The 1980s were made to push the horror agenda! The slasher genre became a cultural phenomenon, giving birth to the likes of Freddy and Jason, two of the most iconic horror characters since the Universal monsters. New techniques in practical special effects revolutionized horror visuals and blew our minds with amazing transformations in films like The Howling and An American Werewolf in London. The movie industry came home, with cable television infecting the suburban landscape, and VHS tapes not only getting horror into our hands faster, but opening a door for independent filmmakers to bypass theaters completely to make a killing in the direct-to-video market.
And then came MTV and the music video age. Initially pushing shoestring budget clips of artists performing their songs to promote their latest singles and albums, the “music video” soon became an art form in itself. The more memorable it was, the better. Budgets began to increase as record sales increased. The free advertising of videos had teens hooked, and also made the medium a perfect tool for promoting other things, such as…movies! Movie soundtracks started filling the grooves with songs by popular artists, and the videos for those songs often used clips from the films or went as far as featuring cameos by some of the actors from said films.
Videos transformed into mini-movies. Video directors became feature film directors. Feature film directors began making music videos. And the growing success of horror films began to bleed into the music video world.
Sure, there were videos for horror movie theme songs, such as Alice Cooper’s “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)” from Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives and The Fat Boys’ “Are You Ready for Freddy?” from A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.
But even before Michael Jackson teamed up with American Werewolf in London director John Landis to demolish all MTV records with the 14-minute “Thriller” video/short film, artists began mimicking horror films in their music videos, from the classic monsters to the contemporary masked stalkers…even when the songs themselves weren’t specifically horror themed.
And so, with no concern about whether or not the songs were huge chart hits, I give you 10 videos of the 80s that are the perfect marriage of music and monsters. What were some of your faves of the era? Tell me in the comments below! And if the any of the videos no longer play here, just search that shit on YouTube.
This is rare. Three modern “kill the group of friends” films of various subgenres and budgets that all gave me something to enjoy. So let’s get right to it.
A few months back I posted about the movie Blood Widow, which featured a dominatrix killer wearing a blank white mask. She’s not back, but she seems to have a sister in Bunni, who is pretty much a Playboy bunny dominatrix in a blank white mask.
I thought there would be no hope for this movie when it began with T&A and lots of blaring death metal. Listen up, indie directors. Tits and death metal don’t make a horror movie good or cool or scary. Seriously. Ever. Not even if you had a budget.
Anyway, the opening scene features some domestic abuse, then it’s a bunch of years later, and a group of in-your-face horny friends is preparing for a Halloween party. Surprisingly, the “party” takes up only about 5 minutes of the film at most. All of this feels very cheaply made. The hopelessness I was experiencing deepened.
Walking home, the friends decide to break into a boarded up building. Ignoring warning signs like mannequins, dolls, a recently slept in bed, it being Halloween night, and the old guy who literally warns them away, they split up for sex once inside.
And then…there’s dick. WOW, is there dick. I don’t know if it’s real dick, but it sure looks real, and if it is, I have new respect for director Daniel Benedict, who also plays the guy who whips out his dick. And that lovely dick gets grabbed, and then…wait…what are you doing with that knife? For the love of God, NOOOOO!
Bunni suddenly gets nasty! This relatively short film dives dickhead first into the gore, with characters quickly being slaughtered in sleazy, sexual ways that are direct-to-video perfection if you are a fan of low budget horror and appreciate the art of practical effects.
Bunni’s costume is scary sexy, the final girl rox, their chase and battle scene is grisly good, and the final girl uses one of the best weapons ever—her truth. It gives this little indie a delicious twist.
Because that scene is so strong, I’m willing to forgive the 10-minute tag scene that follows and sort of cheapens what came before it. I would love to see what director Daniel Benedick—I mean, Benedict—could do with the film if he had a better budget. Fuck the budget. He just needs to tighten up the quality of the first half of the film and make the closing scene a bit more succinct.
THE FUNHOUSE MASSACRE (2015)
Halloween horror movies that take place in a haunted attraction have become so routine that it’s pretty much a risk to try to make one that rises above all the rest. Director Andy Palmer (Find Me) went the smart route—he just made a slasher romp about a bunch of escaped lunatics that takeover a funhouse and begin killing everyone who passes through it.
There’s absolutely nothing new here, but it’s done with a playful simplicity that makes it a fun hack n’ slash ride.
The opener features a cameo by Robert Englund, who introduces us to the six distinct psycho personalities that escape their asylum—including familiar faces like Clint Howard (Ice Cream Man) and Jere Burns (from the TV show Dear John).
A group of friends heads to the funhouse, and naturally, they think all the dead bodies and torture victims are part of the show. Meanwhile, a sheriff and her deputy are investigating a murder. The deputy is the comic relief initially, but the first part of the film is less comedic than I expected. But after the killing and chasing really begin at the funhouse, he and one of our main guys become somewhat of a comic duo. Plus, one of the other guys, who is dressed like Machete, is a blast. He’s also underutilized until near the end of the film.
