#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%

#1091 Trapped aka Baker County, U.S.A. (1982)

One of the more sophisticated examples of its sub genre, Trapped avoids many of the shortcomings of its rivals.

Sure, there are teens that go out to the mountains in the countryside only to get harassed by the yokels. But, there’s no gratuous nudity, the teens act smart and contact the authorities and even the backwood villagers are able to grow a conscience as the events escalate out of hand. The movie gains some unfortunate comedic elements towards the end as we witness deaths by getting speared by an antenna and the antagonist turning into something of a supernatural boogie man. The blemishes aren’t big, but still bad calls from the director that should’ve kept the violence as it was pictured in the movie so far: sudden and raw.

Considering that the genre is usually not my favourite one, I actually somewhat enjoyed Baker County, U.S.A.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 61%

#1090 They’re Playing with Fire (1984)

An older female teacher seducing her young male student to a sexual intercourse, why does this seem to ring a bell? Oh yes, we saw the same concept in Private Lessons some two hundred movies ago. And hey – it even stars that same guy, Eric Brown.

Despite the obvious similarities, the two movies aren’t related and from the get go They’re Playing with Fire seems to have an actual movie it as the relationship soon turns into foul play, resulting in a murder and our young casanova getting wrongly accused.

But as the director Howard Avedis doesn’t seem to be capable in anything else but to try out the cheapest of the tricks, the movie soon turns into something of a slasher, nullifying all the thriller elements that had been build so far.

80s-o-meter: 75%

Total: 33%

#1075 Kill Me Again (1989)

Kill Me Again begins kind of lame as for some reason deems necessary to rerun all the banalities of the neo-noir genre. It’s only after the movie finally starts steering away from the obvious clichés that it finds its own tone of voice, ending a much better than anticipated thriller.

Although the then-couple Val Kilmer and Joanne Whalley make for a dynamic beat up private detective treacherous femme fatale duo, it’s Michael Madsen that ends up stealing the show as the menacing, force of a nature antagonist.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 81%

#1073 Last Rites (1988)

Last Rites follows a New York priest who goes against the mafia protecting a Mexican immigrant.

Tom Berenger is charismatic as always. Heck – he was likeable even as a white supremacist in Betrayed. Daphne Zuniga who already had a number of successful lead roles under her belt on the other hand feels like a miscast as the Mexican femme fatale. Surely there would’ve been many actual latinos that could’ve pulled off the role with more ease.

Despite some obvious loans from other movies, I can’t say I’ve watched anything that really resembles Last Rites, which is why I actually ended liking the movie quite a lot. It’s an interesting twist on similar kind of thrillers and manages to keep a few aces up its sleeve until the very last minutes to the film.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 86%

#1069 In Dangerous Company (1988)

Most people – I certainly included – aren’t too stoked when learning we’re about to see an erotic thriller. Mostly made for sleazy late-night cable TV viewing they can sometime be a passable time killers when they happen to be on, but more rarely does anyone admit going out to rent or buy one specifically.

With In Dangerous Company the erotic part means a femme fatale and a camera that lingers on in scenes with the leads kissing passionately just a bit too long. The thriller part is handled by giving all the characters street credibility by having them sip alcohol constantly and smoking a cigarette with a theatrical passion. And speaking of street credibility, Cliff De Young – who’s one of the better movie family dad figures of the era (check out Pulse or Flight of the Navigator) – just does not cut it as the seasoned Vietnam war vet with a checkered past. Like, not at all. I would’ve rewritten his role as more of an innocent bystander who falls in love with the vamp and unsuspectingly sacrifices all that he’s got to help the seducing stranger.

In Dangerous Company offers some campy acting due to some one shot models trying to get a stab at acting, as well as plot weaker than your average kiosk pulp, but does keep the interest up for one to want to witness how the fabric of lies finally unravels.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 61%

#1062 Out of Bounds (1986)

Out of Bounds was Anthony Michael Hall’s attempt to break out of the numerous nerd roles he got typecast to during the first half of the 80s.

As such the movie is a success and young Hall makes a surprisingly believable action lead here, much better than the performance he would give two years later in Johnny Be Good, his another 80s movie outside the geek mould. Sure, there’s some overacting involved and everything is oh much too touch on the streets of L.A., but this has more to do with the style of the movie itself and Hall isn’t the worst culprit here.

I liked the movie. Cinematography, action and all the good kind of 80s movie clichés were well presented and Jeff Kober who was formerly unknown to me creates certainly one of the more menacing and memorable movie villains out of one’s worst nightmares. Out of Bounds was generally forgotten upon its release and wasn’t available on DVD, but finally got a proper high definition release on Amazon’s Prime Video a few years back.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 81%

#1051 Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1986)

Jumpin’ Jack Flash is probably the best known of the Whoopi Goldberg’s 80s comedies. And it is a pretty well-rounded, sure shot of a comedy – that’s just somehow even a bit too well-rounded and tame.

