#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%

#1366 The Jigsaw Murders (1989)

I’ve gone through this before; given the sky high quality of the thrillers these days that offer plot twists after plot twists, it’s hard to get impressed with the 80s offerings.

But what actually works for the benefit of The Jigsaw Murders is the way how refreshingly straight forward it is: someone gets murdered, the evidence gets piled up against a suspect, and finally it’s a question of getting enough evidence (with legal means) to put him away.

As the book of movie clichés would have it, the senior detective struggles with alcoholism, but the movie handles this side of the story interestingly, stripping any sorts of movie glamour out of it.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 72%

#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%

#1348 Schizoid (1980)

Someone is sending Julie, a local columnist, threat notes and killing people in her therapy group one by one using a pair of scissors as the murder weapon.

The unappetizingly named Schizoid marches to the stage a bunch of shady characters that all seem to have their dark sides and leaves the viewer doing the whodunnit guesswork of figuring out which one of the likable suspects did the killings, or – you guessed it – is it someone much less likable.

While I’m always wondering the movie world’s eagerness to cast Klaus Kinski who always seems like playing the same role through every movie, in Schizoid the director David Paulsen seems to be able to keep him in control and he manages in the role like any other bulk actor.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 39%

#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%

#1344 Cuba Crossing (1980)

A bunch of rogue USA soldiers set out to assassinate the communist leader of Cuba in Cuba Crossing.

This would not be such an issue if the movie itself had something going on for it, but it’s unfortunately an outdated, inconsistent, uninteresting mess that remains stale most of the running time, and gets somewhat interesting only after the plot twist in the third act.

I try to steer away from talking about technical aspects of a movie, but with Cuba Crossing the lack of decent cinematography cannot be unaddressed. Not only is the shooting amateurish with over/under exposed scenes and overall bad cinematographic choices, the movie completely misses out of taking advantage of the tropical Key West landscapes and mostly looks dull as a dishwasher.

80s-o-meter: 45%

Total: 17%

#1342 Eyewitness aka The Janitor (1981)

Very interesting cast of super talented William Hurt, gorgeous Sigourney Weaver, Christopher Plummer, James Woods and Morgan Freeman star in little known early 80s murder thriller Eyewitness that was originally planned for release as The Janitor, but after lousy initial box office feedback the name was changed.

I’ve always mixed up this movie with the 1987 Broadcast News – William Hurt’s other movie involving TV reporters – and Eyewitness turned out to be completely different from what I was expecting – both in good and in bad.

The plotline has far too many coincidences to make it really believable, and Hurt’s poetic janitor character also seems quite far fetched and theatrical choice. The movie is quite watchable though and the end showdown is both thrilling and uniquely something I can’t remember seeing before.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 70%

#1335 Hider in the House (1989)

If there ever was a role Gary Busey was born to play, it’s the deranged patient Tom Sykes who in Hider in the House finds himself building a little nest in the attic of a nuclear family to live with the family he never had. Really, he’s such a natural in the role and boasts just the right physical features that the movie seems written with precisely him in mind.

Busey perfectly shows the likeable traits needed for the role and we the viewers can’t but hope that everything would turn out well for him in the end somehow. The concept of the movie is unique and it skillfully moves away from the most tired clichés when there is a temptation to just take the road well travelled.

That is, until the end. Even though the ending is a-ok it really felt like such a letdown after all the great buildup that was used to establish Tom’s multifaceted character.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 87%

#1332 Of Unknown Origin (1983)

The director George P. Cosmatos creates a new subgenre of rat thriller with Of Unknown Origin.

I was drawn to this Canadian-American movie shot in Montréal due to it featuring Peter Weller (of the later Robocop fame), as well as its ominous title. The movie never quite lives up to its premise, and turns into monotonous mouse and cat game where Weller gets fixated on getting rid of a rodent and ends up destroying both his house and him family along the way.

It is not very scary, not that much fun and gets pretty old pretty fast. The concept could have probably worked better as a 20-minute Simpsons episode instead.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 27%

#1324 The Rosary Murders (1987)

Many movie genres of the 80s still hold up well today, but due to the staggering amount of well written crime movies and TV series we’ve seen in the last two decades, the crime / thriller genre has evolved leaps and bounds.

This leaves many a-ok 80s thrillers paling in comparison. Not because they are necessarily bad, but because we’ve accustomed to seeing such perfected thrill rides that make the old presentation feel tame and slow.

Such is the case with The Rosary Murders as well – while it is a pretty decent crime mystery of its era, you will likely find its offerings thrilling if you’re not accustomed to the genre in any way.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 61%

#1292 Kansas (1988)

If you find an 80s movie nobody has ever heard of with your favourite actors in it, your warning bells should go off. Changes that you’ve just found a long lost treasure are very low, and it’s much more likely that you’ve just encountered something that everyone involved wished they’d never been part of.

