#1865 The Beast Within (1982)

A movie I wish I had watched as a part of this years Halloween feature, The Beast Within is an apt little horror thriller taking a place in a small town along the Mississippi river.

To be completely honest I had somewhat hard time following all of the plot and nuances the movie was trying to convey, but this did not take away much of the enjoyment I had watching the secrets of the small town unravel. The production quality and direction of Philippe Mora (minus the flaws in story telling) is solid and the sense of danger and gloomy events were enough to keep in glued in my seat through the movie.

Also the cast led by Ronny Cox do their part with flying colors, contributing to an enjoyable overall watching experience.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 21%

#1831 Halloween 2023: Attack of the Beast Creatures aka Hell Island (1985)

Attack of the Beast Creatures has one interesting aspect going for it: the atmosphere. Set in the 1920s the movie shares the same look and feel like the 1940s and 50s creature movies, which makes the (otherwise tame) gore effects much more impactful.

But it’s also in this same FX department where the movie fails the biggest; the little dolls thrown towards the actors for them to hold and pretend struggling is downright ridiculous, and the movie would have gotten much farther by just hinting the existence of the creatures.

80s-o-meter: 14%

Total: 28%

#1830 Halloween 2023: Blood Beach (1980)

Riding in the wake of Jaws, Blood Beach makes an attempt to frame the sand – or more precisely a creature therein – as the antagonist to fear.

…aaand it by large fails to do so. It is very hard to take this particular threat seriously.

On the positive side the movie itself, along with its early 80s beach scene and detective cast led by the late John Saxon and the Burt Young are all sufficiently entertaining to watch. All in all, Blood Beach is more of a mystery what dunnit story rather than a horror movie.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 60%

#1825 Halloween 2023: The Kindred (1987)

On her deathbed, a scientist urges her son to destroy her lab notes from her experiments. As the son visits the her mother’s ancestral home, he uncovers the existence of a lost brother, and the horrifying secrets of genetic research gone wrong.

The Kindred is a horror creature movie whose strongest suit is by far the uncovering of the mystery and typical to the monster movies, the creature itself feels almost underwhelming compared to the mighty fine atmosphere the movie manages to create completely without its monster fx. In other words: here as well it’s more scary what you don’t see than rather than what you do see.

Also typical to the similar movies, it turns from a mystery horror thriller to a pretty standard action movie without managing to capitalise the original eery atmosphere. Still, there’s a lot to be liked here and The Kindred is a fine example of a horror movie done mostly right.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 75%

#1786 Troll (1986)

Do you know which movie stars the brown haired pre-teen boy called Harry Potter Jr who’s interested in all kinds of magical and superstitious and gets sucked into an adventure full of weird mystical creatures, witches and such.

If you answered Troll, you are quite right! If you answered something else, you must have mixed up this masterpiece with some less known trivial pulp.

The house getting overtaken by Trolls and other magic creatures is bit of a weird mix made a bit in the vein of Gremlins, but does not manage to hit the same buttons in terms of adventure, scares, thrill and humour – but it does a pretty good job attempting it. While the Troll figure is well made, it’s not a strong antagonist lead in any sense of the word, but the remaining visual effects are actually executed much better than in your average movie of the era. Speaking of humour, there is a little song with wonderfully weird atmosphere to it, performed by the Troll army – something I will be looking to listening soon again.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 71%

#1708 Halloween 2022: The Cellar (1988)

A nuclear family settles into a run-down house in the Texas desert, unaware that it is cursed by a Native American enchantment in the form of a terrifying, underground creature.

The Cellar’s theme centered on stereotypical, borderline racist Native American spirituality falls flat right from the start, and does not feel real nor plausible at all. The generic and forgettable underground monster, which could have easily been replaced with pretty much anything else like an alligator, fails to be scary or threatening.

It’s just so poor script and concept that even top-notch acting and effects couldn’t save this monster horror flick.

80s-o-meter: 83%

Total: 31%

#1689 Halloween 2022: Night of the Demon (1980)

Night of the Demon is one of those quite uneven low budget horror movies that I did not rate highly when watching through it, and it was only after reading the reviews that I learned that the movie enjoyed a cult status among the horror fans.

Basically a slasher with big foot – in other words a guy with patches of fake hair glued on him – Night of the Demon’s status escaped me, and only real positive thing I could say about it how the movie gets good kind of weird at times and at least tries something a bit new with its story of weird relationship between the big foot and a hermit woman.

For the gore hounds there’s dodgy killing effects to enjoy with perhaps the worst fake blood ever seen on the silver screen – I’m guessing cheap tomato juice. These kill scenes – or the story behind them – is perhaps the most interesting aspect or trivia of the movie, as most them were shot and posthumously added into the film by its producer completely as surprise of the director, a move which probably contributed quite heavily to the movie’s cult status.

80s-o-meter: 41%

Total: 22%

#1657 Ratboy (1986)

Even before I started to watch Ratboy, I had a feeling that it was going to be something exceptional. But little I knew that it was going to be exceptionally bad.

And bad it is, oh boy. I would go as far as to say that out of the 1657 80s movies I’ve watched so far this one is the worst. Sondra Locke is apparently the primus motor behind this train wreck of a movie, starring in the lead role and sitting on the director’s chair, and for both parts she fails miserably putting on one of the least likeable characters ever and acting like it was a chore for her, and not being able to find any gold nuggets from Rob Thompson’s script. Maybe there was nothing there to be found – I don’t know – but at that point it could’ve been a better call to go for another script instead.

If there is anything good about the movie is the way it never manages to show its main character favourably like these kinds of movies usually do; having a heart of gold, or some other supernatural skill that makes him exceptional for the viewer. He is just a small man with glued on rat like features who enjoys living in dirt, is not that bright, farts, panics and gets angry easily (resorting to even beating up two women with a stick).

Ratboy is one of those movies that just leaves one scratching their head wondering what kind of reasoning got this project greenlighted, funded and cast with a relatively well known actors. Was there never anyone in the project team with the guts to stand up to say what we are doing here might ultimately be a just a huge waste of celluloid?

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: -10%

#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%