'NEW-TO-ME LOW-BUDGET, 80'S HORROR TRIPLE THREAT!'Deran Sarafian's THE FALLING, aka ALIEN PREDATOR (1986, AMAZON PRIME).Lynn-Holly Johnson (the horny teen ice skater in "For Your Eyes Only") sparks the hots on fellow American tourists Dennis Cristopher ("Django Unchained") and Martin Hewitt ("Two Moon Junction") as they travel through rural Spain on an RV. A run-in with a split-in-half cow and some weird-looking/behaving locals in the small town of Duarte are only the start of trouble for our always-flirting young trio. Turns out a launched-in-'73 NASA space lab crash-landed on Earth in '79, with Americans/Spaniards creating a secret lab from which now parasites that stick to human stomachs become full-blown... I don't know. For a town overrun with alien-infested humans we barely glimpse any contaminated people, and the few that appear are mostly seen far in the distance. Only a NASA scientist (Luis Prendes doing a poor American accent) and the young men's need to one-up each other to impress the girl (who likes them both) stands between an all-out spread of the alien virus throughout Europe.What an awkward cocktail of conflicting tones in this low-budget Spaniard "Alien" ripoff (shot in '84, not released in the States until '87) that seeks to copy "An American Werewolf in London's" humor/viscera formula and manages to work despite itself. "Three's Company"-inspired sweetness (none of the leads come across as a-holes) meets "Contamination"-caliber body horror mixed with a healthy dose of "Dead & Buried"/"Night of the Comet" vibes. While nowhere near as good as any of the horror classics I just name-dropped, "Alien Predator" (much better name than "The Falling") is a gory, entertaining 90-min. sci-fi romp. Worth a no-expectations look. 3 'BOSTON DODGERS AND ALL THAT' INDIAN TOURISTS (out of 5).THE VIDEO DEAD (1987, AMAZON PRIME).Except for terrible acting throughout and a shitty final scene that must have felt insulting even in '87, this is a great example of a super low-budget horror flick that makes the most from its limited resources and simple premise. A 20' B&W television summons an army of the undead (well, more like five or six) to the house and nearby woods in a small town where the set was accidentally delivered to. Months later two siblings (Roxanna Augesen and Rocky Duvall) move in to help prepare the place for their parents, and all hell break loose... eventually. Takes a good 30 mins. to get going, but once Sam David McClelland ('Mr. Daniels!') shows up to do an awful lot of exposition dumping we're off to the races. Minor alterations to accepted zombie canon (no need for headshots to bring these undead beings down, no biting bringing fresh new corpses to life, etc.) and "Return of the Living Dead" comedic undertones (zombies chasing humans with chainsaws, rotating legs inside a washing machine, etc.) manage to make this an entertaining-if-you're-a-Junesploitation!-veteran time waster. 3 'INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF THE OCCULT' POODLES NAMED 'CHOCOLATE (out of 5).FLESH EATING MOTHERS (1988, TUBI).A sexually transmitted disease by a philandering husband amongst a small group of suburban PTA mothers unleashes a zombie-like transformation among the women that makes them want to eat their husbands and kids (including babies, thankfully off-camera). And for some reason the police boss in charge (seen briefly at the start) is trying to keep it under wraps. But then the super-cute opening credits with goofy background music (that never stops) sets a tone that won me over by the end. Acting this amateurish (Michael Fuer's Dr. Grouly rulz!) and production values this low (sound/voices recorded on location) would be turn-offs any other time of the year, but in June they are comfty cinematic blankets. It helps that the gory beats are passable, the body count OK-ish and the resolution willfully ignores the trauma that awaits these people when they come home the following morning. 3 OFFICERS HITCHCOCK (out of 5).