There’s nothing scary here—not even any real jump scares—but the kills are splat-tastic, the psychos are awesome, and the cast of main characters is refreshingly likeable in this age of horror movies jam-packed with dick kids. There’s even a cameo by an NES light gun, so watch out for it.
Even glaring issues – like there being no line for the funhouse and it being mysteriously empty despite the number of people milling around outside, as well as a bathroom seemingly having no visitors except one victim for at least ten minutes – are just minor unrealistic conveniences used to create a sense of isolation at an event that would be anything but isolated. Not to mention, there are SO many dead bodies, it’s no wonder the place is a…um…ghost town after a while.
PROM RIDE (2015)
If a “found footage” film can keep me watching simply because it throws so much random crap in to move the plot along, I have to give it some appreciation, no matter how much of a train wreck it all is.
Everyone has a camera these days, so we don’t miss a minute of this prom. First, we meet the pretty likeable group of friends on the beach. To ask one of the girls to the prom, one guy and his buddies break into a boy band song and dance number right in the middle of a store where the girls are shopping for dresses.
Once it’s prom time, the kids dance in the limo bus, we get a lesbian kiss, and the black chick in the group drops a reference to fricking Klymaxx’s 1985 club track “Meeting in the Ladies Room” that none of the other kids gets.
And then the limo is hijacked by someone wearing a suit and a mask that could be the design for the Cylons the next time Battlestar Galactica is rebooted.
The killer takes the driver’s seat, the kids are bound to their seats, and the killer barks instructions to them in a Jigsaw voice. They are forced to do humiliating things in front of each other, they are tortured a bit, their nasty little secrets are revealed, blood flows, and eventually, they start to turn on each other and people die.
You’ve seen it all before, but never in a limo!
The found footage aspect is dropped, the twist hits, and then Prom Ride shifts to a police pursuit and media footage firestorm before coming to a sloppy as hell conclusion. Even so, the boy band dance alone delivered much more than I expected from this messy little joyride. Not to mention, the killer makes this hottie strip….
In my defense, I more than recuperate the money for the annual Amazon Prime fee through free shipping on my orders, so all three of these were basically free to watch.
MILE HIGH HORROR (2013)
This anthology appears to be a compilation of short films gathered together by the Mile High Horror Film Festival. There’s no wraparound, but there are ten stories in this hour and fifteen minute movie.
Many of the segments feel like something you would just catch on YouTube and then forget, some feel oddly brief and almost incomplete, and a few are animated and stop motion shorts, including one that features horror rewrites of classic nursery rhymes. A few standouts made my favorites list.
The two stories that starts things off make it seem like this is going to be a collection of campy horror comedies. The first features a man terrorized in his home by a door-to-door Bible thumper, and the second takes on the comic complications of serial killing. There’s a very well made zombie short that may not add anything new to the genre, but it does what we already know and love quite well.
If you like things gruesome and sadistic, an entire segment is simply dedicated to a man scalping a woman. Another adds a cool and icky twist to the urban legend about kidney stealing. And finally, the film closes with a fairly predictable short that is totally entertaining nonetheless – two guys bring home an old table with a mysterious hole in the center, so of course, one guy sticks his head through it….
SCARY TALES: LAST STOP (2015)
I was somewhat distraught when I began watching this and discovered that it’s the follow-up to the director’s anthology simply called Scary Tales. But in the end, if this one is the last stop, I’m okay with having missed the first stop.
The wraparound has four strangers stuck in a train station overnight—an older asshole dude, an average woman, a young guy, and a young slacker chick. Immediately, one of the glaring problems with the film is revealed. The laborious dialogue is clearly a conduit for the writer/director to channel all his brilliant observations about society onto the screen. This gives amateur actors even more of a challenge when it comes time to make the words seem like their own, so they pretty much don’t even bother trying.
Anyway, the four decide to tell stories about scary dreams they had:
Average woman – Basically a Psycho fan film. The woman goes on a dinner date with a guy—at his house—and agrees to stay the night. After they recite thoughts from the writer’s head for five minutes, there’s a music montage of them continuing to talk! Then we get a montage of her being left alone while he runs out for a while. Eventually, she goes into the basement…the one place he told her to stay away from.
Young slacker chick – She meets an inspiration guru at a coffee shop. After they recite more thoughts from the writer’s head for five minutes, she joins him at one of his seminars…an underground cult where they kill social degenerates.
Young guy – As bad as this whole experience is, I actually have a favorite story. First, the young guy’s parents talk about going to see a boy band in concert. Then he goes to housesit, which sort of includes babysitting a teenage girl. This young guy is pretty much my favorite actor in the film, because he has a naturally comic persona, and it’s used to good effect here, playing off the girl in the role of the teenager, who is equally natural. The overall plot is kind of campy as well. She tells him that Bigfoot is out there and they should hunt for him. Turns out Bigfoot is just a guy in a costume you can get at Party City. No, seriously. The odd “twist” ending brings back the filmmaker’s usual practice of philosophizing through dialogue, but at least it doesn’t weigh down the thick of the plot this time. I got a kick out of this dopey segment all around.
