Tag Archives: the 80s

The First Cut is the Crappest

bcultBLOOD CULT

1.5 Stars  1985/90m

“You just might get blood on you.”

Director: Christopher Lewis / Writers: Stuart Rosenthal & James Vance / Cast: Julie Andelman, Charles Ellis, James Vance, Bennie Lee McGowan, Josef Hardt, Fred Graves.

Body Count: 7

Dire-logue: “We do not need serial murderers on this campus.”


This film proudly states that it was the very first film made exclusively for home video. In real terms, it was the first time someone brandished a camcorder and squirted some ketchup at a wall while a wannabe starlet screamed in the background. All for less than $27,000!

As it is, Blood Cult is just another lame cash-in, that poses as a drama-documentary about a series of co-ed murders plaguing an Oklahoma college campus where the cleaver-toting killer steals random body parts and leaves behind small gold trinkets.

Aged local sheriff Ellis must try and figure out who’s behind it before the all-important elections. With the help of his librarian-slash-housemother daughter, Tina, and her repellent know-all boyfriend, our octogenarian hero discovers that evidence points in the direction of a cult made up of select locals who worship a DOG called Kaninus!

For the bad sound, sucky plotline, crappy acting and misogyny, there’s some cheesy recompense: the killer uses the decapitated head of one victim to beat her roommate with; severed fingers are found in a salad, and they had the audacity to call the sorority house where the first murder occurs Chi Omega!

The identity of the killer is also a surprise, although after the literal unmasking, the film ends without providing any further reference to the cult, its members or any what-happened-next material. The credits just roll. If you’re desperate enough to find out what happens, try the sequel, Revenge, for answers.

Obviously they had nothing better to do with another $27K. Give it to me! I could’ve left the camera on filming my lounge wall and provided a better 90 minutes’ entertainment.

Summary: the first shot on video film about a cult that worships dogs and some dodgy ketchup murders. You have been warned!

Blurb-of-interest: Julie Andelman was in Silent Scream.

Die Laughing

afdAPRIL FOOL’S DAY

4 Stars  1986/18/85m

“Guess who’s going to be the life of the party?”

Director: Fred Walton / Writer: Danilo Bach / Cast: Deborah Foreman, Amy Steel, Ken Olandt, Deborah Goodrich, Clayton Rohner, Jay Baker, Thomas F. Wilson, Leah King Pinsent, Griffin O’Neal.

Body Count: 7…or is it?

Dire-logue: “Three people are dead and you’re telling me to relax.”


Paramount decided to add a touch of class to their mid-80’s slasher lexicon with this slightly more traditional murder mystery-esque light-hearted horror film to offset Jason’s ever-mounting body count over at Crystal Lake.

Rich girl Muffy St John (Foreman – excellent) invites eight of her privileged college friends to her island mansion for Spring Break. There’s kinky couple Nikki and Chas, meaty Arch (Wilson, who was Biff Tannen in the Back to the Future films), the elusive Skip, bookish misfit Nan, southern ranch rich boy Hal, and ‘nice’ couple Rob and Kit – the latter played by orgasmically good uber-final girl Dame Amy of Steel.

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There’s a strange flashback-credits scene with some weird jack-in-the-box prank as Muffy clears out her basement in preparation for her friends and ‘the help’ goes home for the weekend. Meanwhile, on the ferry over to the island, Arch and Skip’s April Fool’s prank results in an accident that hideously disfigures the deckhand, who yells blame on the young people as he is zoomed away in a Zodiac by a handy cop.

Guilt-ridden, the group attempt to enjoy themselves as Muffy lays on food and unleashes some rigged chairs, water-pistols and exploding cigar gags. But silly soon becomes sinister as it becomes apparent they’re not alone on the island and someone is baying for their blood…

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In the morning, the gang play around, talk about sex and explore the locale, which inadvertently leads to Rob and Kit finding what they believe to be the body of Skip floating by. They raise the alarm and split off in search of their absent friend, regrouping again to find that another couple of people have gone AWOL – and what’s with Muffy’s zombie-like behaviour? And her nurses shoes. Nurses shoes? What nurses shoes? Those clod-hoppers she’s been walking around in – crepe soles apparently. Shrug.

