#1498 The Stone Boy (1984)

Joe Hillerman has a grave problem. His 17-year old has just been killed in a morbid firearm accident and his younger brother who is the sole witness refuses to talk about the incident in detail. Furthermore, he seems mostly inconvenienced about the death rather than showing any other emotions.

Watching The Stone Boy I often got to reminiscence Square Dance, but only in the way how the former underlines how it totally failed to make us feel for any of its characters. With The Stone Boy the absolute opposite is true – and even if we don’t agree with some of the characters, they are written well enough for us to always sympathise with them.

While I don’t feel quite right criticising the work of a child actor, I was admittedly expecting something of an Oscar worthy performance during the movie’s culmination point, but that never came to be. Luckily it’s the more seasoned actors that still make the ending work in a totally satisfactory way.

80s-o-meter: 75%

Total: 86%

#1494 Sole Survivor (1984)

The deceased won’t let a Sole Survivor of a devastating airplane crash be.

Preceding Final Destination by 16 years, both share the similar premise of coming back to claim those ear marked for underworld.

Sole Survivor doesn’t quite live up to interesting setup, very unfortunately presenting the impending death as reanimated corpses and never actually taking the idea one notch further. It does play for the benefit for the ending, but events before that are much more tame than they deserve to be.

80s-o-meter: 75%

Total: 62%

#1488 Under the Volcano (1984)

Out of the alcoholic consuls stuck somewhere in the Southern America (Beyond the Limit being the other one), Under the Volcano makes for a stronger contestant.

Although quite different kind of beasts, what both movies have in common on top of heavy drinking is the highly volatile political situation. But with Under the Volcano the emphasis of the thriller and drama elements are more on whether the main character will manage to overcome his alcoholism and demons in the moment when happy ever after is being served to him on a silver platter.

What really makes Under the Volcano is the outstanding performance by Albert Finney whose work as the highly intellectual and sympathetic consul Firmin is often over the board, but never even closely forced nor insincere.

80s-o-meter: 30%

Total: 70%

#1485 The River Rat (1984)

Just when I saw Martha Plimpton in a swamp themed movie, I came across The River Rat that precedes that movie two years and yes, is also about people living in the wetlands. And sure, one could make an argue for The Mosquito Coast being a distant relative to the both.

Here young Plimpton plays Jonsy, a foul-mouthed kid living with her grandma that tries to connect with her dad (Tommy Lee Jones), fresh out of jail for the first time in her life. The two find some common ground as they refurbish River Rat, an old river boat.

The past returns to haunt the ex-jailbird in the form of Brian Dennehy, and it’s a pleasure to watch these two veteran actors together. Although not much of a thriller, I did enjoy how the movie played out without going down the most obvious route.

80s-o-meter: 78%

Total: 70%

#1471 Covergirl (1984)

A fashion model meets up with a wealthy and persuasive entrepreneur who promises to make her a star, but after the initial crush the she feels that the he has become quite an overpowering force in his life. This imbalance of power is turned around when it’s her turn to help him.

For a movie much about nothing Covergirl is much more entertaining than it deserves to be. Jeff Conaway as the robot building businessman does a good job of being big headed but still likeable scoundrel, and Irena Ferris whose acting career dried up by the end of the 80s has a great screen presence, and the camera truly seems to love her.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 70%

#1469 Too Scared To Scream (1984)

Too Scared To Scream takes notes from the early 80s slasher movies as well as the genre classic Psycho and serves them as a thriller with a slight horror twist to it.

A high rise apartment complex in New York City is being riddled with murders. Suspicion points to a peculiar doorman played by Ian McShane (of the Lovejoy and Deadwood fame) and its up to the Detective Dinardo (Mike Connors) to prepare a trap to catch the slayer.

I would give Too Scared To Scream top rating purely as a slasher movie (as it tops that genre), but although I do like the overall mood and the setup, as a horror thriller it does not fare quite that well.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 61%

#1462 She (1984)

After just a few days after suffering through Robot Holocaust I happened to watch She, a similar kind of sword & sorcery adventure set in the future dystopian world.

But where Robot Holocaust failed, She manages to be actually probably the best movie in this sub genre I’ve seen to date. The different factions and places the leads run into are imaginative, but not completely ridiculous and the whole look and feel of the movie reminds me of a post apocalyptic RPG, kind of like Fallout, with less 50s and mutation.

