Top 10 Horror Movies From 1988

Top 10 Horror Movies From 1988

Theres a video for this list here.

10. Rabid Grannies

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A group of relatives meet to celebrate their elderly relations birthday (but have disclosed that they are only there so that they may be left something in the old duck’s inheritances when they pop their clogs). A black-sheep nephew of the octogenarians who practices the black arts has been excluded from proceedings but sends a supernatural gift that turns the lovable grandmas into evil, homicidal maniacs. Fun ensues.

This film is from Troma (of course). Within this Belgian horror film, the gore and blood flow and there is also a delectable sick strain of humour at play that make the film feel like no other movie I think I’ve ever seen.

Demented, wickedly funny and one of a kind.

9. The Blob

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A remake of the Steve McQueen classic. A meteorite emits a strange pink goo type substance that is in fact alive, harmful to humans and intent on wreaking havoc. It seems to be completely sentient. This 80’s version determines the slime as in fact, a biological weapon that was sent into space after being concocted by scientists on Earth rather than being an alien entity.

By 1988 when this remake was made, special effects had progressed at such a dizzying pace that it was felt that anything was possible. Director Chuck Russell takes full advantage of this with not only The Blob doing things onscreen that could only have been dreamt of in the original film. Also, the blob itself looks aesthetically beautiful, akin to a huge oozing mass of pink bubble gum.

Kevin Dillon is certainly no Steve McQueen (but, to be fair, no one is) and this remake doesn’t have the amazing theme song that the original had, but as a special effects laden 1980’s remake this film more than accomplishes (and with real panache) what it aims to do.

8. Friday the 13th Part 7: The New Blood

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This film is basically Jason vs Carrie as one of the latest crop of teens has telekinesis. Whats more she’s accidentally awakened Jason who was chained beneath Crystal Lake thanks to Tommy Jarvis in the previous film.

This was the first film with Kane Hodder as Jason. He seems completely at home right off the bat with his first inhabitation of the role displaying a real flare and strutting confidence.

We get some great kills, some great moments of sly humour (but not the amount of meta-humour synonymous with Part 6) and a fantastic final confrontation. We also get some of the finest helmet hair ever captured on film, with ‘do’s’ so severe that they very possibly could be just as bad (if not worse) than any of the atrocities committed by Jason.

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There are also some great character archetypes that the film hams up to- the bitch, the evil doctor, the ugly duckling. There’s a shrewdness to proceedings that is really enjoyable and helps pull this entry out of being just a generic late 80’s slasher movie.

But there were also other, more radical ideas being pushed forward when this movie was being mooted. Barbara Sachs, a Paramount producer wanted this movie to be the one Friday that was seen as being ‘arty’ and wanted it to even be in the running when the Academy Awards came around. Seriously! At one point there were even mutterings of trying to attach a director of (previous) high standing to the film with one possible nominee being Fellini. Yes, seriously!!!

This all came to nothing though as John Carl Buechler who had directed Troll was employed instead. He does a great job but the mind still boggles at the idea of Fellini directing proceedings and Jason going up to collect the Palme D’Or.

7. Child’s Play

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Another movie that kickstarted a brand new and very profitable horror franchise was Child’s Play.

Catherine Hicks plays a single mother who gives her young son Andy a new toy (named Chucky) akin to the old ‘My Buddy’, the awkwardly large doll for boys (!) from the 80’s.

Very early on this movie steers into dark waters. When Chucky starts killing people beginning with Maggie, Andy’s babysitter, the police make Andy the key suspect. The issue of killer kids is still a taboo and ironically one of the entries in this franchise would be linked to the real life case of the two killer kids who murdered James Bulger in 1993.

The doll scampering around to kill people looks and feels very sinister and uncomfortable as it looks like a child is actually committing all of these atrocities (a child was actually used to act as the killer doll). Brad Dourif as the voice of Chucky is amazing as he shows that even when he isn’t on screen he can still light up a role.

A very good start to an inventive, funny and intelligent franchise.

6. Killer Klowns From Outer Space

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A film for everyone who finds clowns really sinister and scary (or sexy because of that).

A young couple are busy making out at Make Out Point when they see what looks likes like a falling star and so go to investigate. It’s there that they find, of all things, a circus tent. The alien beings in said tent all look like clowns but they aren’t here to fall over and entertain us. They hate humans and want to harvest us in bright pink cocoons. They also kill humans as witnessed by Deputy Sheriff Mooney who arrests one of them. It slaughters everyone else in the cell along with the deputy.

Fortunately the Sheriff proper realises that the Klowns are a serious threat to the entire town and sets out to stop them. Will he succeed or will they?

This film is by the Chiodo Brothers and is like a really brightly coloured acid trip with this startling vision having darker undertones beneath the surface. This is also one of those movies that has it’s own reality and an amazing vision that is fully and brilliantly conceived and realised by the filmmakers.

This film is now seen as a cult classic and I can fully see why. A sequel has been mooted for years. I hope it comes to fruition.

5. Maniac Cop

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A cop has supposedly gone psycho on the streets of New York which causes citywide panic and retribution with cops being shot or steered clear of by scared civilians. The main suspect is a policeman called Jack with another cop called McCrae diving deep into the case and trying to stop the killer as he doesn’t think Jack is responsible.

This is another film by William Lustig who made Maniac and Vigilante. With this movie he again comes up with the goods. Not only is this a cult film fan’s dream cast with Bruce Campbell, Tom Atkins and Richard Roundtree (not to mention cameos by Sam Raimi and Jake LaMotta who is Lustig’s uncle) but this is a great concept for a movie. It has plenty of tense night-time scenes on grimy, terrifying New York streets (a Lustig speciality). There’s also the genuine shock scene when Maniac Cop is revealed with the legend Robert Z’Dar and his awesome jaw coming to the fore.

Maniac Cop was cut by 5 secs by the BBFC when it was first released in the UK. This involved the shower scene that involved a stabbing and facial mutilation.

This film was followed by two more Maniac Cop movies.

4. Phantasm 2

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It was because of Phantasm 2 that I learnt of the first film. Barry Norman on his regular film review programme reviewed the movie and voiced the opinion that he didn’t even know there was a first Phantasm film. At that point I had to agree.

I rented Phantasm 2 before I got to see the first film and loved it. It was (like the first movie) unlike any other film I had ever seen, with bags of imagination and nothing over-explained. The film had a mysterious aura about it.

This film continued it’s exploration of the sinister and malevolent Tall Man with Mike from the original film (but played by a different actor) leaving the mental institution he was resident in after the events of the first film and returning to Morningside Cemetery where he starts exhuming graves. Just as he suspected, they are empty. This convinces Reggie (also from the original) to help Mike investigate further and try to stop The Tall Man.

A bigger budget, more ambitious visuals and more complex plotlines (there seems to be more of an emphasis on the psychic element that was just hinted at in the original film with the seer and her granddaughter) permeate this sequel. There are also more guns, action and gore with the spheres being given a redux and more murderous implements to kill with.

But theres still mystery, intelligence and innovation. And whats more, it’s still ingrained in this second film as it was in the first. The viewer is free to interpret events in this film and try to decide if they are actual or imagined.

Phantasm 2 is a very worthy sequel to a masterpiece.

3. Scarecrows

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Ever since I read about Scarecrows in an old issue of Gorezone I knew I had to see it. When I did finally see it, of course, it was cut by the BBFC. But even in this cut form it still made for a great film.

