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

HillsHaveEyes2UKVideo

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

firestarter-12046l

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

NightOfTheComet.jpg

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

nightmare-on-elm-street-a-1357l

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

GizmoDartboard

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

ToxieJapan

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

NightShift

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

SilentNightDeadlyNight

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.

ThinkOfTheChildren

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

terror-aisles-hanging-skull-promo_1_ce3426718c7fe63f662d0f3818c2fee2

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

YouGiveMeCleaver

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 1980

Top 10 Horror Movies From 1980

I’m currently writing an article about my childhood in the 80’s, the massive part that video played during that period with regard to my obsession with cult/horror films and so I’ve decided to compile lists of my favourite horror movies from each year from that awesome decade. These will all lead up to a list at the end of this in which I will compile my favourite horror movies of that decade.

The release of horror classic Halloween in 1978 seemed to open the floodgates to many horror movies being made in what, with hindsight, can be seen as another golden era for the genre and this wasn’t just for slasher movies. There seemed to be a new horror movie being released every week and add to that the various double-bills being shown in cinemas here in the UK and the emergence of home video that seemed to pander primarily to those with a sweet tooth for horror and the 80’s were a great time for gorehounds. I look back at this period and smile. As I say to younger people- I might be an old cunt but at least I got to grow up in the 80’s.

And so without further a do here are my Top 10 movies from 1980. There is a corresponding video here. And whilst you’re there you should subscribe to my YouTube channel. Your life will be enriched because of it.

10. Antropophagus The Beast

AnthropophagusTheBeast

This Italian shocker goes the extra mile. In fact, it goes the extra five miles! It was directed by Joe D’Amato so you know you’re gonna get the goods.

If you ever find yourself in a group of tourists who want to detour to a desolate island whilst on a cruise, listen to the tarot reading member of the group who predicts something terrible is going to happen AND THAT YOU SHOULDN’T GO!

Guess what? They go! And they then hear stories of a man called Klaus who found himself and his family shipwrecked and so to survive ate his family. He (obviously) went insane in the process and became a human flesh craving madman.

The scene involving the pregnant character has to be seen to be believed (a skinned dead baby rabbit was used) as has the climactic scene. There is a reason why early 80’s horror movies were called Video Nasties in the UK. This film has a lot to do with it. Unmissable.

9. The Boogey Man

TheBogeyManAnother Italian shocker, the poster for this poster has a cameo in Brian De Palma’s masterpiece Blow Out as it appears on the wall of the schlock film company that John Travolta’s character works for.

Ulli Lommel directs this sleazefest, a name as revered by horror fans as D’Amato’s. I find horror movies that deal with children killing adults to be one of the ultimate taboos for the genre and this movie features it very early on. It feels so raw and upclose and personal that it almost feels like you’re watching something that you shouldn’t be privy to.

Years after killing his mother’s abusive boyfriend, Willy (!) goes back to the house where the abuse happened as himself and his sister try to face their childhood fears that have plagued them ever since.

The potential silliness of the plot (a possessed mirror resplendent with glowing shards once it is broken) is more than levelled with a gritty tone and gore galore. Witness the scene where with the scissors, for one example.

You’ll need a shower after seeing this. In fact, you will after seeing many of the films on this list.

8. Without Warning

WithoutWarningGuild

Malevalent aliens have never been so adorable as in this film. I love it when big star names (Jack Palance stars here) throw caution to the wind and star in something that at the height of their career would have been beneath them. I especially love it when they sink their teeth into these roles and bring real life and verve to their characters. It’s almost like they’re having fun! (See Joan Crawford in the brilliant Trog for another example of this). Palance is batshit crazy as is co-star Martin Landau and they both bring so much demented fun to proceedings.

Theres something very aesthetically pleasing about the alien in this movie and the  skin burrowing jellyfish he throws at his victims. They’re like deadly limpets, if you will.

Whatever drugs were being taken during the writing and filming of this surreal and unhinged epic worked really well! Pair with that the beautiful cinematography (courtesy of the ever amazing Dead Cundey who shot Halloween), a gorgeous colour palate and you have a visual treat with a one of a kind atmosphere.

When you get to see the lead alien, it’s well worth the wait! (Kevin Peter Hall of Predator fame did the honours).

7. Humanoids From The Deep

HumanoidsFromTheDeep

A movie that was on my list entitled ‘Films I Must Get Round To Watching’ but hadn’t managed until quite recently. It was on Netflix and so I decided to satisfy my curiosity. And I’m glad I did!

I love a monster movie from a pre-CGI time that involved a man in a suit and loads of ingenuity (see also Slithis).

A coastal town is the target of a creature from the sea that kills people. Then the townsfolk discover that there is more than one of these creatures. And worse still, they don’t just kill but rape too.

This couldn’t be because of a nearby shady company called Canco who have conducted their own sinister experiments involving a growth hormone they’re fed to salmon, could it?! I jolly well think it could! Thus they find themselves the victims of horny, murderous creatures from the sea.

Theres a great atmosphere to this film with small town locales and American life of the time being captured really well. The kills are innovative and the film seems to want to push the envelope and give the viewer more thrills for their buck. It more than succeeds.

If there is one reason for this which also acts as a seal of approval and should have you eager to seek this film out it’s this- it’s a Roger Corman film. You don’t need any higher recommendation than that.