While Kansas is no treasure, it is actually a decent piece of cinema depicting a guy crossing his path with a bank robber and soon finding tangled into something that might lose him his love, freedom and even life.

Andrew McCarthy performs his trademark dazed out everyday guy routine while Matt Dillon delivers yet another chilling role as the fugitive with psychopathic personal traits.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 83%

#1269 Cutting Class (1989)

Known for most only for featuring young Brad Pitt, Cutting Class has been downplayed in many reviews. And while it’s arguably not a masterpiece, it is not completely without merit.

To me cutting class felt like a nice little high school slasher with late 80s look and feel that seems at first to paint by numbers, but then takes the formula to an original and interesting direction.

80s-o-meter: 93%

Total: 71%

#1267 Omega Syndrome (1986)

Sometimes when you watch a skilfully paced movie, you might pause if after awhile and get surprised that only some 20 minutes have passed and the movie has already taken you into adventure and action while telling an interesting story and establishing a connection with the main characters.

What you get here is the completely opposite. After watching for an hour the movie seemed be in a standstill without me unable to connect with neither the plot nor the any of the characters. Well, almost as the most interesting aspect of the movie turned out to to be the rough-around-the-edges antihero sidekick played by George DiCenzo.

Omega Syndrome resembles quite a lot of the video games of the 80s, as it has a catchy title and splashy poster, but nothing much more.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 42%

#1264 Cohen and Tate (1988)

Again, a movie that has totally gone under the radar for me, Cohen and Tate is a thriller of two assassins transporting a young eye witness to a mob boss after wiping out his family and bunch of officers of the Federal Witness Protection Program.

The movie is minimalistic; most of the running time is spent inside the car, with tension building up between Cohen and Tate, two very opposites sides of the same coin. The violence presented in the movie is similarly spartan: very quick and over before the viewer has time to react, making it consequently extreme impactful.

Cohen and Tate is a triumph of an action thriller in both its cinematography and story telling for the director Eric Red, and well ahead of its time, resembling the formula that Coen brothers perfected a decade later.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 95%

#1249 Dead Ringers (1988)

Ah, it’s a David Cronenberg movie, so you never quite know what it has to offer, but you know it’s going to be at least interesting.

In Dead Ringers Cronenberg tells a story of two identical twins who run their gynaecology clinic and while identical twins they seem like two sides of a coin that have their distinctive personal traits, but somehow complete each other as one person. They use their resemblance to their advance and so that the introverted twin gets to share the women seduced by the outgoing one, until a clash over one woman finally makes the twins drift apart, with disastrous consequences.

80s-o-meter: 88%

Total: 84%

#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%

#1238 ‎Streetwalkin’ (1985)

A small town girl in a big city gets seduced by Duke, a charismatic pimp, and made walk the streets for money. She don’t mind it though until Duke gets bat shit crazy with another girl of his and beats her unconscious. From here starts a getaway through nocturnal New York with Duke right on her heels.

Streetwalkin’ chooses an exploitative point of view that doesn’t really feel as fresh as the movie makers wanted it to feel, but as a thriller it does get pretty ok towards the end as Duke closes in step by step. Dale Midkiff plays the part of the psychotic pimp to a perfection, and his bursts of rage don’t feel theatrical, but truly chilling.

The movie is one of the examples of many misaligned marketing efforts of the era: its poster does not represent any of the characters or the thriller nature of the movie in any way.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 62%

#1235 Relentless (1989)

Leo Rossi and Judd Nelson (both of which would usually fall far in the no interest zone for me) combine their forces in Relentless, which actually ends up a nifty little thriller.

In the end it’s this outside the box casting that makes the movie interesting as the routine plot doesn’t not offer anything exceptional. Judd Nelson puts into the character a lot of pathetic – even tragic traits – that make the killer sometimes even the object of the viewer’s pity, and something of an antithesis of your usual one-dimensional criminal masterminds.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 78%

#1234 Ragtime (1981)

My general dislike for period pictures is probably well known for any regular visitor; I often find them either unimaginative projects that rely much too heavily on just the nostalgia, or are annoyingly pretentious.

Ragtime surely has all the warning signs all over it it – starting with its name – and begins as a snore fest, but as soon as the first of the many violent outbursts of the movie take place it soon occurred to me this was not your average period picture. After introducing an interesting array of upper class white characters Ragtime concentrates on telling a story of a black piano player who gets vengeful after denied justice after getting insulted and harassed by racist voluntary firemen, starting a crusade that soon escalates out of hand.

Directed by Miloš Forman and based on E. L. Doctorow’s book of the same name, Ragtime ends up one of the best period picture thrillers in my book

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 91%

#1231 Nightkill (1980)

Looking like an episode of Dallas (the lead Jaclyn Smith is best known for her role as one of the original Charlie’s Angels) Nightkill defies all the odds by being a very original, and surprisingly interesting take on a woman caught in murderous love triangle and a net of lies that gets more tangled the more she struggles to get out of it.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 64%