Tag Archives: the 80s

Every Loser Wins

fatalgames2FATAL GAMES

3.5 Stars  1983/18/81m

“The second prize is death.”

A.k.a. The Killing Touch / Olympic Nightmare

Director: Michael Elliot / Writers: Rafael Bunuel, Christopher Mankiewicz & Michael Eliot / Cast: Sally Kirkland, Lynn Banashek, Michael Elliot, Christopher Mankiewicz, Sean Masterson, Michael O’Leary, Teal Roberts, Marcelyn Ann Williams, Melissa Prophet, Angela Bennett, Nicholas Love, Lauretta Murphy, Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens.

Body Count: 6

Dire-logue: “I’m going to have to disqualify you…now!”

Here’s a javelin-tastic flick that’d be great on a double bill with Graduation Day. At an exclusive athletics training academy, a group of promising young Olympians – known as The Magnificent Seven – are threatened with extinction by a hooded maniac who tosses a mean javelin.

Amongst the array of convenient suspects are their strict coach, their steroid-prescribing doctor and the lesbian swimming coach, who’s involved with one of her proteges. Or it could be an envious ‘friend’? The sprintin’, tossin’, bar-spinnin’ teens are eliminated for good as they find themselves alone, usually working out or relaxing in the steam room afterwards – a fate which befalls one very unlucky young lady, who runs buck naked around the entire school trying to escape from the loon!

Points are lost for shaky editing, horrible incidental music, “uneven” performances and just a total lack of credibility – especially during the killer’s exposition, which is given away in most reviews of the film, robbing it of the actually-okay mystery element it trades on. As it turns out, I love the identity of the killer and how ludicrous the motive is.

Elliot’s direction is pedestrian but adequate, shooting some action from about three miles away from where’s it’s happening. But the killer is so accurate with the stick that he could skewer a teen from the other side of the Atlantic, yet the final girl (Annie) fleeing down a corridor proves more than a match.

Likeable characters, some funny humour and a general feeling of unrewarded effort don’t mean the film is as fatal as it’s largely made out to be. Yeah, it’s crap, but it’s lovable crap. Like a manky dog. Linnea and Brinke only appear in the background briefly.

Blurbs-of-interest: Sally Kirkland was later in Fingerprints and Jack the Reaper; Nicholas Love was in The Boogeyman. Marcelyn Ann Williams, under the name of Spice Williams-Crosby, was in Dead End Road.

Childhood living is hard to do

death_valleyDEATH VALLEY

3 Stars  1982/18/84m

“Not even a scream escapes.”

Director: Dick Richards / Writer: Richard Rothstein / Cast: Paul LeMat, Catherine Hicks, Peter Billingsley, Stephen McHattie, A. Wilford Brimley, Edward Herrmann, Mary Steelsmith.

Body Count: 7

Little Peter Billingsley (then aged 11) goes on vacation to Death Valley with his mom (Hicks) and her new beau (LeMat) and picks up a tacky trinket when he explores an abandoned RV in the desert. The teenage occupants of said vehicle have already been wasted by a knife-toting maniac who wants the gold that’s said to litter the valley floor and has possibly been murdering tourists for yeeeaaars… Or something.

Petey later sees creepy cars and waiters wearing a matching piece of jewelry, one that could place him at the scene of the murders, p’haps? Naturally, the adults don’t believe him but Sheriff Wilford Brimley investigates and the killer comes after Petey, offing a couple of other wrong-place-wrong-timers on route before the big chase finale.

Death Valley is a clunky film, aided no end by the on-location Arizona photography and electing a child hero rather than the usual teenage girl and also benefits from a strong cast of semi-knowns making the most of their slim roles. On the flipside, the bloodletting is almost as dry as the desert sand and there’s definitely room for some cranked-up tension that never really comes into play.


All the same, I kinda dug this one and, impressively, Billingsley still acts and has grown into quite the handsome fella if I say so myself, recently appearing in Iron Man.

Death Valley is one of those films that would probably benefit from a decent overhaul. Now I’m not advocating remake culture, but I’d rather see this “re-imagined” over something that doesn’t require a facelift.

Blurbs-of-interest: Catherine Hicks was the lead in Child’s Play; Stephen McHattie was later in The Dark Stranger; Wilford Brimley was in 10 to Midnight.

Sex and the Shitty

doomasylumDOOM ASYLUM

1.5 Stars  1987/79m

“It’ll send shivers up your funny bone!”

Director: Richard Friedman / Writers: Richard Friedman, Steve Menkin & Rick Marx / Cast: Patty Mullen, Ruth Collins, Kristin Davis, William Hay, Michael Rogen, Harrison White, Kenny L. Price, Dawn Alvan, Farin.

Body Count: 11

Dire-logue: “Come on Kiki, it’ll be alright…at least I think it’ll be alright.”

A long standing member on my to-see list, my buddy Ross of the fab Anchorwoman in Peril cheerily sent me his copy, I suspect dancing and cackling all the way to the post box as he finally got rid of it!

Anyway, Doom Asylum is infamous now as being the requisite resume shame for Kristin Davis, who played Charlotte York in Sex and the City – and still does so in the spin-off movies. Davis plays Jane, the big-specced know-it-all friend of Kiki, whose mom Judy died in a car accident a decade earlier that also killed Judy’s hotshot lawyer boyfriend Mitch, who then un-died on the pathology table, albeit a little too late to have prevented his face being partially cut off and killed the doctors doing the post-mortem.

