Tag Archives: the 80s

0900-KILL

out of the darkOUT OF THE DARK

2.5 Stars  1988/18/84m

“Mother always wared her: Never talk to strangers…”

Director: Michael Schroeder / Writers: J. Gregory De Felice & Zane W. Levitt / Cast: Cameron Dye, Lynn Danielson, Karen Black, Tracey Walter, Bud Cort, Silvana Gallardo, Divine, Geoffrey Lewis, Karen Mayo-Chandler, Starr Andreeff, Karen Witter.

Body Count: 8


‘Frightening erotic’ – what?

DePalma-style outing with a creepy clown-masked nutter doing away with the girls who work for Black’s 0900 service “Suite Nothings”. Could it be the owner’s bitter and drunken ex-husband? Or how about the pervert accountant downstairs? All suspicion tends to rest on the shoulders of photographer Dye who, with girlfriend Danielson, tires to suss out the mystery for themselves.

Stylish and sometimes atmospheric, but the effect wears thin after the initial murders, and just becomes a let’s-clear-my-name do-it-yourself detective movie with a twist that isn’t revealing enough to warrant all the pondering. Still, the good use of photography, realistic characters (though Divine is only on-screen for a matter of seconds in this, his last film) and some wicked send-ups of other horror-greats fill in for some of the missing elements; especially funny is the Halloween-ripped final few minutes with post-motive speeches and plot coils galore.

Look for swift appearances by Lainie Kazan, Tab Hunter and Paul Bartel as a hooker, driver and hotel clerk respectively.

Blurbs-of-interest: Karen Black was also in Children of the Corn IV: The GatheringCurse of the Forty-NinerOliver Twisted, and Some Guy Who Kills People; Karen Witter was later in Popcorn; Tab Hunter was in Pandemonium; Paul Bartel was in Killer Party and Trick or Treats.

Rankfest: A Nightmare on Elm Street

I just realised I said Halloween would be next but it’s all lies… So from Crystal Lake we fly west to Springwood to check out how I like my Elm Streets

9th Best: Freddy’s Dead (1991)

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With both Freddy and Jason’s ‘final’ adventures, The Final Nightmare peters out with little of the flair that made the concept so good in the first place. This was released in the UK around the same time Queen singer Freddie Mercury died, making the TV adverts staying ‘Freddy’s Dead!’ wildly inappropriate.

Best Bit: Sadly, the montage of best bits from parts 1-5.

8th: The Dream Child (1989)

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The attempt to revert to the dark roots of the series resulted in a pretty boring entry on the coattails of the most successful of the 80s installments. Although drippy heroine Alice finally comes to the fire in a non-annoying way, by this point there were way too many tie-ins, toys, music videos, and the TV show, all of which diluted any fear Krueger had injected into anybody.

Best Bit: I actually can’t think of one.

7th: The Remake (2010)

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Less Elm Street, more Emo Street as the re-imagining of the story pits a group of thoroughly depressing high schoolers against Jackie Earle Haley’s less quippy Krueger. He’s fine, and there are some good ideas floating around (the curse of the dreams is kind of passed along after each death) but, as with the Halloween remake, the cover version part of it can’t hold a candle, and seems like a cheap afterthought.

Best Bit: The opening nightmare is pretty good and Katie Cassidy is a good screamer.

6th: Freddy vs Jason (2003)

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It’s crap, especially compared to the New Nightmare, but Jason’s presence makes it avidly more watchable from an entertainment standpoint. Freddy doesn’t get to do a whole lot of slashing, but comes to the party fully equipped with a quip for every action.

Best Freddy Bit: “She was mine! Mine! Miiiiiiiine!!!”

5th: New Nightmare (1994)

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Wes Craven, pissed off with what had become of his creation, re-seized the reigns just two years before Scream came along, and completely overhauled the series, reinstating Heather Langenkamp playing herself, now tormented by the films that made her name, as Freddy comes after her family. It’s all very clever, but not much of a slasher film, running a bit too long to enjoy repeated viewings, but is undeniably an amazing example of somebody reclaiming their work.

Best Bit: John Saxon falling back into character before a perplexed Heather.

