#1408 Halloween 2020: The House on Sorority Row aka House of Evil (1982)

Widely dubbed as ”one of the better slashers” out there, The House on Sorority Row follows a pack of sorority girls who clash with their sorority house mother over arranging a party and end up killing her by accident. The party does go on as planned, but guests start to go missing one by one in a true slasher fashion.

I applaud the team in taking a bit different approach with the movie – and they do manage to make it more memorable – but even with a few high points, The House on Sorority Row is ultimately just a thriller, with the negative aspects that come with the genre, and the disappointing ending does very little to help its case.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 60%

#1407 Halloween 2020: Death House aka Zombie Death House (1988)

John Saxon directs and stars in Death House, a zombie horror game taking place in one of these special movie prisons. And as always, the authorities that run the penitentiary are up to no good, this time around using the convicts on a death row as guinea pigs for experimental drugs.

After one of the experiments goes south, turning the prisoner a bubbling pile of flesh, the jail goes to lockdown and everyone inside still not zombified try make it out one way or another.

Death House is almost as plain 80s action thriller horror as they come, but in a good way; the movie delivers what it promises in a positively entertaining package.

80s-o-meter: 93%

Total: 80%

#1406 Halloween 2020: Satan’s Blade (1984)

After a very confusing start of Satan throwing a cursed blade to a tree trunk, followed by lesbian lovers robbing a bank and killing the cashiers and then retreating to a cabin where the other betrays and kills the other for the money and then gets stabbed with the aforementioned Satan’s Blade, the movie finally starts after 15 minutes of padding.

This is when a group of friends arrive to the mountains and they are placed in the same cabin where the murder took place, with blood marks still (!) visible on the ceiling. To no-one’s surprise they then meet a violent dead, one by one.

Low in quality, and low in most other aspects, The movie fails as a horror movie (and even as a slasher) – but there’s some limited charm in its homespun, adorably clumsy qualities.

80s-o-meter: 48%

Total: 30%

#1405 Halloween 2020: The Children (1980)

A bus full of children are exposed to a chemical that turns them into manic killers capable of turning everyone in their way into a steaming pile of flesh.

Creepy children are not a new thing with horror movies, but the approach in The Children works better than any sings in the movie would suggest. It’s clumsy almost to the extend to being unintentionally funny, but makes the best out of concept and does feel menacing and ominous at the same time, making it a positive surprise overall.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 60%

#1404 Halloween 2020: The Weirdo (1989)

An oddball of a youngster gets bullied by various people until he reaches his breaking point.

There’s an argument to be made that The Weirdo isn’t a horror movie at all. It’s a revenge movie, and not a very good one at that. The concept has been used many times much more effective, touching, gruesome, shocking – you name it – way, and served in a visually more splashy fashion.

Only interesting aspect in The Weirdo is how the main character is just not simple innocent victim, but like many outcasts he can also be bit of an asshole, even towards the people that care for him.

80s-o-meter: 50%

Total: 4%

#1403 Halloween 2020: Twisted Nightmare (1987)

Twisted Nightmare is one of the movies that got made but did not need to exist.

Basically a remake of Friday the 13th Part III (shot in the same set and repeating the same kills), I can’t imagine the movie would excite any fans of the original nor excite new audience in the already saturated market of 80s slashers.

Twisted Nightmare is a teflon coated, empty shell of a movie that enters and leaves the viewer without leaving any trace or lasting impression.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 6%

#1402 Halloween 2020: Splatter University (1984)

Splatter University is the most inept take on the slasher genre I’ve seen to date. Not only does it recycle elements seen in other movies, but actually manages to ruin and water down all of them. Also the humor seen in the movie (yes, it tries to be humoristic at times despite not classified as a comedy) falls as flat as its horror aspect.

Splatter University does manage to do one thing (and one thing only) right by eliminating people I thought were the central characters, which sort of made for a nice surprise element towards the end.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 9%

#1401 Halloween 2020: Prime Evil (1988)

A satanic cult led by a charismatic priest hunt and kidnap victims for their sacrificial ceremonies in Prime Evil, a movie that ends up surprisingly tame despite the grim theme.

While it’s an ok break from the endless stream of slashers this year, it does not really spook or send chills down your spine, unless you are scared by people in robes, chanting in a basement.

