#1408 Halloween 2020: The House on Sorority Row aka House of Evil (1982)

Widely dubbed as ”one of the better slashers” out there, The House on Sorority Row follows a pack of sorority girls who clash with their sorority house mother over arranging a party and end up killing her by accident. The party does go on as planned, but guests start to go missing one by one in a true slasher fashion.

I applaud the team in taking a bit different approach with the movie – and they do manage to make it more memorable – but even with a few high points, The House on Sorority Row is ultimately just a thriller, with the negative aspects that come with the genre, and the disappointing ending does very little to help its case.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 60%

#1407 Halloween 2020: Death House aka Zombie Death House (1988)

John Saxon directs and stars in Death House, a zombie horror game taking place in one of these special movie prisons. And as always, the authorities that run the penitentiary are up to no good, this time around using the convicts on a death row as guinea pigs for experimental drugs.

After one of the experiments goes south, turning the prisoner a bubbling pile of flesh, the jail goes to lockdown and everyone inside still not zombified try make it out one way or another.

Death House is almost as plain 80s action thriller horror as they come, but in a good way; the movie delivers what it promises in a positively entertaining package.

80s-o-meter: 93%

Total: 80%

#1405 Halloween 2020: The Children (1980)

A bus full of children are exposed to a chemical that turns them into manic killers capable of turning everyone in their way into a steaming pile of flesh.

Creepy children are not a new thing with horror movies, but the approach in The Children works better than any sings in the movie would suggest. It’s clumsy almost to the extend to being unintentionally funny, but makes the best out of concept and does feel menacing and ominous at the same time, making it a positive surprise overall.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 60%

#1401 Halloween 2020: Prime Evil (1988)

A satanic cult led by a charismatic priest hunt and kidnap victims for their sacrificial ceremonies in Prime Evil, a movie that ends up surprisingly tame despite the grim theme.

While it’s an ok break from the endless stream of slashers this year, it does not really spook or send chills down your spine, unless you are scared by people in robes, chanting in a basement.

William Beckwith performs well as the magnetic leader of the cult and Christine Moore whom I previously saw in the subpar Lurkers (coincidently also directed by Roberta Findlay) fares much better here as the target of the cult’s evil plans.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 57%

#1399 Halloween 2020: Maniac (1980)

Although previously an unknown movie to me, Maniac as a title always had an ominous sound for me. As the movie kicked off I was thinking if this is one of those over hyped horror movies of the era; the overall quality definitely looked like there was very little to be expected out of the movie.

But as the movie finally takes off, it’s one gruesome, palm-sweating ride. Joe Spinell whom I previously haven’t registered as a talent plays to a perfection the role of a man haunted by his demons, going from a violent rage to self pity quick enough to turn the viewers repulsion into compassion within seconds.

Still, the movie is perhaps best known for its graphic bloodletting orchestrated by the special effects wizard Tom Savini, who later admitted that maybe he went a bit too far with some of the FX. As Maniac hit the theatres it caused outrage with many critics at the time and admittedly the violence here is still very impactful even today. But beyond that Maniac is also an interesting study into the mind of a madman, only really shadowed by the totally unnecessary, clichéd ending.

80s-o-meter: 62%

Total: 83%

#1397 Halloween 2020: Galaxy of Terror aka Mindwarp: An Infinity of Terror (1981)

The vast success of the Star Wars opened floodgates for all sorts of space adventures in the early 80s, but with only a few exceptions they’re not much to look at. Galaxy of Terror is one of those exceptions that manage to stand out, thanks to fresh art direction by young James Cameron and atmospheric cinematography by Jacques Haitkin that make the movie look quite a bit better than the movie’s relatively modest budget would suggest.

The concept of the movie is a bit too high-flying to my preference and it fails to convey its idea as intented – the idea comes across and it’s interesting .. but it does not exactly blow one’s mind. A more straight forward story of space paranoia, mistrust and alien presence could have worked better here.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 80%

#1395 Halloween 2020: Scared Stiff (1987)

There seems to be a pattern in my life; watching a movie I run into an actor I’ve never seen before, and the very next movie stars that obscure actor again. With Scared Stiff that actor is Andrew Stevens, who single handedly saved The Terror Within.