Bloody New Year (1987, dir. Norman J. Warren)Six British teenagers* on their summer holiday stumble upon a seemingly deserted hotel that's decorated for a 1959 New Year's Eve party and encounter supernatural occurrences ranging from bizarre to lethal.(* At least I think they're supposed to be teens based on their behavior, even though they're played by actors in their mid-20's.)The horrors they face are mostly things moving about as if pulled by a wire or a simple camera trick, followed by a mysterious figure appearing and killing one of the teens, rinse and repeat. Then towards the end we get a clunky exposition scene that explains what you've already figured out if you have half a brain, and the final kill would be gruesome if it was actually shown on screen (it was edited out to get a 15 rating). It's barely competent filmmaking and the lead actors (all of whom have this and very little else on their CV's) are pretty bad. A moderately fun time when you're in the mood for a turkey.The Monster Club (1981, dir. Roy Ward Baker) A famous horror author (John Carradine) is attacked by a vampire (Vincent Price) on a studio backlot street, and when he realizes who his victim is, the vampire invites him to the Monster Club, an establishment where monsters (or people wearing cheap rubber masks) gather. Their conversation at the club becomes the framing device for an anthology of monster stories. And in the end, Price delivers a pretty convincing speech arguing that... humans are the real monsters. Dun-dun-dunnnn!It's silly and campy and fun, the three stories are pretty standard Amicus fare, and the songs performed at the club in between stories rock (my favorite is the opening number Monsters Rule O.K.). Price is (obviously) the highlight, he's exactly on the script's wavelength, as is Donald Pleasance as a monster hunter in the middle segment.Plus there's a stripper who strips away all of her clothes, then all of her flesh. That's always a plus.
HANGING HEART (1989, d. Jimmy Lee)First-time watch on Vinegar Syndrome BluRay, 8/10.Barry Wyatt (THE NATURAL HISTORY OF PARKING LOTS) is rehearsing a play in which men in tighty whities menace him as he tries to be intimate with a woman. His offstage relationship with the actress ends when a man in a wig strangles her. Naturally, the sub-John Saxon detective wants to nail Wyatt. Of course, everyone wants to nail wyatt, from the woman directing the play to his lawyer, Jake Henry. But Wyatt seems upset by it all, maybe because of those disturbing black & white flashbacks. Will shrink Ingrid Vold (MOONSTALKER) give him a clean bill of health? What about actress-turned-callgirl Francine Lapensée’s (DEMON WIND) caring attention after the car accident? Do all lawyers caress the feet of Jesus statues? Does Wyatt’s unhinged rival listen to Gang of Four or The Grateful Dead when he’s plotting revenge? Lee’s flick is a mix of giallo-lite, dreamy mystery & trashy melodrama. It’s easy to slot this into the bad movies bin because it colors outside the lines but within a not-so-unique plot. I think it’s a lot of fun, nudging it’s way toward the bonkers arena without ever really joining the team. Recommended for folks looking for more scenes of underpants-clad men in their horror. “Ahh, Julie. I dream a hole in you every night.”
Until Death 1988I feel like I haven’t really given Lambverto Bava a fair chance. Then again, whenever I say that, people always remark that I’m always mentioning that I like his movies. Demons is a near-perfect movie but I’ve always qualified that by saying that he had Argento, Franco Ferrin and Dardano Sacchetti on board along with Michele Soavi as assistant director. And then I think, well, you know, I kind of really like Macabre and it has some really grimy stuff in it. A Blade In the Dark, Blastfighter, Dinner with a Vampire, Graveyard Disturbance, The Ogre, Demons 2 and Midnight Ripper all have charms. I’ve even come around to liking Delirium e foto di Gioia, Maybe not Monster Shark. But the more I think about it, I really do like Lamberto Bava.This is the movie that put me over the edge into perhaps even love.In July of 1986, Lamberto was hired to create five TV movies under the title Brivido Giallo (Yellow Thrill). Of course, none of these were giallo and only four got made: The Ogre, Dinner with a Vampire, Graveyard Disturbance and Until Death.There were some hurt feelings about this movie when it was made. It was based on an older script by Dardano Sacchetti, but Lucio Fulci went on record saying that he was planning on making an adaption of The Postman Always Rings Twice with the title Evil Comes Back. Fulci said that Sacchetti wrote it up and sent it to several producers and later found out that when Luciano Martino bought it, his name wasn’t on it. Fulci said, “…because of our friendship I decided not to sue Sacchetti, but I did break off all relations with him.” Sacchetti responded, “The producer of Evil Comes Back didn’t have the budget required, and he gave up to do the film. That’s it. Years later, as the screenplay was mine, I sold it to another producer who used it for a b-movie with Lamberto Bava.”Gioia Scola really could have been a remembered giallo queen if she’d come along 15 years early. As it is, she was in some of my favorite late 80s films in the genre, including Obsession: A Taste for Fear, Too Beautiful to Die, Suggestionata and Evil Senses.In this film, she plays Linda, a woman whose husband Luca (Roberto Pedicini) left her eight years ago. All the men of the small village wondered why he’d leave behind such a stunning woman. In fact, this movie could have been called Ogni uomo vuole scopare Linda. She gave birth to Luca’s son and unknown to the town, has since become the wife of the man who helped kill her husband, Carlo (David Brandon).Together, they run a small hotel near the lake. During one rainy night, Marco (Urbano Barberini) arrives to stay. And it seems like he knows way too much about what’s going on. Her son Alex (Marco Vivio) may as well, as he wakes up every night screaming, dreaming of his father clawing his way out of a muddy grave. She hires Marco as the handyman, but Carlo thinks they’re sleeping together. In no way can this turn out well.How does Marco know where all the old clothes are kept? How does he already know the family recipes? And why is he so close so quickly with Alex?What’s intriguing is how close this is in story and tone, yet goes off on its own path, to Bava’s father’s film Shock. The difference is where the father would use camera tricks and tone to create a mood of dread, his son will put you directly into the middle of the muck and grue with comic book lighting and great looking effects from Angelo Mattei. And keeping the family tradition going, Lamberto’s son Fabrizio was the assistant director. How wild that Mario’s grandson was AD on movies like Zoolander 2 and Argento’s Giallo and The Card Player, using the name Roy Bava for those last two movies.My favorite fact about this movie is that it was released on VHS as The Changeling 2: The Revenge. Trust me, it has nothing to do with The Changeling.
