#1857 Hotel Colonial (1987)

Hotel Colonial is not a widely remembered movie – and those who know it often remember it for wasting the talent of John Savage and Robert Duvall.

I think I saw a slightly different movie here. The movie took me to an adventure to a different world that I found enchanting – a bit like playing some point and click adventure on a computer. The plot is also pretty unique, and for the most parts I did not know where it was going to take me, but I did not really care as the journey was worth it, and for me the story of the protagonist being drawn to the depths of madness by the mysterious character more than warranted the 90 minutes I spent with Hotel Colonial.

But I do agree that character writing and directing is where the movie suffers the most. Savage is a bit lost throughout the movie (although it suits the mental state of the his character) and Duvall’s performance is just plain painful to watch, knowing the level of performer he usually is.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 72%

#1841 Halloween 2023: B.O.R.N. aka Merchants of Death (1989)

With this stack of movies you never quite know what you’re going to get. Ok, so B.O.R.N. was not much of a horror movie despite the evil plot of of organ harvesting clinic, but as a thriller it turned out to be one of the most impactful movies I’ve seen in ages.

Perhaps thanks to its attempt to be a horror movie the action here is quite top notch, and the ruthless actions of the criminal organisation kidnapping people is just plain vile. As you’d expect of people who see people as a commodity to make some bucks.

The way that the soundtrack is integrated to the movie felt odd and music video like at times, but did not really feel like a faux-pas in this otherwise decent thriller.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 75%

#1816 Vice Squad (1982)

Not to be mixed up with Hollywood Vice Squad (1986) – which I always did – Vice Squad is a movie of a entirely different caliber.

At first coming across as an exploitative movie only to showcase naked skin and low-lifes of Los Angeles, Vice Squad does nothing of such but instead presents the viewer one of the tightest palm sweating action thrillers of the era.

Much of this is the credit of the director Gary Sherman, who paces and escalates the movie masterfully towards the end. Wings Hauser – of whom I’ve always been sort of on the verge if he is any good – makes a stand out role in Vice Squad as one of the most relentless, despicable, vile and chilling characters ever seen on the silver screen.

80s-o-meter: 78%

Total: 89%

#1815 Criminal Law (1988)

Criminal Law turned out to be a solid late 80s thriller involving a young yuppie defense attorney for whom winning has been everything, until freeing an accused man he begins to have second thoughts about.

I originally assumed Criminal Law to be a courthouse drama with a thriller twist to it – the movie does open with a court case – but really most of the action here happens elsewhere. That being said, the theme of truth, judgment, law, and justice is present throughout the movie.

Young Kevin Bacon and Gary Oldman (in his first role with an American accent) make for a dynamic duo, and it’s especially Oldman’s portrayal of a successful lawyer on top of his game that resembles Christian Bale’s role in the American Psycho.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 76%

#1813 Call Me (1988)

The 1988 thriller Call Me depicts a young woman getting allured by a mysterious caller and getting involuntarily involved in a case of murder and a wad of missing cash.

Leaning more into erotic tones and mystery, Call Me might not offer the heart-pounding action of a thriller, but it compensates all this with pure ambiance and enigmatic allure that kept me engaged to the experience right to the end.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 76%

#1805 Walking the Edge (1985)

Walking the Edge is a revenge / vigilante movie portraying an asian housewife seeking revenge against the killers of her family, and finding an unexpected ally in Forster, a taxi-driver who gets dragged into the action against his will.

The leading duo is an interesting, strange couple that never seem to mix in a believable way; I would not be surprised if the two leads did not get along behind the scenes as the always seem to be unhappy sharing the same space.

The film’s vigilante theme is a standard fare in every possible way, but with Robert Forster delivering a surprisingly charming performance as the reluctant hero with an unlikely love interest to the unlikely killer, not bothered by the complete lack of chemistry between the two.

80s-o-meter: 65%

Total: 61%

#1804 The Fan (1981)

I recently watched The Seduction, a movie quite line The Fan with a handsome stalker of an admirer tormenting the female lead with his clumsy attempts to get their attention.

Both movies, released in the early 80s at first seem to be inspired by the public stalking cases that caught public attention during the era, but interestingly the original novel that The Fan is based actually precedes these cases.