What I did find distracting watching the movie after a long while is how Goldberg is either forced or wilfully performing some kind of female Eddie Murphy schtick here. Gags like getting loud and foul-mouthed or making an embarrassing public scene are all too familiar from movies like Beverly Hills Cop or 48Hrs. I’ve always found Goldberg a good actor that succeeds better in the moments when she is not loud nor obnoxious.

All in all it’s a pretty wishy-washy ride. But also so good willed that it’s easy to forgive most of its shortcomings.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 73%

#1049 Far from Home (1989)

Father and daughter run out of gas and get stranded on a lone town in the middle of the desert in Far From Home, an interesting little thriller that saw a limited theatrical release upon its release.

What makes the movie interesting is not its setting nor the plot, but the good kind of movie-like quality of the small town and its trailer park that gets borderline abstract at times.

For a thriller the movie fails to deliver any kind of suspense and even when the killings take place, they seem more humorous than something that would have you on the edge of the seat. Matt Frewer and Drew Barrymore make for a solid and believable pair as the father and daughter, but the two young trailer park brothers both seem badly directed or complete miscasts for their roles.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 70%

#1000 Blade Runner (1982)

The poster on the left is from the Australian release of Blade Runner. A cinematic landmark of its time, it’s also one of the main drivers why this blog came out to be in the first place.

The director Ridley Scott had already demonstrated his prowess for crafting impressive sci-fi worlds oozing with atmosphere with the 1979 Alien, but it was Blade Runner that saw his craftmanship come to full fruition. Aided by the concept artist Syd Mead, cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth and an exceptionally talented team of FX artists, Blade Runner came into form in 1982 as a movie years ahead of its time, leaving its footprint in the history as the cinematic template for the dark dystopian future.

Equally impressive is Vangelis’ haunting synth track that at times is able to paint the film’s aesthetics on an even deeper level than the moving images can. Synonymous with the movie itself, Vangelis’ Blade Runner suite sets the mood right from the very first second of the movie and continues to do so until the end credits have stopped scrolling.

Harrison Ford who was on a winning streak at the time after starring in Star Wars and Indiana Jones movie series creates another character here that is very exclusively his. In a similar fashion Rutger Hauer crafts his portrayal of a replicant on the run to such perfection that it’s hard to fathom anyone else playing the role.

Essentially a futuristic film noir, the original Domestic Cut was compromised by the studio who after showing it to a test audience changed the ending and added a very unfortunate narrative voiceover. The 1992 Director’s Cut improved on the original theatrical cut by removing the aforementioned faux pas, and the movie finally saw its ultimate form in 2007 Final Cut, still the preferred version of the movie.

Blade Runner has established its status as a classic and arguably stood the test of time still feeling fresh almost 40 years since its initial release; every viewing of the movie seems to unfold just another layer of it, serving as a somewhat bittersweet reminder of how science fiction of this caliber does not come by often.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 200%

#962 Halloween 2018: Dreamscape (1984)

Dennis Quaid stars in Dreamscape, a sci-fi thriller with a horror twist about an experiment that makes diving into others’ dreams – as well as nightmare – possible.

The concept itself is cool and the movie manages to successfully sell the implausible idea of entering dreams. The unravelling conspiracy plot itself is thrilling as well, and the antagonist’s plan makes perfect sense within the movie’s world.

Where Dreamscape falls short is the effects department. Clearly the time wasn’t ripe for the vision the director Joseph Ruben had for the special effects as some of the dream segments – especially the last one – look noticeably poor and outdated with their stop motion animations. Once again it would’ve been better idea to rely on some effective makeup or keep the evil hidden in the shadows than to expose it in all of its mediocrity.

Dreamscape might not be as effective as it was when it was first released, but it’s still very much entertaining from the start to the finish.

80s-o-meter: 83%

Total: 74%

#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%

#926 The Ambassador (1984)

The Ambassador is an old school triller fare starring Robert Mitchum and Rock Hudson.

Many superior thrillers taking place in the middle east have been made since and The Ambassador is pretty tame by today’s standards. There are some assassinations, a subplot of a love triangle and a resulting black mailing. The movie gets pretty tedious fast and it’s because of this that the bloody showdown at the end feels very powerful, and an image straight out of terrorist news of today.

The Ambassador remained Hudson’s final feature film before his untimely death in the following year at the age of 59.

80s-o-meter: 58%

Total: 59%

#893 Body Double (1984)

Sharing the same October 1984 opening weekend with The Terminator, Brian De Palma’s Body Double tells a story of an involuntary peeping tom ending up witnessing a crime.

