#1375 Halloween 2020: Invaders From Mars (1986)

Tobe Hooper’s modern version of the 1953 movie of the same name ticks more boxes than what I’ve seen in all this Halloween; the movie looks lovely and colourful, the spooky atmosphere is there, the tale is a bit twisted in a very good sense, there are weird mind altering aliens involved, and the movie captures extremely well all of this from the perspective of a kid. I’m sure the 8-year old me would have loved this movie to bits.

Too bad the movie does not reinvent the any of the plot line of the original movie – especially during its third act.

This portion of the movie is spent chasing the martians inside an alien dungeon, and although the setting and martians themselves look menacing – and cartoony in a good way – this feels like a total faux pas given the great buildup. I’d much rather followed how the ongoing alien infestation above ground and the proverbial noose tightening around the necks of those in the know.

The Poltergeist related mystery between directors Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg gets sort of a continuum in Invaders From Mars as the movie looks and feels almost as lush as If it was Spielberg sitting on that director’s seat. Hooper certainly had the gift comparable to the best of the Hollywood what it came to charging his films full of the kind of movie magic that separates the best from mundane creations.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 75%

#1374 Halloween 2020: The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1984)

The Hills Have Eyes Part II, a continuum to the 1977 original movie – apparently some sort of a cult classic – is one of the most soulless duds of a movie I’ve seen in ages.

Basically your typical teen slasher, but taking place in a desert instead of forest, The Hills Have Eyes Part II brings absolutely nothing refreshing to the table, and the few odd variables that are present here (motorcycles, a goofball sidekick baddie, shot in darkness without adequate lighting) make the movie even worse than 99% of its rivals – and those rivals aren’t exactly state of the art cinema. To make things even worse, the padding of the movie is painfully obvious, with prolonged scenes and unnecessary flashbacks from the original movie.

Director Wes Craven who would have his huge breakthrough in the same year with A Nightmare on Elm Street has later disowned the movie, stating it was released only because he needed the movie at the moment.

80s-o-meter: 40%

Total: 4%

#1373 Halloween 2020: Children of the Corn (1984)

When a movie presents some implausible events and plot twists and later explains them with some supernatural activities, I always find it kind of weaselling out. An exception to the rule, with Children of the Corn it works.

This is because nothing much until that moment works in the movie adaptation. I’ve never read the original short story, but I suspect this is the case where the eery, menacing feeling Stephen King puts into his writing never translates to the silver screen. It’s not like it’s the first time as there are much more duds than successes.

Given that the title is well known, Children of the Corn is a disappointment that does not impose nowhere enough threat or horror, and as the source of the horror is exposed to the viewer, it makes it feel even milder, when exact the opposite should be pursued.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 52%

#1372 Halloween 2020: Madman (1982)

Another permutation of the Halloween / Friday the 13th style teenagers in the wilderness slasher, Madman boasts one of the ugliest posters around (there’s another, even a more horrid version available) but surprises positively, thanks to very, very low expectations.

Instead of opting for super imaginative kills often seen in the genre, Madman hits the nail on the head with its eery scares that are made scarier by being able to relate to them. I mean, who of us has never stood in a pitch black forest, lighting the bushes nearby with a flashlight, and really hoped you won’t reveal someone or something looking right back at you? This is what separates Madman from slashers, all of which I don’t even pass for horror.

The movie resembles me of the 1987 horror movie Slaughterhouse both with its rural theme and its antagonist, but fails to leave a similar lasting impression. Still, pretty good for a braindead slasher.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 62%

#1371 Halloween 2020: Ghost Town (1988)

Ghost Town was one of the movies I was looking forward the most this Halloween as I’d admired the poster already for a few years. What we have here is a story of a highway cop following a person gone missing and all of sudden finding himself trapped in a western ghost town.

I was surprised to learn about the problems in the production (financial problems with Empire Pictures and directors being changed on the fly), since Ghost Town is one solid looking movie that leaves very little to complain about visually.

The problem with Ghost Town is that it’s much too tame, sort of like a Disney ghost ride that checks all the marks visually, but will really manage to scare only those with their age still in the single-digits.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 58%

#1370 Halloween 2020: Fear No Evil aka Mark of the Beast (1981)

Remember that class weirdo that never spoke to anyone and was just concentrated on some eccentric hobby of his and kept to himself for the most of the time. In Fear No Evil, that guy turns out to be the reincarnation of Lucifer, who then releases his wrath by raising a group of dead from their graves to attack a Passion Play organised by the local church.

Although the plot is nothing get excited about, the actual problems with Fear No Evil are to do more in the overall execution. I can see the concept working with more of an over the top execution with tons of humour thrown into the mix, similarly to The Return of the Living Dead, but with the dry and dodgy approach seen here, Fear No Evil ends up one of the bigger disappointments of this particular Halloween.

