#1588 Halloween 2021: Silent Madness aka Beautiful Screamers aka The Nightkillers aka The Omega Factor (1984)

Silent Madness is another early 80s 3-D movie that I immediately anticipated to stink to high heavens – but that contrary to all the expectations turned out a-ok.

The fact that I enjoyed Silent Madness seems even more implausible given the fact that it has probably the weakest antagonist I’ve ever seen in a slasher. Honestly, it looks like they applied some eye make up up to the production company janitor and just send him in front of cameras.

Luckily he is not actually even the main source for the suspension in the movie; it’s the corrupt asylum, its rotten doctors and their henchman orderlies that provide Silent Madness most of its thrills.

80s-o-meter: 83%

Total: 72%

#1578 Halloween 2021: The Power (1984)

Movies can be like a hand of poker. The bluff you in with an alluring poster, interesting premise and a strong beginning, but as the story progresses, it becomes quite clear that they’re playing with an empty hand.

With The Power the directors Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow have an ace-high. The plot of a evil Aztec doll giving people great power but destroying them in exchange is a spinoff of a classic Faust pact-with-a-devil tale, but instead of expanding or taking the concept to the next level The Power seems to just lose the very essence of the classic story in translation.

The very movie-like atmosphere and special effects in a good tradition of 80s horror cinema manage to partially redeem the movie, but in the end it’s just too little, too late.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 58%

#1564 Thief of Hearts (1984)

The second collaboration between producer wizards Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer responsible for such 80s gems as Flashdance, Beverly Hills Cop and Top Gun, Thief of Hearts failed to find its audience in the box office.

The story of a thief falling in love with one of her victims and using ill gained information to win her heart over does not reach the epic levels of Bruckheimer & Simpson’s top movies, but the story is still unique and interesting – basically nothing like I’ve seen before.

There is a moment of bad writing though when the couple finally clashes, as it really feels forced and out of character for the thief figure. But the ultimate plot twist (for the lack of better wording) manages to fully redeem the movie, making for one a totally satisfying finish to the movie.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 80%

#1561 Lassiter (1984)

Lassiter is a hit-by-the-handsome-stick gentleman cat thief living in London on the verge of WWII that ends up recruited against his will by FBI to break into the heavily guarded German embassy to steal gems from the nazis.

The plot puts further pressure on Lassiter and his relationship with his love interest (Jane Seymour) as he first has to seduce the nazi femme fatale (Lauren Hutton) to gain access to the base.

40-year old Tom Selleck handles the role with expected charisma and the movie portrays well the era – or at least the movie version of it – without redundant underlining or overselling.

80s-o-meter: 5%

Total: 73%

#1550 Stranger Than Paradise (1984)

Considering how much I loved Jim Jarmusch’s later Down by the Law, I really looked forward to seeing Stranger Than Paradise, its indirect predecessor. In fact I was looking forward to viewing it to a small audience in an makeshift Spanish open-air theatre, but changed my plans for another movie in the last minute.

Luckily too, as Stranger Than Paradise turned out nothing like the witty and quirky Down by the Law was. This is a story of two friends who take a road trip to Cleveland to meet up with a cousin, then travel back with her, lose some money and win it back. And .. well, that’s about it.

Nothing much happens meanwhile, and Stranger Than Paradise turned out to be one of those artsy black and white indie movies with much too long scenes of people just sitting still and smoking cigarette and staring into the distance as their lips slowly chap. The very kind of movie that movie snobs watch in their private movie sessions, always laughing a few seconds too early and too loud to the unfunny jokes to underline they are the only ones sophisticated enough to appreciate them.

80s-o-meter: 30%

Total: 24%

#1537 Alphabet City (1984)

Alphabet City is one of those movies that has only night scenes with tons of smoke and bright neon coloured lights, and it’s stylish all right ..and it’s mostly style over substance.

Which is not necessarily bad at all. I’ve enjoyed tons of movies for the mood only if they represent well a movie world that fascinates me. But even then the movies do need some substance, even if it’s through an interesting main character – and this is where Alphabet City fails. Vincent Spano seems to have been hired for the role for his looks only and his character and his representation of it feels paper thin, even for a superficial movie like this.

The movie reminds me mostly of video games that appeared years later, and the way that the movie looks totally fresh still to date is totally a feat on its own. But judging this by the story only, I’ve seen better plots written on the side of a yogurt can.

80s-o-meter: 95%

Total: 58%

#1529 The Burning Bed (1984)

One of the most hard to watch movies I’ve seen to date, The Burning Bed is a gruesome depiction of a domestic abuse downward spiral.

Being based on actual events, the movie does a terrific job in putting into concrete how the abuse starts in small, almost innocent baby steps that are easy to put aside. It also depicts exceptionally well the manipulative side as the abuser always finds a justification and forgiveness for their acts.

This is one of the rare cases where it doesn’t make much sense mentioning the made-for-TV origin of the movie was it easily bests the vast majority of theatrical dramas in its genre. Farrah Fawcett’s performance is flawless, and my hat is off to Paul Le Mat for his courage of accepting such a role. The events of the movie cut so deep that I might never look him the same way again.

80s-o-meter: 54%

Total: 92%

#1526 Angel (1984)

Angel, an exploitative, sleazy movie of a teen grade-A student gone prostitute ends up something of bore.

The first part of the (mostly unrelated) four Angel movies that were released in 1984 (this one), 1985 (Avenging Angel), 1988 (Angel III: The Final Chapter), plus one more attempt to milk the weak franchise, released in 1994.

Angel is mostly passable, but nothing really substantial enough to stick with the viewer for longer. The only really interesting part of the movie is its eccentric supporting cast, as well as the depiction of the 80s street life. The exploitation angle is strong in the marketing, but the end result is a bit tame.

80s-o-meter: 68%

Total: 58%

#1516 Perfect Strangers aka Blind Alley (1984)

Larry Cohen’s (Special Effects, The Stuff, Q) Perfect Strangers begins as a 2-year old witnesses an assassination in an alley.

To make sure there are no loose ends the hitman befriends the boy and her single parent mom, only to soon find himself emotionally attached to both.

The premise is wonderful for a decent thriller, but Perfect Strangers’ approach is somewhat bland and features one of those weird early 80s lense effects where everything looks shiny as if shot through a greasy lens. The strong setup still carries the movie through, fortunately. But only barely.

80s-o-meter: 58%

Total: 68%

#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%