Anyway, when the water conks out, Nikki and Hal pay a visit to The Well with a bucket and Nikki somehow ends up climbing down and falling in to find herself treading water with the severed heads and slashed-throated-bodies of their missing friends, leading to a grimly comical moment where, recovering indoors, Muffy slams a glass of it down in front of her – “oh God, not the water!”) – before explaining it’s Perrier.

afd1With the police called, who assure them that the wounded deckhand is still at hospital, the gang set about securing all windows and doors and begin uncovering some strange clues as Muffy’s demeanor becomes weirder and weirder. Suffice to say, more murders are discovered until the obligatory survivors are fleeing for their lives and…

Well, there’s the twist ending. I’m sure most people will know what happens but for those who don’t, I won’t be the one to ruin it for you. It works on some levels and fails on others, making enemies of the film out of some hardcore gorehounds. I like it, it bucked the predictable for a change, making April Fool’s Day quite the slasher film for scaredy cats and bloodshy saps.

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The film scores high on the character factor, writing its generic-on-paper cast roster into deeper beings. The kinky couple have feelings too, the jock isn’t a macho asshole and the bookworm mightn’t be as dorky as she makes herself out to be. Walton, who directed both the original When a Stranger Calls movies, attempts to crank tension with moody shots of the island, the interior of the house and one of those creepy tick-tock clocks where the cat’s eyes move back and forth but when the film is as lighthearted as this it doesn’t work the same magic as his other, more brooding ventures.

An alternate, far more downbeat ending was shot and has yet to surface beyond some grainy stills on the web – but I like the film the way it is.

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I confess my love for this one: one of the earliest genre examples I saw when it rotated on late night TV in the 90s, with most of the language cut out. Oh, what an eye-opening experience it was when I first saw the uncut version! Anyway: investable characters, nice story arc, polished production values and a real sense of fun going for it. Feel the love, AFD!

But avoid the ugly monstrosity that is the 2008 “remake“.

afd7Blurbs-of-interest: I love Amy Steel – she, of course, was Jason’s best girl in Friday the 13th Part 2; Foreman and Rohner appeared together in Destroyer.

“It’s Curtains for you, Maggsie!”

curtainsCURTAINS

2.5 Stars  1983/18/89m

“Six beautiful girls trying to get ahead… When the curtains fall, five will be dead.”

Director: Richard Ciupka [as Jonathan Stryker] / Writer: Robert Guza Jr. / Cast: John Vernon, Samantha Eggar, Lynne Griffin, Linda Thorson, Anne Ditchburn, Sandee Currie [as Sandra Warren], Lesleh Donaldson, Deborah Burgess, Michael Wincott.

Body Count: 8

Dire-logue: “I don’t want to talk…I want to act!” – believe me, dear, that’s all we want too.


The legacy of this Canadian production from SimCom, who were behind Prom Night and its first sequel, is made out of tales of endless re-shoots, re-casting, director storm-outs and general production nightmares for all. So much so that it began filming in 1980 and wasn’t released for nearly three years!

What remains is a likable affair, albeit flawed, with plenty of that signature Canadian appeal intact, even if little else is.

curt2Vernon is smarmy director Jonathan Stryker, who wants choice leading lady Samantha Sherwood (Eggar) to sit in an institution in order to prep for the coveted title role in his new film, Audra. While she languishes in the asylum – which seems only to be home to women who giggle and act like little girls all day – he pretty much forgets about her. “The project has been temporarily been shelved,” he utters somewhat ironically, before deciding to hold open casting at a remote snowbound house for six potential Audras.

curt1curt7One starlet is murdered before she can even leave home, after a premonition-filled dream regarding the creepy doll that is set to show its face at each murder scene as the film goes on. Her competition continue without her, among them a has-been actress (Thorson), a dancer, a young ice-skater, Griffin’s ‘kooky’ comedienne, and a random one who doesn’t do or say much but is one of the last to die.

