Stripped to Kill 2: Live Girls (1989)

Directed by Katt Shea [Other horror films: Stripped to Kill (1987), Dance of the Damned (1989), The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999)]

The first Stripped to Kill wasn’t exactly an amazing movie, but it did possess a decent amount of charm, along with a solid conclusion. This sequel isn’t near as good, and though it’s still certainly watchable, I can’t imagine many people thinking it’s better than the first.

One problem I had was that no actors from the first movie appear, or are even mentioned. If you’re making a sequel, even if you can’t get back any of the original performers, you can at least bring them up in conversation once, but no, with one exception, the only thing this movie shares with the first are the strippers.

The one exception is the character Shirl. In the first movie, this character is played by Diana Bellamy, and she stood out as a rather amusing character. The same can be said for Stripped to Kill 2’s Shirl, played by Virginia Peters. They don’t necessarily look alike, but they do have very similar roles (gathering information which is vital to the finale) and attitudes, so I’m pretty convinced this is supposed to be the same person, which makes it even worse they couldn’t do more to connect this to the first movie.

And to be fair, there’s a stripper here named Mantra, played by Debra Lamb. Lamb appeared in the first movie also, as an unnamed amateur stripper, so it’s likely the same character, but that’s not something I realized until checking IMDb credits, and that fact definitely wasn’t mentioned in the film, but still, thought it was worth pointing out.

Ignoring that, though, the story here isn’t quite as interesting or violent as what we got from the first one. We have a stripper who thinks she’s going crazy and killing people in her sleep (and to be fair, there’s somewhat convincing evidence of that), and a city cop investigating the crime, but can’t stop himself from falling for the stripper. It’s not exactly riveting, and I could have done without the elongated dream sequences (though they make sense come the ending), and overall, the story’s just average.

There’s a few things I like about the ending here, what with the identity of the killer, but especially compared to the first movie, this ending felt pretty tame and simple in comparison. I sort of appreciate the artsy dream sequences (which make me partially wonder if this movie was aiming a bit higher than it might seem on the surface), but there’s a handful of them throughout the film, and as this progressed, they sort of lost their charm.

Eb Lottimer was okay as the main detective. He wasn’t anything special, and ultimately pretty forgettable, but he had a sensual soul. Maria Ford (who appeared in a handful of 1990’s horror, such as The Haunting of Morella, The Unnamable II, Slumber Party Massacre III, and Necronomicon) was okay, but given that she thinks she’s going insane, her performance isn’t always the most stable. Karen Mayo-Chandler was decent, though again, as the movie goes on, I was less enthralled with her. As I mentioned, Virginia Peters was pretty fun, Debra Lamb was maybe the hottest woman there, and Marjean Holden was Something Else.

The kills here are far from great, mainly because we never really see them. It’s true that we might see the aftermath, some blood and a corpse, but as poor as the kills were in the first movie, it certainly outstripped this one (SEE WHAT I DID THERE????).

Stripped to Kill probably never needed a sequel, so with that in mind, Stripped to Kill 2: Live Girls probably outperformed expectations, and to be honest, I did like this a bit more than I thought I would. That said, I doubt it’s a movie that will stay with me long, and I’d mainly recommend people just catch the first movie.

6/10

This is one of the film’s covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. To listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one, check the video out below.

The Unnamable (1988)

Directed by Jean-Paul Ouellette [Other horror films: The Unnamable II: The Statement of Randolph Carter (1992)]

I’m not entirely sure why this one has such a bad rap. I mean, it’s not a stellar film, but I’ve seen this around three times now, and I consistently have a fun time with it.

It’s true that the setting is somewhat stagnant, as most of the movie takes place in a dilapidated house (and what doesn’t occurs on a generic college campus), but I thought that, despite the obvious low-budget, they did well with what they had.

To be honest, a lot of the reason I find this worth watching is due to Mark Kinsey Stephenson’s character, Randolph Carter. His attitude, which is somewhat aloof yet very knowledgeable (almost arrogantly so), just cracked me up. He’s not really the main character (as Charles Klausmeyer’s Howard was involved in most of the action), but he was enjoyable every single time on-screen. I suspect some would be turned off by his demeanor, but I really respect what he was going for.

