#961 Halloween 2018: Mother’s Day (1980)

A cult classic favourite of many – including one Eli RothMother’s Day is a trashy horror exploitation comedy of two brothers who kidnap and torture three women to pleasure their demented mother.

The fans of the movie seem to be vocal about the movie being misunderstood and ahead of the time. Personally I don’t see it. The rape exploitation revenge genre was already established back in the 1978 in I Spit on Your Grave, and Mother’s Day replicates the same isolated and remote cabin in the woods setup and adds the mother, two hillbillies and a paper thin layer of comedy. The comedy part consists of exploring the slobbishness of the two inbred brothers by showing them consuming canned cheese by squirting it directly in their mouths, and scenes of the scared women smashing a tv set to the antagonist’s head so that his head is visible through the tv screen. Laughters are non-existent and the comedy layer just feels like a poor excuse to justify doing an almost exact copy of another movie.

It’s a pretty poor production all in all; blood is screaming red paint and decapitated heads unconvincing papier-mâché mess. Troma Entertainment had a good decade coming up, but Mother’s Day is just void of the creativity some of the later movies show.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 24%

#954 Halloween 2018: Pumpkinhead (1988)

When do the film makers learn? No matter how proud you are of your antagonist, overexposing it rarely works to your movie’s advance.

Such is the case with the Pumpkinhead, a horror cult classic following events of a vicious circle of revenge and the following regret. The odd, twisted atmosphere here is among the best of the best and gets better and more intense as the movie progresses. It is therefore a huge letdown that the summoned demonic beast is not kept as a mysterious dark force, but takes form of a sort of a overgrown alien mother, which – as neat as it looks – just doesn’t look or feel menacing enough to warrant the amount of screen time it gets.

Lance Henriksen is a perfect choice to play the father at his wit’s end, and the movie does wrap up in satisfying way after the few missteps it takes on its way there.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 81%

#950 Halloween 2018: Ghost Story (1981)

A club of four elder gentlemen – Chowder Society they call themselves – has been getting together each week for years to share fictive stories of horror. This year people around them start dying and it all seems to linked with something happened in the past.

True to its name, Ghost Story works out as a well told ghost story. There’s something timeless in it and the movie manages manages to keep the viewers interested and on the edge of their seats to see and hear what happens next – just like a good camp side spooky tale would. It’s a real treat seeing John Houseman, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks jr and Fred Astaire together as the old gentlemen who share a common secret they’ve kept shut for the last 50 years. Especially Astaire wows in his last feature film, showing there would’ve been a lot of acting prowess still left in him after he’d hung up his dancing shoes.

Some might think Ghost Story as an old fashioned relic of the past where you can see the big secret coming pretty much miles away. But that’s precisely what Halloween sometimes needs: Some good old fashioned spooks.

80s-o-meter: 48%

Total: 81%

#938 Fatal Attraction (1987)

One of the better known thrillers of the 80s, Fatal Attraction is a story about a lawyer who gets involved in a passionate sexual encounter with absolutely no strings attached – or a least so he thinks, until the relationship comes back to haunt him.

The movie does a terrific job laying out the motivations and relationships between the characters so that when things finally go south, the husband still earns our sympathy despite all that has happened. Glenn Close at first seems to make for the least threatening antagonist ever, but that’s part of the director Adrian Lyne’s plan, and the events that unravel later in the movie certainly gain a good surprise factor out of this equation. Also, the decision to make her exceptionally human and fragile really works for the movie’s benefit.

This unfortunately changes in the very last minutes of the film when the movie wonders a bit too far into the horror/slasher genre, which feels like a total faux pas. Fatal Attraction might not be the conversational topic it was when it was released back in 1987, but in many ways it’s still just as effective, relevant and recommendable.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 87%

#932 Trading Places (1983)

While Eddie Murphy’s 80s comedies were mostly all successes, Dan Aykroid’s movies of the same era were much more a hit and miss. Luckily for Murphy, Trading Places is definitely much more of a hit.

The story here is about two old rich geezers making a wager that leads to Louis Winthorpe III and Billy Ray Valentine, two men out of the opposite ends of the social class spectrum having to exchange their lives. Directed by John Landis, the movie offers some clever moments, but could’ve used some trimming here and there to keep up the pace.

I can’t say Trading Places was such a riot I’d remembered it to be, but definitely offers some good laugh out moments, and the fans of either Murphy or Aykroid will be very much at home here.

80s-o-meter: 78%

Total: 79%

#922 Braddock: Missing in Action III (1988)

Falling somewhere between the first and second Missing in Action movies, the third part, dubbed Braddock: Missing in Action III follows Braddock going back to Vietnam to find his missing wife and son.