A plane full of mercenaries have stolen millions of dollars and are flying away to Mexico with their bounty. However, one of them swipes the loot and parachutes from the plane into a cornfield. Two others parachute after him to be joined by the others upon landing the plane. They all meet in a house adjoined to the field. They spot the loot which is in the field but what they don’t know is that they will have major problems retrieving it as the cornfield is home to three paranormal scarecrows who are actually alive and hate those who trespass onto their terrain.

This is a brooding, dark hued film which is perfect for such a dark and gory movie. The horror of the scarecrows is intensified by the way they have been lit with all of the action taking place at night. This lends a very sinister air to proceedings especially with the haunting locale of the nocturnal cornfield.

There’s also great characterisation with the backstory warranting it’s own prequel. The sense of mistrust and paranoia permeates the action and prepares the audience to expect the unexpected. This is no generic 80’s horror movie.

I finally saw the uncut version and it was well worth the wait. As was seeing the film on Blu ray after I first saw it on VHS all those years ago.

2. Dead Ringers

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More double crossing now with twins being perfectly suited for this.

This David Cronenberg movie stars Jeremy Irons as twin gynaecologists with one twin, the narcissistic Elliot, seducing and then discarding some of the women who come to their practice with his more submissive and introverted twin Beverly taking over from Elliot in the relationship but without the woman being aware of the substitution.

The twins carry out this abusive practice with actress Claire (Genevieve Bujold). But Beverly seriously falls for her and after beginning a relationship together, refuses to ‘share’ her with Elliot (which causes a serious rift in their relationship) and starts to share her addiction of prescription medication.

After she has lunch with one of her friends she learns that Beverly has a twin brother. This triggers earlier doubts she had had regarding Beverly and how differently he acted after their first dalliance together. She confronts Beverly about this and tells him that she knows what him and his twin have done.

After a reconciliation between Beverly and Claire, there is more drug use between the two before she leaves town to work on another film. With her gone, Beverly becomes depressed, starts taking more drugs and becomes obsessed with mutant women with abnormal genitalia.

Yes, there’s lots going on here! This couldn’t be more different from the plot to Friday the 13th Part 7 if it tried. This film was another example of Cronenberg going from strength to strength. Just as The Fly had been a huge hit without any sign of selling out or compromise (in other words it was just as gross as his earlier films!), Dead Ringers was Cronenberg’s most accomplished film to date. The plot had plenty of scope for his breed of body horror (check out the horrific women’s examination implements that are made for Beverly as he becomes more deranged and drug-addled), but this time it was his most polished film with a stellar and VERY well respected cast. Cronenberg aimed high with this project and asked Robert De Niro to play the twins but was turned down. He also asked William Hurt but he wasn’t comfortable playing twins. Jeremy Irons has a formidable reputation, rises to this challenge and does an amazing job. His mix of equal parts refinement and derangement was perfect for this role. Genevieve Bujold was another actor of undeniable class who was perfectly cast as Claire.

The critics almost universally threw bouquets at Cronenberg’s feet with this film. It was intelligent, perfectly realised and gorgeous to boot with the subject matter being pure Cronenberg. Many critics and fans think this is his best film. They may be right.

1 Monkey Shines

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When an athlete (Allan) is hit by a truck and left a quadriplegic, a scientist friend recruits a monkey that has been trained to help assist disabled people to fully carry out their lives. Ella the monkey starts to bond well with Allan but soon this bond becomes a lot darker as he thinks that there might be some kind of telepathic bond with his new companion which then transforms into Ella enacting revenge on anyone who Allen displays anger towards. This escalates quickly.

This was Romero’s first film since the amazing Day of the Dead three years before and was further proof, if it were needed, that Romero continued to make intelligent horror films and that, just like Cronenberg, his directing career continued to flourish and evolve into unexpected avenues.

A film about a psychotic, telepathic monkey reeking havoc in a disabled man’s life was new territory for Romero and (yet again) he knocks it out of the park with deft direction, all round amazing performances and a tension that becomes palpable with every passing scene.

The film still has the ability to shock. I could say more but I’m not going to ruin this film for anyone. This is a noteworthy entry in Romero’s stellar body of work and one of his best films.

 

 

 

Top 10 Horror Movies From 1985

Top 10 Horror Movies From 1985

Theres a video for this list here.

10. The Mutilator

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Family horror here! Teenager Ed accidentally kills his mother whilst cleaning a rifle for his father (imagine what a headfuck that would be). After his father (Big Ed) discovers his dead wife’s body, he has a breakdown.

Fast forward a few years and Big Ed asks his son to close up their second home which is situated at a beach side location. Ed takes some friends with them so they can spend some time there first during their Fall Break (the original name of the movie). But, Big Ed is already in the property but keeps his presence a secret as he plans to do away with his son as revenge for what he did to his wife.

So begins a killing spree as Big Ed dispatches of the teens one by one and by using different implements for each murder (this inspired the great tagline for the movie ‘By sword, by pick, by axe, bye bye!’). The kills are brutal, the family angle is interesting and theres one murder involving a huge fishing hook being used on a female victim that is extremely unsavoury and really great for a slasher movie.

Nasty and mean spirited- perfect for it’s genre.

9. Fright Night

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Part horror film, part boy’s own adventure.

Could Charley Brewster’s very good looking next door neighbour really be a vampire as he suspects? Several women have gone missing and this makes Charley suspect Jerry Dandridge as the culprit. Charley goes to Peter Vincent who was renowned for playing a vampire hunter in a series of films to help him in his quest to put an end to Jerry’s bloodlust after the police don’t believe him.

This is a great movie featuring a genuinely original plot that leaves you guessing until the very end and without it ever feeling stale, tired or stooping to cliche.

On top of this theres a very interesting subplot, that is, if you can detect the signifiers. Jerry doesn’t live alone, he has a ‘housemate’. They curate antiques. When they’re seen together in the film they act protectively towards each other and obviously care deeply about one another. Theres also the scene where Billy cleans Jerry’s wounded hand but does it whilst hes on his knees. In silhouette through the window shade, it looks like something very different.

It’s obvious that they are being portrayed as being a gay couple but without the film explicitly saying it. What would be the perfect alibi for a vampire who is making his way through the local (female) prostitute population to satisfy his bloodlust than to appear to in fact be gay and for your other half to provide alibis for your actions?

And so this was very daring of a mainstream horror film to contain such a subtext. It also raises interesting ideas regarding double lives- the homosexual who isn’t out yet, the vampire who isn’t out yet.

A great vampire movie that is daring, gory and just as charming as Jerry is. It’s also a great love letter to older horror traditions of vampire hunters and conventions also.

8. Silver Bullet

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A low-key adaptation of Stephen King novella Cycle of the Werewolf.

A serial killer in a local town is actually found to be a werewolf by wheelchair-bound Marty (Corey Haim) who defends himself against attack with a well aimed firework that is fired into the creatures eye. With this visible wound it is now easy to ascertain who the culprit is when the werewolf has transformed back to being human as the eye injury will be easily noticeable. And then battle commences to stop the creature.

This is another King adaptation that wasn’t a huge production but found it’s audience on home video. Small town America is captured really well, Haim is on top form but it is his tipsy Uncle Red who steals the show. It’s my favourite Gary Busey performance in any of his films.

The kills are effective, the tension is brilliantly generated and the werewolf is genuinely scary. I love the fact that he looks more like a bear than the result of some multi-million dollar special effects whiz.

Don Coscarelli of Phantasm started directing this but then quit the production half way through.

