#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 The movie has a strong 60s Walk Disney Productions look and feel to it with the setting, characters and outdated special effects.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%

#1378 Halloween 2020: Embalmed aka Mortuary (1983)

Good news: Mortuary has a real cool and mouth watering poster going for it. Bad news: the movie really has nothing much to do with this poster.

So, instead of living dead raising from the grave, the movie concentrates on a mortuary where something awry is going on. Meanwhile some bodies get misplaces and mistreated and a few people get harassed by a masked killer.

Fans of Bill Paxton might be interested to hear he can be seen in the role of an eccentric youngster working in the Mortuary, but the movie manages to really use somewhere around 1-5% of his full potential.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 40%

#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%

#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%

#1332 Of Unknown Origin (1983)

The director George P. Cosmatos creates a new subgenre of rat thriller with Of Unknown Origin.

I was drawn to this Canadian-American movie shot in Montréal due to it featuring Peter Weller (of the later Robocop fame), as well as its ominous title. The movie never quite lives up to its premise, and turns into monotonous mouse and cat game where Weller gets fixated on getting rid of a rodent and ends up destroying both his house and him family along the way.

It is not very scary, not that much fun and gets pretty old pretty fast. The concept could have probably worked better as a 20-minute Simpsons episode instead.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 27%

#1320 Under Fire (1983)

In Under Fire two American journalists get involved in a political intrigue between the Somoza dictatorship and the rebels in the 1979 Nicaraguan revolution.

The movie takes an interesting look into the ethics of journalism and choosing sides when neutrality is expected. The conflict that follows their choices inside the powder keg that was Nicaragua at the time leads to very interesting thrill ride that makes the viewer ask themselves what would they do if put in a similar position.

The depiction of a rogue military control in the area is well done and almost documentary like at times.

80s-o-meter: 68%

Total: 81%

#1298 Max Dugan Returns (1983)

Max Dugan Returns is a good-natured and likeable family comedy that makes an attempt for actually having a point, which is where it fails to deliver.

A long lost father and the grandfather of Michael (Matthew Broderick), Max Dugan, returns to the family of Michael and his mother after skimming money off a casino and ending up wanted by the police. He then purchases his way into their lives and makes all their financial dreams come through, which leads to all sorts of trouble from the police, and making the mother’s newly found relationship with a local detective (Donald Sutherland) quite troublesome. The interesting conflict that was build up all along is solved at the end in a very unsatisfactory way, ie pretty much not at all.

Max Dugan Returns is enjoyable as long as you accept it at the face value, without putting much thought into it.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 62%

#1277 Romantic Comedy (1983)

When I first saw Arthurand then watched it again a gazillion times – I looked forward to seeing Dudley Moore’s other comedies of the era.

So far nothing has quite reached what Arthur had to offer, and Romantic Comedy is no exception. It’s pretty generic early 80s – well, romantic comedy – With neurotic adults not knowing whom they should commit to.

The chemistry between Mary Steenburgen and Moore is weirdly off throughout the movie, but it’s all fortunately by design, as the ending reveals.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 54%

#1272 Zelig (1983)

Some of Woody Allen’s comedies feel like a prolonged joke, and Zelig, a black and white documentary of a long forgotten human chameleon so willing to please who ever he talks to that he and that’s not only their point of you, but also their profession, appearance and race certainly feels like one.

Allen plays the lead role well, writing is snappy and the editing that combines old news clips with new footage is flawless, which more than often is not the case for the era.

The story in Zelig does not carry through its feature film length, and would’ve been much more efficient as a 45 minute short film, with some of the excessive padding left on the cutting room floor.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 51%

#1257 Nate and Hayes aka Savage Islands (1983)

A totally unknown adventure movie for most, Nate and Hayes (or Savage Islands as it was known in the Europe) depicts a scoundrel of a captain, and a green-behind-the-ears missionary joining forces to find the missionary’s kidnapped wife to be, while having (an often hilariously courteous) for her hand.

The movie played out completely different than I anticipated, but in a good way. The tropical, piratey setting looks beautiful and makes for a perfect setting for an hour and a half of escapism. Tommy Lee Jones and Michael O’Keefe that possessed some alluring star quality at the time show tremendous chemistry, and both are joy to watch in their respective roles.

Nate and Hayes took me by surprise, making its way up to my top-10 list of 80s adventures. What a thrill!

80s-o-meter: 21%

Total: 92%

#1236 Mystery Mansion (1983)

Mystery Mansion is a family adventure that is a bit too heavily family oriented (ie. does have additional layers for the grown ups to enjoy) and so will not likely keep anyone’s interest up who haven’t seen the movie as kids.

Being a kids’ movie with just a few tame scares, the movie does end up in an eerie way that has likely stuck with the kids who saw this back in the day.

