#963 Halloween 2018: Hack-o-Lantern aka Halloween Night aka The Damning (1988)

A low budget, direct-to-video horror movie known by many names, Hack-o-Lantern follows a satanic cult that sacrifices its victims on Halloween eves, run by a hillbilly granpa who this year he aims to initiate his mullet-sporting nephew Tommy as the new cult leader.

As soon as you hear there’s also a totally uncalled for impromptu stand-up comedy routine, tons of huge eighties hair and a trashy rock music video dream sequence ending up with the band members vanishing into thin air and the guitarist getting his head chopped off with a pitchfork you’d think you’re in to a real b-movie treat. But this potentially hilariously absurd concept is never followed up with any coherent plot, and the movie itself ends up something of a snooze fest.

Hack-o-Lantern has much of the right elements for a cult classic, but thanks to a total lack of direction the movie soon becomes uninteresting, ending up somewhat of a chore to watch through.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 28%

#962 Halloween 2018: Dreamscape (1984)

Dennis Quaid stars in Dreamscape, a sci-fi thriller with a horror twist about an experiment that makes diving into others’ dreams – as well as nightmare – possible.

The concept itself is cool and the movie manages to successfully sell the implausible idea of entering dreams. The unravelling conspiracy plot itself is thrilling as well, and the antagonist’s plan makes perfect sense within the movie’s world.

Where Dreamscape falls short is the effects department. Clearly the time wasn’t ripe for the vision the director Joseph Ruben had for the special effects as some of the dream segments – especially the last one – look noticeably poor and outdated with their stop motion animations. Once again it would’ve been better idea to rely on some effective makeup or keep the evil hidden in the shadows than to expose it in all of its mediocrity.

Dreamscape might not be as effective as it was when it was first released, but it’s still very much entertaining from the start to the finish.

80s-o-meter: 83%

Total: 74%

#961 Halloween 2018: Mother’s Day (1980)

A cult classic favourite of many – including one Eli RothMother’s Day is a trashy horror exploitation comedy of two brothers who kidnap and torture three women to pleasure their demented mother.

The fans of the movie seem to be vocal about the movie being misunderstood and ahead of the time. Personally I don’t see it. The rape exploitation revenge genre was already established back in the 1978 in I Spit on Your Grave, and Mother’s Day replicates the same isolated and remote cabin in the woods setup and adds the mother, two hillbillies and a paper thin layer of comedy. The comedy part consists of exploring the slobbishness of the two inbred brothers by showing them consuming canned cheese by squirting it directly in their mouths, and scenes of the scared women smashing a tv set to the antagonist’s head so that his head is visible through the tv screen. Laughters are non-existent and the comedy layer just feels like a poor excuse to justify doing an almost exact copy of another movie.

It’s a pretty poor production all in all; blood is screaming red paint and decapitated heads unconvincing papier-mâché mess. Troma Entertainment had a good decade coming up, but Mother’s Day is just void of the creativity some of the later movies show.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 24%

#960 Halloween 2018: Psycho III (1986)

Directed by Anthony Perkins himself this time, Psycho III makes for the second and the last Psycho sequel of the decade.

Psycho III is even more 80s than its predecessor – at the times outrageously so. The colour schemes and wacky characters are crafted in a way that makes the whole movie feel more fictive and movie like which once again helps the sequel differentiate itself from the previous one. As a director Perkins show a lot of prowess and many of the scenes noticeable well planned and timed to perfection. Perkins also knows his character better than anyone else by now and gets inside the psyche and nuances of this character better than any Psycho movie so far.

As movies the second and third part are pretty much on par, but the third installation takes the lead what it comes to providing some pure horror in 80s style.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 83%

#959 Halloween 2018: Psycho II (1983)

A late sequel to the iconic horror classic, Psycho II starts some 23 years after the events of the first movie as Norman Bates is finally getting released from the asylum. He comes back to the mansion and tries to rehabilitate to the society, but soon finds himself agonised by the house and the memories of his mother. From there on the movie takes a surprising direction.

Psycho II is actually a pretty darn decent horror movie if you stop comparing it to the original and view it as an individual movie. Perkins’ lead character has much more layers this time around, and he grows onto you in a much deeper level as a person. One could argue that the sequel is not as scary as the first movie, but in a way the movie takes you inside a psyche and themes that are much darker.

Although the comparisons to the original can’t be avoided, Psycho II stands firmly on its own and manages to bring the series to the new decade in a style and without nodding too much towards the original by trying to remake, or to outdo it. And in a few passing moments in manages to outshine the original.