7. Chiller

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A made for TV movie directed by Wes Craven that was issued on video in the UK.

A wealthy businessman, Miles Creighton has himself cryogenically frozen after his death. But then the container holding his frozen body starts to make him thaw. His mother asks surgeons to operate on him to resusitate him as this can now be performed because of recent advances in medical science.

But it soon becomes apparent that he has changed and now doesn’t seem to have a soul or conscience. There are suddenly unexplained deaths with all roads leading to Miles.  It’s only after the local priest Father Penny (Paul Sorvino) is taken to the hospital in critical condition that Miles’ mother is forced to face up to the fact that Miles is responsible as the priest tells her as much. It’s now up to her to stop her son from killing again.

This is a strange film that I loved as a kid, watched a few years ago, found to be boring and then watched again the other day and really liked. It depends on your mood. If you’re in the mood for something that is suitably restrained, non-flashy and remember that this was made for television then you’ll get the most out of this.

The cast are really good with Michael ‘Swan from The Warriors’ Beck as Miles and Paul Sorvino as Father Penny. It’s an interesting conceit and I’m glad I enjoyed it again when I recently watched it. Some movies are like that. They are dependent on mood and can’t be enjoyed at just any time. Another film like that for me is Driller Killer. Sometimes I think it’s an amazing examination of madness in rundown New York. Other times I find it to be the most tedious and slow movie ever made.

6. Cat’s Eye

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Yet another low-key Stephen King adaptation.

This one is an anthology of three vignettes linked by the same cat strolling through. The first story involves the extreme measures employed by a company that smokers can sign up to to quit. The second is about a mob boss finding out that his wife is having an affair, having her lover kidnapped and then forcing him to walk around the outside ledge of his apartment. If he succeeds he will grant his philandering wife a divorce. If not, well, hes dies as he will have fallen to his death. The third story is about a little girl who has to contend with a troll that is trying to kill her with the cat coming to her rescue.

This film is basically Stephen King’s Tales of the Unexpected. Each segment is expertly directed, well acted and full of great twists and turns. It was a nice touch to have the cat as something that links all of the stories together and I love the idea of a cat getting to see and experience some of the most bizarre scenarios imaginable whilst it’s owners are oblivious.

A very young Drew Barrymore, James Woods and Candy Clark from Larry Clark’s brilliant Q are some of the actors that are great in this.

5. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

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I saw this when it was first released on video in 1986 after being obsessed with the original. It was…unexpected. It wasn’t the sequel I had wanted but it was still interesting and my Gaydar was going off like crazy!

It was probably the scenes that took place in the S&M bar that made me pick up on the gay subtext the most especially the death of the sadistic gym teacher- naked, from behind and having balls fired at him. What could it all mean?!

The story of effeminate outcast Jesse (perfect name haha) becoming a body for Freddy to be reborn was intriguing but didn’t really make sense. He was shown to be still at work at the dreadful conclusion of the previous film. There was also the scene at the pool party that defied the rules of the first film. Freddy has just appeared to loads of teens. Were they all asleep at the same time then?!

But other than that the film is an interesting experiment, with a look and feel that the first film had even if the events it was portraying were very different.

A sequel that took risks rather than seeking to establish a formula.

4. Demons

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Strangers on the streets of Berlin are invited to a mysterious cinema for a free screening. They take their seats, the film starts but then one by one they become froth-mouthed demons. At one point those who haven’t succumbed to a similar fate make it to the exits to find they’ve all been bricked up.

I love the fact that some of the humans start to use promotional props used to advertise other films to fight off the demons. Although I’ve never seen a motorbike used in a cinema foyer to advertise a film before.

This Lamberto Bava shocker is all visual thrills that was originally to be part of an intended anthology film. But Bava took to this story more than the other two being proposed and so decided to develop just this story and make it into a feature length film.

Yes, this isn’t a film that you’d seek out if you wanted nuance and detail. This is a visceral, gory and bloody ride that full of interesting visuals and thrills. One of the women who becomes a demon is wearing spandex. If this doesn’t cause you to investigate this film then nothing will. It’s gory, extreme but also very, very camp which is part of it’s brilliance. Just let this film wash over you and you’ll love it.

3. Day of the Dead

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Another film that my opinion flip-flopped over significantly over the years.

The zombie epidemic has now spread to such an extent that zombies are now everywhere and humans are few and far between. The few human survivors live in underground bunkers like the one in which we find the film’s characters. Theres a distinct tension between the head scientist in the group, Dr Logan and Captain Rhodes, the head of the soldiers assigned to protect them.

Logan and his team are desperately trying to find an end to the zombie pandemic but Rhodes seems opposed to him, his team of scientists and the fact that zombies are kept in the bunker with them, harnessed and restrained so that experiments can be carried out to try to find answers. It’s this mistrust between the scientists and the military that is the basis for a lot of Day’s events.

When Rhodes takes charge of the bunker and everyone in it he then says that they have to work under his command and anyone who disobeys will be executed.

Just like in the opening scenes of Dawn of the Dead where the scientist who is trying to use logic to find a way out of this emergency is ridiculed in a TV studio, here the scientists are ridiculed and looked down on with skepticism by the military led by the vile (and possibly psychopathic) Rhodes.

When Logan is asked to show Rhodes what progress he has made, he is shown his pet project. Bub is a zombie who shows signs of remembering his former life, can utter a few human words and has been successfully trained by Logan to use a gun, listen to a Walkman and even salute Rhodes- huge steps when dealing with the undead. Rhodes scoffs at this ‘progress’ and orders all zombies to be killed when one of them isn’t harnessed in properly and kills two soldiers.

Romero viewed the military in the same way within his film The Crazies. He saw them as bloodthirsty, ruthless and adverse to progress or rationality in the midst of a disaster.

When I first saw this movie in the 80’s I loved it, then as a teen I though it was too talky with not enough action (ahh, the folly of youth!) but I reinvestigated it when it was released by Arrow and I love it again now. The gorgeous cinematography, the intellectualism regarding the pandemic, the evolution since Night and Dawn, the zombies who are now actually rotting and looking worse than ever.

***SPOILER***

It’s a great moment when the zombies are eating Rhodes’ intestines and his dying words are ‘Choke on em!’

2. Re-Animator

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I remember going to a midnight screening of this one of my local cinemas. As myself and my friend were too young to go on our own my friend asked his Dad if he would accompany us. He agreed but didn’t know what sort of film this was. Boy, did he get a rude awakening! He even made the audience laugh at one point as when a character on the screen said ‘I can’t belive this is happening!’ he responded very loudly and grandly, ‘You and me both!’

Herbert West is a scientist who has invented a serum that when injected into a dead being can bring them back to life. He conducts experiments to test the serum on first a dead cat and then on dead human subjects. A rival, Dr Hill wants to take credit for the serum and wants West’s notes regarding it so he can take the credit for the discovery and so attempts to blackmail West to get what he wants. After being beheaded by West, Herbert reanimates both the head and body of Hill separately. For the rest of the film we see Hill’s headless body wandering around, sometimes with his now unattached head in it’s hands.

It was the severed head of Hill that caused consternation for the advertising regulators in the UK upon the release of Reanimator. The movie’s poster depicted the severed head with it’s face in the direction of the viewer so that there was absolutely no doubt as to what it was. This was deemed to be too much for the general public. The film’s distributor instead plumped for the head to be turned around as the back of the head would make it more ambiguous for any of the faint of heart.

