#1642 King Kong Lives (1986)

King Kong got a pretty ok reboot in the 1976 Dino De Laurentiis remake starring Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange and Charles Grodin, and ten years later King Kong Lives tried to pick up where the previous movie left by introducing a female counterpart for the colossal gorilla, but without the star power of the previous installation.

Well, almost. Linda Hamilton plays the female lead and John Ashton (of the Beverly Hills Cop fame) the army dude trying to blow up the big ape.

Movie fails to utilise neither one, and the apes themselves could be passable for late 80s, early 80s release, but by 1986 the audience had been already spoiled with the next wave of special FX and King Kong Lives absolutely can’t keep up in this race, and feels like a relic from the past with absolutely no value for the viewers of today.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 28%

#1633 Dr. Alien aka I Was a Teenage Sex Maniac aka I Was a Teenage Sex Mutant (1989)

An intentionally campy sci-fi comedy, Dr. Alien is one of those movies that could have gone either way gambling on trying to be fun and weird. It’s more often than not when these kind of comedies end up just awkwardly weird.

People getting into playing this sort of movie know what they are subscribing to, and Dr. Alien pretty much delivers what it promises, ending up in the ”better” end of the spectrum – again, for those who know what they are looking for when watching an 80s high school sex comedy.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 69%

#1583 Halloween 2021: Star Crystal (1986)

You’ve seen the beginning of Star Crystal before: starship crew on a expedition on a remote planet (well not too remote, Mars) brings into the ship something containing an alien life form that gets quite unhappy with the humen aboard.

After a few goofy deaths with passable FX the movie seems to be all out of crew to sacrifice to the creature. But here is where the movie actually genre blends into an exploration of the inner life of the alien, who is now busy absorbing all the information of the humankind (good and bad) stored on the starship’s mainframe computer.

The change is unexpected and not without problems – the action totally plateaus just when you expect it to go into the next gear. But even if the movie turns into close encounters of the boring kind, I do applaud the film crew’s courage of wandering off the beaten path and trying something new.

It is the very only reason why the movie left any lasting impression.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 63%

#1582 Halloween 2021: The Head Hunter aka Headhunter (1988)

It was usually the Italian film production companies that migrated to Miami to shoot their films with American actors, so Headhunter with its South-African film crew is bit of an anomaly in this aspect.

That is not all the movie has in common with its Italian counterparts; it is visually quite apt (special effects notwithstanding) and on the surface level it feels as a quite passable small horror movie where an evil spirit is chopping off heads for their personal collection.

The idea of the bad entity works, but then the movie gets unfocused with tribal African mumbo jumbo, and other similar aspects like the cop’s domestic affairs that just had me snooze off. Movie gets once again mildly more interesting towards the end as the evil becomes a shape shifter and things get almost hilariously (but not quite enough!) overboard.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 61%

#1445 Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype (1980)

I hated Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype – a tired word play if I’ve ever seen one – as soon as I heard about the movie, and that feeling got more intensive upon seeing the film poster.

Again, that feeling deepened as soon as the first few moments passed, The movie was just as inept and useless as I’d anticipated.

There’s not much positive to be said about the movie. It’s not as bad a shipwreck as the 1982 Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again, but it’s just bad in various other ways; if neither one of these movies would have seen the light of the day, we’d been better off as the human kind.

The shit they greenlighted at one point of time, sheesh..

80s-o-meter: 22%

Total: 4%

#1383 Halloween 2020: It’s Alive III – Island of the Alive (1987)

The originality award this year goes out to It’s Alive III – Island of the Alive. Larry Cohen’s sequel to the It Lives Again, released in 1978 (which in turn is a sequel to 1974 movie It’s Alive) marches the mutant killer babies to the silver screen for the third time, and this time around they’re being sent to a distant island to live in peace after the father of one mutant (Michael Moriarty) proves the court that the creatures have humane traits to them.

While I don’t necessarily agree that this was a good call from the judge, the island provides a plot device to take the story to bit different route; we get to see unsuccessful attempts to reach the mutants, followed by an adventure through the seas that I found a really fresh plot twist. The creatures themselves end up the Achilles heel of the movie, and the stop motion animations coupled with midgets inside rubber suits don’t really hold up for exposure to the camera for longer than one second, and unlike its predecessors, Island of the Alive gives the creatures plenty of screen time.

It’s Alive III – Island of the Alive is not a good movie, but weird enough to leave a lasting impression – which I consider a merit on its own.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 63%

#1379 Halloween 2020: Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf aka Howling II: Stirba Werewolf Bitch (1985)

A sequel to the 1981 The Howling, Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf takes the franchise to a totally campy direction by bringing into the mix the concept of erotic leather having intercourses while turning into werewolves, uninspiring European location, and overall cheapness of it all.