80s-o-meter: 65%

Total: 80%

#958 Halloween 2018: The Being (1983)

Shot already in 1980 as ’Easter Sunday’, The Being saw a limited theatrical only three years later. It is a problematic, pastiche like horror movie that despite the short running time doesn’t seem to be able to keep up the interest at all.

The stumbling block here is that the director Jackie Kong doesn’t seem to have much of an idea how to build up scary scenes, which proves a real handicap when making a horror movie. Although the monsters, gore and kills are there, there are no suspenseful moments in the film to speak of. Despite the obvious underdog setting of the movie, The Being does not manage to be sympathetic, and just ends up being on the boring side. It’s not one of those movies to watch with your friends for some laughs and giggles either.

The only thing I can imagine going on for the movie is the fact that it is a monster movie at the time when slashers were pouring in from the left, right and centre. The monster itself is may be a poor Alien ripoff, but it at least provides some actual action for the last 15 minutes to end the finally end the snoozefest.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 43%

#957 Halloween 2018: Sleepaway Camp 3 – Teenage Wasteland (1989)

Shot back to back with the second part, Sleepaway Camp 3: Teenage Wasteland picks up the ’story’ one year after the events seen in the sequel.

On the thematic level the movie continues exactly where it left off previously, so it’s more of the same old. But this time around the movie seems even more relaxed and out there with the antagonist almost yawning as she wipes out the campers one by one. Some unnecessary flashbacks are added to the movie in an obvious attempt to make it run a few minutes longer.

Teenage Wasteland is utter garbage, but on the other hand it’s enjoyably loose and indifferent about it all, and that’s something I can still respect on some level.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 53%

#956 Halloween 2018: Sleepaway Camp 2 – Unhappy Campers (1988)

Shot five years after the original, Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers has a very little to do with the original. Sure, the summer camp motif is still there, but this time around its all for chuckles, laughs, titties and gore.

As a horror spoof Sleepaway Camp 2 is better than most of its peers, but as a movie it’s shallow as a puddle killfest where your mileage will depend on how much you enjoy witnessing the various ways the antagonist rubs out her victims. Made for a definite film to sit through with your brains switched off, I can’t but to help that the genre would still lend itself for a bit wittier spoofing than what’s on offer here.

80s-o-meter: 88%

Total: 51%

#955 Halloween 2018: Sleepaway Camp (1983)

If there’s one common denominator with all of the Friday the 13th copycat slashers I’ve had to sit through, it’s that just can’t hold a candle to the original, no matter how blatantly they copy it. With Sleepaway Camp Jason has actually met his peer, if not even a successor.

The jolly happy Meatballs like camp look and feel works well with the atrocities the movie has up its sleeve. Most of the killings are pretty inventive and horrid and the outdated early 80s look somehow becomes the movie well. But it is that notorious end part that takes the movie from a slasher to a full fledged horror movie and if you have ever heard rumours about it: Yes, it’s pretty much as chilling as they come.

Sleepaway Camp ended up one of the most pleasant (or unpleasant) surprises this year and should make its way on your Halloween list even if slashers aren’t your thing.

80s-o-meter: 74%

Total: 87%

#954 Halloween 2018: Pumpkinhead (1988)

When do the film makers learn? No matter how proud you are of your antagonist, overexposing it rarely works to your movie’s advance.

Such is the case with the Pumpkinhead, a horror cult classic following events of a vicious circle of revenge and the following regret. The odd, twisted atmosphere here is among the best of the best and gets better and more intense as the movie progresses. It is therefore a huge letdown that the summoned demonic beast is not kept as a mysterious dark force, but takes form of a sort of a overgrown alien mother, which – as neat as it looks – just doesn’t look or feel menacing enough to warrant the amount of screen time it gets.

Lance Henriksen is a perfect choice to play the father at his wit’s end, and the movie does wrap up in satisfying way after the few missteps it takes on its way there.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 81%

#953 Halloween 2018: Witchtrap (1989)

Another horror movie from the creator of Witchboard and Night of the Demons? No doubt I was looking forward to seeing Witchtrap and rightfully expecting quite a lot out of it.

I was puzzled how amateurish this movie plays out, especially after Night of the demons had just delivered some state of the art, best in class horror of the eighties. Witchtrap was shot in three weeks, which might contribute to how unfinished the film seems, but even that doesn’t explain the poor manuscript or the wooden acting.

