  5. Rawhead Rex (1986)

    Clive Barker writes some of the smartest horror there is, so when his first two movies — this and Transmutations — ended up being rubber monster suit movies, there’s some humor in there. That said, he wasn’t completely upset with this and also understood its limitations: “I think, generally speaking, the movie followed the beats of the screenplay. It’s just that monster movies, by and large, are made by directorial oomph rather than what’s in the screenplay. I’d like to think the screenplay for Rawhead Rex had the possibility of having major thrills in it. I don’t think it was quite pulled off.”

    Rawhead Rex was a pagan deity that existed before Christianity, making this folk horror, as well as the kind of movie where a priest gets baptized by a giant monster pisses all over him and don’t we need more of these kinds of movies?

    I mean, can you imagine if Barker got his way and Rawhead Rex looked like a giant penis and a face made from raw meat?

  6. Munchies (1987, dir. Tina Hirsch)

    Shameless and cheap Gremlins rip-off. Really struggled to find anything redeeming with this one. Wish I would have watched something else. Skip it.

  7. The Galaxy Invader (1985, dir. Don Dohler)

    An alien crash-lands in heartland America and people (who every plot synopsis I've read calls "drunken hillbillies") form a gang to catch it.

    This falls into the "so-bad-it's-good" category, so if that's your bag, it's worth your time. If not, stay away. The "plot" is rote, some character choices are bizarre, Don Dohler's friends and family are wooden actors (though the dialogue they've been given doesn't do them any favors either), and the alien suit is laughably bad. Some of the camerawork's ok and the score almost works.

  8. SWEET HOME (1989)
    A group of scientists and journalists explore an old mansion that's been sealed up for years. Wouldn't you know it, spooky stuff starts happening. This movie freakin' rules! It's a series of well-worn haunted house tropes, but they're portrayed with so much style and energy that I had a great time. I suspect Evil Dead 2 and Poltergeist are big influences in how creative and over-the-top the effects are. You could argue that it's too silly or cheesy, but I say that's all part of the fun. Recommended.

    Bonus Lloyd Kaufman-sploitation, day 28: RETURN TO NUKE EM HIGH parts 1 and 2 (2013-2017)
    At Tromaville High, two girls from two different walks of life fall in love, while a chemical spill transforms the student body into subhumanoid cretins. This is a lot to take in when watched back-to-back. The love story is surprisingly well-told, while the chaos of the cretins and other monsters gets exhausting after a while. Kaufman must have known he was asking a lot of people to sit through a three-hour two-movie epic, so he adds an extended singing and dancing happy ending. This is also the most fourth wall-breaking of his movies yet, with tons of jokes and references for hardcore fans only. It's all good trashy fun, but I think it could've been edited down to just one movie.

  9. Chopping Mall (1986)

    My first Wynorski joint!
    A forward thinking American mall entrusts its nighttime security duties to cutting-edge robots armed with tasers and laser blasters. Gee, I hope there won't be a random thunderstorm when a lightning strikes the robot command center and cause the machines to go berserk. Because that would certainly suck for a bunch of horny twentysomethings who decide to stay after business hours to have a party in one of the stores. Also, let's make sure all doors seal automatically so the mall becomes a death trap. You know, just in case.

    I had so much fun with this. The comedy slasher tone really worked for me and the robots themselves land in that sweet spot of goofy and intimidating at the same time. As Dawn of the Dead taught us, the mall can be a terrific horror movie setting, and it's used here to great effect (shout out to Fear Street as well). Thank you, have a nice day.

    1. All that... plus Dick Miller's janitor as icing on the cake. :-D

  10. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)

    Fred's back! And killing people while they're awake???? That really doesn't make a lot of sense, but if you just let the movie happen to you instead of thinking too hard, it's a good time.

  11. "We have such sights to show you."

    The Hellraiser screening was a lot of fun tonight. The first time I saw the film, I had a lukewarm reaction to it. This time around I was more enthusiastic. The print is in great shape, as well.

    A seven-word review: What some people will do for love.

    Used to watching at least a couple of films at the drive-in, I had some energy left when I came home. It was time for another watch as this Junesploitation winds down.

    KILLER PARTY (1986, dir. William Fruet)

    Rather than watch something new, I wanted to re-visit Killer Party, one of my first ever Junesploitation watches back in 2017. It is conveniently on the DVR, too. Does the good memory of the film hold up? Definitely. Killer Party blends the college sex comedy with the sorority slasher while adding an extra horror kick at the end. What the film lacks in originality or style it makes up for in the energy of the performances. The fun factor is very high, particularly with the friendship of the lead characters pushing the story along. The horror parody element seemed heavier this viewing, but it is not to the point of overshadowing the horror plot. A piece of Canuxploitation worth checking out if you have not seen it.

  12. Nightmare Weekend (1984) dir. Henri Sala

    A bit bummed I didn’t have time to watch more than one for today, and that I don’t have time to really gather my thoughts on the one I did watch, the absoluty bugnuts Nightmare Weekend. Oh man, wow. I’ll be the first to admit, I get a little cranky-pants when the idiosyncratic choices in Horror movies (especially cheaper ones) get exaggerated to the point that the movie is treated like some kind of incomprehensible alien object- like no one’s going to accuse Phantasm of being predictable storytelling, but it’s not all that hard to make the cognitive leaps and see past the more eccentric choices Don Coscarelli makes… Even something like Lynch, where it’s deliberately surreal, it feels obstinate to watch it and insist it’s impossible to understand the underlying motivation on some level. Nightmare Weekend though? I watched rapt for the entire run time and couldn’t tell you a fucking thing about what was going on, or really even what they were trying to do. I know there are very Phantasm-y silver balls, there is a robot puppet computer thing, some experiments, and a whole lot of icky sex, but after that- ya got me. Gonna have to revisit this one again soon.

  13. Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

    Technically, I finished it this morning (I was too tired to finish it last night; how ironic), but close enough!

    A handful of kids are put in a psychiatric hospital after apparent suicide attempts, but surprise, they weren't suicidal, Freddy Krueger was just haunting their dreams (this is premise, not spoilers). Nancy is back as an interning therapist, who immediately realizes what's really going on here, and she joins forces with the kids to try and take Freddy down one more time!

    I'd never made it past Elm Street 2 in this series, and I really enjoyed Dream Warriors. The plot and some of the performances are a little hokey at times, but they're also charming at times (sometimes hokey and charming at the same times). Oh, and the special effects are INCREDIBLE in several of the dream sequences. Sink Freddy, small stop-motion Freddy, TV Freddy, weird blob monster slithering through the walls trying to eat Patricia Arquette Freddy, screaming skin children Freddy, probably some Freddys (and non-Freddys) I'm forgetting--the effects really were some of the best I've ever seen. Patricia Arquette and Larry Fishburne are great.