#1120 Critters 2 – The Main Course (1988)

This is how you do a sequel!

Critters 2 – The Main Course takes everything that was cool in the first part and amps it up to eleven: there’s much more humour, action, new locations and characters this time around.

Even more importantly, the Critters themselves have taken a huge leap forwards and actually feel like actual, menacing but goofy antagonists. The elements that work, like the shape shifting intergalactic mercenaries are fortunately still there and the movie does not try to reinvent the wheels in any negative way.

80s-o-meter: 94%

Total: 87%

#1119 Critters (1986)

The best moments for me in this project happen when I finally sit down to watch a movie I’ve seen countless of times as a poster or stacked on the shelves of a local rental store when I was a kid. Critters very likely tops that list.

I’m happy to say that the movie mostly lived up to the sky high expectations I had for it. A furry mini-monster comedy in the vein of Gremlins and Ghoulies, the actual creatures themselves appear as surprisingly weak characters (and antagonists), and end up overshadowed by other elements of the movie, like the two intergalactic mercenaries who arrive on earth, taking various human forms, resulting in plenty of comic relief.

It might be due to the weakish Critters, or the dip in the movie’s pacing towards the third act, but I had the constant nagging feeling that the film never quite reached its full potential. Fortunately the movie wraps up in a satisfactory way, although with a much too clichéd last minute horror cliffhanger.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 83%

#1103 Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (1985)

Sporting one of the most cryptic movie names ever, Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend is a dinosaur movie, and something of an unrelated 80s predecessor to the now iconic Jurassic Park.

Done in the time before CGI, some of the action effects shown in the wider shots have surprisingly fared adequately, and it’s only when we get to the static closeups that the illusion of actual, living jurassic creatures is completely shattered.

Much bigger problem than the effects is where the movie tries to position itself audience wise: on the other hand there’s tons of family movie elements here – like that cutesy little Brontosaurus baby – and on the other some surprisingly graphic gun violence as well as borderline sex scenes. Although the movie does definitely have its strong points, namely the dinos and its overall sense of an adventure, on the whole the movies just isn’t well balanced at all.

It’s a shame since on paper the movie seems like an easy win that could’ve ended up another E.T. of the era.

80s-o-meter: 73%

Total: 51%

#993 Dragonslayer (1981)

The eighties marked a huge evolutionary step for art of movie effects, that hadn’t really come that far from the stop motion used in the 1933 King Kong. And once that train started rolling we were presented throughout the decade with some absolutely mind blowing effects work pioneered and engineered by some very talented people, compared to which a plethora of the later cheap computerised effects have fared the test of time generally speaking much worse.

A great portion of this breakthrough is to be credited to Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), founded in 1975 to create the effects for the Star Wars movie series. Dragonslayer was the first movie outside Lucasfilm Ltd using their services, and the results are so stunning that one could argue the creature seen here is still the best, lifelike dragon seen on the silver screen to date.

I did not care for the sorcery bits of Dragonslayer much, but they do give a good opportunity to showcase some of the nice effects. The movie would go on to get nominated for the Academy Award for best visual effects, only to lose to Raiders of the Lost Ark – another 1981 title featuring the effect wizardry of ILM.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 71%

#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%

#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%

#845 Zone Troopers (1985)

A troop of American WWII soldiers wander off behind the nazi enemy lines to discover a crashed spaceship in Zone Troopers, a movie that has gained something of a cult following over the years.

I enjoyed the unique concept but neither the plot nor the execution live up to it — this is a movie with poor, made for TV like production quality to it. It’s not unintentionally funny kind of shoddiness either, but of the kind that always seems to just flatten the overall experience: The aliens look dodgy, nazi soldiers never quite pass as the real thing and camera cuts seem to be the only special effect used here.

Zone Troopers hasn’t been listed as a comedy, there are certainly some genuine attempts for humour – some of which aren’t even too bad.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 56%

#840 Humanoids from the Deep aka Monster (1980)

Humanoids from the Deep takes the Creature from the black lagoon and clones it to an army of bloodthirsty underwater perverts, hungry for some blood and t&a – but mostly the latter. It’s one of those horror movies originally engineered to attract young audience with its promise of gore and nudity and later turned into cult classic thanks to its campy script and effects.

Watched from this point of view, the first half of the movie has very little to offer in terms of entertainment. It’s only in the second half of the movie when the Humanoids are seen in great numbers that the movie offers some bang for the buck. There’s certain unexpected charm to the home made monsters and their presence and movement remind me of a crappier lizard version of Tarman from The Return of the Living Dead.