William Beckwith performs well as the magnetic leader of the cult and Christine Moore whom I previously saw in the subpar Lurkers (coincidently also directed by Roberta Findlay) fares much better here as the target of the cult’s evil plans.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 57%

#1399 Halloween 2020: Maniac (1980)

Although previously an unknown movie to me, Maniac as a title always had an ominous sound for me. As the movie kicked off I was thinking if this is one of those over hyped horror movies of the era; the overall quality definitely looked like there was very little to be expected out of the movie.

But as the movie finally takes off, it’s one gruesome, palm-sweating ride. Joe Spinell whom I previously haven’t registered as a talent plays to a perfection the role of a man haunted by his demons, going from a violent rage to self pity quick enough to turn the viewers repulsion into compassion within seconds.

Still, the movie is perhaps best known for its graphic bloodletting orchestrated by the special effects wizard Tom Savini, who later admitted that maybe he went a bit too far with some of the FX. As Maniac hit the theatres it caused outrage with many critics at the time and admittedly the violence here is still very impactful even today. But beyond that Maniac is also an interesting study into the mind of a madman, only really shadowed by the totally unnecessary, clichéd ending.

80s-o-meter: 62%

Total: 83%

#1398 Halloween 2020: He Knows You’re Alone (1980)

A serial killer is loose in He Knows You’re Alone, killing young women in Staten Island.

He does the expected: spooks around the bushes to provide that eerie feeling before entering the houses of his bride-to-be victims and wasting them. And he is very smart about his moves, until it’s time to kill the main character, whom he fails to dispose of so that they have to run around a morgue until the most disappointing twist ending I’ve seen to date.

Only notable thing about Twisted Nightmare is the debut role of Tom Hanks who was at first ear marked as one of the wasteable side characters, but whose role was expanded for a few scenes more after the director Armand Mastroianni noted Hanks’ exceptional screen presence.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 37%

#1397 Halloween 2020: Galaxy of Terror aka Mindwarp: An Infinity of Terror (1981)

The vast success of the Star Wars opened floodgates for all sorts of space adventures in the early 80s, but with only a few exceptions they’re not much to look at. Galaxy of Terror is one of those exceptions that manage to stand out, thanks to fresh art direction by young James Cameron and atmospheric cinematography by Jacques Haitkin that make the movie look quite a bit better than the movie’s relatively modest budget would suggest.

The concept of the movie is a bit too high-flying to my preference and it fails to convey its idea as intented – the idea comes across and it’s interesting .. but it does not exactly blow one’s mind. A more straight forward story of space paranoia, mistrust and alien presence could have worked better here.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 80%

#1395 Halloween 2020: Scared Stiff (1987)

There seems to be a pattern in my life; watching a movie I run into an actor I’ve never seen before, and the very next movie stars that obscure actor again. With Scared Stiff that actor is Andrew Stevens, who single handedly saved The Terror Within.

Scared Stiff is a quality late 80s horror thriller that mixes in elements of fantasy and imagination where a ghost of a cruel slave trader possesses the father of the family after they move in an old colonial house and discover the dark secrets within. Everything in Scared Stiff takes place firmly in a movie movie world and you will probably enjoy it a lot more if you watch it as a fairy tale rather than a serious cinema for the grown ups.

The movie is visually rich and enjoyable to watch, but as with many movies similar to it, the scares Scared Stiff provides are comparable to a tame Disney ghost ride rather than something that would keep you at the edge of your seat.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 72%

#1394 Halloween 2020: New Year’s Evil (1980)

A mysterious stranger calls a TV host to let them know there’ll be one murder at the clock as each states from east to west coast reaches new year, and that the host herself will be the last victim.

Although classified as slasher, New Year’s Evil is actually a horror thriller that sidesteps all the banalities of slashers. We follow the maniac cruising around L.A., picking up his victims, and the story at this point is told much more from the killer’s point of view rather than the victims’, which makes for an effective design choice. I also applaud how the filmmakers don’t view the killer as an omnipotent super human, but rather show him fumbling along the way, struggling to make it to the killings in time and even having to escape an angry mob.

New Year’s Evil has a lot of good thing going for it, but it suffers a bit from at times less than stellar execution. Here’s one of those movies that could benefit of a modern remake.