The older asshole dude – After the director—I mean—character gets a new job and bashes the corporate job market for about 10 minutes, he is chased by a guy in a mask for a few seconds.
The wraparound finishes with everyone kind of standing around outside the train station looking like they’re thinking, “Are we done filming yet? Can I go home?” before their fates are revealed.
FORGOTTEN TALES (2016)
I would like to say the 66-minute run time makes this the best in the bunch, but it ends up feeling like the longest of all due to the homemade feel. I do appreciate the random opening kill scene of a couple parked in a car, the morphing into an animated sequence for the opening credits in an attempt to give a nod to Creepshow, and an attempt to create a little crossover of the three stories.
First story – A young woman is staying at a house that’s haunted—by a woman in pale makeup whose movements are treated with a haloing effect to make her all apparition-like. While the execution might be amateur, the plot and twist are worthy of an anthology film with a budget.
Second story – A babysitter begins to get prank calls. Suddenly, a bad guy pops out and tries to rape her, which leads to them “stunt” fighting for a few minutes until one of them wins. There’s something absurdly humorous about this story (aside from the stunt fighting). The identity of the bad guy is intended to be a shocking twist, but the guy’s performance is almost comical, so you kind of feel like you’re being punked as you watch.
Third story – A Carnie Wilson looking chick goes on an audition and is then stalked and harassed by the weirdo filmmaker, who wants her in his movie really bad. The guy playing the filmmaker shines in this lackluster presentation. He definitely deserves to be tapped for some better budget horror.
Despite the extremely generic title, there is a notable theme running throughout the stories – women being preyed on by men they barely know.
One is sort of supernatural, the other sort of slasher, they’re both slow burners that see man pitted against woman, both feature characters dealing with the loss of a child, and they both deliver some thrills, chills, and twists. I look briefly at Observance and The Perfect Husband from Artsploitation Films, one of my favorites studios in recent years.
Cutie Lindsay Farris of the awesome horror flick Primal stars almost solo in this atmospheric film, and he’s shirtless for a good portion of it, which is a plus.
Farris plays a private investigator whose life is in turmoil after the death of his child, leading him to take a job he doesn’t want out of desperation. He hides out in a derelict apartment building observing a woman who lives across the way, and reports daily to his mysterious client on the phone.
The establishment of his isolation takes up a good portion of the film, with only hints of odd things going on in the building, so if you are looking for nonstop scares, you may lose interest quickly. However, the film’s creepy setting, pacing, tone, and psychological suspense remind me very much of Session 9.
The PI experiences weird things – noises in the walls, a malfunctioning shower, dead rodents, disturbing dreams, and even signs that someone has tampered with his stakeout area.
After he has a run-in with a man who gives him a cryptic warning, the paranormal occurrences intensify – black bile, strange voice recordings, and sightings of a female apparition that eventually begins pursuing him through the building.
Yet Observance is simply not an in-your-face ghost movie. The limited haunting episodes help create the foreboding tone that permeates the film and are more a reflection of the dark psychological and emotional state of the character than an attempt to scare the audience. And when the film takes a sudden, jolting turn near the end, don’t expect anything that happened prior to be explained.
THE PERFECT HUSBAND (2014)
While The Perfect Husband also takes place at an isolated location and has a slow, tension-building pace that focuses mainly on the emotional states of the two main characters, it definitely defines a clearer path. Not to mention, when all is said and done, it offers a more concrete plot even after some surprises.
The title alone lets you know what to expect to some extent. Trying to reconnect after the life-changing loss of their baby, a couple heads to a cabin in the woods. The wife is struggling with guilt and suffering from nightmarish daydreams. The husband is on edge and having a hard time coping with his wife being distant.
When the wife has an accident in the woods and is helped by a hunter who brings her back to the cabin, it triggers a deep distrust in the husband, suggesting that there’s more to their past history than meets the eye. Before long, jealousy ignites an insane feud that makes The War of the Roses look like a mere lovers’ spat.
The Perfect Husband suddenly shifts into high gear, verging on torture porn at times and moving into exploitation territory. Grisly and violent, the couple’s battle to the death is loaded with blood and gore, chase scenes, and seriously unexpected “interventions” by other characters, which means a higher body count. The twists and turns keep coming right up until the last person is left standing. This one is definitely more for horror thrill-seekers.
Sex, nudity, new wave music, parties—there’s just something special about the student body being slaughtered by a killer in 80s slashers. So it’s time for six of them.
FINAL EXAM (1981)
I would say the best thing about Final Exam is the atmospheric score. Other than that, there’s nothing holding it together, so it’s all downhill after an initial kill of a couple parked in a car.
There are a bunch of college kids about to take midterms. The girls spend a lot of time talking about boys. The boys spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to pass the exam, including playing extreme pranks – like staging mass school shootings (20 years before they were the cool thing to do). A bunch of side characters are tossed in, including a coach, the sheriff, a teacher, and some other old guy. We can’t even consider them red herrings, because there’s very little suggestion for the first hour that there’s even a killer in the vicinity.