6. The Shining

TheShiningPrecert

What more can be said about this film that hasn’t been said before?! Jack Torrence is a writer and gets a job to act as caretaker for The Overlook Hotel with his wife and son during the snowy winter season when the hotel is closed to the public. He envisages that this will be perfect for him to get some writing done. But little does he know that there are a few other inhabitants within the hotel who reside there and none of them are human.

Amazing direction by the genius Stanley Kubrick, wonderful performances from the entire cast with Jack Nicholson stealing the show with his character sliding into insanity and becoming utterly terrifying, but also very funny with it.

This film was actually panned by quite a few critics when it first came out and was nominated in several categories at that year’s first Razzies along with another film on my list and the likes of Cruising, Can’t Stop The Music and Dressed To Kill. I’ve looked to The Razzies to see whats great about film ever since and not in some vile ‘so bad it’s good’ kinda way either.

5. Maniac

ManiacDoll

I remember the first time I saw the notorious poster for Maniac in a magazine when I was a young kid in the early 80’s and thinking ‘Whoa! I need to see this!’ This film has the distinction of being banned by the BBFC not once but twice and so it would be quite a few years before I could get to see it after I had first seen the poster.

When I finally got to see it, it didn’t disappoint! An unhinged portrayal of New York life when the Big Apple was rotten to the core, this is up there with Driller Killer. It has lots in common with Taxi Driver whilst being not as brilliant. Not many other films of any kind are as brilliant as Taxi Driver though and so this shouldn’t be taken as criticism.

There is so much to talk about- William Lustig’s assured direction, Joe Spinell’s devastatingly brilliant central performance, Tom Savini’s make-up work as well as the explosive end his character comes to in the film, Caroline Munroe’s character as a fashion photographer whereby we see another side to Frank as they start a relationship.

And then there are the murders. These pull no punches and are truly the stuff of nightmares. The subway scene is worth the price of admission alone. Think of Lustig and Savini choreographing his own extended version of the opening credits to The Equaliser and you’re almost there.

From the eye-popping ad campaign, to the film that was just as lurid and the genre advancing portrayal of madness and instability, this film is a classic. It also earned the highest honour of being picketed by angry feminists and people with nothing better to do with their time.

This has recently been released on Blu Ray in 4K. Karma.

4. Prom Night

MSDPRNI EC007

One of the Halloween clones that starred Jamie Lee Curtis and was the best of it’s class. An irresistible blend of Halloween, Carrie and Saturday Night Fever.

Theres high camp (check out the bitch off between Jamie’s character and the school bitch Wendy- ‘it’s not who you go to the prom with. It’s who takes you home!’) but also high grit. Check out the scenes in which the killer phones the classmates one by one, the opening scene involving a very sinister child’s game that ends with the death of one of the children, the subplot regarding the local paedophile who was blamed for the little girl’s death escaping his mental hospital and being hounded by police.

We also get to see JLC’s dance moves. She’s as good a dancer as she is an actress, something that we’d see further in Perfect a few years later.

Add to the mix a great ad campaign and a poster that is so disturbing that it hangs on my living room wall and you have one of the best horror films of 1980.

3. The Watcher in the Woods

WatcherintheWoodsFrench

The rarest of things- a Disney horror film. This is one of the videos I rented the most during the 80’s.

A naive meddling with the supernatural causes one of the children involved to go missing under very mysterious circumstances. Several decades pass and a teenage girl and her family go to share the house owned by the missing girl’s elderly mother. She says that the teenager Jan resembles her missing daughter and so the unsolved is due to come full circle.

There are some great moments in this film that feel very childlike but very unsettling because of it. Check out the scene in which Jan’s little sister (Lyndsey from Halloween!) goes into a trance and starts writing backwards onto a dirty window, the hall of mirrors scene at the local funfair, the flashbacks to the deadly ritual the children held in the local church. Watcher in the Woods would have made a great spin-off children’s TV series akin to Chocky.

And Bette Davis stars as the elderly mother! And she predictably steals the show and rightly so.

2. Friday the 13th

Friday13th

It’s interesting to watch Friday the 13th again, especially after the whole franchise has become so huge and has established a formula (but also sees fit to subvert that formula). In 1980, spoiler alert, there was no Jason, no hockey mask. In fact, in this first film the killer isn’t revealed until the end.

For this very fact I always think of Friday the 13th as close to being an American Giallo movie (Giallo movies in Italy derived from the gory yellow paged detective pulp novels with a private investigator pursuing and then revealing a killer’s identity in the last few pages). The sequel would also share more in common with a certain Giallo movie with one death scene being reminiscent of Bava’s A Bay of Blood aka Twitch of the Death Nerve.

Because this is the first film in the series there also isn’t a formula or pattern to proceedings yet and so we get elements in this film that aren’t present in the sequels. There is a goofiness and a brand of humour in this film that isn’t present in quite the same way in the later films (one example being the sheriff). There is also the well defined characterisation of the teens in this film and the inclusion of some of the secondary characters such as the diner’s waitress and Crazy Ralph which isn’t found to be present to such a degree with subsequent sequels.