80s-o-meter: 73%

Total: 72%

#1393 Halloween 2020: Zombie Nosh aka FleshEater aka Revenge of the Living Zombies (1988)

Who knew a low budget zombie movie that innovates very little could be one of the highlights of this Halloween?

Directed and written by Bill Hinzman who originally starred in the genre classic Night of the Living Dead (1968), Zombie Nosh (and its dozen releases under different titles) is a much better stab into film making than his 1986 directorial debut slasher The Majorettes.

Sure, it’s low quality, low production value and definitely looks older than its release year 1988 suggests, but Zombie Nosh manages to be quite effective at times like when the living dead creep out of the darkness to devour the flesh of the living. Plus, some of its inventive special effects punch in one or two weight classes above the movie itself.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 62%

#1392 Halloween 2020: Don’t Go in the Woods (1981)

Don’t Go in the Woods is often dubbed the worst slasher of all times, which is a mouthful; I’ve seen worse slashers even this very Halloween. At least this one has some unintentional humor in it to make it a bit more interesting.

You know the drill; teens wander around in wilderness, have sex, get killed, nothing extraordinary here. The sleeping bag scene was actually a stroke of genius from someone, and the panic in that scene is very relatable and tangible, so there .. the movie actually does one better than most of the slasher trash.

The ending on the other hand is almost adorable in its clumsiness, and that alone warrants watching Don’t Go in the Woods .. if you really have to watch one slasher this year.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 27%

#1391 Halloween 2020: Zombie Island Massacre (1984)

I have false advertising. Both the title and the poster with Zombie Island Massacre promise a clean cut, less repulsive version of italian exploitation films like Cannibal Holocaust .. but only delivers a lukewarm permutation of the slasher formula.

It’s a weak show of a group of tourists in a Caribbean island getting picked up by strange killers one by one that gets marginally better towards the last 15 minutes, when two film making tools called manuscript and plot are first introduced.

80s-o-meter: 40%

Total: 9%

#1390 Halloween 2020: Primal Scream aka Hellfire (1987)

I picked up Primal Scream confusing it to much more interesting (at least on paper) scifi horror movie Primal Rage that I was looking forward to watching.

I don’t know how Primal Rage will measure up against this movie, but it can’t do much worse. There’s nothing wrong with the story per se – a future substance called Hellfire that provides tons of energy but has one downside to it: it ignites and burns up all human flesh upon contact. A private investigator gets tangled to the web of lethal coverup as the big corporate mining the substance does not want the info to leak out.

Primal Scream might have made an ok graphic novel, but the level of execution (and other design choices) is just not high enough to make the story interesting. Film noir style private investigator, femme fatale and futuristic setting I can see all working if done either in drawing or high production values similar to Blade Runner, but Primal Scream manages to look little else than a slice of 80s everyday life, spiced up with 80s style scifi items, shot in a style that resembles more of an European 70s indie movie than a 1987 American feature film.

80s-o-meter: 31%

Total: 11%

#1389 Halloween 2020: Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

A travelling circus appears to a small rural town out of thin air, and besides the entertainment it seems to have other things in mind for the town folk.

Based on the Ray Bradbury’s 1962 novel of the same name, Something Wicked This Way Comes came into form already in 1958 as a screenplay but failed to get backed up by the production companies, until getting picked by Walt Disney Pictures. The movie has a strong 60s Walk Disney Productions look and feel to it with the setting, characters and outdated special effects.

The concept of making pack with the devil here is actually pretty great and could have lent itself to looking ever more closely to the secret wishes of the villagers, and used more wisely towards the end, but what the movie provides in a form of hall of mirrors and a magic carousel did not grasp me at all.

80s-o-meter: 8%

Total: 51%

#1388 Halloween 2020: Terror Train (1980)

One of the few Canadian horror movies to make it to this site (they also had a flood of their own), thanks to starring the then-slasher queen Jamie Lee Curtis, Terror Train’s effort to add something a little new to the slasher formula feels fresh at first.

The revenge story taking place in a moving train rent for a fraternity’s new year party is a great idea on paper but it’s the stuffy 70s execution that drags the movie down quite a bit. More of a whodunnit than your typical slasher, the lack of a menacing form of evil also makes the movie pale in comparison with the best of the genre.

As a sort of a curiosity the young (and very skinny) David Copperfield can be seen in one of the supporting roles, which turned out to be his first and last of its kind.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 38%