With about a half hour left, a kid left tied to a tree in his undies as part of a prank falls victim to the first kill since the intro scene. After that, there are a series of rapid-fire kills—mostly simple stabbings, and mostly taking place in the gym. The killer is just a dude in a green jacket. His face is not hidden. We don’t know who he is, we don’t know why he’s killing, we never find out.
I can appreciate how the slasher formula plays out from this point. One jock sees the killer just standing in the dark gym, lets out a tribal howl, and bum-rushes him. Pretty refreshing response, but this muscular guy is easily overpowered. There are a couple of body reveal moments. When it’s time for the final girl chase scene, she runs (all over campus) while the killer walks, but he still catches up with her. When an arrow is shot at the killer, he catches it in midair. When the final girl knocks the killer from the top of a tower building, he falls multiple stories, but when the final girl makes her way to the bottom and walks past him, he is still alive and strong enough to grab her.
So the question is, can some random dude with feathered 80s hair and wearing a green jacket have superhuman powers if it’s not Halloween or Friday the13th? I guess that question would have been answered if there had been a sequel, but I guess Final Exam just sucked too much to deserve one.
THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW (1983)
Mark Rosman, director of The House on Sorority Row, went on to direct Evolver in the 90s, but nothing can beat the perfect 80s vibe of this one.
Just before a big bash they’re throwing, a bunch of sorority girls runs in to a major problem—a cruel prank they play on their housemother ends in her death. So…they dump her body in the mucky pool she never had cleaned and go on with their plans.
As sadly overlooked new wave band 4 Out of 5 Doctors performs some of its greatest power pop hits (all of which were available on the CD Reconstructed when it was in print), partygoers begin to get gruesomely killed with the bird head cane the housemother used to carry.
Halfway through the film, there’s a shift, and suddenly, someone in a jester mask is doing the killing. This makes for one cool killer, but the plot pretty much falls apart as a new twist is introduced and plays out horribly, right up until the bizarre, unsatisfactory ending.
Let me just say that because there was never a sequel, we only kind of get a clue as to the killer’s identity, which is a huge disappointment.
THE INITIATION (1984)
Before hitting it big as Jo on Melrose Place in the 1990s, Daphne Zuniga left a mark on 80s horror – The Dorm That Dripped Blood, The Fly II, and…The Initiation. Here, she’s pledging a sorority, and as part of the initiation, she and her fellow pledges need to sneak into her father’s department store overnight.
But before that, the film pretty much spells out exactly who the killer will be. Daphne has nightmares about a little girl witnessing a murder. Daphne has no memory of her childhood because she is told she fell out of a treehouse and lost her memory. Daphne’s parents – Vera Miles of Psycho and Psycho II, and Clu Gulager of Elm Street 2 and Return of the Living Dead – freak out when they are called and informed about someone escaping a mental institution.
Daphne starts working with her cute professor on her dream problem. There’s an all-girl shower scene with boobs and bush. There’s a big costume party at which kids dance to 80s power pop, one guy dresses like an S&M caveman (?), and another like a big penis.
At last, it’s on to the department store, where things unfold pretty much like Hide & Go Shriek and Chopping Mall. Kids get naked in store, kids have sex in store, kids get killed in store, but it’s just not as scary or memorable as the two films that came after it. The guy wearing the S&M caveman outfit earlier now sports leopard print bikini underwear.
We don’t see the killer so there’s no mask, and the weapon of choice, for the most part, is a hand rake. There are bogus prank scares and lots of goofing off as the kids explore the store. Eventually, one girl is treated to loads of body reveals, there’s some chasing, and finally, the big twist.
GIRL SCHOOL SCREAMERS (1986)
Girl School Screamers has the perfect 80s opener. A kid is dared to go into an old house. Inside, he sees a zombie in a wedding dress, her skin all oozy and covered in worms! He screams, runs out, and falls into a coma….
On to the main story. Catholic school girls are sent to catalog an estate. Soon, they’re digging into the mansion’s history. There’s a painting of a woman that supposedly looks exactly like the main girl, but when it’s uncovered, there’ a goofy sound effect that practically mocks the idea (the portrait looks more like a drag queen to me). The main girl finds a diary that she reads throughout the movie (acted out in flashbacks at one point), revealing a story of a girl, her uncle, and a mysterious accident. So what better way to get answers than to hold a séance?
Finally, someone starts killing the girls off. Sure, this is a bottom of the barrel 80s slasher, but at least it hits the most crucial elements of the genre. The music score is on target. While not super gory, the kills are classic for the era—meat cleaver to the mouth, hanging on a meat hook, pitchfork, electrocution, etc. The movie even climaxes with a satisfying corpse party at which the killer and motive are revealed.
My major disappointment with Girl School Screamers is that there’s never an explanation for the zombie bride from the beginning, even though its worm-covered hand makes a random appearance, crawling through the woods at one point and taking out one of the girls.