4th: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

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I hated this one in the beginning, being such a departure from the first, switching the focus to a homo-repressed teenage boy, who has recently moved into 1428 Elm Street. However, repeated viewings have unveiled much to like, from the colourful 80s tone, some laughably bad acting, and some awesome nightmare scenarios, it’s subsequently leapt up the rankings.

Best Bit: The school bus nightmare opener, relative and really well done.

3rd: The Dream Master (1988)

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The MTV Nightmare was a combination of fortuitous circumstances that led to huge box office takings: Freddy was riding the top of his pop culture wave, FX work was at a revolutionary turning point and the dream sequences were rendered with amazing innovation and creativity. Points lost for little to no grue, and a sappy, annoying final girl.

Best Bit: Debbie’s transformation into an insect.

2nd: Dream Warriors (1987)

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The ‘proper’ sequel to the events of the first film: Six years later, Nancy returns to help a group of nightmare-plagued teenagers at a psych ward where nobody seems able to understand their collective problem, writing it off as mass-hysteria. This marked the last time the adults-know-better theme was used to full effect. Freddy was also legitimately still a scary boogeyman, tormenting Patricia Arquette’s heroine in some perfectly realised nightmare situations.

Best Bit: “Welcome to primetime, bitch!” (or is it “fuck the primetime”?)

1st: The Original (1984)

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Wes Craven got everything right – with the possible exception of the end – and built New Line studios on the back of a script that had been turned down by every other studio in Hollywood. Centrally, the motif of sleep=death is up there with a shark in the water off Amity Island, but you can stay out of the sea. How long can you stay awake?

 Cleverly, the film foregoes murder after murder to focus on final girl Nancy’s battle with staying awake, something we all tried after seeing it, I’m sure. I once managed a couple of days by going through a crate of 24 Pepsi cans. Unquestionably one of the most important horror films ever made.

Best Bit: Nancy’s gradual progression from suburban any-girl to trap-manufactuing, Krueger-kicking badass.

Stock Background Characters 101: The Snooping Reporter

In this feature, we examine the lesser beings of the slasher movie realm, which, if you’re making your own slasher film, could provide a good cast roster for you.

No killer or final girl profiles here, this is a celebration of those underlings who made the most of their fleeting flirtation with stardom. And usually died.

Keep a few bills handy, you’re THE SNOOPING REPORTER

sbc-reportersOverview: Murder makes the news. Multiple murders bring the press like bloodhounds and there’s always one reporter trying to get the scoop, even if it means he/she risks endangering themselves to get it!

Linguistic Snapshot: “Can you confirm or deny that the killer’s still out there and that you have the wrong man after last night’s triple-murder at the old mill?”

Styling: In the slasher realm, Snooping Reporters are more often female than not, so power suits and great hair are usually par for the course.

Hallmarks: Pushy and unrelenting, The Snooping Reporter has but one goal: The scoop. It doesn’t matter how many locals might die, in fact the higher the bodycount the better the story. They will stop at nothing to get their exclusive.

Downfall: The Snooping Reporter sometimes dies, sometimes doesn’t, and they can either be an aide or a hindrance to the final girl. Gale Weathers, doubtlessly top of the horror movie reporter tree, is a caustic, self-centered hack who is eventually instrumental in unmasking and reprimanding the killers in Scream and all of its sequels. In Pieces, the nosy journalist is savagely stabbed to, well pieces, on a waterbed; the feminist critic in Tenebrae also meets a bloody end; TV anchor Robert Campbell (below) makes the error of visiting the old Voorhees house and becoming possessed by Jason himself; student reporter Timmy has his throat cut and is shoved into a locker in Cherry Falls.

sbc-jgth-robertGenesis: Lauren Tewes is a TV newswoman who thinks a killer of women lives in the building next door in Eyes of a Stranger in 1980. Next there’s a brief proto-Gale Weathers character in Halloween II, who utters the awesome line “You need their parents permission to make a statement, if you can’t find their parents, get a statement anyway.” She might be the earliest incarnation of an uncaring, career-focused reporter, but is only in the film for a matter of seconds (apparently she is killed in the novelization).

