Tag Archives: the 80s

Actually it -is- human, and it doesn’t really use the axe a lot – so just run away

the prey 1980


2 Stars  1980/18/92M

“It’s not human… and it’s got an axe!”

Director/Writer: Edwin Scott Brown / Writer: Summer Brown / Cast: Debbie Thureson, Steve Bond, Lori Lethin, Robert Wald, Gayle Gannes, Philip Wenckus, Jackson Bostwick, Jackie Coogan, Connie Hunter, Ted Hayden, Garry Goodrow, Carel Struycken.

Body Count: 8

Shot anytime between 1978 and its eventual release in 1984, it’s difficult to call this just another Friday the 13th rip-off if it possibly came before that.

Either way, The Prey follows six ‘teenagers’ on a camping trip deep into the forest where some bad shit went down years earlier, in this instance a huge fire that burnt a load of gypsies to ash.

Naturally, one of them survived and it is he who hunts the group. The freakishly tall loon (played by the original Lurch from The Addams Family) throttles, crushes, and throws his victims to their dull, bloodless demises (the tagline is not to be believed) after mucho campfire and nature footage.

the prey 1980

Notable for its rather grim ending, The Prey isn’t terrible, just a bit primitive in its approach, which actually complements the campfire-tale quality of it all and has a likeable final girl in Thureson. It plays kinda like a very early demo of Wrong Turn.

Most versions clock in at around 80 minutes, but lucky Europe, we got those extra 12 minutes of trees n’ shit.

Blurbs-of-interest: Lori Lethin was later in both Bloody Birthday and Return to Horror High.

Piano Keys and Problematic Killers

a blade in the dark 1983


2.5 Stars  1983/18/104m

A.k.a. House of the Dark Stairway

Director: Lamberto Bava / Writers: Dardano Sacchelli & Elisa Briganti / Cast: Andrea Occhipinti, Anny Papa, Lara Naszinski, Michele Soavi, Valeria Cavelli, Fabiola Toledo, Stanko Molnar.

Body Count: 7

Giallo prestige Lamberto Bava merged the Italian genre prerequisites with American slasher cliches efficiently enough in this excessively violent title, which always seems a little forgotten in the scheme of things.

Occhipinti plays Bruno, a young composer commissioed by a director to score a horror movie. He rents a roomy, minimalist villa where the former tenant – the mysterious Linda – seems to have left something of a reputation imprinted.

When a stock beautiful young woman stops by to collect a her diary but then disappears, Bruno suspects something bad may have happened to her. His moody and secretive girlfriend Julia is more concerned with him seeing her perform in a play, and the groundskeeper Giovanni (for once not presented as mentally challenged!) likes to mind his own beeswax.

A friend of the missing girl then comes by and also vanishes, prompting Bruno to convince himself that the elusive Linda is somehow to blame …and also something to do with the plot of the movie he’s scoring.

Some genuinely tense set-ups distinguish A Blade in the Dark from its contemporaries, but it’s the near-repulsive violence that will loiter in your memory, as the heel-wearing killer dispatches victims with a nasty array of weaponry. Echoes of Dressed to Kill dominate the finale as well as a macabre twist to the final girl vs psycho sequence, but it’s ultimately flawed by its length and watered down story.

Blurb-of-interest: Michele Soavi directed Stagefright in 1986 and also acted in Absurd and Opera.

Realty Bites. And stabs. And slashes.

open house 1987


1.5 Stars  1987/18/91m

“Now it’s open season for murder.”

A.k.a. Multiple Listings (!?)

Director/Writer: Jag Mundhra / Writer: David Mickey Evans / Cast: Joseph Bottoms, Adrienne Barbeau, Barry Hope, Robert Milano, Rudy Ramos, Darwyn Swalve, Page Moseley, Lee Moore.

Body Count: 9

“See the thriller of the year on home video.” Right.

A pretty good opening is not enough to salvage this badly scripted and cut together crap with a dog-food-eating killer murdering real estate ‘bitches’ and their clients around Los Angeles. Why? You wouldn’t believe how desperate the motive turns out to be.

Bottoms is a critically-maligned radio psychologist who receives calls from an opinionated aggressor who thinks the victims deserved all they got. His girlfriend – Adrienne Barbeau, why is she in this?? – the owner of the city’s most successful real estate agency. Gasp.

There’s dumb behaviour a-plenty, like a pair of early victims cowering in the corner of a bathroom that has a visible escape route, and there’s s stupid subplot about a rival firm trying to kill Adrienne’s business. If this is supposed to serve as a red herring then it fails even to get off the blocks.

open house adrienne barbeau 1987

It’s as if the writers rearranged their blind twists as they went along. The killer, whose face is kept off screen until the last few minutes, turns out to be who everyone in the cast thought it was, obliterating any trace of mystery they’d tried to construct.

There’s also the needless misogynistic vein: Most of the fatalities are women but the killer has no reason for targeting a specific gender, leaving a sense of “women shouldn’t have successful careers” emanating from it.

A rotten score irritates throughout like some cheesy soap opera and the end stoops to ripping off When a Stranger Calls without any shame. This flick comes from a bad neighbourhood and should stay there festering.

Blurbs-of-interest: Mundhra directed the equally lame Hack-O-Lantern; Page Moseley was also in Edge of the Axe.

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