A total rehash of The Beginning, this last part of the trilogue and has some of the same strong suits in its action department, but I never really cared about the story line involving the boy. Despite the action the third part seems a little wishy-washy and Braddock tightropes somewhere between being totally unrealistic, but not nearly as iconic and over the top as the Rambo sequels.

If you really liked The Beginning, the third part offers more of the same, but in a watered down form.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 59%

#921 Missing in Action 2: The Beginning (1985)

After reading about Missing in Action 2: The Beginning deemed to be a worse movie than its originally intended sequel and thus being delayed to be released one year later I was expecting a movie even worse than the previous one.

Not the case as The Beginning surprises by presenting a pretty solid post action pack.

Of course you know the drill; a rogue American soldier single handedly winning the Vietnam war, and there aren’t much of unexpected plot twists along the way, but its the presentation here that makes The Beginning a recommendable watch. The action is over the top as usual, with a nice martial arts showdown at the end, but compared to the previous movie Norris’ character here seems less of an invulnerable, omnipotent super human seen in the previous part.

The Beginning is by far the strongest one of the trilogy, and if you have to watch just one of the Missing in Action movies, let this one be it.

80s-o-meter: 83%

Total: 74%

#920 Missing in Action (1984)

A movie series tailor made as a vehicle for Chuck Norris, Missing in Action is known by its name to many, but still not the most prolific of the 80s POW movies. The first two movies of the trilogy were shot back to back, but after the production had ended, the powers that be decided that the sequel was a stronger movie of the two and was released first. Hence the odd order of movies.

Watching the movies now, 30 years after the original screening the decision feels unwise as the movies would make a bit more sense in the original order. My suggestion would be to watch The Beginning first like it was originally internded before moving onto this movie as you might get a bit better mileage out of it that way. Personally, I feel that Missing in Action is an insignificant mess that falls far behind of Norris’ best movies of the era.

The Italian style poster is cool though.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 55%

#914 Dudes (1987)

A movie starring Jon Cryer and Flea (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers fame) that most people me included have never even heard about? Color me interested!

Dudes follows up a three New York punk rockers that take a road trip with a VW Beetle from the east coast to get to the California, only to be ambushed by a gang of redneck thugs in Arizona. After the local police deny helping the two survivals, they then set out to find the gang themselves to revenge the death of their friend.

Dudes tries a little something of its own with freely mixing genres and presenting us some weird dream sequences and ghosts of the warriors passing by the prairie, but there’s something a little off throughout the movie and its screenplay. It all looks and sounds good, but other than that it just seems to wander around aimlessly for the most of its running time.

Cryer and Daniel Roebuck make for a likeable duo that I really see standing a chance of becoming a part of 80s pop culture catalogue had the script been better.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 60%

#912 Avenging Force aka Night Hunter (1986)

What a treat. Michael Dudikoff and Steve James, those guys from the outrageous American Ninja are back with another action packed .. err, action pack.

In Avenging Force, or Night Hunter as it was known in the various European countries’ later home video release has a plot, a group called Pentangle consisting of some of the society’s elite members assassinate and arrange hunts for men in order to preserve the American way of life as they want it. The director Sam Firstenberg smartly acknowledges that it is first and foremost an action movie that they are making here and makes sure to push all the right buttons to keep the adrenaline level high. The house fire scene including its aftermath is one of the most palm sweating ones there are.

Avenging Force, virtually an totally unknown movie to the public is an entertaining and fierce movie done in the very best tradition of the 80s, even managing to best the many of the much better known classics of the genre.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 92%

#902 The Majorettes (1987)

The Majorettes starts out as your typical early 80s copy-paste high school slasher, and not as a particularly good one at that. There’s a small town cheerleader gang, a few naked locker room tit scenes and a killer that begins doing them in.

The movie keeps ticking on all the lowest common denominator boxes until in the act two it inexplicably turns into a revenge flick as one of the jocks annihilates a local motorcycle gang. The change is so abrupt and out of place that if I was in a movie theatre, I would’ve assumed the projectionist had swapped in a wrong reel by accident. I can only assume this is all done to make the otherwise uninspired slasher somehow a bit more unique.

This change of a pace unfortunately adds only a limited amusement factor to it all, and the movie itself remains subpar until the very end.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 17%

#890 Ms .45 (1981)

A revenge exploitation movie that makes Death Wish look like a serious drama, Ms .45 tells a story of a young woman who goes on a psychotic rampage against the mankind after getting raped.

It a dull ride with an exceptionally unpleasant cast and that stuffy 70s scent hovering all over it. The movie gets less and less interesting as the bodies pile up until I really couldn’t care any less what happens next in the movie. It replaces the violence or the prolonged rape scenes of its paragon I Spit on Your Grave with some finesse and style, but otherwise it has dropped down from the very same trash tree.

