#1589 Halloween 2021: Memorial Valley Massacre aka Memorial Day aka Valley of Death aka Son of Sleepaway Camp (1989)

Just as I wrote Silent Madness having the most pissed poor antagonist ever seen on the silver screen, along comes Memorial Valley Massacre, violently screaming Silent Madness to hold its beer.

What Memorial Valley Massacre tries to sell us is a concept of some sort of a prehistoric man living in the wilderness, who then starts to – you guessed it – wasting all the campers. Both the look and feel of the movie as well as the dodgy make up of the antagonist (think: someone remembered a costume party in the last minute, and had to make do with things found from home) made me wonder if this was some sort of weird joke I was witnessing, but it seems this wasn’t the case.

Memorial Valley Massacre is one of those movies that fail on all aspects, totally failing to scare or entertain. To try to make up for the bad sales the movie was later rebranded as Son of Sleepaway camp to try to ride on the success of Sleepaway Camp series, another severe faux pas for the movie.

80s-o-meter: 83%

Total: 11%

#1586 Halloween 2021: U.F.O. Abduction aka The McPherson Tape (1989)

Preceding Blair Witch Project ten years, The McPherson Tape took that same home video approach to create a ”lost” tape, an evidence that documents the scary moments unfolding before our eyes.

The approach is powerful as it effectively makes the viewer one of the few eye witnesses to the incident, and also give the footage certain mythical and forbidden flavour. While McPherson Tape nails the home video look & feel and the overall flow of the tableside conversations feel genuine, the actual interesting content of the movie is just about two or three minutes out of the 62 minute running time.

More interesting the the movie content (it’s not very interesting) or its scariness (not very scary) is the viral aspect that McPherson Tape managed to gain: the movie got spread around as VHS copies for years, with people who were sure this was the official proof for extraterrestrial life. The actual, official truth only came out years later as the official release, long time after VHS was no more.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 31%

#1577 Halloween 2021: Lords of the Deep (1989)

Something extraordinary weird happened in 1989: a staggering five production companies released an underwater scifi movie back to back. The best known out of these five is naturally The Abyss, while the fate of the four others remains to be always compared to the James Cameron’s masterpiece.

Lords of the Deep does unfortunately not fare well in the comparison with any of its competitors, ending up the weakest one of the bunch by margin. The movie reminds more of a low budget TV series (think underwater Star Trek), but despite the shortcomings of the set design and costumes the movie manages to sell the idea of an underwater base – if only barely. The same does not apply for alien lifeform, and it would require quite a bit more imagination than what I have to buy the silly storyline.

As with Star Trek, there’s something strangely endearing about the clumsiness and silly costumes though, and in an alternate universe Lords of the Deep might’ve had a somewhat potent one or two season TV series in it.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 42%

#1562 Rooftops (1989)

You know how youth musicals always have this weird corny world where all the characters are so melodramatic and constantly emotionally hurt oh so bad that they have no other options but to dance to shake their negative emotions off.

Rooftops is like a musical without actual music. Instead we have both youthful dance sessions, and some sort of weird youth showoffs where they fight with dance, without touching each other, similarly to Capoeira.

It is what it is. Jason Gedrick in the lead is like a more handsome, more athletic and less charismatic version of Daniel LaRusso of the Karate Kid fame, and well .. I guess he goes well with the movie. While I did get some enjoyment out of the laughable over the top 80s melodramaticity of it all, this is one of the movies I really can’t see myself revisiting any time soon.

80s-o-meter: 93%

Total: 29%

#1553 American Rickshaw aka American Risciò aka American Tiger (1989)

With American Rickshaw the director Sergio Martino bites a bit more than he can chew; a movie about a Miami rickshaw driver mixed with Chinese supernatural mumbo-jumbo gets outright ridiculous quickly. On the other hand it’s this nonsensical, over the top aspect of American Rickshaw that makes the movie if not enjoyable, at least an experience to watch through. This is definitely one more movie to the ”so bad it’s almost good” -category.

An Italian movie shot in Florida with American actors, American Rickshaw does its very best to underline its American origins – up to the title of the movie – by showcasing well the 80s Miami (beach) life. But, there’s something weirdly and wonderfully off about the movie throughout its running time that is somehow a straight giveaway that it’s not a Hollywood movie we’re talking about here.

I can’t rate American Rickshaw too generously because it’s just not a good movie per se. But take the low rating with a grain of salt, as it does have other interesting qualities to it, and if unorthodox movies are your thing, you might find a lot to enjoy about this wonderful train wreck.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 60%

#1538 Communion (1989)

Ok, so Communion and The Dead Zone and Brainstorm are the three 80s movies starring Christopher Walken that I keep mixing up as they all have a scifi / supernatural theme to them.

