Kevin Connor, USA, 1980, 102 mins.
Film #1: Motel Hell. I watched this film at far too young an age. I remember not liking it because the creepy pig-headed (literally) character wasn’t present through enough of the movie. This was in a time when horror icons like Leatherface, Jason, and Michael ran the horror scene for kids like me. Watching it now, I can appreciate the creativity with the characters and the general creep-out factors. But still, this film really left me with a whole lot of questions: why did the girl become so easily accepting of these strangers?, why where they planting/”growing” people?, was it all tongue-in-cheek or was is trying to be scary? My biggest question: Why was the motel important at all??? Was the motel just part of it because it made a fun title? They hardly featured it in the film. Maybe Garden of Meat’en would’ve been more appropriate?
James L. Conway, USA, 1981, 95 mins.
Film #2: The Boogens. I don’t really know where to begin with this one. The title makes it seem ridiculously obscure. I had never heard of this film. The title really had me worried. Surprisingly, it was one of the more palatable and accessible of the movies shown during this “thon”. The idea was really simple and formulaic for an 80s horror film. A couple of young male recent college grads take an odd job of mining in a small country town, one single and the other enamored with his girlfriend. Naturally his girlfriend joins him and brings along another lady they’re certain will hit it off with the single young man. They also bring along an incredibly cute and talented pooch. This dog stole the show for a good chunk of the second act. At any rate, the acting was actually pretty solid. The set pieces were pretty impressive; the underground pond setting was really aesthetically pleasing. The only real issue was the pacing and budget; the pacing was clearly suffering due to the low budget. But figuring that this was an 80s horror, I say it’s pretty stellar.
Jean-Claude Lord, Canada, 1982, 105 mins.
Film #3: Visiting Hours. Wow! Another title I had never heard of. Michale Ironside’s name popped up on the screen and I knew we were in for something of quality. Visiting hours follows Deborah Ballin, a journalist who is quite outspoken on TV regarding a recent controversial trial, and Colt Hawker, a disturbed killer. After Deborah’s opinion is aired, Colt attacks her in her home. Though she manages to escape, she ends up in the hospital. The remainder of the film is spent watching Colt find new and interesting ways to get into the hospital to kill Deborah. Each time he makes it in he seems to find himself with situations that cause him to claim another victim but leaves Deborah alive. A decent supporting cast helps this movie move along, albeit slowly. I still haven’t figured out why he had to break into the hospital so many times. It felt like there were three or four break-ins. But really, Michael Ironside was a joy to watch, as usual. William Shatner was himself, and it was a treat to see him on screen, but he really didn’t add anything of significance.
Lewis Teague, USA, 1983, 91 mins.
Film #4: Cujo. I’m glad I saw this in the theater. I saw it years ago. I thought it was pretty basic. And it is. But the storytelling was so solid on this. The way the story was told for this was so cohesive, the basic concept wasn’t what I was watching. I was watching the smooth transitions in the web that was being weaved with the plot. I still have no desire to watch this again but I’m happy I was able to see it in the theater with a group of people. The cast was pretty solid. The kid was great. Though the overall story was cohesive, there was one really odd moment in the film. I did not fully understand the weird subplot of the mechanic’s family; it suddenly seemed like I was supposed to dislike the mechanic and that the mechanic’s wife knew Cujo was evil. That whole moment just happened with no real warning. From a very basic standpoint it was a clear pivot to the psychological horror that was about to happen. The dominos fell into place. But, those few scenes with the mechanic and his family felt very out of place. Overall, I’m really happy I saw this with a group of people in the theater.
Avery Crounse, USA, 1983, 90 mins.
Film #5: Eyes of Fire. I had no clue. I mean sure, they gave us a clue listing that this film was a period piece. I never could’ve predicted this one. Never. This movie was so wildly confusing, I don’t know where to begin. It was narrated by two young female characters who followed this preacher fellow to some wild pilgrimage to nowhere after having been tried for witchcraft or adultery…I’m not sure. He was not a witch but it seemed to be an issue with…I really don’t know. He had a girl that followed him who was a witch but she couldn’t speak…much…for some reason. And the woman he was sleeping with, well her husband who’s up and… this hurts to try to explain the movie. I’m not going to try. The acting was pretty bad with the expecting of the “da”, Marion. He was alright, believable. Other than that this movie was suffering from some major budget issues and a script that did not seem to be anything other than a first draft of some wild fever dream. I cannot believe, not for one second, someone read this script, gave feedback, made revisions, and knowing paid for this movie to be made with the hopes of people enjoying it. Something went terribly wrong in the production process.