Friday the 13th was conceived by Sean S Cunningham and Steve Miner as they saw the great box office Halloween was doing. Is this film as good as it’s inspiration? No way. But not many films are. But this has solid direction, a killer (sorry) soundtrack, very good performances all-round and some amazing special effects and make-up by Tom Savini. Check out the innovation of some of his set ups- the arrow through the neck of a young Kevin Bacon, the ax to the face, the beheading. All great stuff. Less art than Halloween but more blood for your buck. If Halloween is a trip to the opera, Friday the 13th is a trip on a rollercoaster. Both have their place.

1 The Fog

TheFog

One of my favourite movie viewing experiences occurred when I was in a shared house at University (studying film incidentally). It was late at night, I was all snug in bed and there was a storm outside, with wind and rain splattering against my window. It was at thing point that The Fog came onto my television. Utter bliss.

And that’s what The Fog is to me. It’s familiar, snug and comforting. It might not be as good as Carpenter’s best (Halloween, Assault on Precinct 13) but it comes pretty darn close. The tale of zombie pirates coming back to right some previously carried out wrongs in an American coastal locale has interesting characters brought to life by brilliant actors resplendent. It also has amazing practical special effects, a brilliant baroque synth score, gorgeous cinematography (take a bow, Dean Cundey- again!) and Carpenter’s genius direction and dialogue (check out the brilliant rapport between Janet Leigh and Nancy Loomis) and you have a classic film.

It also shows that it’s as nasty as the leading lights in the slasher genre but can accomplish this without gratuitous violence and an over-reliance on gore. Look at the attack on the Seagrass- there aren’t gallons of blood and acres of flesh. Instead theres the pirates with hooks, steel skewers and sound effects of bones breaking and spines being severed. In other words, kills coupled with intelligence and verve.

Apparently close to the film’s release date Carpenter watched the film, realised that it didn’t work and so he inserted new scenes with literally days to spare. It worked. The Fog is a melding of new and old (a traditional ghost story made in the slasher era) just like the narrative is (pirates in an early 80’s locale) and the film’s soundtrack (baroque played on analogue synths).

The lighthouse is another huge character within the film with it’s old, traditional use being brought into the present (another example of the old/new theme present within the film) as it now contains the town’s radio station which proves to be massively beneficial as the fog rolls in as people are without communication with each other but DJ Stevie Wayne’s (Adrienne Barbeau- as brilliant as ever) voice guides, connects and unites the otherwise separated townsfolk. Her presence on the airwaves also helps to save her son (who is about to be attacked by the marauding pirates). The roof of the lighthouse being used as a locale when the pirates descend on Stevie still feels daring and inspired.

All of this is why The Fog is my favourite film of 1980.

 

Top 10 Fan Made Movie Posters

Top 10 Fan Made Movie Posters

On my search for movie posters on the internet for my articles I come across a massive amount of fan made movie posters. Correction- I come across a massive amount of really good fan made movie posters. Heres a collection of the best I’ve seen so far (this could change as I stumble across more…)

And so, in ascending order…

No. 10- Captain America: The First Avenger

Print

Such a classic American hero gets a classical poster concept.

The Art Deco framing and reimagining for Cap works brilliantly well here as the lines synonymous with this genre also emphasise movement, action and speed.

The red, white and blue of Cap’s costume works really well against the monotone of the background’s gun metal grey.

No. 9- Friday the 13th Part 3

F13thPart3FanPoster

How do you even think about reimagining a horror villain as well known as Jason Voorhees? Like this. Take only single colours (the blue background, the green of Jason, the red lettering that looks it has been written in blood- very Manson Family) and make the image as iconic as possible to reflect the film and central figure.

This is further demonstrated when you realise that it was this Friday instalment that introduced Jason’s hockey mask to proceedings (R.I.P. Shelley). This image further emphasises the iconic dimension to this.

The red and green also remind me of the red and green stripes of Jason’s sparring partner, Freddy Krueger. A nice touch. Red and green are also the colours used for 3D- which this film was shot in. Another nice touch.

No. 8- The King of Comedy

KingOfComedyFanPoster

Sometimes simple is best. This poster is minimalism used to brilliant effect. The painting of Pupkin is gorgeous. And that’s all thats needed.

No. 7- Double-Bill – The Birds and Up

UpBirdsFanPoster

A fan made poster for an inspired double-bill coupled with absolutely gorgeous artwork. The colour of Up, the Gothic darkness of The Birds. The juxtaposition works beautifully.

The typography and aged look to the artwork works amazingly well also. I’d pay to go and see this double-bill anyway, but this poster would make me go and see both of these films even if I hadn’t heard of them.

No.6- Drive

DriveFanPoster

I’m loving that this artist has used Gosling’s stuntman mask and brought it to the fore for this poster. I’m also loving that he/she has referenced the iconic poster artwork and bald head motif from Dawn of the Dead resplendent with blood splatter.

I noticed the gore/slasher elements of Drive when I first saw it. It appears I wasn’t the only one. Bonus points for the weathered/vintage look to the poster.

No.5- Dr. No

DrNoFanPoster

A sign of a great fan poster- it fools you into thinking that it was possibly conceived and conceptualised at the time of the film’s release but not used by the studio.

This is what has happened here- the artist has utilised the same style of artwork used at the time, assimilated it and come up with something just as brilliant but completely original.

You can tell that the artist knows this film and the series it belongs within inside out.

No.4- Jaws

JawsFanPoster

There are so much Jaws fan posters on the internet and there are so many that are utterly brilliant.