There is some kind of a cult status associated with the movie, but really there isn’t anything here that hasn’t been done much better since — or before.

80s-o-meter: 48%

Total: 8%

#784 Stick (1985)

I don’t know how closely Elmore Leonard’s 1983 novel Stick resembles your average below the counter cheap pulp, but that’s exactly what Burt Reynolds’ directorial version of it offers. Something definitely got misaligned here, since Leonard ended up disowning the whole movie as it was released.

Stick seems to play with silly personalities that could’ve end up somewhat memorable, but here they only come across as paper thin characters right out a TV comedy sketch. Particularly soul aching to watch is the completely idiotic bozo of a crime villain the great Charles Durning has ended up playing here. Reynolds himself walks through the movie without much enthusiasm and once again ends up portraying somewhat of a caricature of his public image.

The real gem of the movie is its antagonist, a albino hit-man played by the stuntman Dar Robinson. A visually memorable baddie, Robinson’s portrayal loathsome, seemingly dead inside character holds some resemblance with Halloween series’ antagonist Michael Myers. This would sadly remain Robinson’s only feature film acting role before his untimely death one year later, in 1986.

80s-o-meter: 76%

Total: 48%

#781 Eye of the Tiger (1986)

There’s something about the evil motorcycle gangs that one can’t take them quite seriously after seeing Clint Eastwood’s Every Which Way But Loose. Nonetheless, this is the enemy Gary Busey faces in Eye of the Tiger after returning to his home town after doing time in a prison for a murder.

If the name of the movie rings a bell to a well known pop song usually related to certain boxing movies, you’d probably be as baffled as I to find out the movie features the very same song by Survivor. But, it turns out this isn’t even the most confusing aspect of the movie; Eye of the Tiger is a truly mindless action packed revenge story best enjoyed after stopping to try to make any sense out of it all and just going along with the ride.

The whole over the top 80s B-action – including some decapitated bikers – is more entertaining than it really deserves to be and there’s certain hilarious charm to the off-the-wall aspect to it all.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 74%

#774 Out Cold (1989)

A smartly written black comedy that proves to have plenty of aces up its sleeve, Out Cold starts extremely slow but does get better every minute towards the end. While the movie itself is relatively unknown, its cast of a-list actors makes up for an fresh mix. John Lithgow plays a socially awkward butcher, a character not unlike his later TV-role as Dr. Dick Solomon. Teri Garr performs admirably as the black widow wife, and Randy Quaid makes for a perfect confused detective that wanders from one scene to another, always hilariously clueless.

There’s something very off-Hollywood about the whole movie; even if the locations are clearly those of California, somehow the overall mood of the movie resembles more an indie movie shot in Great Britain or New Zealand. While it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why this is, clearly some elements like the really unusual(ly bad) soundtrack play a big part here. Personally, I’m really not a big fan of these design choices, and they did bring the overall score down.

Even with its flaws Out Cold is a charming little 90-minuter that manages to earn my recommendation – but won’t be going into my watch again pile.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 68%

#765 Halloween 2017: 976-Evil (1988)

Considering that Robert Englund had very much become a household name for horror as Freddy in the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, his directorial debut 976-Evil surprisingly lacks some essential ingedients to make a quality horror movie.

First of all, the movie is pretty low on scares. Secondly, as soon as the movie lead gets possessed by the evil, we kind of lose our protagonist there, leaving the audience with no-one to root for for the second half of the movie, effectively making the movie sort of a revenge porn instead of horror.

Stephen Geoffreys pretty much reprises his role from Fright Night, playing a nerdy character who finds himself empowered by the forces of the evil. While the performance here falls short of the other one, it’s still Geoffreys’ and his ability to create these somewhat of their trolley, but still much likeable characters that make this movie worth your time.

Even with its obvious shortcomings, 976-Evil is professionally executed movie that may unspectacular – but never dull.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 70%

#683 Kickboxer (1989)

A definition of the phrase guilty pleasure, Kickboxer is like Karate Kid on amphetamine, with the totally ripped Jean-Claude Van Damme taking names and kicking ass in Thailand.

Thailand proofs to an interesting and exotic location for the movie, and Dennis Chan makes for a cool and memorable Muay Thai trainer who takes Van Damme under his wing. There are some hilarious tongue-in-cheek moments among the training montages, and the scene with Van Damme dancing in a bar is just pure comedy gold.

Kickboxer is a feel good film with top notch action and some well choreographed fight scenes thrown in to the mix as well. It’s not a good film by any standard – but by golly is it entertaining!

80s-o-meter: 88%

Total: 93%