While Stryker sleazes his way through them, sleeping with some, ignoring others, Samantha Sherwood shows up unannounced, claiming the role to be hers and generally acting like a diva whenever she feels like it. There’s also a guy who appears to be some sort of janitor, they either don’t say or I stopped listening to gaze at my fish tank. Either/Or. Anyway, he doesn’t say much either.

Ice-skating girl is the next to go in one of the film’s better sequences. She’s up at dawn for a habitual skate and is ambushed firstly by the creepy-ass doll, which has the ability to attach itself to people without explanation, and then by a hag-masked loon with a sickle, who evidently trained to out-skate a professional should the need arise. Coincidentally, as ice-skating girl is played by then genre-regular Lesleh Donaldson, the scene bears several similarities to Donaldson’s murder in Happy Birthday to Me.

curt4Stryker works with the remaining actresses, pretty much by serving his own perverse desires, attempting to make them make-out or seduce him, and disbelieves has-been woman when she finds ice-skater girl’s severed head in the toilet. The two of them are then shot dead and the remaining girls, mute-janitor man, and Samantha are left on the hitlist. Or all this could’ve happened in a slightly different order – fish tank again.

As it is, there’s a long chase for ‘Other Girl’ (played by Sandee Currie from Terror Train) that shares a lot in common with Prom Night, helped indubitably by the similar score from Zaza, which cuts so fine a line between this and his work on the earlier film that I questioned whether he’d just handed over the master tapes and told them to go for it.

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Finally, the killer is revealed in quite a flat manner, their motive seemingly non-existent, their ability to have spearheaded such an intricate plan, get kicked and punched and not be bruised left out of the picture as all good slasher films should do! Is it a bad ending? Yes and no. The character was a good fit but there’s also the feeling that too many re-writes screwed up some original vision which was a lot more concise.

Curtains punches above its weight in this respect: there’s a sense that somebody on a train going from Toronto to Vancouver who thought they were making a chic thriller, collided with somebody on a train going in the opposite direction who just wanted to churn out another cheap slasher film. Sifting through the debris of this crash, Curtains was found, wounded but alive.

curt3What a stupid analogy that whole train thing was. We should be thankful the film was finished at all. It’s got some bad moments, dim lighting and a largely indistinguishable cast of ladies but then there’s the score and that ice-skating slo-mo flash of brilliance in there too. I’d say remake it, but then I think of Black Christmas. And Prom Night. And My Bloody Valentine 3D.

Blurbs-of-interest: Lynne Griffin played Clare Harrison in Black Christmas; Donaldson was also in Funeral Home; Wincott played Kelly’s nasty boyfriend Drew in Prom Night. Zaza also scored the original My Bloody Valentine.

It’s my party and you’ll die if I want you to

hbtmcoverHAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME

3.5 Stars  1981/15/106m

“Six of the most bizarre murders you’ll ever see.”

Director: J. Lee Thompson / Writers: John Beaird, Timothy Bond, Peter Jobin & John C.W. Saxton / Cast: Melissa Sue Anderson, Glenn Ford, Lawrence Dane, Sharon Acker, Frances Hyland, Tracy Bregman, Lisa Langlois, Jack Blum, Matt Craven, Lenore Zann, David Eisner, Richard Rebiere, Lesleh Donaldson, Michel Rene LaBelle.

Body Count: 9

Dire-logue: “Murder…then suicide. Now they’ll all know just crazy little [SPOILER] really was!”


One of the first genre films I saw on the back of reading Vera Dika’s Games of Terror book, which provided a deep formula analysis of nine early slasher films. This Canadian entry into the burgeoning trend is a comparatively lush entry for its time. Using experienced director J. Lee Thompson and starring Glenn Ford, Happy Birthday to Me used these advantages as wisely as possible.

hbtm11The result of these impressive involvements is a mixed bag. On the one had, this is one handsome devil of a horror film, with well crafted photography and characters drawn beyond the airhead regulars associated with sharp-object wielding killers. The Yin to this Yang is that it thinks above its station to some degree, attempting to spread its wings beyond the boundaries of what the audience most probably expected back in the day.

Melissa Sue Anderson, breaking free of her Little House on the Prairie character with veritable gusto, is Virginia Wainwright, member of the preppy Crawford Academy’s ‘Top Ten’, the creme of the crop in terms of popularity, although why some of these twats are held in such high esteem is a mystery the film chooses not to deal with.