This movie is so good. The humour is sick (on reanimating his friend Dan’s dead cat he says ‘Remember, it’s got a broken back. Don’t expect it to do the tango!’), on point and the premise wildly entertaining. The scene between Hill’s headless body holding his head and as it tries to have it’s wicked way with the character Megan’s strapped down naked body is something that won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

This film being so zany, gross and intelligent was a cinematic blend that was such a great shot in the arm (pun not intended) for the horror genre. This film felt like it was light years ahead of the more generic entries in the slasher subgenre. By 1985, horror was mutating and evolving in interesting new directions and this film was leading the way.

1 The Stuff

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A white goo is found to be bubbling out of the ground by workers. It’s found to be edible, sweet and highly addictive. The yoghurt like substance is then branded as The Stuff, sold and marketed. It sells like hot cakes as it’s sweet, highly addictive and, most importantly, has no calories! But, unfortunately, The Stuff is actually a living, toxic and parasitic organism that turns it’s consumers into zombies before eating them from the inside.

Because of The Stuff and it’s success, sales of ice cream are affected to such an extent that former FBI agent David ‘Mo’ Rutherford is hired by confectionary industry insider Charles Hobbs to find out exactly what The Stuff is and how it’s success can be sabotaged. Rutherford also teams up with a young boy called Jason who sees that The Stuff is actually alive and the dangerous addictive effects it can have. I love the part of the film where Jason becomes to a one-man army against The Stuff, attacking displays in local supermarkets and smashing glass freezers that contain the product.

This film is not just a really effective horror film but is also very humorous and also a very perceptive satire on advertising, consumerism and even the military (Paul Sorvino stars as a retired Colonel who leads a squad to battle the zombies and destroy the product using brute force). Its very telling that when the workers discover the goo bubbling up from the ground they instinctively want to taste it.

I love the adverts we see for The Stuff as well as it’s logo and packaging. The film is so perceptive and accurate that it feels like this could actually happen! Dollars and pounds are more important to corporations and capitalism over humanity and safety.

A great film from the great Larry Cohen.

Top 10 Horror Movies From 1984

Top 10 Horror Movies From 1984

Theres a video for this list here.

10. The Hills Have Eyes Part 2

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Yes, The Hills Have Eyes Part 2! I can see some of you sniggering! I have great memories of watching this film on VHS as a kid as it had some great lurid artwork (the video company were probably thinking ‘This movie sucks! We need great artwork to get people  to rent this!’) and actually really enjoyed it. At the time the original film wasn’t available on video and so this was the next best thing.

It was great to see the flashbacks to the original film (I love the fact that Beast the dog has a flashback) and it was great to see Bobby, Ruby and Pluto in a follow-up film.

It was also interesting to see Wes Craven make a strictly genre film within those formula constraints.

I love the new member of the cannibal family, Reaper and more examples of their extraordinary wardrobe (check out Pluto’s headband!). I also like the Scooby Doo vibes I get with this sequel with the bike team and their bus.

This was a cash-grab for Craven which, of course, is nowhere near as brilliant as the original film (which I think is Craven’s best film and a true blue masterpiece) but it’s still entertaining whilst it lasts. Theres even a blind psychic character who uses her senses of smell and hearing to help tell when the baddies are approaching. Whats not to like about that?!

9. Firestarter

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The film John Carpenter was due to direct but lost out on as The Thing tanked at the box office.

Andy and Vicky have a 9 year old daughter Charlie who can start fires with her mind and predict the near future. She gained this power after her parents took part in a government experiment which gave Vicky the ability to read minds and Andy the power to completely control people’s thoughts so that they implicitly believe him and do as he says (he gets nosebleeds when he uses his power, however).

The family had always had their suspicions that the government who were responsible for the experiment they had participated in were watching them and want to utilise Charlie’s power for their own uses. These suspicions are then realised for Andy when one day he returns home to find that Vicky has been murdered and Charlie has been snatched.

Andy tracks down his daughter and then goes on the run with the Government in hot pursuit.

This film has two elements I love- gifted people with powers not normally afforded to mere mortals and shadowy government agents who are up to no good. This is also adapted from Stephen King’s novel with the screenwriter employed by Mark Lester to pen the adaptation sticking closely to the source novel (John Carpenter had employed Bill Lancaster who penned an adaptation of The Thing that Carpenter was working on at the time he was asked to direct Firestarter. Apparently Lancaster’s adaptation didn’t stick as closely to King’s novel).

This is very well directed, perfectly cast and with fantastic special effects, especially the fire scenes. This also feels quintessentially 80’s but in a very dignified way. I remember this film being on the shelves of every video shop that I frequented back in the day (and I went to a lot of them!) I’m glad it was so ubiquitous.

8. Night of the Comet

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I first caught this film when it was shown on late night BBC2 in the late 80’s. It stayed with me so much that I had to rent it again soon after to see if it really was as good as it was when I watched it first time round. It was.

Three friends find that most people in the outside world have turned into zombies or dust. They didn’t as they have spent the night in a cinema. It turns out that so many people met this fate as it was publicised that the Earth was travelling through the tail of a comet and so they went outside to witness this extremely rare event not knowing that they will either die or become zombiefied because of it.

I love the quirky characters in this film. The shots of the two girls wandering around completed desolate Southern California streets are extraordinary and very eerie and disorientating. The zombies are excellent and these scenes are genuinely unsettling.

This film later became a cult classic and I can see why.

7. A Nightmare on Elm Street

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It’s a given that film should be in a best of list for 1984, the 80’s and even lists of the greatest horror films of all time.

The teens on Elm Street seem to be dreaming of the same grotesque man in their dreams (or should that be nightmares). When one girl, Tina Grey actually dies horribly during one of her nightmares, it’s presumed her delinquent boyfriend, Rod Lane has done the deed. But plucky and resourceful Nancy Thompson has a feeling that theres more to this and that the man she keeps seeing in her nightmares is somehow responsible.

This film has more plus points than minus aspects. It’s completely unique with the ‘what happens in your dreams happens in real life’ conceit. This means that if you’re killed in your dream then you’re not waking up! The first kill is extremely graphic and very shocking, even by the standards of the more extreme horror films available on home video at that time (it’s worth noting that the Video Nasties brouhaha was going on at that time in the UK. How ANOES wasn’t censored by the BBFC is anyone’s guess. Mary Whitehouse could have also chosen this film and it’s killer as Public Enemy Number 1 as well. Instead, she designated The Evil Dead as her cause celebre and so Craven was spared).

I was obsessed with this movie when I first saw it on home video in the mid-80’s. Expert direction, awe-inspiring cinematography and pitch perfect locales that capture the essence of Americana with surburban streets, high school classrooms and corridors. But the sphere of killer Freddy Krueger’s boiler room is also perfect. We find out that Krueger has somehow manifested himself in the teen’s nightmares after he was killed by a lynch mob of the Elm Street parents after he was found to be a local child killer who was set free on  a technicality even though he was guilty of his crimes. The parents corned him in his boiler room, doused the building in gasoline and set fire to it with him inside. In their dreams Krueger uses a leather glove that he has fashioned with long sharp blades.

I also love that another ‘dream rule’ is established in the film and that is that if you are holding something in your dream when you are woken up this comes out of the dream with you.

The cast are also perfect with cult favourite John Saxon starring as Nancy’s cop father. We even have a young Johnny Depp as Nancy’s boyfriend. But it’s Heather Langenkamp as Nancy that steals the show. She carries the movie from start to finish and is the brilliant cast’s strongest link. Her performance is one of the best in the whole horror genre as she plays Nancy as extremely strong, very believable and, occasionally, very funny (after she looks at herself in the mirror to see if her recent traumatic experiences have affected her looks she remarks ‘Oh God! I look at least 20 years old!’).