Generally seen as a bad movie, some people seem to cheer the fact that Sybil Danning can be seen in one of the key roles in the movie. But the same goes for every movie Danning is in, and to me she does absolutely nothing. What it comes to cheap b-movie semi naked horror heroines, I’m Linnea Quigley kind of guy, myself.

The most painful aspect of Howling is to see the iconic Christopher Lee smearing his name with this movie, although it is quite apparent he regretted this decision already during the shooting.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 26%

#1377 Halloween 2020: Monstrosity (1987)

A modernisation of the monster of Frankenstein coupled with awkward humour, Monstrosity joins the ranks of horror comedies that fail to provide any laughs or scares.

Frankie as they imaginatively call him is put together by three young guys in a backyard shed to fight against criminals, and he ends up a golem of a man with the mental capacity of a 3-year old.

With the exception of perhaps few gory kills, there’s nothing to be liked about Monstrosity. On the contrary, it’s movies like this that make me regret picking up this hobby without automatically skipping these kind of steaming pile of turds.

80s-o-meter: 30%

Total: -1%

#1376 Halloween 2020: The Terror Within (1989)

First of the scifi horror movies this Halloween, The Terror Within takes place in a base built in a desert somewhere in the dystopian future when most of the human kind has been wiped out by undisclosed human activities against the nature, leaving only super powerful mutants roaming the earth.

The restricted budget becomes very obvious in the few establishing shots of the futuristic base as everything here seems to be composed cardboard or of off the shelf items with a strong 70s whiff to them. After the movie turns out to be yet another Aliens ripoff and the alien offspring escapes to the ventilation hatches the movie gets a gloomier tone and the lighting changes for the movie’s benefit. For once the inevitable sighting and showdown with the enemy is not a complete letdown: Aliens level of art directing may not be found here, but the monster does look menacing enough for me not to want to bump into it in a dark corridor.

George Kennedy who probably received top billing is not sold on the project and walks through the movie without much enthusiasm. Andrew Stevens who’s previously stayed under the radar for me on the other hand puts in tons of great energy and effort as the heroic lead, levering the otherwise mediocre movie up a quite a notch.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 75%

#1375 Halloween 2020: Invaders From Mars (1986)

Tobe Hooper’s modern version of the 1953 movie of the same name ticks more boxes than what I’ve seen in all this Halloween; the movie looks lovely and colourful, the spooky atmosphere is there, the tale is a bit twisted in a very good sense, there are weird mind altering aliens involved, and the movie captures extremely well all of this from the perspective of a kid. I’m sure the 8-year old me would have loved this movie to bits.

Too bad the movie does not reinvent the any of the plot line of the original movie – especially during its third act.

This portion of the movie is spent chasing the martians inside an alien dungeon, and although the setting and martians themselves look menacing – and cartoony in a good way – this feels like a total faux pas given the great buildup. I’d much rather followed how the ongoing alien infestation above ground and the proverbial noose tightening around the necks of those in the know.

The Poltergeist related mystery between directors Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg gets sort of a continuum in Invaders From Mars as the movie looks and feels almost as lush as If it was Spielberg sitting on that director’s seat. Hooper certainly had the gift comparable to the best of the Hollywood what it came to charging his films full of the kind of movie magic that separates the best from mundane creations.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 75%

#1297 Journey to the Center of the Earth (1988)

To understand how a horrible mess of a movie like Journey to the Center of the Earth came to the existance one has to know about the history behind it. The filming had started already in 1986, but the movie was left unfinished midway and Cannon Films was left with a dud of a movie so they hired Albery Pyun to finish the film.

Pyun who later disowned the whole project and remains uncredited alledgely wrote a new screenplay with zero budget and made it sort of a sequel to the Alien from L.A. (1988) he had just finished shooting.

And all of this shows. Journey to the Center of the Earth (1988) in nobody’s passion project, lacks ownership and direction and ends up totally incomprehensible and definitely one of the biggest train wrecks of the era that should never seen the light of the day. The tragedy is that the actors aren’t half bad, and there’s a constant feeling of a half decent scifi adventure movie being buried under all the pile of garbage that ended up on the screen.

80s-o-meter: 79%

Total: 1%

#1191 Halloween 2019: The Thing (1982)

This year’s Halloween will wrap up with this review, and what a feature it has been: we’ve watched together a whopping record number of 41 horror movies! There’s no immediate fear for running out of things to watch though, plenty more still out there.

I do miss getting back to the genre classics every now and then, so I wrapped up this year’s feature with Carpenter’s The Thing. This won’t be a full review as almost everything worth saying about the movie is already out there. I can just tell that this arctic survival horror is the best horror movie of the era, until proven otherwise. Its setting is perfect, cast lead by Kurt Russell flawless, effects work both years ahead of its time, but done with such perfect vision that they blend in to the story effortlessly and the story itself – Bill Lancaster’s screenwriting on the classic John W. Campbell Jr’s novella Who Goes There? concentrates on the just the right aspects of the story, while adds layers upon layers of tension and paranoia.