Virginia is new to the school and has some issues regarding amnesia and the death of her mother in recent history, one of the plot elements that is gradually unfurled throughout events, which follow the unidentified killer doing away with members of the Crawford Top Ten in black-gloved giallo style. To Virginia and pals, they’ve just taken off for reasons unknown…

hbtm2Ford is her shrink, trying to help her recall the deep-rooted trauma that plagues her and suss out the connection with the disappearances. Suffice to say, it’s all tied up together for the Scooby Doo reveal at the end.

There’s a lot of good stuff going on inbetween the more unfitting moments of the film; the killer – who appears for the first few murders dressed in a sinister black costume – executes the spoilt teens in some inventive ways, including death by motorcycle wheel, barbell weights and shish-kebab. Midway through proceedings we’re shown the killer’s face, which is a pretty damning indictment – but you just know that there are further tricks up the sleeves of this one…

hbtm3Interplay between the teenage characters also provides an interesting distraction from the trivial prank and sex-centric shenanigans that occur in your basic Friday the 13th wannabe. The Crawford kids have got rich parents and therefore their attitudes to the welfare of their missing buddies is intoxicated with a competitive venom: they swap lovers and stab each other in the back (not literally, quite yet) and evoke little sympathy from the viewer. Even Virginia is a flawed heroine, almost as unlikeable as the others from time to time. Alas, not all of them appear to be in danger… Hmmm.

Okay, so Dika’s book gave away the identity of the killer before I’d seen the film so the twist wasn’t a shock to me. On the road to the finale, which is fated to occur on Virginia’s birthday, we learn about the death of her mother, which evidently plays a large part in why the killer is doing what he or she is. Flashback scenes thus far have shown us a grisly close-up of Virginia’s post-accident brain surgery (including an icky brain-swell) but now we find out why. The scene is a sad one as Virginia is alone at her own birthday party, social death for any child, for sure! This results in a we’ll-show-them reaction from her jar-tapping mother and, well, you’ll see for yourself…

hbtm7The ending to it all is a great scene: Virginia gets her party and those who snubbed her before will definitely show up this time. Confusion follows before the naff reveal, which is laughably realised but credited with a nice little exposition from the killer before the final twist is played out. The motive will be familiar to those of us who saw a certain genre revival flick some 15 years later, where it was slightly more credibly realised, though not as much fun.

In spite of its high(er) budget, there are some curious oversights in Happy Birthday to Me‘s continuity: the car that falls into the river, the body found in the bath – clear one second, bloody the next, the extensive damage sustained by Greg’s car that miraculously disappears five seconds later… Whether any of this stuff is supposedly attributable to Virginia’s damaged memory is unclear.

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Nothing good can come of this scenario…

The DVD release for this film has garnered much complaint for switching the gorgeous score for a cheesy disco number at the start. The Region 2 disc has the original soundtrack on the German audio selection but Syreeta’s haunting end credits song is intact on both versions.

Blurbs-of-interest: Lawrence Dane later appeared in Bride of Chucky; Lesleh Donaldson was also in fellow Canuck slashers Curtains and Funeral Home; both David Eisner and Lisa Langlois were in Phobia; Lenore Zann was in fellow Canuck slashers American Nightmare and Visiting Hours. Thompson directed 10 to Midnight two years after. I love the Canadian casting love-ins!

Pant-Soiling Scenes #6: THE FOG

Many moons have passed since I first saw The Fog on TV in my naive teen years and I’ve watched it numerous times, wearing out two VHS copies before I upgraded to a spunky 2-disc DVD. The film still rules in almost every possible way and, more importantly, is still damn eerie.

John Carpenter always excelled at the unnerving stuff, Michael loitering behind objects in the foreground in Halloween etc., in The Fog he capitalises on this, with creepy shadows galore… But ’tis this scene that really had me chewing off my fingers (and if you know me, you’ll know what I mean) with tension.

It’s: the stuck-truck bit.

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Pump it, Jamie, pump it!!! Uh, just slip it into first and- Why must driving instructions all sound so dirty!??

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