There is a lot to be loved in this stylish and daring thriller that loans from the likes of Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Rear Window, and mixes them up with some very pure 80s elements. Scenes like the porn movie shoot featuring an amazing soundtrack from Frankie Goes to Hollywood demonstrates some of the admirable courage that De Palma possesses.

Body Double would’ve been sufficiently good page-turner even with more traditional approach, but its broad-minded, fearless approach to artistic choices works to its advantage, definitely making it a more memorable, often fascinatingly weird experience.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 87%

#887 Hopscotch (1980)

Hopscotch, for those unfamiliar with the activity, is that grid hopping game children play during the summer. Here the term refers to a wild-goose chase between CIA officials and a retired agent writing his whistle blower memoirs.

In terms of being a thriller – even if it’s a comedic one – the movie is pretty lame deal by today’s standards: The baddies are unduly goofy and mostly just end up tumbling against each other instead of ever posing an actual threat. Hopscotch visits various European locations to give it that international agent feeling; something I never really cared for in American movies.

Seeing Walter Matthau in action is always a treat, and I’ve really grown to admire his talent of effortlessly wearing whatever material is thrown his way. If anything here, it’s Matthau’s performance that remains the only reason why Hopscotch might be worth your time.

80s-o-meter: 56%

Total: 59%

#885 Starflight: The Plane That Couldn’t Land (1983)

All the way from the movie Airport, continuing through Airport 1975, Airport ’77 and The Concorde, 70s was a decade of dodgy disaster movies that got rightfully ridiculed in the early 80s Airplane and in Airplane II: The Sequel, with the latter taking place in a commercial space shuttle. Given this background it’s hard to fathom what exactly went through the minds of the executive producers that green lighted Starflight: The Plane That Couldn’t Land after the genre already done to death and even worse, ridiculed.

To add insult to the injury this movie, released in 1983, plays a lot like the Airport parodies, but with a lesser production quality and totally sans humour.

Starflight is a product of the past that offered very little mileage when it was released back in 1983, and much less today.

80s-o-meter: 42%

Total: 24%

#882 Still of the Night (1982)

A homage to Alfred Hitchcock, Still of the Night accomplishes in what it sets out to do: There’s plenty of 50s style of suspension and atmosphere to be enjoyed here.

Faithful to the classics of the genre, the director Robert Benton skillfully leads the viewer through dark laundry hallways and abandoned houses, creating constant mistrust and tension that keeps on building up.

The movie had such a strong buildup that I was excepting a trilling plot twist towards the end. Given this the wrap-up of the movie did feel more unimaginative and unsatisfying than I’d hoped for.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 76%

#879 Jack’s Back (1988)

Awkwardly named Jack’s Back is a weak horror thriller following a manhunt for a Jack the Ripper copycat killer.

The movie does not shy away from throwing totally unconvincing elements in the viewer’s face: Long lost missing twins, psychic abilities, shoe salesman subplots and a killer who gets caught by walking into a trap and totally breaking his earlier patterns that kept him safe, only because the movie needed a closure. Even if Jack the Ripper never was that intriguing persona to me there are tons of better movies out there that get a better mileage out of the subject.

Most reviews of the movie seem favorable, which I did find surprising. Many dub this to the lead James Spader’s magnetic performance, but personally I found his acting work here mostly corny and a long shot from his authentic and chilling performance in The New Kids.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 41%

#878 Fear City (1984)

An exotic dancers’ manager – a pimp – goes after a serial killer wasting his strippers in Fear City, an atmospheric but otherwise disappointing thriller.

Tom Berenger in the lead role is a charismatic actor well capable of carrying through a film, but the two dimensional toughie characterisation Fear City gives him leaves very little to like or care for, and the flashbacks picturing his former career as boxer feel glued on. Instead of going for a strong antagonist, the director Abel Ferrara has decided to make the killer nameless and easy to forget, with equally artificial martial arts theme forced in.

There are some mesmerising shots of the nocturnal New York here, with all of its neon lights and vices pictured in a beautifully poetic way. This aspect remains the strongest suit of Fear City.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 58%

#876 The New Kids (1985)

We’ve seen our fair share of movies based on the payback / revenge aspect as well as portrayals of bullies who terrorise an entire school and community around it. But The New Kids makes for a original and enjoyable stab at the genre by gracefully steering around most of the clichés of the genre.

Not only do the leads manage to stand up for themselves, but the antagonists also fail to spin the public opinion and blame against the new kids. The leads Shannon Presby and Lori Loughlin perform well as the clean cut all american kids while James Spader steals the show as a truly chilling juvenile delinquent with borderline psychopathic traits.

The New kids took me positively by surprise by mixing in some old and some new to an interesting and entertaining 90 minuter.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 81%