So, just to reiterate: The Dead Zone is the Stephen King one with Walken gaining psychic abilities after a car crash and the following coma. Brainstorm is the one where they can project images and memories direct to peoples brains with the head gizmo and things go south as the army gets interested in the device. And, finally, Communion is the one that is based on experiences of one Whitley Strieber who was spooked around in a cabin by extraterrestrials who did like the aliens typically do: shined light into their eyes and terrorised their dreams.

Communion is pretty much like every UFO story out there; it has an unbelievable and fascinating events way beyond our current comprehension, but very little explanation or concrete outcome of it all, and it’s this vagueness that leaves the experience pretty bland at the end.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 59%

#1515 The January Man (1989)

The January Man is an odd one, starting with its casting. Not that the cast itself isn’t up for the task, but it’s just the combination of them that does not seem a typical selection for an a-list action movie. Same goes with Kevin Kline acting as the lead: he does the work adequately, but somehow I feel like he wasn’t among the top-5 choices for the role. This becomes obviously clear in the moments he is represented as a top notch cop; no matter how hard I tried, I could not buy it for a second.

Same goes for figuring out who the killer was, which would’ve taken me some giant leaps of faith and perhaps even more imagination than the writers had.

Although coming across more as an actor than an actual cop, there’s no denying that Kline possesses a great secret presence, and despite (or, thanks to) all the fluffiness the movie does make for a very easy, weirdly enjoyable watching experience.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 65%

#1511 Mindfield aka Mind Field (1989)

Canada – or USA lite as some pundits like to call it – felt in the 80s somewhere in between Great Britain and the States (a bit like Australia did as well) performing at times pretty convincing imitation of the Hollywood cinema, but more than often not really finding a tone of its own, and ending up sort of a poor man’s version of its US counterpart.

Mindfield is 100% Canadian product that got into this list for featuring one Michael Ironside who had already achieved a sizeable career in the US that would ultimately culminate in Total Recall (1990) that made him a household name and one of the definite baddies in the cinema history.

In Mindfield he also performs well, but anything else in the movie falls so far behind the expectations that it’s clear his talent is wasted here. Don’t let the nice poster or the scifi mind altering thriller blurb fool you – Total Recall this totally ain’t.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 38%

#1510 Pink Cadillac (1989)

Pink Cadillac is one of those movies I watched at the very beginning of starting out this project, but it turns out I never got around reviewing it.

Turns out I remember at the beginning with Clint Eastwood as a skip tracer going after the trailer park beauty queen Lou Ann (Bernadette Peters) who has fled to Reno with a briefcase full of her husbands counterfeit money – but the second half with them battling together against a camp full of white supremists I’d totally forgotten about. Probably due to it being more forgettable and less impactful than the plot twists that preceded it.

So, Pink Cadillac is a totally enjoyable movie – but not quite as iconic as I remembered it to be.

Still, you can never go much wrong with Eastwood.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 81%

#1507 Robot Ninja (1989)

If many of the main stream movies gained in quality from being released towards the end of the 80s, the same goes for the indie movies as well. Had Robot Ninja been released in 1982 it would’ve probably been unwatchable mess, but now the overall production quality (for a low budget movie) and the 80s style of it makes it more enjoyable and definitely closer to something that one could consider as a cult movie.

Mind you, this is still not a good movie. It is totally stupid and silly, and mostly relying on totally overboard gory special effects, but it does have that guilty pleasure aspect to it that I can relate to some people enjoying. That being said, the movie wasn’t exactly my cup of tea.

There is a definite star in this show as well, though: A Commodore Amiga 500 home computer is present in many of the scenes, which alone makes the movie worth checking out for the fans of Amiga. I know you’re out there!

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 40%

#1499 Chattahoochee (1989)

Chattahoochee is based on the life of Chris Calhoun, a Korean war veteran who in 1955 suffered a violent mental breakdown resulting him to be incarcerated in a high security mental health prison in Chattahoochee State Hospital, Florida.

From thereon his problems get worse as the patients of the asylum are subjected to various sorts of abuse. The systematic cruelty was eventually exposed by The Tampa Tribune, aided by the letters that Calhoun wrote while committed.

Chattahoochee features a wonderful story coupled with the strong performance by the wonderful Gary Oldman, but is ultimately held back by a poor screenplay that often fails to portray cause and consequence of various events; we see the violent breakdown, suicide attempt and eventual recovery but never quite understand the catalysts behind them.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 67%

#1489 Immediate Family (1989)

I keep of finding the oddest movies I at first don’t remember watching before, but throughout the movie I have this nagging feeling I’ve seen them before. With Immediate Family this became apparent as soon as Mary Stuart Masterson was introduced as a teen mother giving her to-be-born child for adoption to a couple unable to bear children of their own.