Certainly, Klausmeyer was decent too, but his character was nowhere near as interesting, and truth be told, perhaps that’s the one big issue, as any scene without Stephenson is automatically less engaging by the sole fact he’s not in the scene. I did like Alexandra Durrell in her role, though I wouldn’t have minded a bit more depth. Laura Albert stood out during her nude sequence, but otherwise, her character was pretty awful. Really, as far as performances go, no one really comes close to Mark Kinsey Stephenson.

As for the design of the titular Unnamable, I thought it was decent. Not mind-blowingly so, but effective, and the little backstory we got on the origin of the creature was fun. Related, while there wasn’t a lot of gore, there were a few note-worthy scenes so one doesn’t walk away empty-handed, which is nice.

On a final note, after the finale, when the credits start rolling, we’re graced with a beautifully somber song titled ‘Up There‘ by Mark Ryder & Phil Davies, a song that really ends the film on a good note, and has been on my iTunes ever since I first saw this movie. Definitely a quality piece of music.

Mark Kinsey Stephenson is a big reason I like this movie, but even ignoring his deeply amusing character, you still have a somewhat fun story good setting, and all-around solid, low-budget, horror story. Having seen this three times now, I can say that it does indeed hit the right spots.

8/10

Witchboard (1986)

Directed by Kevin Tenney [Other horror films: Night of the Demons (1988), The Cellar (1988), Witchtrap (1989), Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway (1993), Pinocchio’s Revenge (1996), The Second Arrival (1998), Endangered Species (2002), Brain Dead (2007)]

I’ll be honest, this was a bit of a disappointing rewatch. I saw this film once before quite some time back, and I remembered having a good enough time with it. Seeing it again, though, I struggle to exactly capture why I felt that before. Some of the movie was interesting, but overall, I can’t help but see Witchboard as moderately underwhelming.

As far as leads go, Tawny Kitaen, Todd Allen, and Stephen Nichols are fine. Both Nichols’ and Allen’s characters can be dicks, but hey, it’s the manly competition to get the girl, so why not? As it is, their story is decent, as they used to be friends, fell apart, and through the course of the film, begin to again get on friendly terms. If there’s any performance here that’s really memorable, though, it’s Kathleen Wilhoite as a medium Zarabeth, who’s wacky but decently entertaining.

Some of the creepy scenes here, including dream sequences, are solid, and the special effects throughout, while nothing amazing, are still certainly decent. It’s just that the story isn’t necessarily my favorite thing, and though elements are sort of interesting (such as the mystery behind the spirit that’s going after Kitaen’s character), all pulled together, it doesn’t do a lot for me.

Witchboard isn’t as good as I remember, which is a shame, because, as I said, I recall having a solid time with this one. It’s still an okay movie, and for a supernatural flick from the latter half of the 1980’s, it’s decent, but unless my view drastically changes the next time I chance this one, Witchboard, for what it does right, is probably a bit below average.

6/10

Aliens (1986)

Directed by James Cameron [Other horror films: Piranha Part Two: The Spawning (1981)]

While it’s true that it took me until my most-recent viewing of Alien to fully appreciate it, Aliens is a movie I loved from ‘hello,’ and it’s probably the best horror/action/science fiction movie in the history of the moving pictures.

Let’s dispense with the problems first, though:

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the myriad of great performances (it’d almost be easier to talk about those who didn’t make a positive impression, but that didn’t strike me as fair).

I loved Sigourney Weaver in the first movie, but she’s even better here. Once she takes control, she really takes control (the scene in which Ripley usurps Gorman is fantastic), and though she’s all bad-ass, she still has a sensitive side, as seen when dealing with Newt (Carrie Henn) and Hudson (Bill Paxton). She is the exact right person in that situation, and I enjoyed watching her kick ass throughout (especially in regards to Paul Reiser’s character).

And speaking of Reiser, boy, does he cause some whiplash. At first, he seems a decent guy, one of the few trying to back-up Ripley’s experience and get her back into a suitable profession, but then we find out something later on that shines a whole new light on him, and he quickly becomes one of the most hated characters in the whole of cinema (perhaps an overstatement, but man, I utterly abhor this guy, and I definitely thought he should have been killed just as soon as his secret and actions were discovered). Reiser does a great job playing a terrible character, so kudos.

