#976 Halloween 2018: Waxwork (1988)

A group of kids get invited to a wax museum where the exhibits come to life in Waxwork, a horror movie made in the best tradition of the late 80s Hollywood cinema.

While a triumph in most aspects, my only grief with the movie is that the waxwork theme would’ve lent itself for even more imaginative and outrageous wax scenes than the ones presented here – excluding one specific scene with Marquis de Sade that goes a bit too far out for my taste.

Waxwork offers some unique, tongue in cheek, Amazing Stories style of entertainment that’s admittedly a bit tame as a horror movie, but very recommendable as an adventure with a spooky twist to it. The movie would go on to gain a weaker sequel, Waxwork II: Lost in Time, released in 1992.

80s-o-meter: 94%

Total: 87%

#975 Halloween 2018: The Fog (1980)

The Fog is John Carpenter’s first theatrical release of the 80s and a follow-up to his hugely popular slasher Halloween (1978) that pretty much started the endless stream of slashers in the early 80s, still pretty much outperforming all of them. I probably don’t need to annotate his later filmography of the decade to make my point that whenever he’s at it, solid gold is to be expected.

With this background considered, The Fog is somewhat a miss and certainly doesn’t come near his later horror classics. While the outdated look of Halloween suited it well, The Fog and its effects haven’t aged as well, and it certainly falls far behind the FX genius seen for example in The Thing.

That being said there’s still quite a lot to like about the movie. The story is written in the vein of a good old camp side spooky story and while the movie is never that scary, Carpenter makes the best out of the undead seamen by keeping them veiled in fog and shown as silhouettes, which very much works adds to the dramatic effect and definitely works for the benefit of the film.

Unlike the rest of Carpenter’s film catalogue The Fog is a hard one to recommend, but in comparison to its early 80s competition it still holds its own.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 64%

#974 Halloween 2018: The Hearse (1980)

The award for biggest tease of this year has to go to The Hearse.

There’s a great amount of suspense from the very start of the movie through getting to the remote rural house inherited from the mysterious aunt, and the uneasy feeling of something evil lurking around the corner is established exceptionally well here. But what happens next is mostly a whole lot of nothing. There are some dream sequences, a Hearse and mysterious driver and some exorcism – elements that are mediocre at best – and none of them are really followed through in the script.

To add insult to the injury, the film wraps up with a belly flop of an ending that manages to feel even more disappointing than the movie itself.

80s-o-meter: 64%

Total: 38%

#973 Halloween 2018: Trick or Treat aka Ragman (1986)

Wait a minute. Another movie called Trick or Treats? Carrying almost the same name as the stinker from 1982, this Trick or Treat is the actual treat you will want this Halloween.

Ready for the plot? An iconic rock star is deceased, after which one of his mourning headbanger fans comes across his long lost album and plays it backwards, unleashing the satanic powers within. Good news? It plays out just as satisfyingly – if not even moreso – than the outrageous synopsis suggests.

To make the package even more tempting, Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osborne can be seen in smaller roles, with the latter playing a hilarious clean cut televangelist who’s after the vile and depraved heavy metal music. Looks like he was right, after all.

80s-o-meter: 93%

Total: 91%

#972 Halloween 2018: Trick or Treats aka Don’t Prank the Babysitter! (1982)

When Halloween night stopped being fun, indeed!

Trick or Treats is yet another horror movie this year with an interesting synopsis, and a lousy execution; an innocent babysitter getting tormented by a prankster kid from hell is an original and interesting concept that would’ve surely lent itself for many interesting plot twists.

But the screenwriter and director Gary Graver never manages to evolve the idea any further, and the shtick becomes tiresome before it gets entertaining. While the kid is pranking the babysitter, a killer put inside an asylum in the beginning of the movie makes his painstakingly slow getaway from the institute to perform his killings, and the movie is pretty much over by the time he finally makes it to the site.

Oh, and don’t get fooled by David Carradine getting the top billing here. His role is minuscule and probably shot in just a few hours time.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 28%

#971 Halloween 2018: The Funhouse (1981)

Directed by Tobe Hooper of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre fame, The Funhouse is a horror movie taking a place in a carnival during its closing hours.

Settings wise the movie is a success; most people who’ve ever spend any time in a sideshow or a circus can surely relate to the weird eeriness that seems to surround them. But once the movie is supposed to go into full gear, the movie loses its direction and wanders far into dullsville. Not even the (very expected) kills manage to make to show any interesting.

It’s only towards the last 10 minutes that the pacing gears towards an action flick, and the movie manages to redeem some of the interest and exits gracefully without the inept last minute plot twists that usually go with the genre.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 32%

#970 Halloween 2018: Hobgoblins (1988)

Hobgoblins features some hairy monsters that resemble quite a lot those of Gremlins, although the director and writer Rick Sloane insists coming up with the idea well before Gremlins was released. Be that as it may the creatures featured here are dodgy hand puppets light years behind those of Gremlins and the actors’ interaction with them is mostly rolling around the ground holding the limp plush toys and then throwing them outside the camera view.

The start of the movie does show some promise, with a night watch discovering a closed vault inside an old movie studio where the Hobgoblins have been kept until now. But what happens next is a series of unfortunate design choices that make a little sense, including one act in a night club that could be longest and most tedious scenes I’ve had to witness.