Besides all this The Fan is a drag, an utter disappointment of a movie and a thriller, with very little to give 40 years after its first release; skimming the movie now through again for a review I can’t come up with one single positive thing to bring up about it.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 11%

#1803 Confessions of a Serial Killer (1985)

Based on the true story of Henry Lee Lucas, Confessions of a Serial Killer follows the interrogations of a serial killer speaking openly to the investigators about the horrific acts performed before getting caught.

The documentary style works well and the depictions of killing just for fun are quite devastating to watch, and especially the suspension in the last part of the movie is almost too much to take in.

80s-o-meter: 65%

Total: 72%

#1797 Tough Guys Don’t Dance (1987)

Not to be mixed up with Tough Guys, released just one year earlier, the cryptically named Tough Guys Don’t Dance makes an attempt to create a neo-noir thriller movie in the vein of old noir classics, but ends up mostly known for its ”Oh God! Oh Man! Oh God! Oh Man!” scene that has since become a modern meme classic.

I see good aspects here as well; I like old film noir thrillers with femme fatales, caricature-like baddies, chilly and rainy coastal settings like in Key Largo. I even like to an extend a film having style over substance, if the atmosphere is good enough to suck me in. In this sense Tough Guys Don’t Dance gets quite close. If the directing was any better and the plot didn’t feel as convoluted with tons of people coming and going without proper introductions, this could have been an ok take on the subject.

But, unfortunately Norman Mailer – who also wrote the original novel – decided to direct this thing on his own, and similarly to the Stephen King’s own film work, the skill of weaving a movie to a comprehensive package was really not one of Mailer’s strong suits.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 43%

#1790 Crime Zone (1988)

Another one of David Carradine’s 80s scifi movies alongside with Future Force, Crime Zone is clearly the superior one of these two.

Like Future Force, the movie is made with low budget with no fancy FX work done and relies heavily on dimly lit scenes, which are not fancy, but do their job. As a viewer I found myself rooting for the leading couple, and the movie itself also concluded in a totally satisfactory way.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 72%

#1778 King of the Mountain (1981)

As I watched King of the Mountain with a ruggedly handsome rogue driver wearing a leather jacket and boasting a wild curly hair, I could not to think this is where the iconic TV series drew its inspiration.

Some petrol heads race on the iconic Mulholland Drive over the Hollywood Hills and young Steve manages to beat them all, and breaks the old record by an eccentric mechanic Cal, who used to rule the hills. In a more interesting subplot there’s bunch of Steve’s musician friends in the brink of success who have to sell themselves short to make it big in the business.

Car racing movies where aplenty in the era, and for me this movie did not really do anything exceptionally well, or in a way that would stick with me. Anything you see here is bettered in multiple movies preceding or succeeding King of the Mountain.

80s-o-meter: 76%

Total: 42%

#1772 Flesh and Bullets aka The Wife Contract (1985)

Written and directed by Carlos Tobalina, mostly known for his adult movies, Flesh and Bullets – or rather the more descriptive The Wife Contract – is an amateurish take on thrillers that very much looks like a porn movie, but without porn. The movie also looks old beyond its year, with a certain 70s vibe to it.

It is therefore quite a surprise that the movie is actually .. not that bad at all! Despite the obviously clumsiness and wooden acting the story is quite unique and the ingredients of a passable thriller are to be found here.

80s-o-meter: 54%

Total: 59%

#1769 Night Crossing (1982)

Night Crossing is one of the movies where the story is bigger than the movie itself: the real life events of two families building a hot air balloon in late 70s and use it to jump to the west from East-Germany is certainly something that warrants a movie, or two.

This is not to say Night Crossing is a bad movie. It does it job and tells the story in a relatable and understandable manner – but its style is documenting, to the point and TV-movie like. The story would definitely have worked without western leads – but, if I get John Hurt and Beau Bridges starring together in any movie, you won’t see me complaining.

Normally I would have complained about the uninspiring European setting, but given the Eastern-Germany theme and the 70s era, here it works of course for the benefit of the movie, even if shot in the western side of the fence.