Whilst this is a great movie it is marred by a couple of issues that prevent it in my mind from being the classic some lazily extol it to be. Firstly, I don’t believe that ANOES was only intended as a one-off and not as the start of a franchise. Witness the number of times Freddy’s name is mentioned in the film and is even uttered by him a couple of times! It feels to me like they are trying to establish him as a brand. Certain people had a franchise in mind and I’m sure Craven and Robert Shaye at New Line were amongst them. Not that theres anything wrong in that but please fess up if that was the case!

Also, this is a great movie with a laughably bad ending. It must have been extremely difficult to end the film after Nancy has turned her back on the killer and taken away his power through not giving him that power (a great metaphor for Narcissistic Personality Disorder and how to deal with narcissists). Should the film have ended there? There were many other filmed endings that appear on the many ANOES DVD’s and Blu Rays that have been released over the years. None of them really work. But with a movie to finish quickly it must have been difficult to suddenly come up with a twist. But an obvious doll being yanked through a tiny window in a front door was a terrible choice.

But with the positives significantly outnumbering the negatives this is still a horror film that deserves the recognition it gets. But it’s still not as good as The Hills Have Eyes which I consider to be Craven’s masterpiece.

6. Gremlins

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Teenager Billy receives a creature called a mogwai as a gift but there are strict rules as to how to care for it- don’t feed it after midnight, don’t get him wet and don’t get him into contact with any form of light especially sunlight. After naming him Gizmo, Billy’s friend Pete (played by cult favourite Corey Feldman) accidentally gets him wet meaning that he spawns more creatures but not the cute sort like Gizmo but mischievous, dangerous and also, it has to be said, really entertaining creatures who look like really evil lizards who stand on two legs.

Is Gremlins a horror film? Yep. Check out the scene with Billy’s mother. If this isn’t like a scene from a slasher movie than I’ll eat my hat. Also, check out later scenes like the one in the sports store for more horror or the part of the hilarious bar scene where we see Gizmo nailed to a dartboard whilst other Gremlins are firing darts at him. It’s horror but also gallows humour. It’s also a horror film for kids. But kids with a really sick sense of humour. The microwave and stairlift scenes are also great examples of this.

But it’s also a very dark family film mixed with comedy elements and even qualifies as a Christmas film.

Was Gremlins a metaphor for childhood as the angelic cute little toddler (like Gizmo) enters into the terrible twos and becomes more like Stripe?

A huge hit in 1984 and deservedly so. Another example of perfect casting and only Joe Dante could have directed a film as funny, scary and satisfying as this.

5. The Toxic Avenger

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From Troma, of course! I’ll always feel indebted to Troma Studios as not only have they distributed many of my favourite films (Bloodsucking Freaks, Mother’s Day, Rabid Grannies) but have also produced many classics such as Sgt, Kabukiman, Beware Children At Play and, of course, The Toxic Avenger.

Melvin mops floors in a New Jersey health club for a living and is regularly bullied by the customers there. One day they make him dress in a pink tutu and chase him through the building until he throws himself out of a second floor window and lands in a vat of toxic waste. However, this works to his advantage (theres a silver lining to every cloud) as he mutates in size and strength to superhuman proportions. He then starts to rid the streets of Tromaville of it’s criminal elements and becomes a superhero of sorts.

The Toxic Avenger is funny, sick and horrifying all at once. It’s also a film that feels like no other with this kind of horror and sick humour being specific to this film only. It was quite a gamble to make a film that is so idiosyncratic and esoteric. But it works brilliantly and for every target it aims at it hits. It also parodies and lampoons the conventions and tropes of other genres and does so very intelligently and accurately. Theres a real sense of cine-literacy and knowing under the surface anarchy of the movie.

This garnered attention after it became a midnight movie sensation in New York and it’s legend just snowballed from there. And this film is certainly legendary.

4. Children of the Corn

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This movie is adapted from 80’s favourite for film adaptations, Stephen King and was one of the short stories in his brilliant book, Night Shift.

***Now, if you haven’t seen this film, please skip this bit as herein lie spoilers***

This movie has one of the most shocking openings for a film I’ve ever seen. A young man goes to a local diner with his father. A very creepy looking young man named Isaac comes to the window, gives a nod to his comrade Malachi in the diner whereby all of the kids in there bring out concealed weapons and commence to annihilate all of the adults. The horror of this scene is completely unexpected and truly disturbing because of it.

The film then skips forward and we find out that all of the town of Gatlin’s adults have been slaughtered so that a huge sacrifice can be made for He Who Walks Behind The Rows, a god that needs such a sacrifice to make sure their corn harvest doesn’t fail like it has in the past. All of the children except young Job and his younger sister Sarah were involved in this action.

A young couple travelling to Seattle drive through Gatlin not knowing that the children in the town are homicidal and that they should have found another route to take!

This is a very taut horror movie that deals with a topic that is still taboo within society- the killer child. In this movie, we have scores of them! Another master stroke by the film is that it’s not actually proven that the god that the children worship is actually real. You begin to think that they have just been gaslighted into believing in him and that he is a figment of the children’s leader’s imagination. But then, lo and behold, it manifests itself, you get to see it’s malevalent power in action (special effects and visuals that have ages really well thankfully) and then the film starts to go down more of a supernatural, occult route. The film also feels more sinister because of this.

It helps that the two outsiders who stumble across the town are played by Linda Hamilton and Peter Horton and that the young actors who play Isaac, Malachi, Job and Sarah are also brilliant in their roles.

This could easily have felt like made for TV fluff. Instead we have a serious, haunting and very affecting horror film that is intelligent and very well made indeed.

3. Silent Night, Deadly Night

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The film that outpaced A Nightmare on Elm Street when they were both released the same week. But then some vile mother’s protest group noticed that there was a killer Santa in this film and so pressurised the film’s studio, the general public and the media to have it pulled from theatres. It worked.

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But whilst the film was prevented from playing theatres, it was released on video and became a huge cult classic.

It’s easy to see why. After he sees his parents slaughtered by a homicidal maniac dressed as Santa, Billy finds himself growing up in a very strict Catholic orphanage presided over by a vicious Mother Superior. He has an aversion to all things Christmas and even punches out the visiting Father Christmas after said Mother Superior tries to make him sit on his knee.

The film then fast forwards to Billy (now tall, muscled and blond) going to work at a toy shop. As Christmas approaches he feels his old phobia coming back to haunt him. But this time he goes full retard, dresses as Santa and starts killing people.

Like The Toxic Avenger theres a sly sense of humour at work here and also a deep running knowledge of other movie cliches and genre conventions being gently teased and ridiculed. Check out the wholesome montage of Billy working at the toy store- he’s hard working, good with kids and prefers drinking his milk when a co-worker offers him Scotch.

But the film also has a steeliness and grittiness to it that is undeniable. It feels dangerous, forbidden and perfect for horror and cult cinema audiences. Witness the creepy Grandfather who only comes to life when hes alone with the young Billy whereby he can scare the young child to death. Also, the scene with the killer Santa is especially on the edge and tries to push boundaries when it comes to taste and decency and it manages handsomely. It’s almost like the makers of this film knew what an audience of exploitation film fans wanted (sorry One Million Moms). I also love the fact that it isn’t just the psychos and Billy who are shown to be deranged. The Mother Superior is just as empathy-free and vile and I’m glad this wasn’t watered down.