The Thing is an almost perfect horror movie that has aged tremendously well and gained fans in multiple generations up to date – and will probably keep on doing so as long as we keep on celebrating Halloween with classic films.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 98%

#1192 Halloween 2019: Black Roses (1988)

Heavy Metal and rock bands – much like horror movies – were heavily targeted by committees of concerned parents during the 80s, sometimes taking excessive forms with artists having to give testimonies in congressional hearings and even getting sued for hiding subliminal messages in their music.

Against this background Black Roses is a delight to watch: here a metal band arrives to a two horse town to play a gig, much to the excitement of the teens – and dismay of the parents. And ominous things start to take place, naturally.

With such a great setup there was no need for Black Roses to put in any excessive effects or rubbery creatures. Unfortunately they did, and these moments feel like a horrible faux pas in otherwise basically solid movie.

If you can overlook these moments, Black Roses is a refreshingly different horror comedy that offers multiple enjoyable moments depicting heavy metal and rotten youth.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 81%

#1184 Halloween 2019: Nightbeast (1982)

An alien with his face frozen on a silly grin crash lands on the earth and begins to kill anything that passes their way.

There are b-movies movies that are made intentionally bad. Then there are bad movies that are made without any skills, and end up being just plain bad and boring. And out of all the b-movies only a fraction are like Nightbeast: really bad, but totally disarming in its clumsiness and unintentional humour.

80s-o-meter: 68%

Total: 76%

#1171 Halloween 2019: Breeders (1986)

Horror in general already had a reputation or being sleazy before 80s, but it was in the early 80s that the movie producers really knew their core audience and catered them with cheap frights and gratuitous nudity so much that the genre – especially the slashers – became highly predictable. While this predictability was repelled by the critics, the young moviegoing audience ate it all up.

Breeders offers little new to what similar movies have done: There’s blood, graphic effects, virgins, rape and strange, otherworldly gooey substances and various other elements of an exploitation movie: it’s all about voyeurism, filth and sleaze. But what sets Breeders apart from the others is how unashamedly it is just that: absolute sleaze. It makes no hesitation of undressing every female just to show some nudity and the movie lingers on to these moments for what seems like an eternity.

There’s not much to be said in Breeders’ defence other than that it’s trash – but at least it’s being completely honest about it.

80s-o-meter: 76%

Total: 59%

#1170 Halloween 2019: The Unholy (1988)

Originally written in the 70s after the box office successes of The Exorcist and The Omen, The Unholy boasts similar base story of a catholic priest fighting against the evil powers, and does so in a wonderfully 80s way.

The concept actually works well and the movie stands out in a positive way among the horror movies of the era. Despite the unfortunate ending revealing the antagonists – usually a bad idea – the movie makes many effective design choices. The effects are scarcely used, but among one of the most effective ones.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 76%

#1168 Halloween 2019: The Outing aka The Lamp (1987)

The Outing is your somewhat typical monster creature movie, with two notable variables: The creature itself is kind of a evil spirit living inside an old lamp, and the location of the movie is a museum that has acquired the lamp after it was stolen from an old mysterious lady.

While this setup works alright, I still got kind of a dejavú half way through the movie. Not for feeling if I had seen the movie before, but for guessing pretty much spot on how it all would unravel during the remaining 45 minutes, and as much as I’d wanted, The Outing didn’t offer any surprises there.

The strongest suit of The Outing remains its wonderful poster drawn by Drew Struzan. Unfortunately nothing else here reaches the same level of professionalism.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 51%

#1163 Halloween 2019: The Unnamable (1988)

A bunch of university students wonder off to an abandoned building where a demon-like creature – The Unnamable – attacks them one by one.

Based on a H. P. Lovecraft’s short story of the same name The Unnamable is dreadfully slow and eventless horror movie that offers no positive surprises or plot twists whatsoever; it plays through pretty much as it starts with no actual highlights along the way. Although the monster makeup is not bad, The Unnamable joins the endless list of horror movies where the end result would’ve been more impactful if the monster was kept in the shadows instead of fully exposing it to the cameras.

Considering that its entire plot could easily fit on a napkin, The Unnamable does flow through easily thanks to good production quality and snappy editing, which remains pretty much its only virtue.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 31%

#1157 Halloween 2019: Basket Case (1982)

An indie cult horror comedy Basket Case follows a bizarre story of a deformed half of the formerly conjoined, but separated against their will twins seeking for revenge, while being carried around in a rattan basket.

A pet project of the writer/director Frank Henenlotter, Basket Case is a refreshingly different take on slasher movies and the movie’s mood as well the attacks of the deformed creature are nothing short of nightmarish and haunting.

Although Basket Case can be considered to be ahead its time as an indie horror comedy that punches above its weight, it did feel a bit more dated than I hoped for. Basket Case would go on to spawn two sequels, released in 1990 and 1991, respectively.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 63%

#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%