80s-o-meter: 50%

Total: 77%

#1766 Sonny Boy (1989)

Sonny Boy, a story of a criminal clan living in the New Mexico desert, who raise a young boy, Sonny, as a weapon to take revenge on their enemies, is one challenging film to classify. Through flashbacks and vignettes, the audience is shown the abuse, endurance tests, and deprivation Sonny is forced to endure to transform him into an animalistic avenger. The film is open to multiple interpretations and is not a routine or formulaic exploitation film. It could be seen as a cruel, contemporary fairy tale or an allegory about child abuse – or, very well as an anarchistic commentary on normalcy and conformity.

Director Robert Martin Carroll creates a dream-like atmosphere that is closer to the cinema of David Lynch, with the desert setting, the muted colors, and soft-focus cinematography. The performances of the cast are eccentric but appropriate for the characters and storyline. Paul L. Smith commands the screen as a monstrous brute of a father figure, Brad Dourif excels in his portrayal of a ratboy like sociopathic accomplice and David Carradine gives totally unexpected, but memorable role as Pearl, who tries clumsily to act as the only thing closer to a family member, and a mother figure for Sonny Boy.

Despite the film’s eccentric storyline and grotesque characters, it is hard to imagine an indifferent viewer as Sonny Boy is a film that will definitely polarize its audience – you’ll either tune out immediately or watch in fascination and disbelief.

80s-o-meter: 40%

Total: 70%

#1762 Courage aka Raw Courage (1984)

A pet project of Ronny Cox, starring the man himself and co-written with his wife Mary, Courage turned out to be a really refreshing piece of low budget cinema.

Building up from a simple story of three long distance runners crossing a desert, this survive thriller ends up with the best of the genre, offering tons of tension with just good plain old movie making workmanship.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 76%

#1759 Stormy Monday (1988)

Stormy Monday is a movie shot in the UK with two Hollywood actors, Tommy Lee Jones and Melanie Griffith. The story follows a shady American businessman named Cosmo, played by Jones, who arrives in Newcastle during a business event welcoming investors from across the Atlantic. Meanwhile, Brendan, a janitor at the Key Club, assists a nightclub owner Finney – played by Sting – against Cosmo’s henchmen while getting involved with Frank’s girlfriend, Kate, played by Griffith.

By far the best asset of the movie is its stunningly beautiful cinematography by Roger Deakins, with saturated blues and neon reds of nightclub strips and the blaring red, white, and blue of American business hype. But, as the rest of the movie falls short of the level of this cinematography, Stormy Monday is ultimately style over substance – but it’s stylish, alright!

Despite the promising premise of a thrilling film noir caper, Stormy Monday falls short. We never get to understand why Cosmo is so interested in a nightclub in Newcastle, while being so inept in getting it to his hands. Jones is supposed to be the top-billed star here, but it’s ultimately unclear what he’s doing in this movie as he’s more a source of campy fun than real menace. Sting holds his ground well as the little spoken owner of a night club, and Griffith performs admirably – although this is not the role she will be remembered for.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 52%

#1727 Incident at Crestridge (1981)

Woman moving into a small town located in the Western region of the USA faces ineptitude and corruption of the local law enforcement system and campaigns to become the new sheriff with the mission of rooting out corruption and to provide a sense of safety and security to the community that had been missing for years.

As with made for TV movies the theme of the movie is a bit different from what you’d normally see in movies with a theatrical release, and here also her struggle against the powers that be is interesting to watch.

On the downside Incident at Crestridge suffers from being very much a made for TV movie, and in its style and pacing reminds more of a long episode of some TV series of the early 80s, rather than a cinematic experience you’d go to see from a big screen.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 60%

#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%

#1722 Shallow Grave (1987)

We’ve seen this hicksploitation plot before: bunch of city slicker passer-bys get involved with the crooked arms of law in a small rural town. What makes Shallow Grave more interesting though is the way it’s only the sheriff here who is the wrongdoer, and constantly walks on tightrope trying to cover his tracks and not get caught.

And it’s his somewhat clueless deputy slowly closing up on him that also adds to the movie.

All in all Shallow Grave is a better movie than it deserves to be, and makes for easy 90 minutes watch. If it wasn’t for the lousy horror movie like ending, the movie could’ve stood a chance of getting my cautious recommendation.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 70%

#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%