This film joins the ranks of other Yuletide shockers like Black Christmas and Christmas Evil that I watch every Dec, the only concession to the over-hyped season I make.

2. Terror in the Aisles

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This compilation of clips of horror films will always have a special place in my heart.

Firstly, it has links within it by Donald Pleasance and Nancy Allen who both attack them with real gusto and relish.

Also, it sources such a wide range of horror movies from many different eras that it made me seek out such diverse fare as Alone in the Dark, Night Hawks and The Fury.

But, most importantly, it contained clips of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Exorcist that had been removed from UK video shelves by the dreaded BBFC. This was the only way to see these golden nuggets of these fabled depraved masterpieces.

The film also contained interview clips from masters such as Alfred Hitchcock talking about how to ramp up tension within the cinema audience.

Add to that some really cool artwork and you have a GREAT movie! I was so glad when this was released as a special feature on the Blu Ray release of Halloween 2. I thought if one title wouldn’t get a Blu Ray release it would have been this because of rights issues.

1 Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter

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When this was released my friend and I just happened to be in the video shop when it was being put onto the shelves. My friend’s mother as with us and so we asked if she could rent it for us. She said, ‘Yes’ (!)

Yes, this was cut by the BBFC with the brutality of some of the scenes trimmed or excised completely such as the infamous ‘machete slide’ scene. But there was still enough in it to give me sleepless nights. In fact after we had watched it, it was dark and I had to have my friend’s dad walk me home as I was so scared.

What makes this Friday 13th my favourite instalment? Well, after the high-camp of part 3 (well it was camp compared to the other Fridays at least) it was back to business with this entry. Back to the dark, shadow hued locales (Part 3 was brighter than the other films so that the 3D it was filmed in would work to it’s maximum potential as dark surroundings aren’t conducive to that technique), back to the brutality and cruelty of the earlier films. Who would you call for this feat? Tom Savini, of course. With Savini’s return we get kills that aren’t just more painful but that are amazingly orchestrated, innovative and distinctive. These were generally blunted by the cuts made by the BBFC when the video was released 1987 but the film is now available uncut here in the UK. We get to see Jason taking a hacksaw to a victim’s neck followed by a massive twist of said neck which almost completely beheads the poor man, a woman who is pinned to a wall whilst Jason as good as guts her by inserting a knife in her stomach to pull it upwards, a woman is thrown through an upper floor window to land on the top of a car with all of the windows exploding outwards all at once. Violence and brutality have never been so beautiful.

We get some great characters in this instalment also. When Jason’s body arrives at the local morgue from the end of Part 3, the morgue worker is there to induct him. He is called Axel and is shown to be so inappropriate in his role that it’s untrue. Not only is he eating a cream cake (that he places on down on top of Jason’s corpse whilst he needs to sign the relevant paperwork) but he makes sick jokes about a female corpse in the room who he thinks is good looking. He sits down and is enjoying Aerobicise: The Beautiful Workout  when he receives the hacksaw neck twist from Jason.

We also get the genius of Crispin Glover in this sequel before he starred as Marty McFly’s father or started appearing all unhinged on TV chat shows. His character is worried that he might be seen as a ‘lame fuck’ when he finally gets with a girl (this is later disproved later on in the movie) but also displays quite possibly the quirkiest dance moves ever captures in the annals of horror movie history. On asking where the corkscrew is later on, Jason obliges him by stabbing said implement into his hand and sinking a meat cleaver into his face.

Then we get Tommy Jarvis played by Corey Feldman. He’s a young boy who’s into horror movies and making masks. He would reappear in Parts 5 and 6 after defeating Jason at the end of this epic (thats after he has shaved part of his head to resemble Jason as a young boy to confuse him which, of course, reminds the audience of the kind of deep psychology used by Ginny at the end of Part 2 putting on Pamela Voorhees’ jumper, and hey presto, becoming Jason’s mother to him).

The Final Chapter also feels more than just another film in the Friday the 13th series. It feels like the end of an era not just because this instalment promised Jason’s demise but it also signifies the end of the Friday the 13th series as we know it and the era captured by the first four films. The end of a golden era for horror fans that seemed to start in earnest with the release of Halloween in 1978 with new horror releases appearing more and more. At it’s peak it seemed like there was a new horror release in theaters every other week. This era is also marked by the amazing horror magazine Fangoria which was there to document and celebrate this age. Joseph Zito, the director of this film was the one who suggested the killing of Jason as he could see the slasher phase was going to end soon and so it was better to be ahead of the curve.

After this film was a huge success, of course, there was another sequel. But the Friday the 13th series had started to mutate and change which is understandable. Especially as it wasn’t even Jason who was the killer in the next movie. And, for what it’s worth, whilst I eventually give up on all horror franchises, it’s the Friday the 13th series that has continued to hold my attention the most. Even the missteps (Part 5, The Final Friday) are interesting.

But for me the first four Fridays signified more than just mere slasher movies. They encapsulated a whole brilliant era for horror culture.

 

 

 

Top 10 Horror Movies From 1982

Top 10 Horror Movies From 1982

Theres a video for this list here.

10. A Stranger Is Watching

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After reading Mary Higgins Clark’s book in the late 80’s, I was intrigued to learn that it had made into a film previously..

We had a huge video store near us at the time called Barker’s which was cavernous and full of quite obscure titles, including a lot of Made For TV titles that were released onto video in the UK (I saw the two tape edition of The Deliberate Stranger in which Mark Harmon plays Ted Bundy after renting it from there).

On seeing the film I felt they had done a really good job! This was a low-key, understated film and all the better for it. A young girl and her father’s girlfriend are kidnapped and held ransom by a psychotic nutjob in the tunnels under Grand Central station. Rip Torn makes for a terrific baddie and Sean S Cunningham (Mr Friday the 13th) does a very good job directing. Gritty, dirty and underrated. Oh, and a great New York movie.

9. Visiting Hours

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I love hospital based horror movies. The pinnacle of this subgenre was, of course, Halloween 2 but Canxploitation flick Visiting Hours released the year after is also a treat. In fact, Visiting Hours also had the honour of being decried against in the press after it was judged to be ‘misogynistic’ by oversensitive feminists (maybe the fact that the lead woman is playing a feminist provoked her fellow real life sisters into action).

Michael Ironside stars as the psycho here named Colt Hawker (!) and attacks Lee Grant’s feminist activist after she riles him on a TV chat show. He attacks her viciously but after surviving she is taken to the local hospital. But he isn’t finished with her yet.

This film feels sleazy, dark and is as fucked up as it’s psycho lead. This film came in for a hard time with The British Board of Film Classification (they seem to be an unwelcome guest in so many of my reviews) with a minute of footage excised from both the theatrical and video version. The film was also dragged into the Video Nasty moral panic.

Yes, the film is disturbing. Yes, women are treated appallingly and are the focus for the ire of Ironside’s character (an explanation for this is given when we see him visit his father who was disfigured by his mother and has caused him to foster a hatred for women ever since) but there are really characters like this in real life with women being the target for their twisted actions. Maybe this film not being censored would bring attention to this and act as a reflection of society. Or maybe I’m just trying to substantiate my twisted tastes in films…(I suddenly thought of porn theatre owner Elmer Fishpaw in John Waters’ Polyester- ‘my theatre helps stop rape!’)

Have a shower after watching this. But watch it!