This entry wins out as it terrifies me. Freud would have a field day with this. The enormity of the shark, the unsuspecting woman who is oblivious to her fate, the black water the shark is lurching up from. The sea could be the psyche, the shark our deepest fears that are waiting to attack and consume us whole. But that would be a Tarkovsky film and not the Spielberg classic we all know and love.

This poster still gives me shivers as I’m looking at it whilst typing this entry.

No.3- A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2- Freddy’s Revenge

LGBTANOESPart2FanPoster

Such a simple premise that no-one else thought to do it! The gay subtext of Freddy’s Revenge is brought to life and placed centre stage on this poster. Thankfully it’s done by someone who is extremely talented and brilliantly gifted.

There was even a ‘Drag pre-show’ before this screening and a discussion about ‘queerness in the horror film’ after it.

This film has become a gay classic as well as newly reappraised by the horror community. It may not have been the sequel to the first that fans wanted but this curve-ball of a film has rightfully now been taken to horrorhound’s black little hearts.

No.2- The Shining

TheShiningFanPoster

This fan poster is stunning. All the disturbing aspects of the film, all of the disturbing scenarios of the film and the utterly disturbing transformed persona of Jack Torrence are  all upclose and personal on this artwork. And the choice of style for this poster is perfect for this with each brushstroke evoking so much.

When I marvel at this poster I think of the brilliance of artists such as Lucien Freud and Jenny Saville. Really. It’s that good!

SavilleManicsFace
‘Stare’ by Jenny Saville

No.1- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

TCMFanPoster

Well, where do I even begin with this beauty?!

My eyes almost popped out of their sockets when I saw this for the first time. Quite possibly, one of the best movie posters (fan-made or official) I’ve ever seen. And loads to discuss.

When I saw this I instantly thought of the Disco-era of the 1970’s whereby a disco dancers moves would be collected together in one picture, the same figure side by side, showcasing the very best of their dancefloor poses.  I then remembered that was in fact a picture like this that was used to publicise Saturday Night Fever with John Travolta as Tony Monero being captured in various poses of disco brilliance.

TravoltaMoves
Five moves of Travolta, referenced in the TCM poster with five moves of Leatherface

Theres also a similar collection of poses of Juliet Mills from the horror masterpiece Beyond The Door that was used in the film and as a still.

BeyondTheDoorPoses

The colours on this TCM poster also compounded this Disco 70’s feel as well as the colours also echo the lit up coloured squares on the dancefloors of the era. This is a culture clash that has something in common- TCM came out at the same time as Disco was starting to take off and just two years before Travolta shook his groove thing and became a household name.

The rainbow colours also act as a signifier of the rainbow flag of the LGBT community. I don’t think Leatherface has ever been recognised as an icon of the trans movement even though he is biologically male but loves to apply make-up…to masks made of his victim’s skin. It’s unconfirmed where Travolta stands when it comes to all things LGBT.

 

Pamela Voorhees, The Pregnant Man and The Deep Fried Rat: The Pre-Video Years of a Cult Movie Loving Crackpot

Pamela Voorhees, The Pregnant Man and The Deep Fried Rat: The Pre-Video Years of a Cult Movie Loving Crackpot

I often think about my love of cinema, where it began and the influences on it, both film-based and what was going on around me.

I was born in February 1975. My arrival into the world coincides with the day on which Stephen Murphy the BBFC’s secretary first saw a new independent film called The Texas Chain Saw Massacre with a view to providing a certificate for it. It feels apt that my birth coincided with an event connected to such a sordid masterpiece which remains one of my favourite films to this day.

23873587_o1

On hearing of a new arrival into the world most people want to hear information that I’ve always thought was a bit random and really boring. Who gives a flying fuck about a baby’s weight? I want to know what was showing at the local cinema.

Thankfully the information I was looking for regarding my own arrival onto this planet was awaiting me in the Central Library in York amongst the archived local newspapers on microfilm.

BirthdayListings3
Film listings for a new future cineaste/exploitation film fan

I’m thrilled to report that when I was born the films being shown were veryyy me! And before you ask, one of them wasn’t The Omen.

There was either the Safari suited, high camp antics of eye-brow raising Roger Moore as 1970’s James Bond in The Man With The Golden Gun or a sex comedy double-bill consisting of Line Up and Lay Down (!) and Nurses on the Job (!!) Both choices I’m more than happy with.

SafariSuitBond
Safari-suit Bond- the pinnacle of camp
s-l1600-18
A sex comedy double-bill. Another pinnacle of camp. Perfect cinematic choices for my birth.

The cinema these masterpieces were being shown was the Odeon Cinema in Blossom Street in York which remains my favourite cinema of all of the movie houses I’ve been to.

The Odeon was opened on 1st February, 1937. You can see how much of an exquisite building it was by it’s very architecture. A gorgeous building by any standards with it’s distinctive Art Deco form and shape, this was seen on it’s construction as an outstanding addition to the Odeon family.

441027-800x542
The Odeon in the late 80’s

The Odeon is situated on one of the main streets in and out of the city and more importantly, it’s on the route that my father would use when driving us home after going to the city centre. I remember driving past this cinema even before I was old enough to start frequenting the place with my family. Driving by I’d see the garish, alluring and beguiling posters outside. Just the posters alone had the power to scare the fuck out of me as a child with the colourful and nightmarish artwork for horror films leaving the deepest imprints in my young and very furtile psyche. It was just one glance of the poster for the double bill of The Incredible Melting Man and U.S. TV movie The Savage Bees that prevented me from sleeping for several nights in a row.

