#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%

#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%

#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%

#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%

#1387 Halloween 2020: Fiend aka Angst (1980)

I was initially put off by Fiend due to its amateurish look and feel, but after reading some favourable reviews I decided to give it a go – and I regret to say my initial impression was pretty much spot on.

I did find the concept of a evil spirit – the Fiend – possessing corpses and using these decaying flesh vessels to kill people to gain rejuvenating life energy before coming apart a refreshing twist to the zombie genre. It’s therefore a shame the movie isn’t able to do much with the concept. I’d for example liked to see it getting into sticky situations where he is quite literally falling apart while struggling to find victims and hide his true identity.

Production quality wise Fiend is way below a B-movie; not only does it look totally 70s, but also fails to provide any imaginative kills or effects that is the only thing many of its counterparts have going for them.

80s-o-meter: 12%

Total: 9%

#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%

#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%

#1348 Schizoid (1980)

Someone is sending Julie, a local columnist, threat notes and killing people in her therapy group one by one using a pair of scissors as the murder weapon.

The unappetizingly named Schizoid marches to the stage a bunch of shady characters that all seem to have their dark sides and leaves the viewer doing the whodunnit guesswork of figuring out which one of the likable suspects did the killings, or – you guessed it – is it someone much less likable.

While I’m always wondering the movie world’s eagerness to cast Klaus Kinski who always seems like playing the same role through every movie, in Schizoid the director David Paulsen seems to be able to keep him in control and he manages in the role like any other bulk actor.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 39%

#1345 The Return (1980)

Everything in The Return feels indifferent and passionless as if none of the actors nor the team itself really wanted to do the movie.

Jan-Michael Vincent is more busy sipping beer than acting most of the time and Cybill Shepherd (of the later Moonlighting fame)looks like she’s contemplating on finding herself a new agent.

The Return is a movie that didn’t need to be made as it serves no real purpose and does not bring anything to the table that hasn’t been done better before or since.

80s-o-meter: 67%

Total: 22%

#1344 Cuba Crossing (1980)

A bunch of rogue USA soldiers set out to assassinate the communist leader of Cuba in Cuba Crossing.

This would not be such an issue if the movie itself had something going on for it, but it’s unfortunately an outdated, inconsistent, uninteresting mess that remains stale most of the running time, and gets somewhat interesting only after the plot twist in the third act.

I try to steer away from talking about technical aspects of a movie, but with Cuba Crossing the lack of decent cinematography cannot be unaddressed. Not only is the shooting amateurish with over/under exposed scenes and overall bad cinematographic choices, the movie completely misses out of taking advantage of the tropical Key West landscapes and mostly looks dull as a dishwasher.

80s-o-meter: 45%

Total: 17%

#1331 Inside Moves (1980)

I don’t consider jotting your average average superficial tearjerker movie much of a skill, and I’m pretty confident I would be capable of writing one of those myself in no time. I’m therefore always in awe when I see someone doing it in the right way and coming up with a story that not only feels true but also cares so deeply for its characters that it doesn’t sell them short for some cheap drama.

Inside Moves, based on the Todd Walton’s book of the same name and directed by Richard Donner is one of those rare movies. It starts where one life ends as Roary (John Savage) jumps to his death from the top of a building. After being patched together he then limps his stiff body to a local tavern where he meets up with diverse bunch of characters for a game of poker that changes the course of his life.

The movie is one of the a rare masterpieces that make you happy, sad, angry and hopeful – sometimes all of these within just one minute.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 92%

#1306 Sitting Ducks (1980)

There’s an aspect to the story telling in Sitting Ducks that works and another one that lacks a bit. What works is the improvisation of the dialogue between the characters, something very typical for Henry Jaglom’s films.

Where Sitting Ducks falls short is the plot that is just plain silly, and frankly, I expected much more out of the ’big surprise’ in the act 3.

Zack Norman and Michael Emil make for a good anti-heroes in the lead roles, with surprising traits to them, not least of which being having the appearance of a middle aged losers while being pretty ripped (for the time) as they strip to show off their physique at the hotel pool.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 55%

#1305 Bronco Billy (1980)

Bronco Billy is in many ways very similar to Clint Eastwood’s other films of the era, like Every Which Way but Loose or Any Which Way You Can in depicting himself as an everyday dude who road trips around and gets into occasional classes with the locals, or the authorities.

Made purely to entertain, the plot itself feels secondary in Bronco Billy, and the movie mostly concentrates on showcasing Eastwood and his captivating screen presence. Compared to some other films he’s made at the time, what makes Bronco Billy interesting is the way that Eastwood reveals personal flaws in the main character, depicting him as the despotic leader of the western show, but also subjects him to some humiliating encounters with the local law.

For anyone viewing it for the first time, Bronco Billy Makes for a very easy movie to watch, but is less likely to leave any lasting impression.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 61%

#1301 The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood aka Hollywood Blue (1980)

The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood is a soulless production that makes an endless list of disappointing design choices, starting from assuming the viewer has any knowledge of the Happy Hooker character first seen in the 1975 movie of the same name.

The movie tries to sell itself as a raunchy sexploitation comedy with a promise to see a few glimpses of mammaries, but really, you would be better off obtaining any of the porn movies of the era with a plot if humour and naked skin is what you’re after.

Adam West (of the campy 60s Batman fame) can be seen suffering in one of the lead roles, contemplating on the number of bad career moves that ended him with this movie.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 0%

#1231 Nightkill (1980)

Looking like an episode of Dallas (the lead Jaclyn Smith is best known for her role as one of the original Charlie’s Angels) Nightkill defies all the odds by being a very original, and surprisingly interesting take on a woman caught in murderous love triangle and a net of lies that gets more tangled the more she struggles to get out of it.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 64%

#1229 The Idolmaker (1980)

Based on the life of rock promoter/producer Bob Marcucci, The Idolmaker tells a story of a musician who after failing to become a music idol himself, ends up a producer talented in finding and sparring the next generation of stars.

While the movie and its late 50s, early 60s nostalgia wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, Peter Gallagher as the lead makes a perfectly magnetic performance as Caesare, who makes a transformation from a mere busboy to a star with enough charism to fill a big stage.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 61%

#1206 The Jazz Singer (1980)

Based on the 1927 movie of the same name, The Jazz Singer depicts a 40-year old jewish cantor rebelling against his father in a story that did not beg to be told.

It’s not exactly a good sign if during a remarkably bad musical movie it’s the music parts that you end up wanting to fast forward.

Most people that have seen The Jazz Singer seem to agree that it’s worth watching only for Neil Diamond’s songs and performances. As someone to whom the monumental success of mr. Diamond remains one of the biggest mysteries of popular music, I don’t have even that.

80s-o-meter: 7%

Total: 3%

#1198 The Gong Show Movie (1980)

The Gong Show, a weird talent show was something of a TV phenomenon in the late 70s, and The Gong Show Movie here is a fictive look into the life of the show’s host Chuck Barry, and a semi-fictive look into the show itself, including some bits edited out of the TV programme.

While the movie itself does not have much merits, it got me interested in the show itself and I ended up watching a few episodes uploaded to the Youtube. There’s admittedly something mesmerising in the show and if you are brave enough to want to take a look at the movie, you will likely get a slightly better mileage out of it if you check a few episodes beforehand.

80s-o-meter: 50%

Total: 38%