#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%

#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%

#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%

#1356 Endangered Species (1982)

Funny how some things blend into one in your memory when you don’t put your thoughts on a paper right after seeing a movie. I watched Endangered Species about two weeks ago along with The Return and they’ve turned into one and the same movie in my head.

But I’m not completely to be blamed here as the similarities are many: both movies have a supernatural theme, take place in a small distant town and feature a liaison between a stranger coming to the town and a local law enforcement officer, with one of them battling alcoholism.

I can’t see myself watching either one again, but for the future reference, Endangered Species is the stronger one of the two, with a more solid and interesting story about government cover ups. But unlike The Return that went far too much into the supernatural, Endangered Species left me wishing it would’ve leaned even more to huge conspiration theories that its premise is built upon. Now it manages to build up the story and whet my appetite, but does not provide the big payback I so craved for in the end.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 67%

#1345 The Return (1980)

Everything in The Return feels indifferent and passionless as if none of the actors nor the team itself really wanted to do the movie.

Jan-Michael Vincent is more busy sipping beer than acting most of the time and Cybill Shepherd (of the later Moonlighting fame)looks like she’s contemplating on finding herself a new agent.

The Return is a movie that didn’t need to be made as it serves no real purpose and does not bring anything to the table that hasn’t been done better before or since.

80s-o-meter: 67%

Total: 22%

#1328 Creator (1985)

With Creator the director Ivan Passer and the writer Jeremy Leven have created a thoughtful comedy that deals with many themes not often seen in a romantic comedies.

I wanted to reiterate the plot here to better understand why such a silly premise and goofy plot twists work so well in Creator, but as I wrote everything down it sounded like a pretty darn horrible movie; there’s an eccentric medical professor teaching at a small California college who wants to bring her back through cloning. Plus one of the characters even falls fatally ill – a page right out of a cheap soap opera manuscript.

But please trust me, Creator makes it all work out much better than I can explain it.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 80%

#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%

#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%

#1295 Mutant War (1988)

A sequel to Battle For the Lost Planet, Mutant War shares the same production values than its predecessor. Meaning, it’s poor.

And while it has the same kind of charming underdog feeling to its predecessor (the team has aimed ridiculously high, including camera and video effects, matte paintings and stop motion animations, all of which way beyond their capabilities), the charm only carries the movies so far.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 31%

#1252 Battle for the Lost Planet aka Galaxy aka Galaxy Destroyer (1986)

By far the most interesting and creative part of Battle for the Lost Planet takes place during its first 20 minutes as we witness an industrial spy trapped in a malfunctioning shuttle wandering aimlessly through the space, keeping the Spy in a solitary cell kind of setup, trying to maintain his physical and mental health.

Therefore it’s a shame what a stinker the movie turns out to be after the spy finally returns back to earth. It’s not even that the movie would be plain bad, but it’s just so uninteresting and insignificant and gets much more so towards the end as some remarkably meaningless elements of Mad Max are introduced.

80s-o-meter: 40%

Total: 17%

#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%

#1160 Halloween 2019: Sundown: Biohazard (1985)

If the name Fred Olen Ray rings any bells, you probably know already what to expect from Biohazard: a low budget scifi horror movie hoping one day to be a B-movie.

Long story short, Biohazard is bad. But, it’s also borderline bad enough to be funny. An example: The ‘notorious’ killer who looks like a 5-year old kid running around in a dodgy alien costume makes much more sense when you find out that it is in fact the director’s 5-year old kid running around in a dodgy alien costume.

If you hang around long enough to witness the last five seconds and the almost heartbreaking blooper reel revealing how unprepared most of the actors are and are really struggling with remembering and delivering their lines, there’s no way you can stay completely mad with Biohazard wasting 80 minute of your life.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 51%

#1155 Halloween 2019: Silent Rage (1982)

A slasher featuring Chuck Norris? Although the movie markets itself as a action crime movie, make no mistake as it takes most of its cues from the contemporary slashers – in good and in bad.

On the bright side, Silent Rage also brings something a little different to the table and manages to move cross-genre in a surprising way. There is even a bit of scifi brought into the mix as we are introduced to the mad scientist who fiddles with the Mother Nature, creating a self healing, relentless kill machine not unlike Michael Myers or Jason.

With this genre of choice many of its banalities are unfortunately also brought in to the mix, including a very disappointing and clichéd last second cliffhanger ending.