80s-o-meter: 35%

Total: 22%

#1369 Halloween 2020: Beyond Evil (1980)

Possibly one of the lamest horror movies I’ve seen to date, Beyond Evil is in all of its aspects very much a 70s movie that doesn’t have anything else to bring into the 80s but only the stale smell of the past.

A witch like creature possesses the woman who’s just moved into the mansion with her husband and makes her do all sorts of evil. What follows is a lame collection of jump scares and dodgy, drawn on film effects that couldn’t have possibly looked convincing even back in early 80s, let alone in 2020.

80s-o-meter: 30%

Total: 8%

#1368 Halloween 2020: Alone in the Dark (1982)

Although the two are not related, Alone in the Dark as a title has always had a special meaning to me thanks to Infogrames’ 1992 PC horror game and I only later learned a movie of the same name exists and it has bit of a cult following as well.

The movie follows the path set by many contemporary slashers, but instead of recreating the tired plot of horny teenagers in the wood, hunted by a super human immune to any weapon, Alone in the Dark throws into the mix a few more seasoned actors (Jack Palance, Martin Landau, Donald Pleasence), four mental patients escaping from an asylum and the occupants of one house that actually try to put up a decent fight against them, instead of running around like a bunch of headless chicken.

Alone in the Dark is a unique, breath of a fresh air for the people who enjoy their slashers, but have seen far too many to really enjoy them.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 60%

#1367 Halloween 2020: Nomads (1986)

Nomads marks for two interesting debuts: it’s the first leading role for the Irish actor Pierce Brosnan in a feature film, and John McTiernan’s directorial debut.

Story wise Nomads is a bit dud, with group of haunted motorcycle gang tormenting a French couple who just moved to USA. Brosnan’s French accent is totally unnecessary, and the gang itself falls short of similar baddie cliques seen on the silver screen. It’s an ok ride that hints the chance of greatness, but never redeems those expectations.

What Nomads gets absolutely right though is the haunting atmosphere that was picked up by Arnold Schwarzenegger which lead to McTiernan first directing two possibly the most bad ass iconic action movies of the 80s: Predator in 1987, and Die Hard the following year.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 67%

#1366 The Jigsaw Murders (1989)

I’ve gone through this before; given the sky high quality of the thrillers these days that offer plot twists after plot twists, it’s hard to get impressed with the 80s offerings.

But what actually works for the benefit of The Jigsaw Murders is the way how refreshingly straight forward it is: someone gets murdered, the evidence gets piled up against a suspect, and finally it’s a question of getting enough evidence (with legal means) to put him away.

As the book of movie clichés would have it, the senior detective struggles with alcoholism, but the movie handles this side of the story interestingly, stripping any sorts of movie glamour out of it.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 72%

#1365 Children of a Lesser God (1986)

Children of a Lesser God seals what I’ve already known about William Hurt: he is one if not the top actor of his generation, but one that has the uncanny ability not to overpower and suffocate other actors despite his strong screen presence, much for the benefit of the movie.

In the Children of a Lesser God he is accompanied by Marlee Matlin who plays an angry young deaf woman who’s been burned before both in love and communicating through sound, and has built a castle of total silence around her. Hurt as her love interest is the first one to get invitation to that fortress, but only if he joins her in that silence.

35 years after its box office date, Children of a Lesser God still feels fresh and interesting, thanks to its exploration into the world of the deaf, a topic not that much covered in mainstream movies, and the way it does not present either of the parties’ sides as the sole truth. First and foremost a love story between the two leads, what I thought was missing from otherwise near perfect movie was how it concentrated on telling the story through Hunt’s characters, and really getting into the deaf world of Sarah, where the real movie magic might’ve started.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 90%

#1364 Chained Heat (1983)

Apparently one of the definite women in prison movies of the 80s due to featuring Linda Blair, Chained Heat wasn’t the movie that’d finally convert me to a fan of the genre.

What I liked about it was just how over the top (and all over the place in general) the movie is. This is the weirdest prison I’ve ever seen with seemingly no boundaries: every prisoner is free to roam wherever they want and are often invited to the warden’s private luxury room of sexy-time with jacuzzi and cameras.

Other than that, it’s pretty standard ride. The women are much too sexy and well groomed to be prisoners, all the guards are sadists and the movie culminates with your typical vengeful prison riot.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 25%

#1363 Big Business (1988)

Two sets of identical twin sisters for two families of the opposite spectrum of richness are born at the same time in a small rural hospital, and get mixed up in nursery, resulting in two sets of non-identical step-sister twins, who then end up growing without ever knowing the existence of their actual identical biological sisters. That is, until fate brings them together.

While it would be easy to give Big Business a hard time for its utterly implausible and silly premise, it’s more admirable to praise the director Jim Abrahams and actors Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin for pulling it all off in a believable manner.

As you’d expect from an Abrahams comedy, the humor finds its mark, and the pacing of the movie makes it easy to watch. The visual tricks of mixing all four unrelated siblings on the screen at the same time is flawless, thanks to clever choreography and the groundbreaking post production work done by Industrial Light & Magic.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 86%

#1362 Oh! Heavenly Dog (1980)

An early 80s Chevy Chase comedy I had been storing for a bad day turned out to be a complete letdown.