I also distinctly remember seeing the poster for The Fog in 1980 (I must have been five years old) and that really freaking me out. Again, sleepless nights followed.

TheFogQuad

One of the other things I loved about cinemas in those days was that they didn’t just have amazing posters for the films they were showing but also lobby cards which showed key scenes of the films being shown within. Lobby cards seem to have died a death these days but I always loved them especially when they were for the horror fare of the day. If a poster could invoke fear in me then going up close and peering at some of the horrific and disturbing scenes that took place within these cinematic shockers was also an amazing experience for an over imaginative small child.

One of my earliest memories is of my 5 year old self running to where the posters and lobby cards were outside The Odeon to gaze for the longest time at the artwork for a new film that had just started to play there. That film was called Friday the 13th and it was again, 1980. The lobby cards prompted many questions. Who was the kindly old woman enveloped in the misty woodland? Was the killer a dab hand at archery? Hadn’t the girl in the canoe seen Joe Dante’s Piranha?! I’d never dip my hand so casually in a lake like that…So many thoughts ran through my fevered little brain.

Friday13thUKStills 2
Friday the 13th Lobby Cards. I pored over these for the longest time trying to figure out what they portrayed in the actual film

There was actually a Kentucky Fried Chicken opposite The Odeon and so because of this proximity a unique urban legend came into being. Even though it’s a slight variation on an already well known yarn, the people of York insist that this actually happened. Some say they even know the people involved. It goes like this-

A young couple decide to go to collect KFC and then dash into The Odeon opposite with their greasy meal. The film they are going to see has already started and so they order their food, pay and rush into the cinema to buy their tickets and find their seats. They do this and find that the house lights have already gone down and the place is packed. They somehow manage to find two seats together in the rammed auditorium and start to chow down on their KFC. Because the film has already started the couple can’t see what they are eating and just tuck in regardless. The young woman notices that what she thinks should be a piece of chicken tastes funny. It also doesn’t feel like a leg or breast. Sure, it’s coated in the Colonel’s secret coating but chicken it must definitely aint. With her eyes now started to get used to the darkness of the cinema she sees that in fact what shes been tucking into looks very strange indeed. She decides to take some of the coating off with her fingers and is horrified to see what is concealed underneath- and of which she still has a piece of in her mouth. She has been eating a deep fried rat! She screams, her male companion screams, the audience screams.

The ‘deep friend rat’ is an urban legend that is well-told the world over and can be applied to any fast-food joint but seems to be specific to KFC (much to their chigrin). There was even a case recently whereby someone posted the same story as fact, even with pictures as evidence. But when asked by KFC’s management for further evidence or closer investigation, the story’s perpetrator seemed backwards in coming forward with further details. Social media, the internet and emails are perfect for the further advancement of urban legends in the cyber age.

But I digress. Most of my trips to the cinema during my childhood and teen years were to The Odeon. I loved seeing films in such a venue that was steeped in history and gorgeous to boot. I could almost feel the history of the place as people who had been lucky enough to see some of my favourite films (and that I would have been too young to see at the time of their release) would have delighted in the magic of seeing such cinematic masterpieces as Taxi Driver, Jaws and The Exorcist (fast forward and this would change with The Exorcist as there was a one-off screening and on my 18th birthday (of all days!) It was almost like it was scheduled especially for me! And so in February 1993, even though it had snowed, my friends and I went out on the town and then went to see the film with a packed house (the film was still banned on video in the UK at that time). Whilst the print was in appalling condition and most probably one of the same prints used on the film’s original release in 1974, it had lost none of it’s power. I’ll never forget leaving the cinema, bidding my friends farewell and precariously going to find a taxi whilst wading through snow and trying not to break my neck whilst walking like Bambi over the ice underfoot. Oh, and I remember being really fucking scared because of the film!

YorkOdeon27thFeb1993Screening

In these innocent days of my early childhood a couple of Odeon visits really stick out in my mind for some reason. I think it’s because these films were perfect for kids- even kids who would have no chance of getting into screenings of the horror and exploitation films he’d preferred to have been watching even at a very early age.

One screening I went to when I was 5 years old was for Robert Altman’s Popeye and I absolutely loved it! The perfect casting, the set designs, the songs- the cartoon series I loved so much was effortlessly and almost eerily brought to life.

popeye - cinema quad movie poster (1).jpg

Another cinematic excursion to the Odeon that I look back on with real fondness was a double bill of a pre-Terminator Arnie and Kirk Douglas in the zany Cactus Jack and the live action kitsch fest Spiderman and the Dragon’s Challenge. This was originally a two-part television special made for American T.V. but was spliced together to make a feature film to be shown theatrically outside the U.S. Hence, how I had the good fortune to be watching it. Spidey was played by Nicholas Hammond, one of the Von Trapp brats from The Sound of Music. The film was so bright and colourful that it was akin to a Pop-Art Warhol print come to life. I seem to remember that Spidey’s webs looked like white rope. Myself and all lovers of cinematic cult fare need this film and the films that preceded it (Spiderman and Spiderman Strikes Back) to be released on Blu ray tout suite.

