#1726 The Scarlet and the Black (1983)

Over these years I’ve grown fond of underdog made for TV movies that punch far above their height in terms of telling an interesting story. In The Scarler and the Black that a real-life story is of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, an Irish Catholic priest who saved thousands of Jews and escaped Ally soldirs in Rome during WWII.

Seeing John Gielgud, Gregory Peck and Christopher Plummer work together in this movie is a treat, is capturing the essence of their characters perfectly, and adding that little flair of their own to keep things interesting.

Although the scarcer budget shows, for a made for TV movie The Scarlet and the Black is well made movie that doesn’t really give away its modest origins, other than fading out and pausing for the very apparent commercial breaks.

80s-o-meter: 43%

Total: 83%

#1705 Halloween 2022: The Strangeness (1985)

A low budget movie where a group of explorers in an abandoned gold mine get trapped in and haunted by a monster / entity.

This is one of those movie that can’t possible be rated very high because it’s not particularly good. But I appreciate the effort behind this shoelace budgeted movie and did enjoy many of the aspects here, how the clumsy stop motion monster was put together for example and how the movie manages to build a coherent feeling of wandering around in a endless mine when it was mostly shot in a small set build in a garage.

So The Strangeness definitely punches above its weight. But other than that it’s still quite shoddy, most of the scenes for example are lit so that it’s hard to see anything (and I was watching a proper copy of the movie). I will give the movie a few extra points though for having more stickyness than most of the copy pasted horror movies I’ve seen once again this year.

80s-o-meter: 42%

Total: 39%

#1694 Halloween 2022: Stepfather 2 (1989)

A sequel to the great 1987 The Stepfather is one of those movies propelled by the success of the original movie, without any original artistic merits in mind.

As a standalone movie Stepfather 2 would be quite an ok thriller, but compared to the first installation it offers so much less of everything. The story now concentrates on one family, when the earlier one managed to muscle in more people and still keep the story interesting, and this is the theme of the movie, a tamed down, VHS sequel of a great original.

The movie offers a good opportunity for the fans of Stepfather to see a little bit more of the same, and Terry O’Quinn is still great and charismatic as the lead. But truth be told, even that fans of the movie would be better off just rewatching the first one.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 72%

#1692 Halloween 2022: Ghost Riders aka Ghostriders (1987)

A gang of vicious outlaws from wild west era arrive to current day to shoot at a family whose forefather was involved in hanging their leader.

While the title of the movie gets the imagination running, the execution itself is much more on the boring side: the antagonists appear just as regular cowboys with unshaved shins and shoot at their victims from a distance, and could have as well been a local gang of drunkards.

Ghost Riders gets the menacing feeling right at times, but much of a horror movie this ain’t, despite the supernatural theme.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 35%

#1691 Halloween 2022: Deadly Games aka The Eliminator (1982)

Masked killer is doing away with women, and one of the sisters of the victims arrives to the scene to do her own investigations, only to romantically involved with a detective investigating the case. The detective often goes to play a round custom made board game with his suspicious friend as the killings go on.

Here’s the main problem with Deadly Games. We are from early on led to believe that the killer is either one of these gentlemen. Meanwhile we see three of them hanging out together as if this was a romantic comedy, just interrupted by killing scenes.

Although listed as horror movie, Deadly Games is not one despite a few more graphic kills to please the gore hounds, but instead a thriller. This means, it isn’t particularly scary, especially for those who’ve watched any modern television, and as such cannot really be recommended for your list of Halloween movies this year.

80s-o-meter: 75%

Total: 54%

#1690 Halloween 2022: Midnight aka John Russo’s Midnight aka Backwoods Massacre (1982)

A girl runaway from her home runs into a family a maniacs in Pennsylvania’s backwoods that locks her up to prepare her for satanist sacrificial ritual.

John Russo’s (of the Night of the Living Dead fame) Midnight does not excel in its storyline, nor with its technical aspects, but a couple of aspects and tweaks here make the offering stand above your average early 80s horror movie in terms of keeping up one’s interest. First and foremost the movie takes sudden unexpected turns with both the protagonists and antagonists being vulnerable – something that so many horror movies often get very wrong.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 60%

#1688 Halloween 2022: Retribution aka Retribution: The Ultimate Nightmare (1987)

A good reminder to never judge a book by its cover, Retribution was the movie I looked the least forward to seeing this year after having seen its less than stellar poster a few times before.