In terms of so bad it’s good, Humanoids from the Deep rates well above average, but it’s not quite bad enough to earn a sincere recommendation.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 60%

#833 TerrorVision (1986)

Finding a totally obscure movie that rocks is a thing that really makes running this blog worthwhile, and TerrorVision is definitely fits the bill.

It’s not a hard task to figure out an outrageous silly plot and concept like seen in this movie, but making it work definitely is and it’s more often than not that these kind of movies fail. But TerrorVision totally makes the best out of its B-movie origins and has one positive surprise after another lined up. While playing around with clichés has proven to be the biggest letdown in numerous of uninspired horror comedies, TerrorVision succeeds to find its own voice, often taking a step into completely unexpected direction.

I can’t end up nothing but to recommend the title. It’s one of the most positive, utterly surprises lately, and a perfect addition for that marathon of horror scifi comedies along with Night of the Creeps, The return of the Living Dead and Dead Heat.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 95%

#768 Strange Invaders (1983)

A scifi action adventure with just a sprinkle of horror, Strange Invaders presses all the right buttons for me genre wise.

But, the disappointment soon set in after the movie started; everything seemed somehow a bit off and not quite exactly what I’d bargained for. It was only later in the movie when I realised the obvious nod to the 50’s sci-fi movies and after putting on those black & white goggles the experience became much more entertaining – even so that I would consider watching the movie again sometimes in the future without color.

Effect wise the movie wasn’t lined up to win any awards. But, although there is certain clumsiness to the aliens hatching out of their human form, the overall effect is impactful, thanks to some sort of gooey, veiny layer implemented under the latex mask.

One could argue that Paul Le Mat is somewhat of a miscast, and the movie could’ve gained from a bit more electrifying lead. But then again, through those 1950s sci-fi glasses his act blends into the movie quite adequately.

80s-o-meter: 48%

Total: 67%

#766 Halloween 2017: Night of the Creeps (1986)

One of those movies that I’ve avoided watching for a long while, out of fear that it couldn’t meet my expectations, I’m happy to say that all my fears were unfounded: Night of the Creeps is a gem of a movie!

Night of the Creeps first found its way to the finnish video rental stores as a heavily cut version and ignited a lot of speculation with the youth of the time of an uncut version circling around somewhere, and this cult status followed it throughout the 90s.

Night of the Creeps is an almost perfect combination of comedy and horror – and even some elements of scifi thrown in the mix as well – and as a living dead movie it’s up there with the greats like Return of the Living Dead and Dead Heat.

80s-o-meter: 94%

Total: 98%

#763 Halloween 2017: Return of the Living Dead II (1988)

The sequel – this time written and directed by Ken Wiederhorn – follows the look and feel of the original movie closely, and does not wander too far away from the winning formula. In this case the decision applaudable, making Return of the Living Dead II worth watching, even if it is the weaker movie of the two.

James Karen and Thom Mathews, the hilarious screaming and moaning duo from the first movie return as completely new characters here as if the events in the first movie never took place, but the movie thankfully acknowledges this by joking openly about it.

Some of the familiar reanimated cadavers – like the modernised version of the Tarman – are back, but the sequel falls behind the original in the overall quality of the effects, never surpassing its three year older big brother. The sequel trades in some of its quality to quantity by marching huge armies of living dead on the screen, ending up with a much less memorable array of baddies.

The series would go on to spawn three more sequels, one in 1993 and two in 2005, all of which are mostly unrelated to these eighties originals.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 82%

#761 Halloween 2017: Neon Maniacs aka Evil Dead Warriors (1986)

Let’s get this out of the way: Neon Maniacs’s plot is a total nonsense.

A gang of ghoulies start spawning from under the Golden Gate bridge and start killing people – mostly young – around San Francisco. These creatures are straight out of carnival kind of goofy looking, and as is it turns out they can be killed using nothing but just plain old water. No Oscar winning material here.

Fortunately this nonsense is executed with a top notch B-movie style in the best tradition of the 80s: There’s gory and gooey effects the Neon Maniacs melting, parties and cheesy musical performances, all of which make otherwise mediocre Neon Maniacs a fun and rememberable slasher horror movie that offers a refreshing twist on this sometimes very tired genre.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total:80%

#757 Halloween 2017: Cellar Dweller (1988)

Playing like an elongated episode of The Twilight Zone or Amazing Stories, Cellar Dweller presents us with a far fetched concept of comic book drawings taking a life of their own and killing residents in an art colony.

