#1586 Halloween 2021: U.F.O. Abduction aka The McPherson Tape (1989)

Preceding Blair Witch Project ten years, The McPherson Tape took that same home video approach to create a ”lost” tape, an evidence that documents the scary moments unfolding before our eyes.

The approach is powerful as it effectively makes the viewer one of the few eye witnesses to the incident, and also give the footage certain mythical and forbidden flavour. While McPherson Tape nails the home video look & feel and the overall flow of the tableside conversations feel genuine, the actual interesting content of the movie is just about two or three minutes out of the 62 minute running time.

More interesting the the movie content (it’s not very interesting) or its scariness (not very scary) is the viral aspect that McPherson Tape managed to gain: the movie got spread around as VHS copies for years, with people who were sure this was the official proof for extraterrestrial life. The actual, official truth only came out years later as the official release, long time after VHS was no more.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 31%

#1585 Halloween 2021: The Aftermath aka Zombie Aftermath (1982)

I’ve been somewhat in the know about the cult status of The Aftermath, but 30 minutes in to the movie I did not understand quite why; it’s pretty shoddy, but not quite bad enough to entertain, and visually it’s more close to movies you’d see towards the early 70s – including its beginning, lifted straight out of the original Planet of the Apes. Also the way the camera was operated and framed seemed to be a bit off all times.

It was only after digging to the internet for more information that I learned how the whole movie is a brainchild of the movie’s lead Steve Barkett, who also wrote, directed and edited the movie. Considering how much harder all this was not only to finance, but to pull off technically, my hat is off to Barkett. Overall, well done – the movie looks better than many bigger budget movies of the 1978.

You read it right. The movie was actually shot originally in 1978, but it took Barkett four years to shoot additional footage and to get the movie released. Released in the UK as Zombie Aftermath, the movie does not actually contain any zombies, and is very slim in the scary department as well, falling more closely to dystopian action movie category, rather than horror.

80s-o-meter: 28%

Total: 45%

#1583 Halloween 2021: Star Crystal (1986)

You’ve seen the beginning of Star Crystal before: starship crew on a expedition on a remote planet (well not too remote, Mars) brings into the ship something containing an alien life form that gets quite unhappy with the humen aboard.

After a few goofy deaths with passable FX the movie seems to be all out of crew to sacrifice to the creature. But here is where the movie actually genre blends into an exploration of the inner life of the alien, who is now busy absorbing all the information of the humankind (good and bad) stored on the starship’s mainframe computer.

The change is unexpected and not without problems – the action totally plateaus just when you expect it to go into the next gear. But even if the movie turns into close encounters of the boring kind, I do applaud the film crew’s courage of wandering off the beaten path and trying something new.

It is the very only reason why the movie left any lasting impression.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 63%

#1577 Halloween 2021: Lords of the Deep (1989)

Something extraordinary weird happened in 1989: a staggering five production companies released an underwater scifi movie back to back. The best known out of these five is naturally The Abyss, while the fate of the four others remains to be always compared to the James Cameron’s masterpiece.

Lords of the Deep does unfortunately not fare well in the comparison with any of its competitors, ending up the weakest one of the bunch by margin. The movie reminds more of a low budget TV series (think underwater Star Trek), but despite the shortcomings of the set design and costumes the movie manages to sell the idea of an underwater base – if only barely. The same does not apply for alien lifeform, and it would require quite a bit more imagination than what I have to buy the silly storyline.

As with Star Trek, there’s something strangely endearing about the clumsiness and silly costumes though, and in an alternate universe Lords of the Deep might’ve had a somewhat potent one or two season TV series in it.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 42%

#1545 Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity (1987)

A textbook example of how to make a decent B-movie, Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity shows not only that one does not need a huge budget to make an entertaining movie, but also that B-movies don’t necessarily need to be laugh out loud bad.

Getting its inspiration very likely from The Most Dangerous Game (1932), Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity follows two intergalactic woman fugitives who crash land on a remote planet to find themselves in the vast mansion along with other visitors and robot servants, hosted by an eccentric aristocrat who has more plans for his guests than first meets the eye.

Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity is throughly enjoyable scifi action movie that goes far beyond its modest budget. Should you watch the movie, pay close attention to the appearance and mannerisms of Don Scribner in the antagonist role as is looks as if young Christian Bale had taken a few notes of this very performance into his later day-to-day repertoire.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 79%

#1500 Predator (1987)

By 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger had already starred in the multiple movies that defined the action genre (Terminator, Conan the Barbarian, Commando), but it was Predator that really established him as the action star of the 80s.

Presenting us with a story of an alien humanoid life from travelling over to earth for recreational sports hunting (targeting humans), Predator is a mere B-movie ramped up to an A-level blockbuster hit by utilising all the top shelve talent Hollywood had to its avail at the time.

Similarly to Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars, with Predator Schwarzenegger reached a pinnacle where his character became immortal, and something that transcends human age and passing of time.

This is how we forever remember Schwarzenegger: as a 40-year old still very much in his top form, with a flat top haircut and boasting a magnetic screen presence the few extra years under this his belt and the confidence gained by finally silencing all the naysayers who said he could not cut it as a movie star.

Predator is an action movie that defined its genre so well that its formula still works to date, 35 years after Predator’s theatrical debut.

80s-o-meter: 100%

Total: 98%

#1452 Robot Holocaust (1987)

Here’s a good reminder never to judge a book by its covers. But, in this case it’s the contents of the book that stink to high heaven and don’t live anywhere near up to the pretty nice VHS cover art.

Robot Holocaust is basically a sword & sorcery movie, but this it’s set to the dystopian future where an evil bread bin called Dark One along with his dorky robots have enslaved what’s left of the human race. A band of heroes immune to the tricks of the Dark One provides the swords, and Dark One provides the sorcery through some high level computer magic.

One of the most annoying aspect of the movie is the C-3PO ripoff with a nasal voice and face frozen to a bewildered grin. I grew tired of seeing and hearing him after the first three seconds, and was displeased after understanding he would be a permanent figure on the screen until the very end. There is some fun to be had with the dodgy special effects and sock puppet aliens, but as the movie itself is so tediously boring that none of this warrants subjecting yourself to this waste of celluloid.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 5%

#1423 Alien from L.A. (1988)

What would you do if you’d get Kathy Ireland, the hottest swimsuit model of the 80s to star in your movie, and you’d have the chance to shoot in L.A.? Well, the director Albert Pyun and his team decided it was a good idea to make her an annoying mock of a nerd, give her a squeky voice and clothe her in unbecoming rags. I for one would have come up with one or two different options.

A bastardisation of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, Alien from L.A. follows Ireland as he ventures below the earth surface to find his lost father. What follows is scifi equal to a TV-series / made for TV movie that looks like it was done for the demography of under 10 year olds. Plot is both nonexistent and hard to follow at the same time. Basically everyone wants to capture her and a few strangers wish to help her.

Perhaps the most depressing thing about Alien from L.A. is seeing how much effort was wasted with the sets, matte paintings and wardrobes to create this turd that never had any chance of success whatsoever.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 1%

#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%