80s-o-meter: 48%

Total: 32%

#1233 The Big Chill (1983)

A bunch of thirty-something friends drifted apart since their youth spend together gather up for the burial of their friend who committed suicide and consequently spend a weekend together at a vacation house.

The Big Chill is brilliantly written, and wonderfully acted with just the right amount of nostalgia, intellectual jabber, painful tragedies, hidden love, and all things that are life.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 91%

#1226 Table for Five (1983)

Table for Five does one thing perfectly right: it’s easy for me to see every situation through different sets of eyes and fully emphasise with them and avoids the easy trap of vilifying anyone.

The concept is original and interesting, but the dramatic pacing of the movie could’ve been better and many of the characters – especially the children – remain distant even after spending 122 minutes with the gang.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 70%

#1223 Daniel (1983)

Featuring one of the most interesting synopses along with the acting talent provided by Timothy Hutton, Daniel turns out disappointingly pointless exercise.

The movie aims to tell the fictive story of the two children of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed in US for giving nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. But not only does the movie take liberties in its story (the names of the characters are completely changed), but manages to create a dull rendition of a super interesting piece of American history.

The movie assumes one to be aware of the incident, but still wades in lengthy flashbacks that do not really bring much information to explain what eventually took place or what were the motivations behind the accused acts. Even more disappointingly the movie weasels out and refuses to take any kind of stance on the events, leaving the viewer with pretty much a big pile of nothing.

80s-o-meter: 50%

Total: 21%

#1214 Eddie Macon’s Run (1983)

A young prison escapee tries to make it to Mexico to join with his family with a keen old detective on his tail.

A likeable road movie with some eccentric characters thrown into the mix, Eddie Macon’s Run doesn’t do anything remarkably well – but it doesn’t do anything remarkably badly either.

Both leads Kirk Douglas and John Schneider perform their roles well, with the latter one doing a good job making his character an easy to relate to underdog.

80s-o-meter: 58%

Total: 70%

#1209 The Osterman Weekend (1983)

The director Sam Peckinpah’s attempt for comeback after five years of radio silence was loaded with high expectations. Based on Robert Ludlum’s 1974 novel of the same name, The Osterman Weekend did not meet those expectations.

Sadly, the movie is pretty much on par with many of the made for TV movies of the era. Hidden camera setup has lost the novelty it had in 1983 and it does not help that the movie is not exactly state of the art of its era what it comes to its visions of this hi-tech.

As the movie gets past its first tedious 60 minutes, it does get mildly more interesting as the big web of lies finally starts to unravel.

80s-o-meter: 46%

Total: 52%

#1199 Gorky Park (1983)

Gorky Park, a murder mystery taking place in Moscow always interested me. Not because of the location itself, but for starring William Hurt and Brian Dennehy, both big time favourites of mine.

There is another aspect to Gorky Park that kind of interested me as well. As the American movie crew didn’t get a permission to shoot behind the iron curtain, the location was changed to Helsinki – my home town.

Given the strong cast and the manuscript being based on a bestseller book, my expectations for the movie were sky high, but weren’t even nearly met. The dreary northern location felt all too unexciting and stale, and beneath taking place in the exotic location Gorky Park is nothing but a very average thriller.

80s-o-meter: 43%

Total: 48%

#1182 Halloween 2019: The Prey (1983)

Filmed already in 1979, but released only four years later, The Prey was originally prepared for Essex Productions known for its adult movies. And it shows: there’s a notable amount of naked skin on display here even for an early 80s slasher, that are well known for their gratuitous nudity.

The story is without surprises: a gang of horny teens wander off to forest, to be crossed off one by one by a manic killer.

The Prey manages to make its attempt entertaining and the production quality and cinematography is somewhat solid, but there’s nothing in here that would set it apart from similar titles. And due to its weak antagonist you will probably want to look elsewhere if cult slashers are your thing.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 55%

#1177 Halloween 2019: Mausoleum (1983)

Girl enters a forgotten Mausoleum and becomes possessed by demon that had previously killed her mother.

The movie has a strong made for TV vibe to it and the green glowing demonic eye effect provides only unintentional humour these days.

The few gory deaths and gratuitous nudity can’t save the movie’s soap opera like execution that makes it somewhat of a snooze fest.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 38%

#1176 Halloween 2019: Frightmare (1983)

An iconic old school horror movie star passes away, but has still more than one trick up his sleeve for those that dare to violate the peace of his tomb.

And it’s soon after this that a few young fans decide to break and enter the tomb and to remove his body, with baneful consequences.

Frightmare offers a somewhat interesting twist to slashers, but never quite reaches its full potential. The 40s and 50s style of horror cinema combined with 80s aesthetics works well – including that ultra modern, almost discotheque like tomb – but as much as I sympathise with Ferdy Mayne’s portrayal of the haunting film star of the yesteryear, the character remains a much too weak antagonist to offer any real scares.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 60%