John “Bud” Cardos, USA, 1984, 99 mins.
Film #6: Night Shadows aka Mutant. I really liked where this movie was going. It had an American Werewolf in London vibe to it; two guys traveling in an unknown location with spooky stuff afoot. The location in this film was set in the Deep South. The folks proved slightly, no, outwardly hostile and caused a little car trouble for our main actors…brothers, I think. Things take a quick turn for the worse once they try to find some help from the rest of the locals. Not only are they met with some rude folks over and over again, they begin to uncover some odd “zombie” conspiracy. There’s a few trusting people that provide some assistance along the way. The pace was seemingly solid but I couldn’t hold my head up for the second half of the film. I saw a lot. What I saw I liked. I’ll have to revisit this one again soon.
Claudio Fragasso, Italy, 1984, 84 mins.
Film #7: Monster Dog. Alice Copper. Alice Cooper as a aging rock star. Alice Copper as a rock star trying to make the next big music video at a creepy old mansion. Throw in some dubbing. No. Throw in all the dubbing. Don’t worry about the fact that the cast is already speaking English. Also, make it about werewolves. But the catch? Film it mostly on a set, disguised as a foggy part of somewhere. Yeah, we have a cool mansion looking set, so it’ll work. Oh, and it’d be super cool if we use the werewolf idea to have the mysterious werewolf never turn into a werewolf and he/she controls dogs instead. Oh, and throw in a twist ending that makes no sense. But, it was fun. Silly fun.
Michael Winner, USA, 1984, 89 mins.
Film #8: Scream for Help. “I’m very forgiving of others’ sexual foibles” says the stepfather to his stepdaughter in an odd and memorable scene from Scream for Help. This film was something wildly unexpected. Yes, even from Exhumed Films. The title here doesn’t really align with the product on film. In this particular case, it is totally okay. This movie follows a young teenage girl, Christie, as she looks for clues and evidence to confirm what she fears, her stepfather is trying to kill her mother. There’s a sleuth quality to this film that also operates as a bit of a thriller. I believe it’s unintentional but there are some majorly comic moments in this film; mostly delivered by the dialogue but a few ridiculous, surprising reveals. To be honest, the cast was pretty solid, save the lady who played the mother. Watching this with an audience made this movie a lot of fun. With the exception that crimes can only occur at 2 am, the script had a pretty solid flow. I really enjoyed this and it was a highlight during the “thon”. It might help to mention this film was penned by Tom Holland who has done some excellent work on films that followed this; Child’s Play and Fright Night, I feel, are particularly worth mentioning.
Buddy Cooper and John S. Douglass, USA, 1985, 86 mins.
Film #9: The Mutilator. The title and poster have no relationship to the images that played from that celluloid, in my opinion. So misleading. Maybe that’s what made me not care for this movie. It was super 80s, that’s for sure. The cast was pretty enjoyable to watch but the script had so many holes it managed to give me anxiety about how many unanswered questions they’d leave me with at the end of the film. It was loaded with weird moments that made little to no sense. It’s starts off with the biggest question that caused this snowball. It opens with a child preparing to clean his father’s guns for his birthday. As he cleans them he accidentally fires one which shoots through a wall and hits his mother in another room, killing her. Here’s the kicker. Fast forward around twenty years. The kid is in college and his dad calls him up to invite him home to close up their beach house. Let me stop here. It’s clear someone said it would be terrifying if a kid accidentally shoots his parent but then they also wanted a college-kids-being-hunted-by-a-slasher-at-a-beach-house movie. The connection did not work. It also is incredibly far from being a “mutilator”. It’s ultimately a slasher flick. And it’s not a very good one.
Robert Harmon, USA, 1986, 97 mins.