The doomed journo in Pieces came next, and then Tracy, a brash, trenchcoat wearing reporter who is sure Norman Bates is still killing in Psycho III, ultimately becoming the de facto heroine. By the 90s, Barry Simms fatally decides to broadcast from the Myers house in Halloween 6.

Legacy: Courteney Cox’s portrayal of Gale Weathers in Scream is unquestionably the most significant influence on such characters. In her wake, we had Kate Winsail (!) in Australian Scream knock-off Paranoid, Paul the object of lust for many a girl at Pendleton University in Urban Legend; Taylor Gentry in Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, who unwittingly stumbles into final girl territory. Reporters also turned up in the various Scream parodies.

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Gale Weathers and one of her many clones.

Films like Nightcrawler showcase just how far the media might go for the juiciest story, so for the time being it’s likely that slasher films will continue to feature reporters sticking their oars in, probably dooming various local teenagers in the process. To quote the audience member at the press conference in Scream 3: “Are you saying we should go out and cut each others throats because that’s what you did?”

Gale’s response: “Metaphorically? Yes.”

Brutal.

Moves like dagger

sbSATAN’S BLADE

1 Stars  1983/18/76m

“It took over 100 years… but the blade got even!”

Director/Writer: L. Scott Castillo Jr. / Writer: Thomas Cue / Cast: Tom Bongiorno, Stephanie Leigh Steel, Thomas Cue, Elisa R. Malinowitz, Janeen Lowe.

Body Count: 13


Justin Kerswell of Hysteria Lives! sent me a third-generation VHS copy of this film a long, long time ago (quite plausibly 100 years). In the days before DVD, second, third, fourth gen dupes of films that were very cheaply made in the first place and going from NTSC to PAL format weren’t always a pleasure to watch… Satan’s Blade may have come from Satan himself.

Holidaymakers spending their precious vacation time at a ski resort are informed of a local legend about a giant man, pissed off at the locals forcing him further and further up the mountain blah-centuries ago, and a recent murder at one of the cabins is scaring everyone into believing it all over again.

The first forty minutes is the usual meet-the-meat rubbish, with five girls in one cabin, and two couples next door: Sue’s moaning about her dead father, while walking bouffant Al is constantly hungry, and Stephanie flirts with Tony, whose wife thinks she’s not exciting enough for him. And boy is she right.

Cue shaky POV camera work and the killer offs four of the girls in less than two minutes before going after the happy couples and the final girl (who smokes and kisses married men – gasp!) Once the entire cast has been stabbed, there’s a summary explanation offered up to try and make some sense of it all: Anyone who picks up the titular skanky old knife is turned into a killer blah, blah, blah…

A horrible shrill piano soundtrack drowns out much of the dialogue, and sounds like it was ripped off of Blondie’s Call Me. Post final fade-out, the producers have the nerve to inform us that “The Legend Continues” but there’s no Satan’s Blade II just yet. But it waited 100 years before, look out people of 2083!

Rankfest: Friday the 13th

You know when you go on IMDb or whatever and there’s always a thread titled “Rank the [insert series here] best to worst”, well let’s do summa that.

Of course the infamous Top 100 ranks my favourites across the board up to Spring of 2014 (Lost After Dark and The Final Girls might now force a few of the bottom dwellers out), but franchise-to-franchise, what is the most logical place to start?

Duh, Crystal Lake obvs.

12th Best: Jason X (2001)

jason2Bringing Jason back after eight years in limbo (nine, if we’re going to count the delayed release) is a bold step. On top of that, putting him in space proved just a step too far. This film is hokey and enjoyable at times, annoying and lazy at others.

Best Bit: Holodeck Crystal Lake, circa 1980.

11th: Jason Goes to Hell (1993)

jgth6I maintain that certain scenes in JGTH out-awesome the previous few films – the trio of campers at the lake, and the opening gag with the sexy chick alone in the creaky old house: Pure Friday. It’s just a shame the rest of it veers off course with all that Hidden crap.

Best Bit: Tentpole. Schwing.