spider man dragons challenge cactus jack - cinema quad movie pos

It was at The Odeon that not only did I fall in love with film as a medium but also the sense of occasion involved in going to see a film. There was the excitement of the snacks on offer, the stench of popcorn meaning only one thing. It was also the trailers for the upcoming films and then the Pearl and Dean advertising for products such as Fry’s Turkish Delight, Westlers hotdogs and Red Mountain coffee. Then it was the wonderfully kitsch and camp ads for local businesses in York such as Indian restaurants and local pubs/nightclubs. The glittering world of York’s nightlife! It seemed so sophisticated. Theres a great sample of similar cinema advertising here. And here is a cinema advert shown locally in the 60’s in Plymouth advertising the local nightspots. It has to be seen to be believed! It’s all about the camp bleach blonde bartender. Something tells me he might be a Friend of Dorothy.

But there was also another cinema in York in those days that I also went to. The ABC cinema was right in the city centre on a street called Piccadilly and whilst it didn’t have the history, grandeur or sense of occasion that The Odeon had, I also went there and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

ABCCinema1986

One of my earliest cinema going experiences here involved my father taking me and my two older brothers to go and see the newly released Superman 2 (which I didn’t like as to my 6 year old eyes the film was too violent- how things would change when it came to my tastes in cinema!) and way too loud. But other than those reservations, I had a great time. My Dad then took us to see executed highwayman Dick Turpin’s grave which is nearby. All in all, a great day.

Superman2Quad

For more on the curious case of the burial of Dick Turpin, click here. It’s just one more story from the blood-soaked history of York.

MaryLovesDick

Another major source for my burgeoning passion in film was, of course, the television. Whilst I couldn’t get in to see the X certificate films at my local cinemas, there were no restrictions to me seeing any of the films shown on TV, whether they were intended for children or not. Hooray for lax parenting!

I remember vividly the first ever screening of Jaws on UK TV. According to the internet this took place on 8th of October 1981 which means that I was 6 years old when I saw it (it was actually certificated A when it was originally released in 1975 meaning that it wasn’t suitable for children under 11. This was changed to a PG years later, but recently was controversially upgraded to 12A as it was felt that PG was too lenient. Which, I suppose, is a testament to the brilliance of the film). This was a HUGE event and garnered mammoth ratings with 23.25 million viewers tuning in, one of the biggest ratings ever for a film shown on TV.

JawsTVTimes1981

I also remember similarly huge ratings for the first time Superman: The Movie was shown on UK TV. This was also a pivotal event for not just myself but for most of the population.

Thankfully when I was growing up my father didn’t believe the theory that children watching late night movies that might be violent or disturbing in some way could negatively affect a child and so I was allowed to stay up late and watch the likes of Carrie, The Omen and Dirty Harry when they were shown. I realised that most of my school friends didn’t have parents who were this liberal or maybe just didn’t give a shit as I’d say to them ‘Did you see (insert name of some film usually with an X certificate) last night?!’ to be met with blank stares or a slow, jealous shake of the head.

Not everything that influenced me in those days was film based but still fed into my love of cult cinema and all things fucked up. I was and still am an avid reader. Sometimes I sped through books so fast that my father used to take me to the library more than once a day (really!). It was here that I came across a book that was perfect for a young freak with a taste for the macabre.

UsborneSupernaturalWorld

Usborne’s Guide to the Supernatural World was a compendium made up of three earlier titles (Vampires, Werewolves and Demons, Haunted Houses, Ghosts and Spectres and Mysterious Powers and Strange Forces) and was pretty much a bible for me from that moment on. It’s one of my favourite books and I still dip into it for pleasure and for life-affirmation purposes.

My knowledge of everything supernatural was expanded immeasurably with this tome as my eyes pored over the gaudy illustrations whilst taking in every detail of the text.

Usborne have just reissued another of their titles, The World of the Unknown: Ghosts which was just as influential in the late 70’s (see- there were other young weirdos just like me!). Let’s hope they see fit to reissue Supernatural World too. Copies are selling for a fortune on the internet. We need a reprint and pronto. It would sell just as well as Ghosts.

UsborneGhosts

But there was something a lot closer to home and all too real that provided a macabre backdrop to my earliest years. The county that I grew up in had it’s own serial killer that was at large with his earliest noted murder (but it’s rumoured that he killed earlier and more than has been publicly recorded) being in the year of my birth and not ending until his capture in 1981. Peter William Sutcliffe aka The Yorkshire Ripper murdered women who were out alone at night. One of my earliest memories was of watching the local news programme Calendar which was presented by Richard Whiteley (later the presenter of student and old person favourite Countdown) who was normally a jolly and happy kind of fellow. I knew something was wrong as on this occasion he wasn’t smiling or jolly but had a grave expression on his face as he stood in front of a board that had numerous women’s faces on it. He explained that yet another women had been added to the list of those poor women who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. This victim was Jacqueline Hill, a Leeds student who was walking from where her bus had dropped her to her student lodgings (a matter of a few yards) but instead met her ghoulish fate.