8. Pieces

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I didn’t see this for the longest time even thought I had seen it mentioned in books and had seen the great poster for it. When I was living in Sydney I rented it out from the incredible Dr What video with Madman (another film I had always meant to get round to watching).

What can I say?! Cult classic! Lynda Day George screaming ‘Bastard!’ isn’t just cinematic gold but my message to the world!

The king fu professor scene, Paul Smith polishing his chainsaw, the tennis scenes, the clawed crotch scene, the opening backstory with the jigsaw…all utterly brilliant. And I haven’t even mentioned the kills! How brilliant they are, how deliciously gory and aesthetically pleasing each one is. Its like this film was made by a team of horror fans who had a roundtable discussion regarding what would be cool ways to kill people in a horror film. A girl on rollerskates going through a glass pane being carried by two guys who cross her path? That’d be cool! A girl in a lift is joined by a nutjob hiding a chainsaw behind his back? Lets do it!

If a film is brilliant enough it won’t just sink into obscurity. Eventually it will be rediscovered and treated like the great work it really is. That’s the Pieces story. I’ll never understand the massive cult status given to a film like The Room. It should be given to Pieces instead. And it’s already started.

A horror classic. And remember- ‘Theres nothing better than smoking grass and fucking on a waterbed!’

7. The Forest

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I didn’t even know of the existence of this film until it’s restoration for DVD was announced in the 2000’s. I happened to see an original copy of it on the shelves of the afore mentioned Dr What video store in Bondi Junction and so rented it. I’m glad I did. It’s a cracking film.

A bunch of hikers find themselves the target of a madman whilst being warned about him and if he’s close or not by the ghosts of two dead children (back story- the two children used to be his but were mistreated by their mother. Their father killed her when he found she has been having numerous affairs behind his back. He runs off to live in the woods with them but after the onset of malnutrition they commit suicide together. This makes their father go mad and live in the woods as a cannibalistic hermit. Shit happens). As they tell the hapless cityfolk, ‘Daddy’s gone a-huntin!’, what the hikers don’t realise is that it’s the kids who are the ones who let their father know when there is fresh meat to be had nearby. Damn those double-crossing ghost children!

This film is a low-key, frenetic joy. Check out the fight scene between the killer and one of the campers. It’s one of the most high octane and off the wall bouts I’ve ever seen in a film and a triumph of kinetic direction and editing.

Another sign that you need to see this film is that there’s an actor in it called Corky Pigeon. True fact.

6. Tenebrae

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One of the many great things that the early 80’s video boom did was introduce movie viewers to the delights of Italian horror movies commonly known as Giallo. One of the leading directors of this genre was (and still is) Dario Argento. 1982 saw the release of his masterpiece Tenebrae. This time not only did horror fans get the usual exquisitely directed and staged bloodshed that Argento fans came to expect but they got a bona fide Hollywood cult star as one of the leads, John Saxon!

Peter Neal is an author of violent horror fiction and it would seem he has inspired a murderer to undertake a killing spree in his name.

Innovative murders, double and triple crossings, red herrings and an ending that has to be seen to be believed! I’d love to elaborate but I’m giving nothing away! I’d also love to explore the themes and meanings within this film but I’m reserving that for a future essay. I don’t want this list to become a thesis length dissertation.

In Italy Giallo directors were treated like royalty. In Britain their movies were banned and lionised (as we’ll see in a much more extreme example later in this list!) See this film to find out why Italy has such high regard for Giallo and it’s filmmakers. In fact, see any of Argento’s films to see why.

5. Friday the 13th Part 3D

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I still remember seeing the poster for the video release of this film and feeling so excited. Let me provide you with some backstory. This film was made in 1982 and gained a cinema release in the UK but then when it came to the video release it was the era of the Nazi video banning and burning that was the Video Nasty furore. CIC Video who distributed the Friday the 13th films on video released a press release that basically said that in the current climate they would hold back the release of Friday Part 3 and the forthcoming Part 4 until things had calmed down a bit. A wise move. Imagine Mary Whitehouse if she ever saw a picture of Jason in his hockey mask. He would have quickly become Public Enemy Number 1 with regard to this moral panic.

When I saw the poster for this release in the window of a small supermarket/off-licence near my house in 1987 it meant that their release was imminent (there were doubts as to if CIC would release them at all).

I then got to see the film in all of it’s 3D glory quite a few times in the late 90’s at the NFT in London.

Why do I love this film so much? The 3D is stunning and not just the technique they used to ensure that it could be the best possible presentation for audiences but also the many different ways it’s used in the plot and in what contexts. We get fun scenarios that utilise the 3D and so we have popcorn shooting out of a pan into our faces, a yo-yo being spun at us, a baseball bat being poked into the camera and even a spliff being passed over. But the 3D is also used for, thankfully, many disgusting uses. And so we get an old man clutching an eyeball which is poked into our faces, a hot poker used by Jason to stab a character in the stomach being pointed at us first, a victim whose head is being squeezed by Jason with a bit too much vigour resulting in one of his eyeballs shooting out of his head at us. Thats the kind of shit you need from a horror film shot in 3D.

This was also the first Friday in which we see Jason in his trademark hockey mask after he has ‘acquired’ it from one of his victims (after slashing said victim’s throat first). Jason’s first kill wearing this new fashion accessory is to fire a harpoon gun into a victim’s eye via the audience first of course. Jason then dispassionately throws down said harpoon and walks away. Killing is just functional to him.

The climax in the barn is worth the price of admission alone. At one point we have Jason with an axe protruding from his head coming towards us with his arms outstretched as if hes trying to grab us. Now that’s genius.

A gimmick used well. The spirit of William Castle lives on. It sounds easy, doesn’t it? Shoot a film in 3D and watch the money roll in. Not quite. I also saw Jaws 3D at the NFT and it was dreadful!

Friday the 13th Part 3 in 2D highlights one weak chink in the film’s armour however- the final girl. Shes unbelieveable, lacking in spunk and a dreadful actress to boot. Spoiler alert- after ‘killing’ Jason she is meant to show that shes gone mad in the process. Honey, you have a longgg way to get to the levels of insanity that Marilyn Burns achieved in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

But other than that, Part 3 is a hoot.

4. Basket Case

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When we first got our new video machine (a top-loader from Granada Rentals) my family rented two films with it. One was Captain America and was intended as safe enough for 7 year old me. But the other film was Basket Case which interested me a lot more. I remember watching and loving both.

Watching Basket Case years later, it’s so on-point that it’s incredible. It seems to contain everything that an exploitation film fan would salivate over. In fact, it reminds me of another masterpiece that also hits every exploitation/cult film target it aims at, Bloodsucking Freaks (R.I.P. Joel M. Reed).

Duane books into the flophouse Hotel Broslin with a large wicker basket. Whilst the contents of the basket arouses the curiosity of almost everyone who comes into contact with Duane as he’s always carrying it around (we even see him take it to a 42nd Street grindhouse cinema and with wild results!) Duane seems backwards in coming forwards about the secrets contained within. The audience sees that it actually contains Duane’s previously conjoined deformed twin called Belial. The twins didn’t want to be separated and so seek revenge against the doctors and surgeons who performed this operation.

Basket Case is extreme, depraved, gory and very very funny. It’s also a very lurid time capsule to a time when 42nd Street was awash with cinemas showing horror, kung-fu, action and porn. In other words, the good old days.

3. The Thing

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In 1982 American audiences wanted only one alien. He wasn’t the shape-shifting evil alien in John Carpenter’s The Thing, he was the cute alien who wanted to ‘phone home’ in Steven Spielberg’s E.T.