Jeffrey Combs known from the cult classics Re-animator and From Beyond makes a brief visit as the original Cellar Dweller comic book artist killed in the very first minutes of the movie.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 58%

#730 DeepStar Six (1989)

It’s all rumours, but the story says someone got a whiff that James Cameron was making an underwater aliens style movie and all of a sudden three major studios were preparing a movie in a similar setting. Surprisingly none of them are too bad, and while DeepStar Six doesn’t have the visual fidelity of The Abyss nor the thrills of Leviathan, it is still a movie with decent production values, and plenty of entertainment.

While Leviathan copy-pasted the Alien / The Thing successfully to the underwater theme, the decision to make DeepStar Six a monster movie seems forced and uninspiring; the enchanting, well established deep sea base would’ve provided many other more realistic and tangible threats. The monster is fairly well made and animated, but there’s absolutely nothing iconic or memorable about it. An Alien or Predator this isn’t.

The fairly unknown cast performs fairly well, but without surprises. Miguel Ferrer is a delight as the edgy and hysterical Snyder who’s the only one in the crew who seems to realise the actual weight of the situation.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 79%

#713 Mac and Me (1988)

An awful, cheap copy of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Mac and Me takes a lot of notes from its role model and executes them in a disappointing fashion.

For a movie build upon an illusion of an alien character, the puppetry work here is really subpar. Not only are the puppets plasticky and generally off putting, they always look just that – Puppets – without ever giving the impression of real, actual breathing creatures. The movie is sprinkled with the most blatant product placement of the 80s and there’s a constant stream of absurd scenes like a totally random dance party taking place in MacDonalds and revival of a whole family of half-dead aliens by making them sip a few drops of coke.

A collection of poor design choices, Mac and Me is like E.T. with all the magic, fun and joy stripped out of it.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 17%

#708 Teen Wolf Too (1987)

Everything I said I didn’t like in Teen Wolf goes for the sequel as well. You see, Teen Wolf Too plays it too tame and safe and pretty much just reprises everything seen in the first movie, just replacing the actors involved and takes the story to another high school. Every character in the movie and the members of the audience already know how the movie is going to play out and Teen Wolf Too goes to great lengths to make sure it doesn’t take one step outside that sandbox.

Michael J. Fox, a force of nature who pretty much was the only reason to watch the first movie is now gone and replaced with Jason Bateman in his feature film debut. He plays the role just as as predictably and safely as the rest of the movie with little to none surprises.

Whatever little freshness there was in the concept in the first run, it’s all gone, and Teen Wolf Too is stale like a bowl of yesterday’s oatmeal.

80s-o-meter: 88%

Total: 32%

#707 Teen Wolf (1985)

I’m pretty sure that by 1985 Michael J. Fox knew he was destined for something bigger but just needed the right vehicle to get there.

Teen Wolf isn’t that vehicle.

It’s a weak movie and I’m not even hundred percent sure why. Michael J. Fox seen here is pretty much carbon copy of the same likeable Marty we saw in Back to the Future. The manuscript isn’t anything to write to home about, but I can see the whole concept working if given to the right hands.

Most of the right elements are there, but Teen Wolf just misses that special something that a few directors can deliver. Some call it magic, some plain talent, but whatever it is, this movie lacks it and the end result feels flat throughout.

A part of the wave of werewolf movies in the early-mid 80s, Teen Wolf was launched simultaneously with Back to the Future, which undoubtedly helped in boosting the box office result of this movie. Without it the movie would be very much forgotten.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 52%

#705 From Beyond (1986)

From Beyond wastes no time getting to the meat of the movie; its special effects. Quite literally, within just two minutes from the start we’re presented with first creatures from another dimension gnawing the flesh out of a human cheek. After seeing too many horror movies that really take their sweet time to get to the point, the shock beginning of From Beyond works well.

The movie is loosely based on a short story of just seven pages by H. P. Lovecraft and stars Jeffrey Combs, whose kooky, eccentric assistant character draws a resemblance to his earlier role in Re-Animator. That same intensity fits this movie quite perfectly.

The sadomasochist and sexual themes presented here feel uninspired throughout the movie, but otherwise From Beyond is a morbid and creepy ride that showcases some very inventive FX work in the very best tradition of the 80s.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 72%