YorkshireRippersVictims

Because of the Ripper life had to be changed massively. There was an unofficial curfew for women and a feeling of omnipresent dread in the air until his capture. When I grew older and started going out as a teenager I’d always accompany female friends home and make sure they were inside and safe until I left. I never thought why I did this until much later- it had been because I has grown up in the era of the Ripper. It’s strange how life comes full circle. I’m now writing this in Chapeltown in my flat. This area of Leeds was a major hunting ground for Sutcliffe. The murder scenes for at least 4 of his victims are within walking distance of here.

This sense of dread was also all around us in other ways in the late 70’s/early 80’s. This was in the form of Public Information Films which were short adverts made by the government which warned the general population of the dangers of any number of potentially lethal activities as varied as mixing different types of tyre on your car, letting your child talk to strangers, putting down a rug on a freshly polished wooden floor…you name it. My favourite was The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water which was voiced by Donald Pleasance and warned of the dangers of children playing near rivers and lakes and what could happen.

spiritofdarkandlonelywater

This PIF scared the shit out of me and reminded me of another childhood source of sleepless nights, a paperback of The Lord of the Rings that was knocking around our house resplendent with becloaked soldiers riding nightmarish horses each with glowing red eyes.

Tol2

I loved the Public Information Films that were specific to Bonfire Night with the dangers of playing with fireworks being another source of trauma for children up and down the country.

Missives from on high of how to prevent catastrophe in your life weren’t just made for the TV screen either. There were plenty of leaflets, posters and literature around at this time that could educate the populace of how to avoid potential disaster.

unnamed-3

There was plenty of imagery that I found so attractive as it would appeal to any fan of cult cinema and particularly the horror/slasher genre. The threat of some crime being committed to either you or your property was very real with an unspecified shadowy figure (the best example being depicted in the ‘Watch out! There’s a thief about’ campaign) seen approaching (a great example of this was the two black boots walking on breaking ice in the excellent ‘Neighbourly Nell’ Public Information Film) or running away.

One poster that I used to see on the wall in doctor’s surgeries, chemists and libraries was the design classic of The Pregnant Man.

PregnantMan

Another moral panic that I remember vividly from my early childhood concerned the dangers of rabies entering the UK. Cue distressing images of rabid animals attacking children and humans frothing at the mouth due to the disease. And this wasn’t just in print.

RabiesPoster

And then there was Protect and Survive. This was a campaign regarding what to do if there was a nuclear holocaust. This booklet would be sent to every household if the button had been pushed and certain psychopathic world leaders wanted the ultimate in narcissistic supply. Details on how we were all to hole up in our self-made bomb shelters with only our loved ones and tinned food for company were outlined. There were even details on what to do if someone in your enclosure had passed away and how their body could be disposed of.

And here, for your perverse pleasure, is the full booklet. I’m sure in these times of lockdowns and Coronavirus we can pick up some worthwhile and strangely relevant tips.

The threat of nuclear war was everywhere in the late 70’s and 80’s. To quote those purveyors of style and hair dye Duran Duran from their number 1 single Is There Something I Should Know, ‘You’re about as easy as a nuclear war.’ Just one push of a button and we would be pushed into a dystopic netherworld.

ProtectAndSurviveSkeleton 2

There was even a drama, Threads made about what that post-nuclear holocaust would look like. It wasn’t pretty and remains a powerful, brilliant and extremely difficult to watch masterpiece. I recommend you to find it but proceed with caution.

But back to film. Another rich source of cult film goodness was to be found in our local newspaper, of all places. Film adverts were placed in here by the local cinemas that showed artwork (sometimes different from the posters) that was, in the case of horror and cult films, lurid in nature and again, utterly alluring to me.

As it would happen, other cult movie fans were indulging in the same pleasures with the excellent book Ad Nauseam being released not so long ago- a compendium of newspaper ads advertising the kind of movies I relished seeking out the ads for.

AdNauseam

Just as there were newspaper print ads, there were also TV adverts for upcoming and films that were currently playing. Some of these were just as disturbing as the films themselves. I remember seeing a TV spot for The Shining that was possibly the scariest thing I had ever experienced up until that point. On seeing it again, I still feel the same. It’s a terrifying experience.

ShiningUKQuadPoster

Whilst all of this quenched my growing passion for cinema and particularly cult cinema, there was an upcoming innovation that would change everything! That was, of course, VIDEO! And such a momentous event deserves a blog entry all of it’s own…

Michael Myers Comes To London

Michael Myers Comes To London

Another past event has just popped up in the Memories section of my Facebook account. Apparently, 15 years ago I was watching Halloween at the National Film Theatre.

And apparently, I have scanned and posted the NFT notes for the screening.

As I remember, this screening was utilising a brand spanking new 35mm print that had been freshly made. The video and audio were sensational and a far cry from the print that was used at another cinema screening I attended a few years before this. That print was from the original release of the film in 1978 and was in a dire state. Although it was of historical value and great to see the BBFC card for the film from when it was released, it looked and sounded terrible.

Anyhoo, here’s some film history for you.

The Irishman, Laurie Strode and The Empathy Chip

The Irishman, Laurie Strode and The Empathy Chip

I’m so glad I studied Psychology in college. I’ve always found the subject interesting and have sought to build on what I’ve already learnt through my interactions with different people throughout my life.

I became aware of Narcissistic Personality Disorder quite by accident recently. It was information that I had been trying to discover for years as I had very, shall we say, unfortunate interactions with a narcissist a few years back.