WELCOME TO SPRING BREAK (1989)
With the shit I grew up on in the 80s, it’s no wonder I love watching every crap slasher that comes out.
In Welcome to Spring Break, a bike gang leader named Diablo is being executed for murder, while the sister of the victim and John Saxon (playing – brace yourself – a cop) watch on.
Awesome girl pop plays over the opener as two cute guys (who look great in tight 80s jeans) head to the beach for spring break.
Pretty soon, the party in the sun starts. There’s flesh galore, with both a wet T-shirt contest for the girls and an “oil the muscle stud” contest for the boys.
A cute jerk keeps playing horror pranks, and our two main guys clash with the local biker gang that so wants to be The Lost Boys.
And of course, there’s a killer. It’s pretty much the cool rider from Grease 2, and his kick ass motorcycle electrocutes anyone who touches it.
Even when the cool rider killer gets off the bike, the weapon of choice is electricity, which takes a fuck load of planning on the cool rider killer’s part.
The movie just continues to fall apart as one of the main guy’s disappears, the other main guy searches for him with help from the sister of Diablo’s victim, and John Saxon and a priest are thrown into the mix to make this an even greater disaster and give us more suspects. Finally, the cool rider killer’s helmet is removed and we get the answer to the question we’ve been singing all along: Who’s That Guy?
CUTTING CLASS (1989)
A slasher that isn’t specifically comedy, Cutting Class has enough goofy moments in it to be remembered as one of the weirdest of the genre to come out of the 80s.
Scream queen Jill Schoelen is our main girl, and her dad is leaving her alone to go hunting. It’s not very often that this setup in a horror movie takes us briefly on the father’s trip. This opener—which feels like it was made to feature someone known for comedy, hence the casting of Martin fricking Mull—makes it clear right from the start that this movie is odd.
Then we meet the main players. Jill is pretty much being lusted after by every guy she comes across: her boyfriend (Brad Pitt), her art teacher, her principal (legend Roddy McDowall), and a student just released from a stay at a mental institution that followed the mysterious death of his father. This kid seems to be obsessed with Jill…and stalking her.
As Jill and friends spend their time doing teenage stuff, it’s sort of like we’re just watching the mostly uninteresting daily school day of a bunch of average kids.
So the movie starts tossing in some teen flick farce and occasional kills to spice things up. And the school is a playground for a psycho killer – a furnace, a copy machine, the bleachers, a trampoline, an American flag.
That said, the death scenes are pretty lackluster, and almost incidental. But the soundtrack is 80s awesome, brought to us by “Mexican Radio” new wave band Wall of Voodoo (but not that song) and their lead singer, Andy Prieboy.
Eventually, Jill is chased around the school by the killer, never really sure which of her admirers actually is the killer in this slasher whodunit, which reminds me a lot of the vibe of Cherry Falls. After the climactic face-off with the killer (one of the best parts of the film), it ends with another silly scene involving Martin Mull. The 80s doesn’t get hokier than Cutting Class.
The Reeker films have floated around cable for years, and I finally watched them. Honestly, based on the title, I seriously thought they were about a rancid odor cloud that kills people. But I was so wrong. It’s really just a slasher, with the killer teleporting in the form of a smoke cloud.
People seem to loathe the Reeker movies, but right from the start, I was having a gory good time. In the opening kill scene—which involves a family on a desert road—the cloud does seem to just slice people in half.
Then we meet our clan of kids. They’re on a road trip to a rave and it turns out one of them stole drugs from his drug dealer, who is coming for him. Yay! More Reeker victims! Also along for the ride are horror names like Michael Ironside (Prom Night II, Children of the Corn: Revelation) and Eric Mabius (Resident Evil, Voodoo Moon).
Until we finally see the killer, things are pretty freaky, with partial people running around still alive.
And finally, the killer in the cloud is revealed. Reeker is a hooded dude who uses…garden tools as weapons?
It’s cheesier than pizza with a twist ending that has become quite a cliché these days, but it’s FUN, so who gives a crap?
NO MAN’S LAND: THE RISE OF THE REEKER (2008)
Yep, it’s a sequel that’s a prequel. We learn how Reeker came to be in the first ten minutes, which are worth the price of admission alone. An encounter between a geeky salesman driving through the desert and a drifter quickly turns deliciously brutal and gory.
We even get a glimpse of Reeker’s macabre lair before he rises as a supernatural, undead dude surrounded by a shimmery cloud aura and wearing a gas mask.
As much fun as I had with the first film, this mess is midnight movie slasher comedy gold. Cutie Stephen Martines (David DeCoteau’s Ring of Darkness) has committed a crime, so he escapes the cops by using a hostage – his girlfriend, played by scream queen Mircea Monroe (Bloodwork, Growth, The Blackwater’s of Echo Pond, House of the Dead 2, All Souls Day).