Kiki and her friends – Jane, dorky Dennis, loverman Darnell and her indecisive boyfriend Mike – take a road trip out to the scene of the accident and then the institutey-hospital whatever-it-was. Why they go there is never really explained but when the titles looked like this, all hope of credibility, explanation or valuable intellectual subtext went out the window:

dooma1So far, so Slaughter High. Well, visually anyway. The kids decide to lie around in the sun outside, Kiki starts calling Mike Mom and one by one they venture into the building, which is the rehearsal space for volatile all-girl rockband Tina and the Tots. However, hurled insults between rival groups are the least of their worries when the wisecracking Mitch begins stalking and killing them one by one by one by one etc…

dooma4dooma3Doom Asylum is undeniably shite. It really is crap, further fuelling my theory that 1987 was the recipient of some kind of horror curse that rendered all slasher films made that year crud. Not so, you ponder? Watch Berserker, watch Terror at Tenkiller and Blood Lake – go on, watch them and report back!

There is some mercy in Doom Asylum‘s awareness of its ornate crapness: the killer’s comments are rubbish but Mike’s indecisive nature raises a couple of minor chuckles: “You’re in a lot of trouble, Torpedo Tits. I’m gonna get you for this. Well…maybe not me, but the cops will!” Then there’s Kristin Davis, who acts acceptably given the ‘demands’ of her role and the vile blue leotard she spends most of the movie in… She meets a gruesome death towards the end of proceedings if you’re keen to fast forward to that moment.


Dear Lord, that’s horrendous. If she even remembers making this film, let alone owns a copy of it, I’d be staggered.

Blurbs-of-interest: director Friedman also helmed the much better Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge as well as some episodes of Friday the 13th the TV series.

Never gonna dance again

prowler-dvdTHE PROWLER

3 Stars  1981/18/85m

“It will freeze your blood.”

A.k.a. Rosemary’s Killer (UK) / The Graduation

Director: Joseph Zito / Writer: Neal F. Barbera & Glenn Leopold / Cast: Vicki Dawson, Christopher Goutman, Farley Granger, Lawrence Tierney, Cindy Weintraub, Donna Davis, Lisa Dunsheath, Timothy Wahrer.

Body Count: 8

Dire-logue: “This is everybody’s last night together. Some of us’ll never see each other again.”

Bad pacing almost kills this early slasher flick from the director of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. This unruly little feature begins with the industry standard prologue, here set waaaaay back in 1945, where young Rosemary’s Dear John letter to an American G.I. culminates in the rejected soldier gruesomely skewering her and her new lover with a pitchfork at their graduation dance.


35 years later, Avalon Bay is set to hold its first graduation dance since that fateful evening, thus prompting the killer to don his old uniform in an effort to repeat the crime on the new kids. So far, so My Bloody Valentine. Nominal heroine Pam encounters the killer in the student dorms (unknown to her, he just killed a couple of her friends) and alerts her deputy boyfriend, Mark.

Together, they inform one of the chaperones at the dance while they begin snooping for clues, first around mansion of wheelchair bound Major Chatham, father of the long-dead Rosemary, as he grabbed Pam as she fled from the prowler. This takes a long time. A very long time.


Back at the dance, Pam’s friend Lisa has already wandered off for a late night swim and becomes another casualty, as does the poor teacher who comes looking for her.

Pam and Mark continue to delve into the unsolved mystery of Rosemary’s murder and, without the guidance of the town’s sheriff, stumble around slower than a Mazda Premacy. To the police station they go, then to the cemetery where they find Lisa’s body in the freshly exhumed grave of Rosemary Chatham, then back to the Chatham house. All of this takes forever, which, in a slasher film is unwelcome.

Of course, Zito tries to wring suspense out of this nothingness but fails miserably. Dancing very slowly moving between shots of Pam in the car and Mark crouching down at the graveside is not scary, it’s boring. Hurry up. Kill some more people. Kill those people over there…

Finally, on the second visit of the night to the Chatham mansion, the killer puts in an appearance and chases Pam around with his pointy-pitchfork until she blasts his head clean off his shoulders.


There are other ‘issues’ with the picture; a horny teen couple stray away from supervision so they can have sex in the basement. The camera lingers, showing them from behind objects in the foreground. A pervert watches too. We wait for him to die and then then couple. We switch to another scene (probably with Pam and Mark achieving nothing in their investigation) and the sex-couple are never featured again! Once the killer is revealed, it really turns out that his identity is secondary to the needs of the plot – it really could’ve been anyone ‘of an age’ to have committed the 1945 murder. And what the hell happened to the Major?

The low body count doesn’t do too much harm; Tom Savini’s gore-jobs here at top notch, so much so that even I questioned whether this could be a genuine snuff film at one point. The shower murder is particularly realistic and nasty, as is Lisa’s fatal throat-cuttery and the tracheotomy on the nice teacher. As with Zito’s previous film, Bloodrage and also his Friday episode, there’s more than a subtle hint of violence chiefly against young women, which was discomforting.


The photography, score and the original artwork (above) are all ace and there are no problems with the acting abilities of those involved, although Vicki Dawson, as Pam, evidently excelled in her how-to-frown acting class. One curiosity of the film is its number of striking similarities to one Friday the 13th Part 2, so much so that even the final girls look like sisters…. See?

friday-prowler2It should probably be noted that The Prowler was shot before Friday was released (albeit several months earlier) so it’s just some kinda weird coincidence…isn’t it? I mean, Zito later directed a Jason and there’s that double-impaling. Hmmmm.

I think The Prowler is okay; it’s flawed but the technical abilities of its general look and Savini’s wonderful work means it would be ignorant of these plus-points to rate it any lower than three stars. It’s commonly viewed as a cult favourite, although be prepared for some boredom between the slashings…

Blurb-of-interest: Lawrence Tierney was in Midnight.

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