10th: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)

jtm3The late-80s-ness of Manhattan is undeniably bodacious, but it’s too long, too tame, and too timid to max out its potential: At the time this must’ve had the highest bodycount of the lot, and is there but a speck of blood?

Best Bit: JJ’s awesome-or-what axe.

9th: Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

fvj-cornfield-stonersLike Jason X, this one is worth a look every decade or so. The WWE-ness of it all is juvenile and irritating, but high-end production values, a love for the series, and a game cast almost make up for that.

Best Bit: Cornfield rave hi-jinks.

8th: The Final Chapter (1984)

fc5I’ll stand by for the townsfolk to come with their torches and pitchforks. The Final Chapter was the last of the Paramount films I saw and by that time the formula was so ingrained it just never resonated much with me. The plot is too derivative of Part III and the characters indistinguishably expendable. Yes, the grue is top of its game, but this alone does not a great film make.

Best Bit: The story so far… “you can’t be alive!”

7th: A New Beginning (1985)

fri6Tatty, sleazy, trashy Part V, a guilty pleasure if ever there was. The leap in production gloss from The Final Chapter was, at least on the old VHS’s I owned, significant, but maybe that’s just because 1985 was a year I actually remember, so the fashions and hair didn’t all look horrific. No Jason? Meh, who cares!? The appeal of this film is how fucking stupid it all is.

Best Bit: “There’s a man with no life in his eyezzzzz…”

6th: The New Blood (1988)

friday the 13th part vii the new blood jason voorheesDry and a ‘lil bit wintry in feel, The New Blood has grown on me over the years like a fungus that won’t quit. While many of the bloodthirsty demises were ultimately cut, leaving us a film drier than a shot of sand, the through-the-motions slashings are almost hypnotically entertaining and several of the background characters unpredictably likeable.

Best Bit: “There’s a legend ’round here…”

5th: Part III (1982)

f3-8A major step down from the dizzy heights of the first two, Part III nonetheless provides Jason with his mask and the audience with cheesy 3D FX. The production shift from the north east greenery to a sandy Californian mud-hole (removing all the Crystal from Crystal Lake) lets it down, but the amateur-night performances and Dana Kimmell’s gloriously rubbish final girl schtick atone.

Best Bit: Dana vs. Jason

4th: The Reboot (2009)

fri1aMost hated it, but it captured the spirit of Fridays past for me – especially those first 20 minutes – making enough changes to give a contemporary feel without entirely abandoning the unmovable elements that make Friday what it is. Of the glut of remakes, reboots, recalibrations, reimaginings etc, it was easily the best.

Best Bit: Campfire tales and nostalgia.

3rd: Jason Lives (1986)

friday the 13th part vi jason livesWho would ever have thought a fifth sequel could land a sucker punch of awesomeness? Tom McLaughlin, that’s who! Wisely taking a step into the humorous side of the genre, after the po-faced exploits of The Final Chapter and A New Beginning, Jason needed a shot of slapstick just to overcome the embarrassment of the previous film. It works perfectly as a pivot for the mayhem and contrived story, resulting in the best Friday outing since the early days.

Best Bit: Paula’s paranoia. Didn’t she leave the bloody machete right there on the floor?

2nd: The Original (1980)

f13-11aRough n’ ready, Friday the 13th has got to be the most copied slasher film ever; from genuine attempts to replicate the formula to sketch show parodies, this is the film they turn to. It’s perfection lies in its innate imperfection – clunky acting, ludicrous plot twists, semi-competent production, and yet it works far beyond the reach of many of its contemporaries and today’s low-end slasher pics.

Best Bit: Rinse n’ repeat stalk n’ slash during the storm.

THE BEST FRIDAY!: Part 2 (1981)

cut2_double-2Yeah, like, big shock, right? I just love this film to death. Taking all that was good about the first one, polishing the production assets, casting the perfect final girl, introducing Jason as an actually quite scary super villain prototype form: That burlap sack gives me the creeps far more than the hockey mask. Whether those infuriating cut scenes will ever see the light of day, who knows, but it detracts not from the slasherific perfection that is Friday the 13th Part 2.

Best Bit: Amy Steel on the run.

Next time: Halloweeeeeeen

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