The cops on his tail happen to be Sergeant Getraer from Chips and Sheriff Lamb from Veronica Mars, so they’ve both had law enforcement experience. There are desert shootouts (why do these people live in the middle of no man’s land?) and plenty of bogus scares before things get oddly—and entertainingly—slapstick as they all run into an Under the Dome situation.
An invisible force field is keeping them trapped at a desert motel, so they’re sitting ducks when the Reeker comes slashin’!
Once again, there are partially sliced people still walking around (this time, they put a bag over it), blood gushing all over, body parts flying…and body parts talking! WTF? Just pop another bowl of corn and go with it.
Well, at least I can say I’m a fan of the one I was anticipating and not the one I’d never heard of until it hit streaming.
Want a scare-free horror anthology that isn’t compelling or even fun, and bleeds together nonsensical stories that make even less sense when the film tries to bring it all fall circle? Yeah, neither do I. But now I get the title of this one, because things go south pretty damn quick.
1st story – Two guys stop at a roadside restaurant, something creepy happens in the bathroom so they leave, then they are done away with in two completely different ways. Actually, one guy isn’t even done away with. He sort of just…walks off set looking for his daughter. Probably the best in the bunch simply because there’s a cool monster and some gore.
2nd story – A closed door and a passing maid brilliantly lead us to our next tale. Three girls are on a road trip. When their car breaks down, they hitch a ride with a couple that takes them home for a meal. While this turns into wickedly cliché backwoods family horror (bear trap and all), at least it’s exciting and a bit creepy. It also segues cleanly into the next story.
3rd story – On a deserted road at night, a guy strikes a girl with his car. When he calls for help, a voice – actually a few different voices direct him to a deserted hospital, where they then tell him to operate on her. Don’t expect me to try to make sense of this twilight zone that’s inside another twilight zone. But whatever. One of the voices on the phone carries us to the next story.
4th story – From what I could make of it, some dude with a shotgun comes to break a chick free of her job as a tattoo artist at a bar. At first I thought the other people in the place were demons, but in the end, it appears the guy with the gun is just dragged out of his car by a bunch of shirtless, growling hillbilly bears in need of a bottom bitch for a gang bang. And yet I still wasn’t into it.
5th story – In an effort to pander to the latest trends, Southbound closes with the most basic of home invasion stories. This one is supposed to be special because it links back to the first story. Which I guess implies that all the sinners in this movie are forever trapped in hell, which, in this case is a vicious cycle of horror anthology failure.
I really hope I was just so busy texting my friend about how bad this movie is that I missed some key element that actually somehow makes this a brilliant approach to the horror anthology genre. If I did, let me know, but I’ll probably be busy re-watching Creepshow 3 in an effort to restore my faith in anthology films and put this tragedy behind me.
It’s the one we were all waiting for – an anthology film that gives us a taste of horror for the entire calendar year. So how are the stories…and which holidays are covered?
VALENTINE’S DAY – Beginning from the start of the year, this one is a simple high school revenge story (and a love story!). The scene of the victim turning tables on her bully is so deliciously chilling it would make Carrie White envious.
PATRICK’S DAY – I can’t…even…explain it. Honestly. Too out there for me. I think…a little girl…whose dad is Danny Zuko from Grease…impregnates her teacher…by touching her belly? Anyway, the teacher and the girl both have red hair so…it’s St. Patrick’s Day?
EASTER – One of my favorites in the bunch. A little girl is terrified of the concept of Jesus coming back from the dead. It’s worse than she can imagine when Jesus—um—“partners” with the Easter Bunny….
MOTHER’S DAY – It’s all about the women. A chick gets pregnant every time she has sex—even if the guy is wearing three condoms. So she goes to some sort of women’s retreat to give birth, where the delivery sure makes a good argument for abortion.
FATHER’S DAY – This is a brooding, moody story, and I kind of liked it. A teen learns that her father – who her mother told her was dead – is still alive. So she sets out to find him using a tape recording he left her with instructions on how to get to him. BIG mistake. Creepy.
HALLOWEEN – Forget atmosphere. This one kind of just mentions it’s Halloween and makes a reference to witches and covens. Three young women in a webcam porn house are sick of being treated like whores, so they do something really nasty to their “pimp’s” asshole.
CHRISTMAS – Holy crap, it’s a familiar face. Seth Green stars as a dad who makes a horribly decision to ensure he gets his son the hot gift of the year. Turns out, that gift is a special pair of glasses that reveals things about the person wearing them.
NEW YEAR’S EVE – Begin strong, finish strong. This darkly comic final short has a serial killer getting a real surprise when he goes out with his latest victim on a New Year’s Eve date. Love it.
It’s almost like every other story in this anthology did it for me. I’m kind of surprised there was no Independence Day short, but the movie actually runs an hour and 45 minutes as it is, so that could have brought it up to a full 2 hours (shudder). And while the Halloween short is deliciously perverse, it’s kind of shocking that the most crucial of all holidays to horror fans – in a holiday themed anthology – is virtually void of everything that evokes the mood of the holiday. I’m kind of on the fence about whether or not this one needs to be added to my film collection. Who am I kidding? I’ll add it.