Right off the bat the movie feels off and twisted, but in a good way. After surviving a suicide attempt a sympathetic artist George starts to experience violent nightmares leading to people getting killed. But it’s most interestingly a good an interesting array of well written characters and their often warm relationship with each other that makes Retribution stand out.

But, the movie also delivers in the horror aspect. The violent dreamlike episodes feel quite effective in contrast to the quiet and serene nature of the movie. This extends to the very end of the movie that delivers on all aspects of a first class horror movie.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 87%

#1682 Halloween 2022: The People Across the Lake (1988)

Funny how genre affects on how you view a name of a movie.I originally mistook The People Across the Lake as a made for TV drama, and my instant assumption was a tired costume drama, but upon learning that this is actually a horror movie the name became much more interesting one. In fact, I quite like it!

Many made for TV horror movies of the 80s have been positive surprises, quite unexpectedly so. Generally they have the courage to try out something a little different and rely on eery feeling instead of excessive gore, and the same goes with The People Across the Lake.

I was super pleased to see Barry Corbin in one of the main roles in the movie, but given how I’ve learned to perceive him, the role seemed bit of a misfit for him in the end, but it’s no deal breaker by any means. The movie could have built up much more suspense towards the end, but takes a bit too easy path in the end making The People Across the Lake entertaining – but not exceptional.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 72%

#1669 Apprentice to Murder (1988)

A US-Norwegian-Canadian co-production Apprentice to Murder portrays of Pennsylvanian folk healer and his apprentice getting far too deep into dark powers of their craft in a story that very successfully blurs the line between real and make-belief, wrong and right, and good and bad.

I was surprised to learn the movie was shot entirely in Norway, so my hat is off to the production team who very skilfully concealed this fact, and totally sold me the location of 1920s Pennsylvania.

Although shot in mainstream Hollywood fashion, Apprentice to Murder (apparently based on a real historic event) is a very untypical movie but in a good way. It boldly goes quite deep into religious fanaticism, dark sides of human psyche and superstition.

80s-o-meter: 11%

Total: 72%

#1666 Endless Love (1981)

Endless Love is one of those movies that you learn to appreciate much more after you realise it’s a pure work of fiction not even meant to resemble anything that might take place in real life.

It’s after this realisation that you might find yourself enjoying the movie, like myself. In fact the whole concept of a love story gone horribly wrong is a really interesting one, and one that I can’t find any resemblance from the movies I’ve seen.

It’s only the weak, open ended ending that felt to me keeping this movie from greatness; after creating such a bold plot twists I hoped the movie makers had the guts to ride the wave all the way to the ending.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 76%

#1665 The Seduction (1982)

The Seduction takes a tone inspired by the late 80s TV and series like Dallas, marching to the stage one ridiculously good looking character after another, leading a picture perfect life. Now, I don’t have any problem with beautiful people, but having even the antagonist look and dress like a model just makes everything feel a bit plasticky.

Talking of good looking people, The Seduction stars Morgan Fairchild, of Dallas fame herself.

As far as thrillers go, The Seduction may not be anything special, but luckily it’s quite easy and effortless to watch. The traits of the antagonist (gets into fights, but gets his ass easily handed over to him) are quite odd, but at least they made the experience just a little bit more memorable.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 60%

#1662 Prime Risk (1985)

The poster for Prime Risk makes a bold comparison to War Games, stating this movie will make it look like ’kid stuff’.

The reference is not unfound as prime risk successfully draws from its paragon, presenting us a similar setup where youngsters’ mostly innocent tomfoolery turns out something much more than they originally bargained for. In Prime Risk, it’s hacking credit cards that leads to a plot of a hostile nation aiming to crash the U.S. monetary system.

What it comes to hacking and peeping behind curtains of state secrecy and international politics, Prime Risk is an excellent contender to War Games, only taking a few missteps towards the end by turning more into an action packed agent movie rather than what War Games ingeniously pulled off. Still, anyone who enjoyed War Games will find a lot to be loved here.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 84%

#1661 Mata Hari (1985)

After starring in Emmanuelle, Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel got typecast to movies of the similar nature, ie a sexually liberated young woman in seek of erotic moments, tied together by a very loose plot.