Scared Stiff is a quality late 80s horror thriller that mixes in elements of fantasy and imagination where a ghost of a cruel slave trader possesses the father of the family after they move in an old colonial house and discover the dark secrets within. Everything in Scared Stiff takes place firmly in a movie movie world and you will probably enjoy it a lot more if you watch it as a fairy tale rather than a serious cinema for the grown ups.

The movie is visually rich and enjoyable to watch, but as with many movies similar to it, the scares Scared Stiff provides are comparable to a tame Disney ghost ride rather than something that would keep you at the edge of your seat.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 72%

#1394 Halloween 2020: New Year’s Evil (1980)

A mysterious stranger calls a TV host to let them know there’ll be one murder at the clock as each states from east to west coast reaches new year, and that the host herself will be the last victim.

Although classified as slasher, New Year’s Evil is actually a horror thriller that sidesteps all the banalities of slashers. We follow the maniac cruising around L.A., picking up his victims, and the story at this point is told much more from the killer’s point of view rather than the victims’, which makes for an effective design choice. I also applaud how the filmmakers don’t view the killer as an omnipotent super human, but rather show him fumbling along the way, struggling to make it to the killings in time and even having to escape an angry mob.

New Year’s Evil has a lot of good thing going for it, but it suffers a bit from at times less than stellar execution. Here’s one of those movies that could benefit of a modern remake.

80s-o-meter: 73%

Total: 72%

#1393 Halloween 2020: Zombie Nosh aka FleshEater aka Revenge of the Living Zombies (1988)

Who knew a low budget zombie movie that innovates very little could be one of the highlights of this Halloween?

Directed and written by Bill Hinzman who originally starred in the genre classic Night of the Living Dead (1968), Zombie Nosh (and its dozen releases under different titles) is a much better stab into film making than his 1986 directorial debut slasher The Majorettes.

Sure, it’s low quality, low production value and definitely looks older than its release year 1988 suggests, but Zombie Nosh manages to be quite effective at times like when the living dead creep out of the darkness to devour the flesh of the living. Plus, some of its inventive special effects punch in one or two weight classes above the movie itself.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 62%

#1391 Halloween 2020: Zombie Island Massacre (1984)

I have false advertising. Both the title and the poster with Zombie Island Massacre promise a clean cut, less repulsive version of italian exploitation films like Cannibal Holocaust .. but only delivers a lukewarm permutation of the slasher formula.

It’s a weak show of a group of tourists in a Caribbean island getting picked up by strange killers one by one that gets marginally better towards the last 15 minutes, when two film making tools called manuscript and plot are first introduced.

80s-o-meter: 40%

Total: 9%

#1390 Halloween 2020: Primal Scream aka Hellfire (1987)

I picked up Primal Scream confusing it to much more interesting (at least on paper) scifi horror movie Primal Rage that I was looking forward to watching.

I don’t know how Primal Rage will measure up against this movie, but it can’t do much worse. There’s nothing wrong with the story per se – a future substance called Hellfire that provides tons of energy but has one downside to it: it ignites and burns up all human flesh upon contact. A private investigator gets tangled to the web of lethal coverup as the big corporate mining the substance does not want the info to leak out.

Primal Scream might have made an ok graphic novel, but the level of execution (and other design choices) is just not high enough to make the story interesting. Film noir style private investigator, femme fatale and futuristic setting I can see all working if done either in drawing or high production values similar to Blade Runner, but Primal Scream manages to look little else than a slice of 80s everyday life, spiced up with 80s style scifi items, shot in a style that resembles more of an European 70s indie movie than a 1987 American feature film.

80s-o-meter: 31%

Total: 11%

#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%

#1387 Halloween 2020: Fiend aka Angst (1980)

I was initially put off by Fiend due to its amateurish look and feel, but after reading some favourable reviews I decided to give it a go – and I regret to say my initial impression was pretty much spot on.