The only delight here is Tony, a disgruntled and sarcastic other half of the security team, who delivers plenty of epic one-liners so bad they’re good. Otherwise Witchtrap is on the dull side, below average haunted house movie that has been done better many times before.

Even by the director Kevin S. Tenney himself.

80s-o-meter: 75%

Total: 38%

#952 Halloween 2018: Scarecrows (1988)

Scarecrows starts off with a bang as we cut to an aeroplane that’s been hijacked by mercenaries, and one of them betrays the others and jumps out of the plane with all their loot. The others perform an emergency landing and before too long they find themselves in a remote farmhouse surrounded by scarecrows that aren’t too welcoming for the trespassers.

Killer scarecrows is a delicate subject that could go very easily wrong. Luckily the movie manages to make its antagonists fierce and eery enough to convey the presence of the evil lurking outside the cabin. Despite the short running length of the movie, I applaud the team for not prolonging scenes or adding elements of some magical mumbo jumbo in the mix, which keeps the action of the movie well paced.

Scarecrows was a pleasant surprise, a tight shoelace budgeted direct to VHS gem that manages to look good and better many of the multi-million theatrical releases.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 78%

#951 Halloween 2018: Hellgate (1989)

It sure would be much easier to write a review of a movie if I had some idea what actually happened in it. Now, almost two hours since I finished Hellgate, I’m still baffled what to actually make of it.

The movie starts out like a horror anthology with one of the leads starting to tell a story from the past of of a motorcycle gang kidnapping a young woman and riding to Hellgate, a desolate ghost town where they get killed by a knife wielding father of the girl, who gets killed after a wall collapses on her. Later a miner finds a piece of crystal in a mine that can revive dead things or bloat living things up to the point of an explosion. Cut to present time where the fourth protagonist runs into the same roadside bar where the girl was kidnapped from, confronts a violent mechanic – and it was at this point where it started to become painfully obvious the movie is going nowhere fast.

But, the movie continues to lead you on, offering glimpses of hope of some kind of coherence, but it just gets more and more abstract as it goes along; there’s some older dude with metal pieces glued to his face attacking the protagonists as well as some corpses raising up from graves, ghost pianists playing pianos and can can dancers dancing.

Hellgate isn’t categorized as a comedy, but I’ve got a funny feeling that we’re all been had and the movie is just one big deliberate joke on the viewer. This would make the movie something of an art piece and a statement, but unless someone has a proof of this, I have no choice but the rate the movie at face value.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 17%

#950 Halloween 2018: Ghost Story (1981)

A club of four elder gentlemen – Chowder Society they call themselves – has been getting together each week for years to share fictive stories of horror. This year people around them start dying and it all seems to linked with something happened in the past.

True to its name, Ghost Story works out as a well told ghost story. There’s something timeless in it and the movie manages manages to keep the viewers interested and on the edge of their seats to see and hear what happens next – just like a good camp side spooky tale would. It’s a real treat seeing John Houseman, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks jr and Fred Astaire together as the old gentlemen who share a common secret they’ve kept shut for the last 50 years. Especially Astaire wows in his last feature film, showing there would’ve been a lot of acting prowess still left in him after he’d hung up his dancing shoes.

Some might think Ghost Story as an old fashioned relic of the past where you can see the big secret coming pretty much miles away. But that’s precisely what Halloween sometimes needs: Some good old fashioned spooks.

80s-o-meter: 48%

Total: 81%

#949 Halloween 2018: Evils of the Night (1985)

If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you might know that I steer away from exploitation movies of any kind. It was because of this that I really had to weight if I wanted to include Evils of the Night here, but it was the zany concept of intergalactic vampire aliens that changed my mind.

As you might already guess from the poster, there’s a quite a lot of naked skin here on display and it does get a little raunchy during the first 30 minutes. There’s a limited camp factor to the silly aliens, but nothing bad enough to make it for one of those so bad, it’s so good flicks.

I had already given up my hope with this movie, but the upcoming scene with the three survivors tied inside the car repair shop and the events thereafter were actually pretty suspenseful – even entertaining. That blue collar aliens armed scene where they chase the survivors with drills and axes took some turns I never expected, and almost felt like having some sort of affinity with the cult classic Bad Taste.

This doesn’t change the fact that on all the other accounts Evils of the Night still isn’t much of a movie. Still, watching it somehow felt like a breath of fresh air after all these subpar slashers this year I’ve had to plow through this year.