80s-o-meter: 68%

Total: 58%

#1113 Remote Control (1988)

Aliens attack the earthlings with a cheesy VHS tape programmed to watch its viewer into a homicidal monster in Remote Control, a glorious 80s homage to the 50s scifi that despite its name does not have anything to do with actual remote controls.

By far the best aspect of the movies is its pseudo futuristic 80s styling: most of the TV sets are masqueraded to look like flat screen TVs (roughly about 15 years before they were available) and all the teenagers are wearing some bitching gear straight from the 21st century with makeup and hairdos straight out of Patrick Nagel painting.

Despite the visual style being the most prominent feature here, the movie itself is not bad at all. It’s OK – not as brilliant as it could’ve been – but still very much a recommendable experience and great time capsule to the late 80s.

80s-o-meter: 98%

Total: 71%

#1112 Star Slammer aka Prison Ship (1986)

I’ve expressed my deep hatred for the woman prison exploitation flicks that peaked in their popularity during the 70s, and unfortunately continued to some extend to the 80s, always recycling the same concept and rarely bringing anything new to the equation.

Well, Star Slammer kind of does by placing the penitentiary somewhere out in space, but only to repeat the same tired clichés. Yes – even the compulsory prison cantina fight is here.

Star Slammer is useless garbage made only to showcase some T&A, and manages to waste relatively nice (in comparison to the rest of the movie) set design.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 1%

#1107 Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

The first Star Trek movie to be directed by William Shatner, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier has the unfortunate honour of being the least exciting one in the series.

Most of the elements that made the previous three movies interesting are gone. There aren’t any memorable antagonists here, no pushing visual boundaries and no humour that made the previous instalments stand out. Perhaps most disappointingly, the human (or: Vulcan) interest aspect that probed deep into the weird and interesting chemistry between the lead characters is nowhere to be found this time around.

While the movie is no stinker, it lacks the grandeur expected from a movie launched to be the 1989 summer blockbuster, feeling much more like a prolonged episode of the original series, shot with modern cameras and slightly superior effects.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 60%

#1106 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

The Star Trek movie perhaps the most applauded by the critics, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home takes the adventure to the then-present day earth.

While many viewers seem to be fascinated by the contemporary setting, I found myself missing the vast space and distant worlds showcased in other Star Trek films, especially after the humour of the crew wandering around the streets of 1986 San Francisco sticking out like a sore thumb has worn out.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is a very different Star Trek movie – to the extend that one could argue that it really isn’t a Star Trek movie at all, but more of a humoristic, eco-warrior themed spinoff of the original series. On the positive note the humour presented here is genuinely funny, and the movie wraps up nicely the three episode saga that started with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 71%

#1105 Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

Picking the story up right from where it was left in the previous installation, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock concentrates on the crew becoming outlaws after defying Starfleet’s Genesis quarantine and stealing a ship in order to find and save Spock from the Genesis planet.

The first Star Trek movie directed by Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek III is a significant step up in visual fidelity, and definitely one of most handsome looking scifi movies of early 80s. The story itself does not reach the grandeur of its predecessor, but overall this second part of the saga in the line is the most well rounded Star Trek movie of the era.

It’s a movie that’s always been shadowed by its predecessor and sequel – and admittedly it is much more forgettable than either one of them. But personally as a very lightweight trekkie that always preferred the original series over anything that followed, I somehow found myself enjoying The Search for Spock more than any of its siblings.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 80%

#1104 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Star Trek, the iconic TV show from the 60s saw continuum in 1979 as the first movie of the Star Trek series was released and received with mixed reviews. Given the vast public interest in scifi at the time a cost effective sequel was green lighted, and the first Star Trek movie of the 80s, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan finally saw daylight in 1982.

Made with a budget of $11.2M – one-fourth that of its predecessor – the sequel became a sleeper hit that restored the public interest in the franchise and is considered by many the best movie of the series. Much of the success is due to iconic Khan, the villainous title character of the movie played with certain charism by Ricardo Montalbán.

Personally I also preferred the sequel to the original 1979 movie, although I admittedly found the overall experience less epic than I recalled. But what the movie itself may lack in grandiosity is more than redeemed in its emotional ending that wonderfully bridges the saga towards its next instalment, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

80s-o-meter: 69%

Total: 71%