A movie about teenage pregnancy as much as dealing with infertility, Immediate Family plays just the right notes throughout the movie, but for some reason the movie ends up less than the sum of its first class parts.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 64%

#1481 Face of the Enemy (1989)

Featuring one of the most interesting synopsis’ I’ve encountered in the recent years, Face of the Enemy is a low budget drama thriller about a former CIA agent who after getting caught and tortured in Middle-East has since returned to home and working as a guard, until he one year recognises someone who he suspects is one of his captors that has since moved to the states under different identity. After the officials decline any help he takes the actions to his own hands and decides to prison the suspect to his cellar and force out the confession out of her.

With Face of the Enemy the director Hassan Ildari has managed to create an intriguing little thriller with minimalistic elements. The trip to the depths of the human psyche is dark and interesting from the start to the end, but Face of the Enemy in its 100 minutes of running time does very little but scratch the surface of what could be hidden underneath; this is one of those concepts that would’ve probasbly worked even better as mini series.

That, or a novel.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 70%

#1451 The ’Burbs (1989)

Shot in the legendary Universal back lot, The ’Burbs is one of those perfect 80s family movies that lets us a sneak peak into the life of a neighbourhood in the suburbs where a tempest in a teapot is just about to be unleashed as a new suspicious family moves in to disturb the peace.

Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern and Rick Ducommun create an unlikely trio of family guys who stick together even thought they don’t share much more in common other than the same street address. Corey Feldman joins the show to do what Corey Feldman does the best: being the laid back dude often breaking the fourth wall.

The ’Burbs balances well between creating big drama out of small elements, suspense and comedy. It is debatable if the movie needed its last minute plot twist (I’d been totally content without it), but otherwise the movie does very little wrong.

80s-o-meter: 95%

Total: 90%

#1442 The War of the Roses (1989)

I haven’t been shy on saying about how Danny DeVito is one of the Hollywood’s unsung heroes, that has never received the critical acclaim he should’ve – both as a director and an actor. The War of the Roses, his second feature film after Throw Momma from the Train is once again a good looking, well directed piece of cinema where it’s only the manuscript that runs out of steam before the end.

A black comedy about a couple going through the most devastating divorce ever evolves from a love story into a spiral of revenge that in the end devours them both. But it seems that the story lacks one more step in evolution; the characters become more and more two dimensional caricatures – until the last showdown that manages to revive some more dimensions to them.

The War of the Roses is a good movie with a constant feeling of huge untapped potential that the movie never quite redeems, and although the leads Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas perform well on the screen, it’s DeVito himself whose appearances always leave me hungry for more.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 75%

#1441 Music Box (1989)

Music Box is a thought provoking movie: how much we really know of the past of our parents, before they were our parents – especially if it is a subject they don’t want to discuss about.

This is what a young attorney Ann Talbot (Jessica Lange) starts to wonder as she defends his father against the accusations of war crimes that took place in WW2 Hungary. The movie also keeps the viewer at the edge of their seat as we seek for a spark of hope for the accused, while feeling absolutely saddened by the morbid stories shared by the witnesses.

Armin Mueller-Stahl performs a superb role as the straight forward heartfelt grandfather who’s learned to hide well the enigma of a man he really is.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 94%

#1440 Black Rainbow (1989)

If you’re going to introduce supernatural nonsense into your movie, you better back it up some how.

I was waiting for Black Rainbow to come up with a good explanation how Rosanna Arquette as a medium with a great showmanship suddenly begins channeling grim predictions of the future and foreseeing deaths to the tiniest detail, but the movie provides none of that. As the movie closes it manages to leave one confused, with less clear picture of the character and her powers one had just 30 minutes ago.

Black Rainbow is a mishmash of a movie that had a nice premise for a movie, but would’ve needed much, much snappier writing in order to pull it off.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 59%

#1436 Farewell to the King (1989)

An American army squad shipwrecks on the shores of Japanese occupied Borneo and gets wiped out by the enemy, except for the soldier who flees the confrontation and befriends with a local tribe. When two British soldiers paratroop into the jungle, they meet up with the tribe and the American, now dubbed as the king of the tribe.

If this sounds familiar, you might be interested to hear that John Milius, the writer behind Farewell to the King is the same guy who wrote Apocalypse Now some ten years earlier.

What made Farewell to the King the most interesting to me was not the battle against the enemy, but the perseverance the allies show about bringing him back to be trialed as a deserter. The noose tightens and Farewell to the King keeps the viewer well in its grasp until the very end.

80s-o-meter: 40%

Total: 70%