It’s Gorman, played by William Hope, who at first seems to be the main antagonist. Very quickly, though, we find out that he’s not so much a bad man as he is just under-experienced. He certainly thought he had control of the situation, but when Ripley shoves him aside, he takes it gracefully, and I always low-key appreciated him for that. Another individual who takes a little while to really make a place for themselves is Hicks, played by Michael Biehn. To be honest, I barely noticed him until he retained command, but I loved him as soon as he sided with Ripley, and from there on out, he gave it his best to protect everyone.

Others who merit a positive mention are probably obvious, being Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Bill Paxton, Mark Rolston, and Al Matthews. Henriksen as the android Bishop really did well here. Being an android, he didn’t need to have much in the way of emotions, so Henriksen was a perfect fit, and I definitely enjoyed him throughout (especially towards the end). Goldstein kicked ass about as much as Weaver, and her comeback to Hudson near the beginning was cuttingly brutal.

Paxton’s Hudson lost control past a certain point, but he was still a solid character to the end, and though Rolston’s Drake didn’t last near as long as I was hoping, he too was a character I really found myself enjoying. Of everyone, though, it’s Al Matthews, who, as soon as he awakens from cryofreeze, the very second, he has a cigar in his mouth. Love that guy’s dedication. I also rather liked Colette Hiller, though she appeared for only a short time.

As far as the special effects go, everything here looks great, and though at first glance it might look like the movie runs a little long (as it’s around two-and-a-half hours), I think everything feels smooth and well-paced throughout the film. The setting is a nicely deserted alien world, and there are some absolutely fantastic scenes of suspense here (such as Ripley and the kid being trapped in the room with the facehuggers).

Let’s face it – Aliens is a fantastic movie, and this is probably one of my least controversial movie opinions of all time. The movie currently sits in IMDb’s top 100 movies, and I’m very much mistaken if I think that’s going to change anytime soon. It’s an action-packed ride with with a ton of suspense, scares (that locked room with Ripley and Newt gets my heart racing every time), action, and I can’t recommend the movie enough.

10/10

Creepshow 2 (1987)

Directed by Michael Gornick [Other horror films: Stephen King’s Golden Tales (1985, segment ‘The Word Processor of the Gods’]

The first Creepshow is an interesting one, because while most of the stories aren’t great, the package as a whole is a fairly enjoyable anthology. Creepshow 2 isn’t that far removed from the pleasures of the first movie, but it’s certainly nowhere in the same league.

I’ve always thought the best story here was the first one, ‘Old Chief Wood’nhead.’ It’s not perfect, mainly because Holt McCallam’s character is so damn unlikable (can he not shut up about his hair?), but it does have George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour as a wonderful couple who you can’t help but feel for. The deaths aren’t that special, but they do have just a dash of charm to them, and it’s a story that always made me feel good.

The other two are somewhat lackluster, though. ‘The Raft,’ based off a Stephen King short story from Skeleton Crew, is an okay story, a somewhat interesting premise, but entirely unmemorable characters. Also, as well-known as the ending is, I just feel meh about the whole thing. And as for ‘The Hitch-Hiker’? Sorry, but though I’ve seen this many times in my life, I’ve never really liked the story at all.

With only one story that’s really that good, what helps Creepshow 2 out a bit is the animated framing story, in which an odd kid gets back at his bullies with the help of his love of the Creepshow comic book. The animation is a bit rough (this is the late 80’s, what more would you expect?) but I always loved the conclusion to the movie. Just brings a smile to my face. It’s not quite as memorable as the framing story for the first movie, but it’s still decent.

Like I’ve said, I’ve seen this one multiple times in my life. And through it all, I’ve always thought Creepshow 2 was just an average movie. I wish they had more than just three stories (which was apparently originally the plan), but as an anthology flick, it’s not bad. Just nowhere near as enjoyable as the first.

6.5/10

This is one of the films covered by the Fight Evil podcast, so if you want to hear Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one, check out the video below.

Night Warning (1981)

Directed by William Asher [Other horror films: N/A]

Known also as Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (which isn’t a title I’m that fond of), Night Warning is an interesting movie that I’d not heard much about before throwing it on, which may, to a certain extent, have worked in it’s favor. The story is decent, the characters generally memorable, but I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say I actually enjoyed this one.