Cut and Run - 1985, dir. Ruggero DeodatoHoo boy. Nothing can match the visceral punch of ‘Cannibal Holocaust’, but that doesn’t mean Deodato didn’t keep returning to the well of shock and disgust in his subsequent films. This is certainly not a fun movie by any standards, but I think it iterates on the themes Deodato was aiming for with the earlier movie - which might be the reason why the producers offered it to him after Wes Craven left(?) the production when it was still titled ‘Marimba’. The film was also made and released at an interesting moment in history when Jonestown was still a pretty fresh wound and the various three-letter-agencies were busy destabilizing our southern neighbors. It sucks to say, but the movie now feels almost like it could have been a documentary, almost more so than ‘Holocaust’.I’m not sure what the full story is with the script. Supposedly Craven came up with the story or worked on the screenplay, which the producers kept once he left. That said, all credits seem to point to Cesare Frugoni and Dardano Sacchetti for the story and screenplay, with uncredited rewrites from Luciano Vincenzoni. Look those three guys up. Between the three of them, they wrote a massive swath of the 70s/80s work from Leone, Argento, Fulci, Corbucci, Bava, Soavi, Castellari, Lenzi, Martino. Apparently the producers wanted a sequel to ‘Holocaust’ and pestered Deodato about it for years until he finally relented on this story.The story here is in many ways more compelling to me, again, compared to most of the italian cannibal sub-genre despite not all of it working cohesively. The subplot with the pimp informant played by Eriq La Salle, everything involving the Michael Berryman boogeyman assassin, the TV station manager searching for his son (Karen Black was seemingly “just there that day” and thrown in for good measure) all just seem to be stitched together from leftover remnants of other scripts. That said, the way the media sensationalized the tragedy of Jonestown and the political and drug violence instigated by American agencies during the last gasps of the Cold War - raw death and destruction conveniently pumped into the homes of millions through their TVs - this is the crux of the movie’s dark thesis. Long story short, Lisa Blount plays a news reporter (maybe the only other thing I’ve seen her in besides ‘Prince of Darkness’) who gets sent to South America in search of an ex-CIA spook turned Jim Jones acolyte who survived the massacre and is now on an apocalyptic tour of destruction. Richard Lynch plays the Colonel with every drop of teary philosophical terror that Brando didn’t squeeze out of the rag onto his bald head a few years earlier. It’s interesting stuff for sure, but you have to sit through the usual onslaught of rape, torture, dismemberment, beheadings, and gross ethnocentrism and racism toward the native peoples to get there.
The Blob (1988)When malevolent, human-devouring goo from outer space starts terrorizing a small town, only a rebel biker with a chip on his shoulder and a high school cheerleader with a heart of gold stand in the way of total destruction.The Blob's got great gore effects, fun cast of characters, and a well-balanced tone that combines typical 80s teen shenanigans with intense action horror. It's another one of those movies (like Monster Squad, which I watched earlier in the month) that I'm sure served as a major source of inspiration for the Stranger Things guys.
The Island (1980, dir. Michael Ritchie)Wow I had no idea what I was getting into with this movie and I was pretty blown away. From the writer and producing team of Jaws comes another nautical horror starring Michael Caine. Who would have thought this would be so trashy? Michael Caine and his son run afoul of a colony of pirates in the Bermuda triangle that has existed actively as pirates for the last 300 years outside of modern civilization. Caine basically becomes a sex slave and his son is taken in by their leader David Warner. I couldn't believe how shockingly gory this was for a Hollywood movie at the time. I think this is seen as a "bad" movie and was a bomb and embarrassment for all involved at the time, but I was thoroughly engaged and entertained. Highly recommended.