NPD

When I stumbled across the info on NPD I wasn’t surprised to learn that this sort of personality belongs in what is called the Cluster B personality disorder category. If you want to see how disordered these personality types are then pay heed to the fact that other examples of Cluster B personalities are psychopaths and sociopaths. I began looking into how these disorders shared similarities and how they differed.

In the midst of all of this research Scorsese releases The Irishman. As well as being a brilliant piece of entertainment it’s also an amazingly detailed depiction of a sociopath (I mentioned about Frank Sheeran’s psychological state in my original review of the film- particularly shown by the scene where as a soldier he makes two other soldiers dig their own grave before shooting them when they have completed the task).

TheIrishmanSoldier2

I’m so glad that one of my favourite film analysis YouTube channels The Discarded Image have just uploaded a video regarding the psychology of The Irishman’s Frank Sheeran, Scorsese’s protagonists in general and much more. It can be found here.

And whilst you’re there check out the same channel’s video on John Carpenter’s Halloween. One of my favourite films of all time, I’m impressed by any analysis that makes note of aspects of the film that no-one else has considered. This video does it many times, especially when talking about Laurie walking over to the house across the street, how it’s handled and her impending doom. This video is here.

HalloweenShape

Stunning videos.

 

Review- Psycho 2 (1983) ****

Review- Psycho 2 (1983) ****

The project of Psycho 2 was a poison chalice. On one hand, it provided a director with the opportunity to prove themselves by making a sequel to a bona fide horror classic by a master auteur. It also made available the possibility of continuing a story of one of cinema’s greatest and most complex characters, Norman Bates.

But on the other hand, the film would certainly be met with howls of derision from some cinema purists. Also, some would see a sequel to such a horror landmark as being cheap, an exercise in making a fast buck and the finished film would certainly draw comparisons to it’s superior first film.

Richard Franklin accepted the offer to act as director and does a pretty good job.

Psycho2Quad

Everyone’s favourite Momma’s Boy Norman leaves the asylum he has been an inhabitant of for the last 22 years as he is judged to be satifactorily rehabilitated enough to be let loose into the wider community. Marion Crane’s sister Lila (Vera Miles returning to replay the role and a definite plus for the movie) vehemently opposes this move however and wants to see him locked up out of harm’s way forever.

Norman takes a job in a small diner near his home and it’s here that he meets Mary Samuels (Meg Tilly) who has just split up from her boyfriend and finds herself homeless. Norman offers her board and it’s here that the freakiness starts. Norman starts to see notes supposedly from his dead mother. Unexpected murders occur. Could Norman be up to his old tricks again? Or is he being gaslighted into lapsing into his old murderous ways?

Psycho2Knife
Put down the knife, Norman

It’s interesting that for this 80’s sequel the director knew that horror had not only advanced and evolved as a genre but that it was at that point in time enjoying somewhat of a renaissance with the slasher subgenre dominating the box office with seemingly new films being released almost every week. These films relied on gory and (in the best examples) innovative death sequences. Psycho 2 duly notes this and so we get some doozy gore scenes. The sequence involving a victim receiving a knife through the mouth exemplifies this. In this regard the sequel is like another sequel to a horror classic, Halloween 2. In the three years between the original John Carpenter classic and it’s sequel the horror genre had accelerated forth like a cinematic juggernaut with deaths becoming more explicit and graphic. Whilst there is little gore, blood or graphic violence in Halloween, it’s sequel includes scoldings, hypodermic needles in eyeballs and a hammer to the cranium to mention just a few ways as to how victims are disposed of.

Halloween2Eyeball
The gorier Halloween 2 (1981)

There is even a nod to the slasher genre within Psycho 2 as we see two frisky teens break into the basement of the Bates House to indulge in atypical slasher teen activities like, y’know, making out whilst smoking pot. Mother wouldn’t have approved.

The film has a great feel and look that I haven’t experienced in any other film. It has a very grimy atmosphere. The fact that De Palma staple actor Dennis Franz is one of the cast playing a sleazeball who has turned the Bates Motel into a ‘rent rooms by the hour’ motel for those of lower morals also helps foster this dirty vibe. Psycho 2 feels like the innocence of Norman and the first film has been (for the audience’s entertainment) been defiled and is irretrievably gone (in a good way). The film is very astute in this way as maybe it was a comment on society in general.

Another major factor that helps establish this sleazy air is the amazing cinematography by the ever brilliant Dean Cundey (another factor that helps lift Psycho 2 from just being a cash-in sequel). Check out the astonishing camerawork that almost levitates and prowls around the outside of the Bates House as we see first the teens and then later Lila gain entry via the basement. In these scenes the camera feels like an ever present supernatural and voyeuristic entity as we see events that only an ever watchful killer would.

Psycho2House2

Of course, we’re waiting for Norman to go mad during the course of the film and this is brilliantly shown in the scene in which Norman is seen by Mary talking on the phone to his dead Mother and asking her what he should do next. This scene shows the brilliance of Anthony Perkins in this role. Psycho 2 would have been half the film it is if he hadn’t have returned to reprise a role he made all his own.

Add to all of this a final scene which is one of the most unexpected scenes in horror history (no, I’m not going to ruin it!) and you have a very good 1980’s sequel to a horror classic. No, it’s not as good as Psycho but then few films are. But it’s still well worth investigating.

4 out of 5 stars