80s-o-meter: 74%

Total: 44%

#948 Halloween 2018: Time Walker (1982)

Time Walker has quite a many things going for to make it an enjoyable B-movie, mixing elements from black & white horror movies from the 40 and 50s, ancient Egypt, mummies, aliens, power diamonds, terrible flesh eating ooze that gains in strength and size when exposed in x-rays.

With an appetite whetting setup like this, it really a shame that the execution doesn’t match up with it all. Instead of looking into all of the interesting aspects the concept has to offer, the movie sticks to following the mummy wandering around during a campus Halloween party night and getting mixed up with masqueraded students while trying to retrieve his mysterious intergalactic diamonds he needs to phone home. After all this sidetracking is over we still don’t get to the real meat of it all in the end: Revealing the alien, figuring out who he is, where did he come from and what are his motives and so on.

On the contrary; in an obvious panic solution of not figuring out how to wrap the story up, the movie ends up with an disappointing ’To be continued’ cliffhanger.

It never was.

80s-o-meter: 58%

Total: 52%

#947 Halloween 2018: Blood Hook (1986)

If you’re like me and watched your fair share of slashers, you would agree that there’s a certain comedic element present in many of them even if they’re not marketed as comedies – especially the ones that show the imaginative ways how the killers do away with their victims. I’m tend to be very sceptical every time I’m presented with a slasher comedy, as they set out to parodize a movie genre that’s somewhat of a parody to begin with and a setup that rarely lends itself to any witty approaches.

In this sense Blood Hook is the worst of the worst. Otherwise your typical slasher, the comedy here is limited in the method of how the killer attacks his human prey: By throwing an oversized, hooked lure at them. Yes, it is just as funny on the screen as it sounds here.

As much as I sometimes loathe the copy paste slashers, some of them still earn a bit of my respect for having the backbone of not making a total, idiotic buffoonery out of their movie. For Blood Hook, not even that applies.

80s-o-meter: 58%

Total: 3%

#946 Halloween 2018: Night School aka Terror Eyes (1981)

A killer dressed in a motorcycle leather suit and a helmet goes around decapitating young women in Night School, a bore of a slasher marketed as Terror Eyes on the European side of the pond.

Before I totally tear the movie apart, it has to be said to the movie’s defence that it does make an effort to be more intelligent than many of its contemporary peers. The characters are adult instead of teenagers, there’s paper thin layer of whodunnit present and the movie’s style resembles more of a 70s psychological thriller than your typical slasher. But the movie is just too tame and there is a very little horror to be had here, with only the few odd kill scenes offering somewhat suspenseful moments. When not being boring, Night School is totally middle of the road with none of the moments really awful – but not particularly good either.

Night School ends up being just plain dull, which is certainly a bigger offence than being bad in my book.

80s-o-meter: 38%

Total: 22%

#945 Halloween 2018: Hide and Go Shriek (1988)

If you want to see the saddest excuse for an antagonist in the recorded movie history, look no further than Hide and Go Shriek, a made for teens movie shot in 1988 with a look and feel of an early 80s slasher.

In other words: Outdated and poor.

Like is the case with many late 80s slashers, Hide and Go Shriek makes for an attempt to change a few variables in the tired genre. This time around, instead of the cabin or the woods, the teens go camp in a department store where the maniac killer starts to rub them out one by one, as expected.

Despite the aforementioned laughably lousy baddie, Hide and Go Shriek leaves no lasting impression whatsoever and even the most forgiving slasher fans will likely be sick of it by the middle point.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 17%

#945 Halloween 2018: Phantasm II (1988)

It could be because I’ve missed the original Phantasm – released in 1979 – but I had no idea whatsoever what was going on in its sequel for the first 30 minutes. And even later to the movie it all seemed to make a very little sense: Who are these main characters, what are they after, who is the Tall Man and what is his agenda?

It was only after giving up the hope of making any sense of the movie and just going on with the flow that I started to enjoy Phantasm II for what it was: A collection of scenes to justify some inventive and gruesome F/X. There are tons of individual things to like here, like Reggie, the ponytailed, balding middle-aged protagonist and the imaginative guns he and his teenager friend Mike have put together to fight the Tall Man. Also, the movie manages to have a good ol’ horror movie ending to it, redeeming some of of the points in the last minute.

Phantasm II is a stylish, cartoony show not unlike the Evil Dead series, and a movie that relies heavily on its gory effects at the cost of its plot. It’s the incoherent story that makes the movie a hard one to recommended, but the admirers of hand crafted 80s F/X will surely find a lot to like here.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 61%