Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Junesploitation 2024 Day 19: '80s Horror!


  1. I am trying to hit as many countries as I can this month with my watches. Today it is a visit to India for '80s horror. Despite the genre involved, you are not getting away from singing and dancing with this choice.

    PURANA MANDIR (1984, dirs. Shyam Ramsay and Tulsi Ramsay)

    Have you ever wondered what an Indian gothic horror film would be like? If romance, singing, dancing, comedy and martial arts are added in, what you get is Purana Mandir. This is called The Old Temple in English and is in the Mondo Macabro Bollywood Horror set. A captured demon puts a curse on a royal family before it is beheaded and buried in sacred places. A couple centuries later, in a very modern India, a descendant returns to the place where that all happened to find out if the curse is real. It basically is the plot of Paul Naschy’s film Horror Rises From the Tomb. Though Purana Mandir is channeled through a different cultural lens, many of the hallmarks of 1980s horror are present. This was a huge hit at the time, touching off a wave of Indian horror cinema.



    Seriously, when the last time you watched a newish movie and the helicopters moved or looked remotely like the real deal? From "Morbius" to "San Andreas," CG helicopters have removed the art of the stunt helicopter pilot making even a cheap production (like the two flicks reviewed here) look stellar. And since my Italian Horror picks were a bust, I'm using 80's Horror! Day to try again.

    Director Enzo G. Castellari (OG "Inglorious Bastards") was no stranger to low-budget Italian rip-offs ("Escape From the Bronx"), including already having a "Jaws" knock-off (1979's "The Shark Hunter") under his belt when he directed "The Last Shark." But there's ripping off Spielberg and then there's copying Spielberg... and Jeannot Szwarc too, I guess, since this flick steals from both "Jaws" (Joshua Sinclair's Mayor Wells ignoring the warning signs and insisting a regatta take place) and "Jaws 2" (kids of main characters go out on a boat, helicopter comes to their rescue and is dragged underwater). No wonder Universal Pictures sued and got "The Last Shark" removed from theaters a couple of weeks into a profitable run. But you know what? This is an entertaining and fun flick, an orgy of "Jaws" rip-offs that is much more entertaining than "Jaws 2-4." I mean, you got Vic Morrow (R.I.P.) doing a so-bad-it's-good Quint impersonation, James Franciscus essentially playing "Jaws" author Peter Benchley (his character's named Peter Benton, for heaven's sake! :-P) as a Chief Brody replacement, and a shark that can swim backwards without moving its dorsal fins.

    Since it's restrained by a 'PG' rating (which back in '81 still allowed for leg chomping and exploding underwater puppets) the production has to hold back from going too crazy. And the slavish following of the "Jaws/Jaws 2" templates means despite featuring more of the (fake-looking) mechanical shark on screen the pace of the adventure is even-keeled. Hell, I too said 'Yeah!' when Jenny (Benton's kid) screamed at her dad to go kill that shark from her hospital bed. It ultimately is more sizzle reel (the wooden raft with the cameraman/rifleman at the end started promising and petered out) than sizzle, but while it lasted "The Last Shark" rulz! 'It's fine. 3.65 C-4 DYNAMITE PACKS ON HAMMER'S BELT (out of 5).

    Tried as he might to distance himself from its controversial aftermath, Ruggero Deodato just couldn't stay away from his "Cannibal Holocaust" formula. Made in 1984 but not released in the States until 1986 (by Roger Corman's New World Pictures), "Cut and Run" seems engineered to remove the more unpopular parts of "CH" (animal cruelty, wretched lead characters, excessive realistic gore) while retaining some exploitation chestnuts (bloody violence against non-white characters, excessive abuse of frequently nude females) as it mixed the still-latent aftermath of the Guyana tragedy with the then-current war on drugs. Though it often feels more like an action/adventure Cannon Group flick (especially when Michael Berryman keeps popping out of nowhere to terrorize people, which worked every time), Deodato clearly intends to shock and horrify viewers with how casually characters either are killed (opening massacre) or learn to kill (Willie Aames' Tommy) because of the drug trade. It's only toward the end when Richard Lynch ("Invasion USA") reveals himself as a fanatic that agrees to reporter Lisa Blount's live interview request that "Cut and Run" moves closer to "Apocalypse Now"-on-the-cheap vibes, and it is glorious. And that armed assault on Lynch's compound where you can clearly see Richard Bright riding on the helicopter? So cool.

    It's not perfect (what the hell was the point of Eriq La Salle's Fargas, and how did he know the things he did that got him... hatless! :-O ), but as a Junesploitation! all-star "Cut and Run" delivers. Italian Horror Day failure redeemed! 3.5 GIANT JUNGLE SATELLITE DISHES (out of 5).

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  4. Creepshow 2 (1987, dir. Michael Gornick) (rewatch)

    Written by George A. Romero based on Stephen King's work, it's an anthology consisting of four short horror stories. In Old Chief Wood'nhead, three assholes rob a small town store and kill the sweet old couple who run it, so the wooden Native American statue on the store's porch comes to life and seeks revenge. The Raft features a group of youngsters swimming in a remote lake and an oilslick-like blob (blub) attacking them. In The Hitch-hiker, a woman cheating on her husband is haunted by the man she accidentally hit on the road and left for dead. And in the animated framing story, a kid gets revenge on his bullies via giant Venus flytraps.