Heck, I enjoyed the movie and can’t but to credit the director/writer Avi Nesher for managing to put together a surprisingly solid movie out of such a shoddy ingredients.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 80%

#1443 Combat Shock aka American Nightmare (1984)

It was only after viewing Combat Shock that I learned it’s a cult classic, a major one, actually. Although there were a few nice original touches here and there, it mostly seemed your typical film student indie project heavy on blood and artsy writing, and low on budget and overall quality.

Shot entirely on Staten Island (without permits, of course), the movie makes a good impression of both Vietnam – as we typically see it low budget cinema – and the derelict, urban ghetto. Another thing that sets Combat Shock apart is the baby, deformed due to the chemicals the lead character got exposed in the war, who cries in a weird alien voice and resembles something moulded out of C4 putty. The baby not only sticks with you after the movie, but it also sets the overall nightmarish mood.

It’s too bad the other aspects of the movie seem trivial, and don’t seem to serve much else than to pass some time until the movie gets to its blood soaked shocker ending.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 45%

#1433 Joy of Sex (1984)

Young horny high school seniors are at it again, trying to get laid before the end of the school year. Joy of Sex resembles so many other similar movies I was sure at times I’d seen the movie before.

What adds to this feeling is the inconsistency throughout the movie; compared to other similar films that find their theme in a spring break, ski trip, working in a fast food restaurant or prom dance, Joy of Sex mixes in a bit of everything and does not find to really follow through most of its many threads.

Same applies with its roster of characters; a militant principle, a non-compromising coach way past his hay day, a bashful female teacher having to teach the kids about reproductive organs, a jock, an underdog and so on. Despite all this Joy of Sex is kind of a watchable teen comedy that has its few moments as well that make it worth a watch through.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 60%

#1422 Hard to Hold (1984)

Back in 1983 Rick Springfield made a horrific career move: instead of taking part in the landmark movie The Right Stuff he opted for Hard to Hold.

Rick plays the world’s biggest rock star who is chased by the crowds and lust after by the all the women in the world, so he finds the only one that doesn’t like him and wants to make her his girlfriend no matter what it takes. I know that musicians can sometime ego trip a little, but Hard to Hold is one horrible, egomanical project so bad that it single handedly ended Springfield’s film career for a good decade.

It’s a painful thing to watch. All the drama in the movie feels super theatric as well as artificial, and Rick Springfield and Janet Eilber (seen licking Springfield’s throat on the movie poster) make together the least interesting couple I’ve seen to date.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 2%

#1411 Songwriter (1984)

A country drama-comedy featuring Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson, Songwriter depicts Nelson as Doc Jenkins, a singer-songwriter tired of his life on the road and away from his son.

While the movie did not end up in my pile of movies to watch again, I did like how the movie depicts its subjects realistically, without neither glorifying or vilifying them; these country starts enjoy loose women, driving nice convertibles and a round of golf as much they enjoy putting on a show.

The musical talent of Kristofferson and Nelson make the movie one of the easier musicals to stomach.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 67%

#1406 Halloween 2020: Satan’s Blade (1984)

After a very confusing start of Satan throwing a cursed blade to a tree trunk, followed by lesbian lovers robbing a bank and killing the cashiers and then retreating to a cabin where the other betrays and kills the other for the money and then gets stabbed with the aforementioned Satan’s Blade, the movie finally starts after 15 minutes of padding.

This is when a group of friends arrive to the mountains and they are placed in the same cabin where the murder took place, with blood marks still (!) visible on the ceiling. To no-one’s surprise they then meet a violent dead, one by one.

Low in quality, and low in most other aspects, The movie fails as a horror movie (and even as a slasher) – but there’s some limited charm in its homespun, adorably clumsy qualities.

80s-o-meter: 48%

Total: 30%

#1402 Halloween 2020: Splatter University (1984)

Splatter University is the most inept take on the slasher genre I’ve seen to date. Not only does it recycle elements seen in other movies, but actually manages to ruin and water down all of them. Also the humor seen in the movie (yes, it tries to be humoristic at times despite not classified as a comedy) falls as flat as its horror aspect.