While the brutality and torture continues to escalate in modern horror, every once in a while, a farcical show like The Ghouligans comes along, celebrating classic movie monsters and capturing the spirit of more innocent monster comedies like The Addams Family, The Munsters, and Groovie Goolies.
Creeporia – which consists of a series that was then combined into two movies that were then combined into one long three and a half hour movie for streaming – brings the concept into the modern age, adding baddies like Leatherface and Hannibal Lecter to the mix of “classic monsters.” It also injects whimsical animation, silent film sequences, classic movie clips, and musical numbers into the live action scenes.
Much of what takes place feels more like skits strung together than an actual plot. I couldn’t even tell when the first “movie” ended and the second began, because plot, which is pretty damn entertaining, is weighed down by too many unnecessary distractions. In fact, it’s not until an hour in that the story really kicks in.
Here’s the basic premise when you strip it of the excessive fluff. Vampire actress Creeporia was locked away in a movie studio prop coffin since the 1950s, when she was working on Roger Corman. After two crewmembers let her out, she reconnects with her old monster friends, getting a job as hostess at the local wax museum where they all work.
Sad because kids don’t think they’re scary anymore, the monsters have now given up and simply pretend to be figures in the wax museum. But the place is going under, so Creeporia comes up with a plan to help her cute boss save his business. The monsters put on a musical!
I think that is the plot of the first movie. In the second movie, Creeporia’s boss-turned-love-interest becomes possessed, so she and her monster friends must figure out a way to exorcise his demon. Just as the first hour took too much time getting to the point, the last hour also drags on way too much. It also relies heavily on animated scenes, as well as a lengthy silent film segment that becomes tedious after a while. Finally, the monsters take on a 2D videogame demon monster that looks like something out of a Super Nintendo game.
The character of Creeporia is like a much more innocent Elvira (the film seriously lacks sexual double entendres), the horror references are loads of fun for diehard fans, and there are plenty of funny moments sprinkled throughout. However, there is so much padding that this is better watched in small doses as originally intended – maybe 20-minute to 30-minute installments at a time.
It really would have benefited the creators if they had paired the two films down to one feature running about an hour and a half. The script would have been tighter, the funniest jokes could have kept the laughs coming nonstop, and the pacing would have been vastly improved. Not to mention, Creeporia should have been given a couple more songs, because her big number, which sounds like a mashup of “Thriller” and “Weird Science,” totally rules.
One action zombie flick and one sophisticated zombie film – and they have nothing going for them but the zombies.
NAVY SEALS vs. ZOMBIES (2015)
So many men, so little fun. Basketball player Rick Fox (foxy Fox) plays the Vice President of American, holding a press conference. It is blatantly obvious that he was directed to act and behave exactly like President Obama. Suddenly, infected folk start attacking people. Call in the Navy SEALs to go rescue the VP.
Navy sausage party is more like it! This is one studly group of bearded bears, led by horror hottie Ed Quinn (House of the Dead II, The Caller, The Last Light, Werewolf: The Beast Among Us), and including wrestler Gunner. This is also one seriously white sausage party. There seriously isn’t a single bear of color in this group. But I guess it’s okay, because the VP is black?
My first disappointment (second if you add the lack of black bears) came when 80s American Ninja hottie Michael Dudikoff (Radioactive Dreams) is denied the comeback action role I was hoping for. He’s simply stationed at a base, barking orders over the communication system. Blah.
Now for my next disappointment. There’s this initial zombie attack scene in which one of the zombies is on the ground on its back, and suddenly arches itself into the spider walk position then simply inclines itself back into a standing position! So much focus is put on this scene that I was sure it was going to be a special ability of all the zombies, but nothing like it ever happens again.
Instead, we pretty much get a generic zombie video game. The SEALs have to find the VP. The SEALs have to get the VP to a helicopter. The SEALS have to go look for survivors when the helicopter crashes. The SEALS are ordered to go get a flesh sample for scientists. The entire “plot” is a series of missions – complete one mission then get assigned another. Further giving this an action video game feel is the soundtrack – all the fight scenes are set to guitar driven music. And look at that poster above. It’s like the artwork on a fricking Wii game.
The most basic zombie clichés are embarrassingly announced like we’re a bunch of amateurs. The more pedestrian characters in the film make comments such as, “I think you get infected when they bite you” and “You have to shoot them in the head!” It’s the professional scientist responsible for the biochemical testing who states the obvious, saying, “They’re zombies, for lack of a better word.”
At least the zombies look cool, like they’ve been rotting in the grave for years, even though they are simply people infected by a government test substance. Plus, there’s one standout line in the movie. When the SEALs surround a guy with guns raised, he announces, “I’m infected! But…it’s just pink eye.”
ANGER OF THE DEAD (2015)
Once again, a zombie film tries to rise above old school zombie movie clichés…by giving us every cliché of the character driven, “it’s about humanity” zombie dramas of today. This story has been told over and over. Not to mention, The Walking Dead has been drawing each of these zombie drama clichés out over multiple episodes and seasons for this entire decade.
