#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%

#1373 Halloween 2020: Children of the Corn (1984)

When a movie presents some implausible events and plot twists and later explains them with some supernatural activities, I always find it kind of weaselling out. An exception to the rule, with Children of the Corn it works.

This is because nothing much until that moment works in the movie adaptation. I’ve never read the original short story, but I suspect this is the case where the eery, menacing feeling Stephen King puts into his writing never translates to the silver screen. It’s not like it’s the first time as there are much more duds than successes.

Given that the title is well known, Children of the Corn is a disappointment that does not impose nowhere enough threat or horror, and as the source of the horror is exposed to the viewer, it makes it feel even milder, when exact the opposite should be pursued.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 52%

#1372 Halloween 2020: Madman (1982)

Another permutation of the Halloween / Friday the 13th style teenagers in the wilderness slasher, Madman boasts one of the ugliest posters around (there’s another, even a more horrid version available) but surprises positively, thanks to very, very low expectations.

Instead of opting for super imaginative kills often seen in the genre, Madman hits the nail on the head with its eery scares that are made scarier by being able to relate to them. I mean, who of us has never stood in a pitch black forest, lighting the bushes nearby with a flashlight, and really hoped you won’t reveal someone or something looking right back at you? This is what separates Madman from slashers, all of which I don’t even pass for horror.

The movie resembles me of the 1987 horror movie Slaughterhouse both with its rural theme and its antagonist, but fails to leave a similar lasting impression. Still, pretty good for a braindead slasher.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 62%

#1371 Halloween 2020: Ghost Town (1988)

Ghost Town was one of the movies I was looking forward the most this Halloween as I’d admired the poster already for a few years. What we have here is a story of a highway cop following a person gone missing and all of sudden finding himself trapped in a western ghost town.

I was surprised to learn about the problems in the production (financial problems with Empire Pictures and directors being changed on the fly), since Ghost Town is one solid looking movie that leaves very little to complain about visually.

The problem with Ghost Town is that it’s much too tame, sort of like a Disney ghost ride that checks all the marks visually, but will really manage to scare only those with their age still in the single-digits.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 58%

#1370 Halloween 2020: Fear No Evil aka Mark of the Beast (1981)

Remember that class weirdo that never spoke to anyone and was just concentrated on some eccentric hobby of his and kept to himself for the most of the time. In Fear No Evil, that guy turns out to be the reincarnation of Lucifer, who then releases his wrath by raising a group of dead from their graves to attack a Passion Play organised by the local church.

Although the plot is nothing get excited about, the actual problems with Fear No Evil are to do more in the overall execution. I can see the concept working with more of an over the top execution with tons of humour thrown into the mix, similarly to The Return of the Living Dead, but with the dry and dodgy approach seen here, Fear No Evil ends up one of the bigger disappointments of this particular Halloween.

80s-o-meter: 35%

Total: 22%

#1369 Halloween 2020: Beyond Evil (1980)

Possibly one of the lamest horror movies I’ve seen to date, Beyond Evil is in all of its aspects very much a 70s movie that doesn’t have anything else to bring into the 80s but only the stale smell of the past.

A witch like creature possesses the woman who’s just moved into the mansion with her husband and makes her do all sorts of evil. What follows is a lame collection of jump scares and dodgy, drawn on film effects that couldn’t have possibly looked convincing even back in early 80s, let alone in 2020.

80s-o-meter: 30%

Total: 8%

#1368 Halloween 2020: Alone in the Dark (1982)

Although the two are not related, Alone in the Dark as a title has always had a special meaning to me thanks to Infogrames’ 1992 PC horror game and I only later learned a movie of the same name exists and it has bit of a cult following as well.

The movie follows the path set by many contemporary slashers, but instead of recreating the tired plot of horny teenagers in the wood, hunted by a super human immune to any weapon, Alone in the Dark throws into the mix a few more seasoned actors (Jack Palance, Martin Landau, Donald Pleasence), four mental patients escaping from an asylum and the occupants of one house that actually try to put up a decent fight against them, instead of running around like a bunch of headless chicken.

Alone in the Dark is a unique, breath of a fresh air for the people who enjoy their slashers, but have seen far too many to really enjoy them.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 60%

#1367 Halloween 2020: Nomads (1986)

Nomads marks for two interesting debuts: it’s the first leading role for the Irish actor Pierce Brosnan in a feature film, and John McTiernan’s directorial debut.

Story wise Nomads is a bit dud, with group of haunted motorcycle gang tormenting a French couple who just moved to USA. Brosnan’s French accent is totally unnecessary, and the gang itself falls short of similar baddie cliques seen on the silver screen. It’s an ok ride that hints the chance of greatness, but never redeems those expectations.

What Nomads gets absolutely right though is the haunting atmosphere that was picked up by Arnold Schwarzenegger which lead to McTiernan first directing two possibly the most bad ass iconic action movies of the 80s: Predator in 1987, and Die Hard the following year.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 67%

#1318 Alien Predator aka Alien Predators aka The Falling (1986)

Alien Predator is a promising underdog of a horror movie that does other things with admirable ingenuity while totally failing elsewhere.

I liked the atmosphere in the movie and the overall science-gone-wrong in a small town kind of setup, and could I bet the writer / director Deran Sarafian has seen the classic 1971 scifi thriller Andromeda Strain a few times before preparing the manuscript for the Alien Predator. Being a horror movie, jump scares are expected, but are so well paced that they manage to surprise from time to time.