As a matter in fact, it isn’t a Chevy Chase comedy to begin with, but a Benji adventure where Chevy Chase plays a detective who gets killed while investigating and comes back from heaven as a dog to solve the case. Yawn.

This is one of those movies where its really hard to tell to which audience segment it was meant for; too childish for the grown ups and too violent and raunchy for the kids, Oh! Heavenly Dog makes a hard case to recommend to anyone but die hard Benji fans.

80s-o-meter: 74%

Total: 17%

#1361 The Heavenly Kid (1985)

A delight of a comedy, The Heavenly Kid takes the often seen formula of dying and coming back from heaven to rectify one’s wrongdoings and with a few original twists and tweaks makes the concept work.

First of all, Lewis Smith as Bobby, a good willed, but a bit empty headed cool cat is a perfect cast for the role and he is a delight to watch on the silver screen. Also the plot line of Bobby having to deal with his former girlfriend in the current day, now married to his former worst rival makes the whole concept much more interesting.

Lastly, Richard Mulligan adds a certain spark of magic to it all as a Rafferty, the worst ever spectral mentor on a motorcycle.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 88%

#1360 Spring Break (1983)

Spring Break could be considered one of the definite teen sex comedies of the era. But not because it goes even more overboard and into bad taste than its rivals, but for managing to be truly genuine and relatable, but still fun all the way.

Unlike some 80s party comedies that can be outright mean and womanising, Spring Break is actually good willing in its nature, and Perry Lang’s likeable underdog college nerd makes for an easy character to identify with.

The subplot involving Nelson’s step-father might be a bit unnecessary, but it’s not the worst I’ve seen and does bring some variation to the mix, and wraps up the movie quite satisfyingly.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 84%

#1359 She’s Having a Baby (1988)

She’s Having a Baby, one of director/writer John Hughes’ rare misses in the 80s misses the snappy writing usually seen in Hughes’ movies. The movie plays out pretty much as expected, with the exception that the movie is written totally from the guy’s point of view.

At first he does not want to get married – but goes on with in nonetheless – has second thoughts about his relationship and career, until the big news about his fiancé expecting a baby hit. The woman in the movie is written as one-dimensional sidekick whose role is to nag and be difficult in all sorts of ways.

Two aspects redeem the movie being a total failure. The depiction of the banal life in suburbs through musical numbers like the lawnmower dance is side-splittingly hilarious, and the ending that manages to grasp the heart like like you’d expect of a John Hughes movie.

If Kevin Bacon’s character seems vaguely familiar, you might have seen him in a clever camio in the beginning of Hughes’ Planes, Trains & Automobiles as the blue collar drone racing with Steve Martin to catch a taxi.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 70%

#1358 The Milagro Beanfield War (1988)

When I think of the world I often see it as an endless source of interesting tales – big and small – that beg to be told. And this is kind of where The Milagro Beanfield War tries to tap into, a small little tale taking place in a small town in New Mexico, involving small people fighting for their right.

Problem is, that story is not very interesting at any given time and with a few exceptions (Sheriff Montoya, old man Cordova) the movie does not present the characters in a way that makes the viewer care for them.

The movie felt tediously long and ends up with very few surprises. As the end credits rolled I couldn’t help but to speculate that maybe the small town next to Milagro could have had a more interesting tale to be shared.

80s-o-meter: 51%

Total: 38%

#1357 Bloodsport (1988)

Bloodsport, one of the definite martial arts / sports movies of the 80s still delivers!

While Jean-Claude Van Damme’s career is patchy to say the least, it’s here that he is at his very best, presenting impressive moves and showing certain on screen charism. Donald Gibb feels at first like an odd match for Van Damme, but ends up making the movie much more memorable than a more conventional choice.

The movie is just the right amount over the edge and built to push all the right buttons for the fans of the genre; Bloodsport aims to entertain, and it does so with flying colors (and kicks).

80s-o-meter: 94%

Total: 93%

#1356 Endangered Species (1982)

Funny how some things blend into one in your memory when you don’t put your thoughts on a paper right after seeing a movie. I watched Endangered Species about two weeks ago along with The Return and they’ve turned into one and the same movie in my head.

But I’m not completely to be blamed here as the similarities are many: both movies have a supernatural theme, take place in a small distant town and feature a liaison between a stranger coming to the town and a local law enforcement officer, with one of them battling alcoholism.

I can’t see myself watching either one again, but for the future reference, Endangered Species is the stronger one of the two, with a more solid and interesting story about government cover ups. But unlike The Return that went far too much into the supernatural, Endangered Species left me wishing it would’ve leaned even more to huge conspiration theories that its premise is built upon. Now it manages to build up the story and whet my appetite, but does not provide the big payback I so craved for in the end.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 67%