The value of these erotic movies in these days and times are close to zero, and Mata Hari is no exception. It is a shame since some real effort was done to put the movie together, and the locations, costume design and war scenes are pretty well done, considering how weak the movie is otherwise.

80s-o-meter: 13%

Total: 11%

#1660 Lisa (1989)

And interesting twist on similar thrillers where the main character gets into telephone conversations with a mysterious stranger, here that main character is Lisa, a 14-year old girl who can’t wait but to be grown up and not treated like the kid any longer.

This setup creates an extra layer of suspension as she is not only in the danger of being exposed to the main antagonist, but also trying not to get caught by her protective mother – although in this case we root for the mother to find out and stop the calling before things escalate any further.

Lisa makes for one of the better thrillers of the era while being a true time capsule of its era.

80s-o-meter: 93%

Total: 83%

#1659 Hitcher in the Dark aka Fear in the Dark aka Return of the Hitcher (1989)

An Italian horror movie directed by Umberto Lenzi leveraging off the success of The Hitcher (1986), Hitcher in the Dark is very different from its paragon, but for the good: it delivers the uttermost tension seen in the original Hitcher, but manages to successfully stand on its own.

Hitcher in the Dark would not have worked if it was tame, and it acknowledges this by making some very dark moves along the way that really work for the movie’s advantage. It leaves the viewer with an uneasy feeling, with no wish to ever engage into hitching a ride from a stranger.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 79%

#1654 Wavelength (1983)

Last one in late unexpected wave of surprisingly good low budget scifi movies arriving to my desk is Wavelength, a movie that had a feeling of something being off (in a good way) from the get go.

But it was only after the actual secret and its alarming consequences are revealed that Wavelength starts to find its own unique tone and plot line unlike anything I’ve seen to date, and really starts to whet one’s appetite as what will happen next.

Obviously done with a shoe string budget, Wavelength manages to stretch that dime amazingly far, concentrating on the atmosphere rather than special effects. The few effects there are are made in good taste, and don’t feel distracting at all unlike other low budget movies.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 71%

#1645 Atlantic City aka Atlantic City, USA (1980)

Atlantic City is a movie about transition periods and change. Sally is learning the ropes to be a dealer to be able to leave to Monaco to work on a casino. His former husband, now with Sally’s sister has arrived at the city to makes some money selling drugs, and they run into Lou, a small time old crook looking forward to finally becoming the big shot gangster with the money and a woman he could show off to his Florida pals.

And all this is taking place in Atlantic City that is going through sizeable changes where hotels and casinos of the old glory days are demolished to make room for new buildings.

The real gem in Atlantic City is the interesting array of characters with real yet a bit childish and silly aspirations, and in this sense the movie manages to positively surprise time after time: we don’t have to relate or even like the characters to be able to sympathise with their dreams.

80s-o-meter: 63%

Total: 87%

#1641 Gleaming the Cube (1989)

What do you get when you put 80s up and coming skating legends like Mike McGillMark ”Gator” RogowskiRodney MullenLance MountainMike VallelyNatas Kaupas, Tony Hawk and Tommy Guerrero into the same movie with young Christian Slater on the top of his game, mix it up with a kick ass soundtrack and Californian scenery?

A totally rad 80s action adventure movie – that’s what.

Gleaming the Cube is enjoyable on most of its aspects and a movie that offers tons of aspects that make it worth revisiting time and time again.

80s-o-meter: 100%

Total: 92%

#1609 Midnight Crossing (1988)

I don’t know if such sub genre exists, but Midnight Crossing falls into one of those movies where the plot line resembles a cheap paperback thriller you’ve picked up for the tropical vacation from a discount bin. It does its job in entertaining you as you lay beneath a palm tree, but upon completing it gets forgotten before you finish your next piña colada.

The movie delivers much of the same: some thrills, erotic scenes, highly implausible plotline and the main character with an impaired vision with no other motivation than to drive the plot.

Now, after a few weeks seeing the movie I can’t say whether it was good or bad as nothing of it has sticked with me – I guess it did do its job, delivered the lighthearted entertainment producers had aimed for. I recall that Midnight Crossing was not that awful to watch, but that’s pretty much all I can say about it.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 60%