I did find the concept of a evil spirit – the Fiend – possessing corpses and using these decaying flesh vessels to kill people to gain rejuvenating life energy before coming apart a refreshing twist to the zombie genre. It’s therefore a shame the movie isn’t able to do much with the concept. I’d for example liked to see it getting into sticky situations where he is quite literally falling apart while struggling to find victims and hide his true identity.

Production quality wise Fiend is way below a B-movie; not only does it look totally 70s, but also fails to provide any imaginative kills or effects that is the only thing many of its counterparts have going for them.

80s-o-meter: 12%

Total: 9%

#1384 Halloween 2020: Out of the Dark (1988)

A slasher thriller done in a very late 80s style, Out of the Dark is one of those movies that manages to look like a movie taking place inside a movie world, which to me is always a big plus even though the holes in the seams are often visible due to the b-movie nature of the film, which manifests in some of the characters resembling bit too much of caricatures, with obvious fake beards and make up applied.

Not set out to gather points for originality, Out of the Dark concentrates on providing the viewer an entertaining distraction from the reality, and the movie does reach its goal fairly well. More of a thriller with a light whodunnit layer than actual horror movie, Out of the Dark will not give you your serving of scares this Halloween, but it will make for a relatively entertaining 90s minutes.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 68%

#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%

#1382 Halloween 2020: Clownhouse (1989)

Wow, what a great start for a movie. Clownhouse successfully introduces three brothers and their very relatable relationship; giving each other hard time but really sticking together when it counts. It’s especially the trip to the travelling show that captures this, along with the kids’ coulrophobia and overall the whole segment is just very atmospheric.

It is therefore a shame how Clownhouse regresses into very average game of cat and mouse between the mental patients dressed as clowns and the kids – not unlike in Alone in the Dark just seven years earlier. The movie fails to provide any motivation for why to clowns decide to attack one specific house and why don’t they just march in and kill the kids, but prefer to run around them in the woods and hide inside closets inside the house, and it’s not too long after it gets old.

On the positive note the clowns, especially the leader does look menacing and visually a good fit for the style of the movie. Sam Rockwell can be seen in his debut feature film role as the eldest of the brothers, and his already very Rockwellysque performance at this young age is already a treat for us fans.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 70%

#1381 Halloween 2020: Murder Weapon (1989)

If you’re going to make a stupid slasher, why not at least make it original, right?

Murder Weapon is a turd of a movie, with the record amount of padding I’ve seen to date; for the starters we can see some chick applying sun lotion for what seems an eternity coupled with an interview scene that drags on and on. It takes mind numbing 32 minutes for the movie to actually start.

After it does, things get somewhat better. Murder lusted girls fresh out of asylum invite their mullet-rocking old boyfriends to a house, and – you guessed it – gratuitous nudity and graphic kills ensue. While Murder Weapon earns a few extra points for not going down the beaten path, it’s ultimately just a glorified soft porn movie that fails to provide any scares.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 17%

#1380 Halloween 2020: Blood Theatre aka Movie House Massacre (1984)

If there is one fundamental thing wrong with horror, it’s the fact that the bulk horror – slashers in particular – is pretty much draw by numbers kind of a project, and as a genre adored by many wannabe rookie directors who direct one as their hobby project. While there’s nothing wrong with that per se, the projects are often plagued with the same kind of poor design choices, walking by the same beaten path, shoddy quality and overall lameness; I’ll eagerly give kudos for originality, even if the movie is shoddy, but this is very rarely the case.

Finally, when the team realises the quality of the movie is going to be kind of shitty, they dub their movie a horror comedy, which is the worst kind of weaselling out I can think of. The result is usually a movie that’s neither scary nor funny.

Enter Blood Theatre, the debut directorial effort of Rick Sloane. Some old geezer kills youngsters who try to get the old haunted movie theatre operating again. Everything here is just plain bad and no redeeming value can be found in anything. For young Sloane and his friends Blood Theatre must’ve been a nice activity and a good exercise to film making, but nobody other should be subjected to having to sit through it.

80s-o-meter: 30%

Total: 4%