Performance-wise, I think both Jimmy McNichol and Susan Tyrrell did a great job (Tyrrell especially as she began losing it throughout the course of the movie). Steve Eastin brings some humanity into the film, playing a closeted gay basketball coach, and to destroy his humanity, enter the police, in the form of Bo Svenson, who played a very, very homophobic piece of shit. Svenson did a good job in his role, as I really hated his character and his bigoted viewpoints. His character had a somewhat unique (and surprising) story arc here, so look out for that. Lastly, though she wasn’t desperately important, Julia Duffy was pretty cute, and gave us a little bit of nudity to keep us going.

Which wasn’t entirely unnecessary, as the movie, while engaging enough, did occasionally feel draggy. It picked up near the finale, when the main character gets his life even more screwed up by his aunt, but it takes a bit of patience to get to that point. It’s here that Susan Tyrrell really gave a solid performance, and her lack of grasp on reality was fun enough to make the whole of the conclusion interesting. Throw in the gay coach and a homophobic cop, along with a few violent deaths and a corpse, and you’re in for a decent time.

This said, I don’t think Night Warning was quite as good as some others say it is. It has enough slasher aspects to belong to the subgenre, but the route this one takes feels quite a bit more subdued. It’s an interestingly psychological story, no doubt, and I can’t point to many positive gay characters before this point in time, but I still would have preferred something else. If anything, though, I’d definitely throw this one at least one watch, because it really deserves that much (even if you can see the ending miles before the signposts).

6/10

Curtains (1983)

Directed by Richard Ciupka [Other horror films: N/A]

I’ve seen Curtains perhaps three times now, and while I’ve liked it quite a bit in the past, I’m struggling to remember exactly why. There’s some solid scenes here, and there’s occasionally an atmosphere to be envious of, but overall, there are so many better slashers from the 1980’s that this Canadian movie really doesn’t have much a chance to compete.

Only two performances really stood out (John Vernon and Lynne Griffin), perhaps three (Samantha Eggar) if I’m really stretching. Vernon was a bit overbearing at times, but his performance as a strict director was decent. Eggar did pretty well, especially near the beginning during the asylum sequences. It’s Griffin who I really liked, because her ‘hide-my-personality-behind-comedy’ attitude was a lot of fun, and she had one of the better fleshed out characters there.

As far as kills go, there’s not that much that stands out. It’s true that the ice skating sequence is fun and memorable, and there was an okay throat-slitting toward the end, but Curtains isn’t really a movie that’s focused on the kills (partially because the director and producer apparently got into constant arguments about what route the film should take, whether an arthouse thriller or a straight-up slasher).

It’s the finale that I’ve always tended to remember fondly, and I still think it’s pretty solid and certainly bleak. The final scene in the film always stuck with me, and thought it’s okay, I definitely think there could have been ways to perhaps end it a bit better.

Curtains isn’t a great movie, and while that may not be the fault of the script itself, it certainly shows that this Canadian movie could have been more, especially with the setting and characters being what they were. It’s perhaps worth a handful of watches, but like I said, I used to like this one more than I do now, so going in gung ho may be unadvisable.

6.5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. To listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one, check out the video below.

Final Exam (1981)

Directed by Jimmy Huston [Other horror films: My Best Friend Is a Vampire (1987)]

If there’s anything Final Exam did, it solidified my hate of fraternities.

This is a decently classic slasher that took me until now to finally sit down and watch, and while the kills were decent, I will admit to being disappointed by some aspects of the movie (especially in regards to the killer).

Generally, I enjoy the atmosphere here, which feels not too dissimilar from other slashers of this time period. It’s not great, but it’s decent, especially since we have a few positive characters here (mostly Lisa and Radish, but Janet was okayish also).

Cecile Bagdadi only has this movie in her IMDb credits, which is a bit sad, as I think she does decent here as the main girl, if not maybe a bit generic. Still, her conversations with Joel S. Rice (Radish) were somewhat touching, and held a bit of depth. Otherwise, there wasn’t much in the way of characters that inspired me.

The whole frat thing just bugged the hell out of me, though. I know that this is from an entirely different era, but that prank at the beginning (which was entirely beyond the pale) should have gotten them thrown in jail at the very least, and they never get better, and harassing pledges (stripping one down and tying them to a tree, while shoving ice down their underwear, is another act that should get them thrown in jail), which is done to this day, is just disgusting.