    It's no Creepshow, but the middle story has some solid horror filmmaking and I like the absurdity of the final segment. Unfortunately, Holt McCallany plays a Native American in brownface in the first one.

    1. Society (1989, dir. Brian Yuzna)

      High schooler Bill has always felt like an outsider and suspected there's something weird going on with his family, and as his sister is inducted into "The Society", it seems his fears aren't unfounded.

      I kinda loved this crazy mix of "eat the rich" social satire and body horror! It takes a while to get really going, but the insane finale is something I genuinely had never seen before. I'm being deliberately vague, watch this knowing as little as possible beforehand if a combination of satire and body horror sounds like your bag.

  5. Return of the Living Dead (1985).

    Rather than seek out something new, I decided to watch a classic. The FX in this movie are always a joy to see!

  6. Galaxy of Terror (1981)

    A low budget Alien ripoff co-staring Mr Hand, Joanie (no Chachi), Freddie Krueger, and Captain Spaulding. (Man what a perfect lineup for The Dating Game show). The Good: Its low budget but they did a solid job with costumes, sets, and creative/gory kills. The Bad: its super short, like 85m, but still feels slow. Also every line and line delivery feels like its part of a different movie. The Absurd: To ensure an 80s horror nude scene, one of the crew is killed by a giant slimy caterpillar that inexplicably slurps off all clothes before killing. LOL. (Bonus sploitations included: Roger Corman Produced! New World Pictures! Near-mute-sid-haig-with-space-throwing-stars-sploitation!)

  7. Deadly Friend (1986)

    My snail's pace crawl through Wes Craven's filmography inches forward. Still have a long way to go, though.

    Two goofball guys are abducted by an all-female cult, who’s plotting either to recruit them… or sacrifice them. It’s like Abbott and Costello Meet Midsommar. I love horror-comedy, but this one is just full-on comedy. The two guys react to every situation by making laid-back Borscht Belt one-liners. This means there’s no stakes to anything. If the main characters don’t care about the movie they’re in, why should I?

    NEXT OF KIN (1982)
    A woman inherits a nursing home and takes over running it (It’s like Love Hina, but with old folks instead of babes), and of course spooky stuff happens. There’s some great gloomy atmosphere in this, and a few truly disturbing images. But this is also a hangout movie, with a lot of time spent on our heroine’s romance with a local hunky dude. But then the third act goes off in a whole other direction, which keeps you guessing. I see online that this is yet another favorite of Quentin Taratino, who has often compared it to The Shining. I wouldn’t go that far, but I really liked it.

    Bonus Universal Monster-sploitation: PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943)
    This is a whole lotta opera singing, and not a lotta Phantom. I should have watched the 1925 one. Or the Robert Englund one. Or Phantom of the Paradise.

    1. Seconded on Phantom. I wish all the Universal Monsters releases with the Claude Rains version included the Lon Chaney version instead… or even the Herbert Lom version.

  9. The Hitcher (1986, dir. Robert Harmon)

    Rutger Hauer wasn't even nominated for this!? He gives an absolutely riveting and unforgettable performance. Also shout out to screenwriter Eric Red, it seems like the dude only writes bangers.

  10. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

    Would love to hear from some folks who really love this movie...

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    2. My favorite sequel of the OG "NOES" franchise. 😀👍 Then-young Renny Harlin nails the MTV-meets-horror vibe, comedian Freddy is still mean with his mental games and Lisa Wilcox is in my pantheon of best final girls ever in 80's horror. l rank the series 1, 4, New Nightmare, 2, 3, 5 and Freddy's Dead (Freddy vs. Jason is its own thing). 😎

  11. Critters(1986 Dir Stephen Herek)
    Critters sequels are cool and all and I'm happy to have them but I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm a bit jealous of that alternate universe where the Bounty Hunters have a whole series of movies in which they hunt different aliens and take on different cameo appearances of 80s and 90s celebs.

  12. Jack's Back (1988)

    Fun flick.

    A lot of the performances are pretty rough, but Spader's star power shines brighter than a hypnotist's pen light, and Cynthia Gibb provides him with a capable dance partner.

    The score is pretty bad, but the direction has personality and feels like it elevates a movie that's a bit cheesy in a lot of other ways. Not every shot works, but none are boring. There's always something interesting in the framing or the camera movement (or both) in a way that makes it feel like Rowdy Herrington gave some thought to every little bit of the filming.

    I'm pretty sure this movie has the slowest scrolling credits of all time. Has anyone else noticed this?

  13. From Beyond (1986)

    Had this on my to be watched list for a while. Definitely worth a view! Barbara Crampton and some gnarly effects make for a good time.

  14. SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1982) dir. Amy Holden Jones

    A classic slasher with just the right amount of suspense, gore, boobs, and ironic humor. It’s got a Hitchcock tight ending and it gets better every time I watch it!

    Annnnnd, it made possible Slumber Party Massacre 2.

    “Takes a lot of love for a person to do this…”

  15. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
    Much more like a horror film when you watch the version with the original ending… Don’t feed the plants indeed.
    Levi Stubbs deserved an Oscar nomination for voicing Audrey II.

  16. THE UNDERTAKER (1988):

    This slasher is whatever, but it got me wishing for a Joe Spinell/Vincent Schiavelli/Jean Reno team-up movie. So much face!

  17. Cruising (1980)
    Another incredible first time watch this year! Low key Pacino is a nice change of pace. Good horror with great attention to detail. Seems like a soft nc-17.