A dog who is being shot at by the crew of a helicopter flying overhead is taken in by an American compound of researchers situated in Antarctica. When the helicopter is accidentally blown up by one of the men aboard, the crew try to find out why. But then the dog who is now in the same pound as the camp’s own dogs starts to act strangely. And then things start to change very rapidly indeed!

Theres a lot to love about The Thing. Rob Bottin’s bar-raising special effects, the perfect casting of the all male cast (unthinkable nowadays with the current emphasis on ‘diversity’ whether it’s necessary or not), the frozen, isolated locale, the colour palate that compliments this setting perfectly.

Ennio Morricone’s score is as intricate, complex and multi-layed as the rest of the movie. It’s been out of print for a log time and is well over due to be rereleased.

The film is also able to be read into in a number of different ways. It can be seen as a study into masculinity and a metaphor for a new disease being reported about on news reports called AIDS. The movie also doesn’t definitively answer vital questions but leaves it up to the audience to decide for themselves questions like who might be human and who might be an alien at the end of the movie. A film that grants the audience with a modicum of intelligence, another reason to love The Thing.

The Thing tanked at the box office. But it then found it’s audience when it was released on home video. Hooray for video!

2. The New York Ripper

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If this film was a stick of rock it would have the word ‘Exploitation’ running through it. This film is the Giallo Citizen Kane, the Gone With The Wind of sleaze. This is my favourite Lucio Fulci movie and I love his work.

A killer is on the loose in New York. Oh, and he has the voice of Donald Duck. He slaughters his female victims in the most disgusting ways possible using razor blades on intimate areas of their naked bodies. One attack on a female victim involves a broken bottle being thrust and ground into a very vulnerable part of her body. Really! And this sequence is featured in the film’s trailer!

This was banned outright by the BBFC and it was rumoured that they were so outraged by the film’s content that they actually escorted the copy of the print out of the country! This story was later proven to be untrue by the BBFC, who said that instead they just didn’t return the print to the distributor after they had banned it.

Right from the film’s start its a grimy and slimy excursion into New York’s underbelly. We see an old man throw a stick for his dog to go and fetch. Instead, the dog brings back a severed hand it has found. From then on in it never lets up with murders and deviant sex galore (check out the scene in the dockside diner involving a woman we had seen in a sex cinema earlier). And the film never flags and is just as disgusting and brilliant with every single scene.

Whilst this film still isn’t legal in the UK, it can be seen uncut on YouTube.

1 Halloween 3: Season of the Witch

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I saw this on Thorn EMI video when I was 8 years old. I didn’t think about Michael Myers and his no show in the movie but just loved it from the first time I saw it. The plot, when explained, is the most nonsensical load of nonsense you’ve ever heard. An Irish mask and practical joke manufacturer plans to kill all of the children in America via a microchip in the back of each of the masks his company makes coupled with a signal to be transmitted via a TV commercial to be shown on Halloween. Oh, and Stonehenge has made all of this possible.

Sounds ridiculous, right?! But when you watch the film, it works! Add to the mix a great cast (Tom ‘The Man’ Atkins as well as Stacey Nelkin and Dan O’Herlihy as the evil Conal Cochran), amazing cinematography (Dean Cundey’s genius again) and quite possibly one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard. John Carpenter and Alan Howarth outdid themselves with this soundtrack as it sounds almost like the work of Can or Tangerine Dream but better! Everything adds up to such a haunting film full of gorgeous shots, genius music and characters that feel believeable as they’re so well sketched out and flawed. Take for example, the film’s lead Dr Dan Challis who is a great crusading hero but is also an alcoholic and serial womaniser.

The video release I saw was censored but a few years after, the film was shown on BBC1 who accidentally transmitted it uncut. The kills are very full-on and pull no punches which makes the film feel even grittier and on the edge. There is a sense of doom that permeates the whole film that really works to it’s advantage.

Halloween 3 had been reappraised over the years as the cult classic that I always thought it was. Even if it doesn’t feature Michael Myers. Halloween 3 never fails to make me feel like the 8 year old who first saw it. It holds the same mystique and power of a campfire tale told to scare and captivate children and adults alike.

 

 

 

 

 

Great Video Nasties Moral Panic Documentary

Great Video Nasties Moral Panic Documentary

I remember the Video Nasties furore like it was yesterday. With my father being an avid Daily Mail reader and staunch Thatcherite I felt like I had a front row seat with the then Tory government seeking to ban the very films I loved when they were released on video in the early 80’s.

I saw most of the media coverage regarding this as it happened. I’ve also seen the later retrospective takes on the moral panic regarding the so-called ‘Video Nasties’ but there is one documentary that perfectly captures the sense of fear, paranoia and scapegoating for the ills of society unfairly placed on these horror films which some were even calling ‘snuff movies’ (!) I’ve uploaded this here for your delectation. Please watch and prepare for your jaw to drop as you witness a frankly unbelievable episode from history in which, at the time, there seemed to be plenty of authoritative voices against these videos but none in the mainstream media who were standing up for them. It was akin to book-burning.

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Hopefully we can learn from this sad era. It could never happen again. Or could it? With this documentary reminding us what happened, more and more this seems like an episode of unjustified censorship which can be consigned to history where it belongs.

 

Lady Bird (2017)

Lady Bird (2017)

I actually went to see Lady Bird because the trailer was so good. Any film that uses ‘Days of Steam’ by John Cale instantly grabs my attention.

Lady Bird is a quirky film that makes me want to punch the air with delight. Thank Christ for all of the filmmakers who see things from a different perspective and dare to portray events by thinking outside of the box rather than just following the herd.

The lead character of Lady Bird is finishing up at school and waiting to go to college. The netherworld period of transition just before the bird leaves the comfort of the family nest is poignant, restless and full of conflicting emotions- a fact which doesn’t escape the filmmakers.

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There are gorgeous observations concerning family relationships and dynamics. One scene involves Lady Bird and her mother having a very serious and embittered argument in a thrift store. But this all ends abruptly on the discovery of a beautiful dress. Suddenly all resentments and grievances evaporate as mother and daughter bask in the glory of this maroon lace concoction.

Another thing about the film that I loved was the Catholic setting. It was refreshing that we have such a setting in a film and it isn’t full of cruelty and abuse (OK- maybe thats me as I’ve watched both Spotlight and Silent Night, Deadly Night recently). Watch out for the inspirational Mother Superior, the all too enthusiastic play director/wannabe football coach and the drama teacher. All great characters which compliment this unique film.

The entire cast are awe-inspiring. Saoirse Ronan owns the role of Lady Bird and is perfect. And its great to see Laurie Metcalfe on our screens again after years of watching Roseanne.

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Offbeat, innovative and original. Lady Bird deserves all of the praise its receiving at the moment.

4 out of 5

Review- Hush (2016)

Review- Hush (2016)

I love it when I know nothing about a film but then discover it on Netflix.

Thats what happened here and I wasn’t disappointed. A deaf mute writer lives in her isolated home on the edge of a forest. And then a psycho nutjob comes her way.

Its suddenly a case of do or die with the writer fighting for her life whilst trying to outwit her tormentor and somehow survive.

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This film is ingenious with a truckload of twists and turns to keep you hooked. Add amazing acting, direction and gorgeous cinematography and you have a gem of a horror movie.

It also has the best use of a corkscrew since Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter and a reference to Extremities.

Watch it and renew your relationship with the edge of your seat. Stunning.

4 out of 5