The ghost car seemed like a totally unnecessary element in the movie, and Dennis Christopher who plays the other lead struggles throughout the movie to make his lovable rogue / class clown character work, ending up merely with one of the most tiresome characters ever seen on the silver screen.

80s-o-meter: 58%

Total: 73%

#1313 Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama aka The Imp (1988)

More is more, but Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama would have fared better with less elements.

In particular, it’s the Imp – the antagonist that lives in a trophy in the bowling alley and causes all sorts of havoc as he gets out – that is very much an unnecessary element in the movie and never manages to feel anything but the rubber hand puppet it is.

If the team would’ve only realised the weak link in the movie, cut their losses and come up with a different kind of approach, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama could have lived up to its outrageous name. As it is now, it makes for a surprisingly solid movie visually (excluding the imp) despite being filmed in one location outside its business hours.

What is lacking completely though are the kills, which usually lend for easy chuckles in similar horror spoofs. Here they are disappointingly skipped, probably due to budget constraints.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 60%

#1303 Wacko (1982)

A part of a sub genre called crazy comedy (at least here in northern Europe) Wacko features the same kind of comedy seen in ZAZ and Mel Brooks’ movies – meaning it’s full of visual gags and an endless stream of humour is derived from pretty much everything that can be parodized.

It’s a difficult area of comedy to master, and the script here just isn’t snappy enough to make Wacko a laugh riot.

Sure, few of the jokes find their target in this horror movie sport, but more than often the humour just completely misses its mark for me.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 42%

#1300 Society (1989)

It’s hard to write anything about Society without spoiling it for those who are yet to see it.

All I can reveal about the plot without giving too much away is that a high society teen begins to notice some oddities in people around him that then turn out even more odd, and more, and more .. and more.

Society is more of an experience than a movie, but as such it is totally a riot, only held back with some scenes that feel unnecessarily elongated. If you are a fan of home video classics such as Bad Taste, The Blob, Basket Case, Brain Damage or The Evil Dead, you will be very much at home with Society.

80s-o-meter: 96%

Total: 92%

#1275 Hellhole (1985)

A mid 80s take on the woman penitentiary movies, Hellhole maintains the gratuitous full frontal nudity aspect of the genre and is a complete miss as a horror movie.

But it does manage to find a somewhat interesting own tone, making it if not great, still one of the more tolerable exploitation movies out there.

80s-o-meter: 83%

Total: 38%

#1255 Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues aka The Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek, Part II (1984)

An official sequel to the 1972 original (there was a similarly named Return to Boggy Creek released in 1977 that didn’t involve the original director Charles B. Pierce) docudrama that became a huge success taking in accountthe shoestring budget it was film on.

While I haven’t seen the original and can’t compare the sequel to it, I do have to say that this is one of the most uninspired pieces of story ever put on celluloid. The director and mastermind Mr. Pierce that was behind the original not only directs, but takes credit for writing and starring as the lead of the movie.

And the lack of proficiency shows all over: the movie is drab, uninteresting show that judging by the trailer looks poorer and more dated than the 70s original.

80s-o-meter: 0%

Total: 2%

#1247 The Entity (1982)

Based on the story of a Californian woman claiming to having been raped repeatedly by an invisible force, The Entity makes its duty to tell the whole nonsensical story in detail.

While I don’t mind supernatural, the story here is a bit too much to take in, which is a shame since the production quality and acting is not half bad. The movie is also far too long at 125 minutes for a story that doesn’t have enough elements to fill even 30 minutes and the movie ends up just consisting of all too many similar scenes of the force entering the house to violate its victim.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 31%

#1243 The Phantom of the Opera (1989)

An 80s take on classic 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera starring Robert Englund of A Nightmare on Elm Street fame sort of disappoints for not being an absolute stinker I took it for.

In fact, it’s a surprisingly well made movie with great atmosphere, majestic songs, well executed special effects and impeccable scenic design.

Although the movie’s marketing was strongly built upon Englund’s role, it remains the least interesting part of the movie, and the movie could’ve actually gained from having a lead that didn’t have such burden of a typecasting to carry.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 78%

#1237 ‎The Phantom Empire (1988)

Fred Olen Ray, the modern day Ed Wood is back with another C-movie made on purpose.

The Phantom Empire introduces us a group up adventurers entering a cave and eventually finding themselves in a prehistoric world. The movie picks up elements like dodgy alien cannibals, dinosaurs, sci-fi cars and humanoid vamps straight from the picture book of 50s horror movies, but doesn’t really know to do anything inventive or funny with them, ending up a pretty pointless and tediously paced exercise that never quite grasps you.

80s-o-meter: 30%

Total: 41%

#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%

#1190 Halloween 2019: Graverobbers aka Dead Mate (1988)

I love how Graverobbers starts: a mysterious stranger enters an all-American diner where Nora Mae, a young waiter works and right off the bat asks her to marry him. In a moment of impulsiveness she says yes and off they go, right in the middle of her work shift.

But the young love takes a turn for a worse as she finds out that there’s something dodgy going on with the mortuary where his husband works in, and that the previous love interests of the mortician have gone mysteriously missing.

Graverobbers is a black comedy and I like how the horror to humour ratio is pretty much right: not in your face funny, but quirky enough so that it’s clear we’re dealing with a make-believe grown-ups fairytale here. Although the movie wraps in a less satisfactory way than I’d hoped for, the few events that precede – like the motorcycle chase with the undead chauffeur – managed to raise a smile and are something that at least the fans of The Return of the Living Dead might find interesting.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 67%