Shot on short ends – leftover reels purchased from other productions – with apparently some decent gear, the movie manages to look much better than its shoelace budget suggests. The non existing plot become obvious with the tedious padding added for the movie to to make it to the 90 minute mark, resulting in multiple scenes that should’ve been left on the cutting room floor.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 36%

#969 Halloween 2018: Blood Suckers from Outer Space (1984)

A strange intergalactic wind appears from nowhere to a rural Texas countryside turning residents into a blood gushing zombies in Blood Suckers from Outer Space, a surprisingly entertaining piece of low budget B-horror comedy.

Although a spoof of the 50s outer space invader movies mashed up with a zombie theme, the movie finds its own tone of voice and doesn’t just settle for repeating the most obvious clichés of the genres. The zombies here for example are hilariously well spoken – even polite – as they approach you inquiring if they can go ahead and eat your brains. Talking about southern hospitality!

Blood Suckers from Outer Space makes the best out of being a really bad movie, and if the likes of Bad Taste tickle your fancy, you’ll probably find something to like in this weirdness as well.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 74%

#968 Halloween 2018: Student Bodies (1981)

Student Bodies is a spoof of the slasher movies that thrived in the early 80s.

It came to the party remarkably early in 1981, at the time when slashers were still arriving left, right and center for the next two years. Considering its early release date it feels surprisingly fresh, even more so than most of the movies it satirises. The humour is of the crazy comedy style with many loose gags thrown in, in the style of Airplane (1980). Admittedly many of the gags and jokes are snappy, but still rarely laugh out loud funny. There are a few recurring routines also that get old really fast, like the antagonist’s continuous heavy breathing spread throughout the movie.

One of the film’s best remembered character is the mysterious ’The Stick’ – a raw-boned stand-up comedian playing Malvert the school janitor – for whom Student Bodies remained his only feature film before his untimely death in 1989.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 52%

#967 Halloween 2018: Final Exam (1981)

Final Exam feels like two different movies merged into one: There’s a surprisingly interesting drama comedy about college life, believable relationships and the power of fraternities over freshmen – some above average slasher plot lines going on here!

Then, there is most a pretty uninteresting slasher haphazardly glued on the side, which to its only merit doesn’t directly copy any other slasher I know of. But, it does boost a pretty appalling antagonist and doesn’t really bring anything much new or interesting to the table.

Thanks to the some actual writing work and character development Final Exam ends up well above the usual soulless copy paste slashers, but most likely won’t please most of the horror gore hounds out there.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 47%

#966 Halloween 2018: Day of the Dead (1985)

The third film in Romero’s Living Dead series that started already in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead takes the franchise to the underground tunnels where the last few survivors of the humankind are hiding from the hordes of zombies that roam the earth. Sheltered behind barriers, they catch and examine the living dead to gain some knowledge about them.

The concept feels fresh on paper but the execution is on the stuffy side, resembling the 1978 Dawn of the Dead much more than a modern take on the subject. Romero’s camera lingers on the zombies for much too long, many of which are pretty poorly masqueraded and would’ve been more effective dwelling in the shadows rather than exposing them to spot lights where they look mostly goofy. On the other hand the effect work is far ahead of rest of the movie and feels extra effective thanks to the overall shoddiness of the movie.

It’s towards the end of the movie that Day of the Dead finally starts moving forward, and as the zombies pour into the vault in masses there’s a decent amount of action and thrills to be had here, including a pretty satisfying ending.

Day of the Dead earns my respect for its courage of taking a road less traveled. I just wished the execution was a notch or two sharper.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 68%

#965 Halloween 2018: Sorority House Massacre (1986)

Sorority House Massacre marks for an another late comer movie to the slasher genre.

The movie repackages the original Halloween plot line with a murderous brother coming after people returning to the house where the murders originally happened, and wraps it all up in a cheap direct-to-video container and sprinkles on top just about every cliché of the genre it can find.

The expectable outcome may please the most devoted fans of the genre, but personally I found Sorority House Massacre one of the most uninspired attempts at the subject.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 12%

#964 Halloween 2018: The Fog (1980)

The Fog is John Carpenter’s first movie coming to the eighties, and his next feature film after his breakthrough film Halloween.

Co-written by Carpenter, the plot, mysterious fog element and the setting in a small town gives out a very Stephen King-esque mood to the film. The fog element is menacing and well build and the minimalistic soundtrack (composed by Carpenter himself once again) feels more fresh than the movie itself.

Essentially a zombie movie with a crew of undead seamen – revenants if you will – appearing in a could of fog to terrorise a small coastal village the types of scares presented here are very close to those in the zombie movie genre; there are slowly walking corpses and hands reaching out of the fog and windows to make away with the living. But, what Carpenter does very well in comparison to the bulk zombi movies is the way he represents them here: Always shown as silhouettes, covered with thick, oozing fog and with the brightly glowing red eyes as their most distinctive feature. It’s an economic and stylish choice very effective still to date.

High in mood, low in scares, The Fog is a likeable and entertaining little ghost story that doesn’t quite reach he grandeur of the other movies in Carpenter’s filmography.

80s-o-meter: 77%

Total: 72%