Splatter University does manage to do one thing (and one thing only) right by eliminating people I thought were the central characters, which sort of made for a nice surprise element towards the end.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 9%

#1391 Halloween 2020: Zombie Island Massacre (1984)

I have false advertising. Both the title and the poster with Zombie Island Massacre promise a clean cut, less repulsive version of italian exploitation films like Cannibal Holocaust .. but only delivers a lukewarm permutation of the slasher formula.

It’s a weak show of a group of tourists in a Caribbean island getting picked up by strange killers one by one that gets marginally better towards the last 15 minutes, when two film making tools called manuscript and plot are first introduced.

80s-o-meter: 40%

Total: 9%

#1374 Halloween 2020: The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1984)

The Hills Have Eyes Part II, a continuum to the 1977 original movie – apparently some sort of a cult classic – is one of the most soulless duds of a movie I’ve seen in ages.

Basically your typical teen slasher, but taking place in a desert instead of forest, The Hills Have Eyes Part II brings absolutely nothing refreshing to the table, and the few odd variables that are present here (motorcycles, a goofball sidekick baddie, shot in darkness without adequate lighting) make the movie even worse than 99% of its rivals – and those rivals aren’t exactly state of the art cinema. To make things even worse, the padding of the movie is painfully obvious, with prolonged scenes and unnecessary flashbacks from the original movie.

Director Wes Craven who would have his huge breakthrough in the same year with A Nightmare on Elm Street has later disowned the movie, stating it was released only because he needed the movie at the moment.

80s-o-meter: 40%

Total: 4%

#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%

#1343 Harry & Son (1984)

First of a, a personal mental note: if I was to ever write a drama, remember to pick up a few interesting topics, think about ways to deepen then and make them relatable and fully explore the aspects of these topics that seem to work, and finally, get rid of everything excessive and shallow you have no time to address during the running time of a movie.

Harry & Son, Paul Newman’s pet project fails in all of these aspects as Newman as the writer and director tries to fit it much too many dramatic elements that never get followed through. Is this a movie about getting older? Father-son relationships? Becoming an author? Coming of age? Coping with illness? Finding a love? Becoming a parent? Finding your focus in life? Forgiving? Loose sex? Answer, unfortunately is that it’s about all of this.

Maybe the biggest oversight of the movie is how it quickly shifts its focus away from Harry to his son Howard –– a much less interesting character of the two. Newman manages to create a somewhat interesting character in Harry, but he remains an unexplored, closed up onion all the way to the end.

80s-o-meter: 67%

Total: 42%

#1334 A Breed Apart (1984)

After just minutes of A Breed Apart I was really looking forward for it to finish as soon as possible, but it just dragged on and on in its predictable and uninteresting path.

A tale of a soldier turned into nature conservationist never manages to interest and the wonderful cast of Rutger Hauer, Kathleen Turner, Donald Pleasence and Brion James is completely wasted in this mess of a movie.

Reportedly one of the four reels of the movie went missing after being shipped from the shooting location back to Los Angeles and the team had to patch up a movie out of the existing footage. This only partly explains the complete staleness of A Breed Apart.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 2%

#1326 Ninja Busters (1984)

What makes Ninja Busters special is that it was never actually released by its distributor after test screenings and the reel sat in a warehouse until discovered again and released by Garagehouse Pictures on Bluray in 2015.

It’s a martial arts comedy in the vein of They Call Me Bruce that follows two losers who get their asses kicked and join the local martial arts club, become black belts and then get mixed into weapon smuggling ring, led by their former employee.

The first half works better after which the movie loses a lot of its sympathetic nature after it turns more into a (poor) showcase of a martial arts fights. Actual laughters are scarce, but the movie is good natured, as are its two lead actors.

80s-o-meter: 68%

Total: 59%

#1317 Sixteen Candles aka 16 Candles (1984)

Sixteen Candles is the first teen comedy led by Molly Ringwald, and begun a series of movies that would make her the household name in the 80s cinema.

Written with Ringwald specifically, writer / director John Hughes’ (making his directorial debut here) way of finding multiple surprising but well fleshed out and believable aspects of the characters that sets the movie ahead of the competition. But the script is not perfect, nor has it aged too well and contains multiple aspects that I did not find that funny any more, including many lazily written and worn out stereotypes.

It’s still an entertaining teen movie, leaps and bounds ahead of the competition, but just beware that it might not have the same impact it did back in the day.

80s-o-meter: 94%

Total: 79%