MOTEL HELL (1980)dir. Kevin ConnorI know it’s just building on TCM but this is perhaps the most disturbing premise for a movie ever. And the chemistry between Rory Calhoun and Nancy Parsons was magical. “Meat’s meat and man’s gotta eat!”
New-to-me: NIGHTMARE SISTERS (1988) Desperate to be popular, three nerdy sorority sisters hold a seance. Wouldn't you know it, spooky stuff happens. The alleged behind-the-scenes story is the 1988 classic SORORITY GIRLS IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA finished filming a few days early, so the creators used the same cast, sets, and costumes to crank out a second movie in those last few days. This means lots of filler. The camera stays on the actors for ten minutes or more at a time as they do whatever, just to get enough footage to cross the 90-minute finish line. The good news is we spend more time with the all-star trio of Linnea Quigley, Michelle Bauer, and my fave Brinke Stevens. That's good company, no matter how cheap and clunky the movie is. Old fave: CHRISTINE (1983) This is the movie where I fell in love with horror. My parents forbade me from watching horror movies, but I secretly caught this on TV one night (the night before Easter, as I recall) and I was mesmerized. Today, the movie remains a delight. Maybe it's a little slow at the start, but the big set pieces are still thrilling. Stephen King's original novel is famously different from the movie, so I wonder why this hasn't gotten a "book-accurate" movie or miniseries re-do yet. They'll probably get to it one of these days.
BLOODSTREAM (1985, d. Michael J. Murphy)First-time watch on Indicator BluRay, 7/10.Hopeful first-time horror director Patrick Olliver (DEATH RUN, Murphy’s AVALON) is fired after the scummy producer says his movie sucks. The producer’s secretary knows that his movie, BLOODSTREAM, is already being sold worldwide & sets up a vengeance plan for Olliver to carry out. To fight the claim that his film wasn’t scary, the vengeance kills are performed in a grim reaper costume from the movie & filmed. Is it a good idea to sit & watch low budget horror tapes while you’re making snuff movies? Who really knows, but this flick is fun. It doesn’t dip into the darkest depths sometimes occupied by snuff-movie horror stories & Olliver’s VHS habit provides us with snippets from all the pictures he’s watching. Some scenes are from actual Murphy movies, but some seem to be either made for BLOODSTREAM or repurposed footage from unfinished films. Murphy’s experience in the craft keep this one above the backyard level but the way the story plays nestles it comfortably among rather low-budget cinema. He never officially released this when it was made, but bootlegs circulated through the grey market. Highly recommended for folks who want other people to take a crack at that weightlifting scene from HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME.
FULL MOON HIGH (1981, dir. Larry Cohen) – Teenwolf is not the first film about a high school athlete turning into a werewolf. Tony is just your average American football star until a trip to Romania with his rabid anti-communist father leads to an encounter with a werewolf. This is a horror comedy that is more comedy than horror. Everything in Full Moon High is treated in a tongue-in-cheek manner. Besides werewolf films, Full Moon High parodies sex comedies, high school films, and 1950s nostalgia. The humor is very broad, with about a half of the jokes hitting enough for me to enjoy the experience. Prepare to be assaulted by a lot of silliness with this one. Some familiar faces turn up in small roles.
HARD ROCK NIGHTMARE (1988, d. Dominick Brascia)First-time watch on Dark Force BluRay, 7/10.Replete with hard rock & nightmares, Brascia’s follow-up to EVIL LAUGH finds the Bad Boys (say it like the Sean Penn movie trailer) borrowing an RV to practice their music in a remote cabin inherited by lead singer Jim. He hasn’t been there since that awful thing from the great prologue, so his girlfriend (Lisa Elaina from BLOOD DINER) tells everyone to be kind to him. When someone gets decapitated, Jim is certain the beast he glimpsed is his werewolf grandfather, despite his childhood fear that gramps was a vampire. HARD ROCK NIGHTMARE is a fun flick that pokes a little fun at itself & horror flicks without being a spoof. Jim’s nightmares are pretty cool & the wolfman looks good. The movie is a little light on gore, but not devoid thereof. Maybe the underwear-swapping dream makes up for it.Chase with ROCK ‘N’ ROLL NIGHTMARE.“Sally, I don’t believe you. You’re wearing my Fruit Of The Loom.”