Film #10: The Hitcher. Rutger Hauer. C.Thomas Howell. A long stretch of desert road. Rutger Hauer is a terrifying hitchhiker who enjoys playing games with his prey. It only suffers from the same thing Visiting Hours suffered from; Rutger Hauer spends most of the movie having his attempts at murdering C.Thomas Howell thwarted only to find a new, creative way to reappear and do the same thing over again.
Steve Miner, USA, 1986, 93 mins.
Film #11: House. I feel so incredibly lucky to have seen this in the theater, with a group of people, and on a beautiful 35 mm print. This movie holds a special place in my heart. The cover of this VHS tape caught my eye at a very young age and I picked it up. Many, many times I rented this movie. Sure, for a ten year old, this movie can be frightening but I saw the charm in the characters even then. It also has a ton of comedic relief and the scares are few and far between. It tells the story of a haunted house and it’s effect on a family. Rodger, a relatively famous author is going through some tough times. He is trying to keep his writing success going but wants to write about his experience in Vietnam. His publishers don’t agree on that idea. He’s also going through a tough divorce, which appears to be a byproduct of his child having been kidnapped. He moves into the “house” to clear his head. That’s when the adventure begins. The house starts to play games with Rodger. But he also starts to find clues to his past and where his son may have ended up. Bonus points to the fantastic acting and delivery by the neighbor, played by George Wendt.
George Pavlou, United Kingdom/Ireland, 1987, 89 mins.
Film #12: Rawhead Rex. What? Why? How? This movie really exists. I’ve seen some weird stuff but this may take the cake. The actual concept of a town having a bizarre cultish deity that is resurrected and comes to rule?, I suppose is reasonable. I can accept that. But the creature effects for Rawhead Rex are ludicrously absurd and terrible. Also, he’s practically the Tasmanian devil. He only destroys everything in his path. How is that a deity? That’s where I lost it. Well, the horrible effects lost me too. The townsfolk were all pretty well cast. The setup and flow of the script worked too. It was just Rawhead Rex, the name, the makeup, the concept…it just did not work. This movie was awesome to see. Just to finally see what the hype is all about. The hype here though is weirdly less deserving than Tommy Wiseau’s The Room.
Tom Holland, USA, 1988, 87 mins.
Film #13: Child’s Play. This film…wow. It stole the show, in my opinion. I’ve seen this movie so many times. But to watch it in the theater with a group of people elevated it to another level. This movie is so good. Really. Sure, I know, it’s about a murderous doll and today, Chucky is iconic. He’s known for his snarky cheesy dialogue and well being a creepy doll. With the cheese-factor elevated in today’s renditions, it’s lost its effect over time but the original was really, really well done. The story is quite solid. It’s about a notorious murderer running from the cops. He’s known as the Lakeshore Strangler. After a firefight, he’s cornered in a toy store. Clearly he’s into something supernatural and voodoo-related as he talks about possessing another body. In haste, he grabs a Good Guy doll, a popular children’s toy in the film’s reality. Cue the young child, Andy, who really wants a Good Guy doll for his birthday. Enter Chucky into Andy’s life. That’s where the terror begins. It all makes sense, for what it is. The effects are incredibly effective. The pacing is perfect. This movie is fun, tense, and genuinely unnerving. So much fun.
Brian Yuzna, USA, 1989, 99 mins.
Film #14: Society. This may seem lazy. Or clever. But, I will practically take my review from Reahead Rex and replace a few words to get a similar effect. That’s how I felt about them both…
What? Why? How? This movie really exists. I’ve seen some weird stuff but this may take the cake. The actual concept of a town having a bizarre cultish group of rich folks that is “a different species” and feeding off the poor, I suppose is reasonable for a story. I can accept that. But the creature effects for “the shunting” are ludicrously great for what they are but absurd and vile. There were some truly gross out, ridiculous moments. That’s where I lost it. I don’t mind over the top but it just didn’t fit. The townsfolk were all pretty well cast. I can’t get it out of my head that these folks actually agreed to do this film. The setup and flow of the script worked, somewhat though. It was just the shunting; the name, the makeup, the concept…it just did not work for me. It might have if it was overkill for the last twenty minutes of the film; what felt like an eternity. This movie was awesome to see though, just to finally experience what the hype is all about. The hype here though is weirdly less deserving than Tommy Wiseau’s The Room.