Woman finds out she’s pregnant, calls her husband, and he says not to leave their home or let anyone in—just as her little daughter is answering a bang on the door. A while later, woman takes the sight of her devoured daughter pretty damn well. She runs out of the house and a man driving by in a car picks her up.
4 Months Later
Forget about backstory or plot development. We see some chick held captive and being abused. We see three baddies in the woods having a ten-minute conversation that tells us nothing other than the fact that they are quite mean.
We see a car full of people, and we barely realize that two of them are the man and woman from the intro scene because her hair is now down and long and he has a beard.
The movie just jumps back and forth between these characters, exploring their feelings and letting us know the emotional toll a zombie apocalypse takes on your life. Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. Once in a while, there’s a freakish zombie. Eventually, the characters’ paths all cross and it’s the baddies vs. the goodies with an occasional zombie tripping them up. Brace yourself for this shocker – humans are actually worse monsters than zombies. Gasp.
Oh. And in an effort to throw a few more zombies into the film, the main girl has a couple of scary dreams.
Not to take away from some of the good performances in the film, but it would be great if someone just edited out all the talking and gave us a five-minute short of cool zombies. I’m just so sick of all the zom-dram.
One is as straightforward as slashers get, the other takes a very odd structural approach to the genre. I was pretty surprised by which one I liked better.
MOST LIKELY TO DIE (2015)
Director Anthony DiBlasi is racking up the horror, but his films are hit or miss for me. I’m a fan of Dreadand Last Shift, but wasn’t too impressed with Cassadaga. And while Most Likely to Die caters to my most basic slasher tastes, it falls very flat.
After an intro kill scene (that happens off screen), a bunch of 20-somethings gathers at a house for a 10-year reunion pre-party.
The crew this time includes Heather “Brittany S. Pierce” Morris of Glee as the main girl, Perez Hilton as the resident squealing gay, and Jake Busey as, well, the creepy old weird dude. Yes, he plays his father.
There’s way too much cheesy, uninteresting rehashing of high school drama as they all get reacquainted. They also recall the kid they used to torment and would degrade even further by only referring to him as “John Doe.” Uh-oh. Finally, they find the body of the first murdered friend…and then pretty much go back to arguing over their old high school drama.
The basic premise is that they get killed off based on their yearbook superlatives, but that idea falls apart quickly. The film would have been better off just sticking with its strongest deaths—the killer, dressed for graduation and wearing a mask, apparently has a blade lining the square rim of a graduation cap and uses it a couple of times to simply slices victims open. Totally awesome—but a couple of times isn’t enough.
Unfortunately, the kills are pretty tame overall, not to mention few and far between. There are way too many survivors when all is said and done. There’s only one good jump scare and Heather gets a chase scene (yay!). Perez is the gay comic relief and pulls it off pretty well, but the humor seems out of place in an otherwise serious film, so his shrill performance is more likely to garner him more haters. Also, during the denouement, the killer gives a rather overly long motivation monologue. Finally, the film sets us up for a sequel that could pretty much take place minutes after this one ends.
I love my slashers, but honestly, unless Most Likely to Die is slapped onto a multi-movie disc set, I personally wouldn’t add it to my collection.
THE TENANT (2010)
This messy little flick is fucking awesome, IMO. The first kill scene alone rules, even though it means nothing to the rest of the movie. Guy and girl sneak into an abandoned asylum and get massacred—particularly the girl. So sad. She had such a pretty face….
Next, The Tenant does the weirdest thing. What should have been a 5-minute intro scene showing how the killer came to be is instead a 40-minute mini-movie about an incident 28 years earlier. A doctor at the asylum is trying to create a cure for all that ails humanity. Naturally, he’s experimenting with patients, which serves as an excuse to have horror icon Michael Berryman in chains for a 5-minute scene.
The doctor is also being urged by his pregnant wife to stop experimenting…which pisses off his assistant, who has plans of her own.
This first part has the kind of cheesy, 80s direct-to-video feel I love, and actually reminds me of many movies of the period about devious scientists and their experiments going really wrong—Re-animator, From Beyond, etc. Indie horror actor Randy Molnar is perfectly cast as the doctor. He looks and acts like he was born to play the dastardly scientist in 80s horror.
40 minutes into the film, and it is time to do a one-eighty! We’re back to the present, the film looks and feels like a modern slasher from the 2000s, and a bunch of deaf kids and some adults are driving in a van in the rain—with no explanation as to why they’re all together or where they’re headed. Does it matter? No. Their vehicle breaks down, so they seek shelter in the nearby abandoned asylum!
Within minutes, deaf kids are being yanked through walls and we meet our big, hideous killer.
The death scenes are fast and vicious, not to mention wickedly gory in some cases. There’s also an eye-rolling twist concerning the connection one of the characters has to the asylum.
In other words, I immediately added The Tenant to my movie collection after streaming it.