The Prowler (1981)The killer has an effectively creepy costume, the deputy looks like Cillian Murphy, and Vicky Dawson is a solid final girl. The practical effects of the kills are pretty great, with some unsettlingly realistic looking stabs, just the right amount of grotesquely gushing blood, and one of the best exploding heads you'll ever see.Outside of those positives, there's not a ton to set The Prowler apart from other slashers. Early on, it seems like there's going to be a bit of intrigue and mystery around the killer's identity and motivation. We're given a WWII-era flashback intro with an unknown jilted lover, and a handful of potential suspects are set up when the movie flashes back to the 80s. But then it's almost as if the movie gets amnesia about all of this, and it never quite connects all the dots. There's some stuff later on with an unearthed grave and some old photos that are supposedly providing plot revelations, but it's just very badly explained. When the killer is revealed at the end, I think I can guess at what their motivation was sort of supposed to be, but that guess is based on the movie's first five minutes--not anything that came afterward. It's confusing to the point that I wonder if the screenwriter got amnesia, or the studio decided to cut 10 minutes of expository scenes. It doesn't spoil the movie, but it's mildly dissatisfying to have that intrigue set up and not really paid off.
MR. VAMPIRE II: VAMPIRE FAMILY (1986, d. Ricky Lau)First-time watch on Eureka BluRay, 7/10.A modern archaeologist uncovers a small vampire family & fails to keep the seals on their heads. Nuttiness ensues. Lam Chin-Ying is back as an amateur student of the ancient arts with Yuen Biao as his journalist sidekick. Will the two adult vampires be stopped before they start turning people? Will Steven Spielberg sue Golden Harvest for the giant E.T. rip-off in the middle, featuring a vampire child instead of an alien? Goofball fun with great stunts & physical comedy. Highly recommended for fans of slow-motion gas.
Day of the Dead (1985)If the zombie apocalypse does come...remind me to stay away from the military.
DINNER WITH A VAMPIRE (1989, d. Lamberto Bava)Rewatch on MYA DVD, still 7/10.Four unlikely winners of an open talent audition are sent to an amazingly decorated castle to meet mysterious filmmaker George Hilton. Why? To kill him, of course, because he's tired of being a vampire. This weird horror-comedy is the last of Bava's four "Brivido Giallo" TV movies & anyone could easily classify it as wacky crap. There's an opening vibe vaguely reminiscent of DEMONS 2, caged monsters, a Marty Feldman knock-off & some solid score work from Simon Boswell. Hilton can handle just about anything, including this movie. I'm not a major lover of horror-comedies, despite absolutely loving some of the best. I'm not sure this threads the needle expertly, but the general atmosphere hits a few sweet spots for me.“Let’s find nice jobs in a store.”
Terror in the Aisles(1984 Dir Andrew J Keuhn)Maybe the best movie to show someone just getting into horror or to show someone when they ask you why you like horror. With Donald Pleasance prose on what scares and thrills us coupled with Nancy Allen's delivering the why are we titillated portion the movie meld into something more than a clip compilation. Its actually good entertainment.I'd could recommend watching it just for the editing alone though. Creepshow (1982 Dir George Romero)Its a good movie it ends better than it starts. "Something to Tide you Over" and "They're creeping up on you" are the highlights. Lowlights are the Billy stuff and "Fathers Day". Hot take and I can't believe I'm recommending taking Tom Atkins or that dope ass Creeper practical out of the movie but they could have taken the Billy stuff out and used the Jordy stuff as the interstitial. Him reading the comic as he gets progressively worse. But its a small flaw in a awesome flick and what we are given is still has a better hit /miss ratio than about 90% of anthology films so I think Romeros and Kings legacies are secure.
The 'Burbs (1989) A really fun horror movie, Tom Hanks, Carrie Fischer, Corey Feldman and Bruce Dern... could you ask for anything more ? It seems very much like its trhing to say something about how ruts and routines in suburban life can bring gou to the brink, as the titular character, Ray Peterson and his buddies investigate the new creepy neighbors.Are they serial killers ? Or just run of the mill weirdos who like to dig in their yard at night ? Go watch the movie and find out, definitely recommend to go watch it asap.
Madman (1981)A couple interesting performances and set pieces make this worth watching but it’s pretty standard 80s slasher fare.
THE EVIL DEAD (1981)I've seen the sequels, but this was the first time seeing the original. Definitely has its charms but isn't one I'll probably revisit much.
Possession (1981, dir. Andrzej Żuławski). Really enjoyed this beautiful movie, but it was a weird one. Not really sure what happened there at the the end.