I can ignore the stupid frat guys, though, and get to my real problem, which was the killer. Having never seen this before, I was expecting something with a bit more mystery as opposed to The Slumber Party Massacre, but even that movie gave a lot more explanation of the killer than we got here. We literally got nothing – not a name, motive, nada. Obviously, if the kills are decent and the characters are fine, maybe I could let that slide, but it’s not like the movie was stellar in either of those departments.

I’m not going to go as far as to say Final Exam was a failure, just that I was expecting a slasher of a higher caliber, and this seemed to bring little worth mentioning to the table.

6.5/10

Hide and Go Shriek (1988)

Directed by Skip Schoolnik [Other horror films: N/A]

This one might seem unassuming, what with being a slasher from the late 80’s, but I’ve long thought that Hide and Go Shriek was a bit of a hidden gem. I’m not saying it’s perfect by any means, but it is a thoroughly enjoyable slasher that’s always entertained me.

Cast-wise, most of them did decently. I don’t think there are that many memorable characters, though, aside from those given to us by Brittain Frye and perhaps Bunky Jones. Frye’s character, Randy, was just out there, and had a wildly fun personality, where Bunky Jones provided me with my favorite nude scene in the film (three of the four ladies here show off a little something, so if that’s what you’re into, you’ll enjoy this). Still, Ria Pavia, Sean Kanan, Annette Sinclair, and Donna Baltron all did reasonably well.

The setting here goes a long way to make the film enjoyable also. An after-hours excursion into a furniture store doesn’t sound too thrilling, but it’s a pretty big (and multi-layered) store, with a lot of mannequins and hiding places. It even comes with a freight elevator, which comes into play throughout the film (and provides a very solid death sequence). Also, a favorite scene of mine has always been when the group is trying to get the attention of a homeless man and some police officers across the street, but due to the shatterproof glass, they’re doomed to keep fighting for their survival.

As far as twists go, I wouldn’t say Hide and Go Shriek is amazing, but I was still pretty happy with it. It pretty much comes out of nowhere, but there is a bit of emotion during the finale, so I can easily excuse the seeming randomness.

I say this pretty much every time I review a slasher film, but as a fan of slashers, I’m not really that difficult to please. Hide and Go Shriek had solid tension, decently fun characters (that ridiculous ‘Walk this Way’ scene at the beginning a case in point), and good gore when it ventured in that direction. I’m sort of surprised there was never a sequel to this, but that makes this all the better, in my view.

Having seen this one somewhere from four to five times now, I can say I greatly enjoy this, and recommend it to fans of slashers.

8.5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. To listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one, check out the video below.

Pet Sematary (1989)

Directed by Mary Lambert [Other horror films: Pet Sematary II (1992), Strange Frequency (2001), Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005), The Attic (2007), Mega Python vs. Gatoroid (2011)]

I first saw this film before reading the book, so I couldn’t really judge it much against the source material. It didn’t really matter, because I didn’t care much for it, but when I read the book and discovered I didn’t care much for that either, I was interested in seeing this again. And guess what? While I admit it follows the novel pretty close, I still don’t feel much an affinity toward it.

Why is that? Well, I found the book well-written (as is mostly anything of King’s, even the stuff I didn’t like), but the story itself wasn’t really doing it for me at all. Jud was an interesting character, as he is here, but that’s not enough, and some cool imagery (such as the graveyard and the burial ground) don’t make up for that.

The main performances (Dale Midkiff, Fred Gwynne, and Denise Crosby) were all fine, but if the story’s not interesting to me, then I’m not biting. Perhaps the coolest aspects of the book (being the history of the burial ground which Jud delves into, along with the story of Baterman) are really neutered, and the tall shape Louis sees while walking to the burial ground in the book, along with the accompanying insanity, is nowhere to be seen.

At least the ending was moderately unchanged, but I still think the novel did it better, ending on a more open-ended note than did the movie. Another small thing that bothered me was Pascow’s character. At first, it’s fine, but he keeps popping up with the wife near the end, and it bordered on comedic, which really didn’t fit the dark themes of the movie.

I’m not a fan of this movie, I don’t think it’s horrible, but both before and after reading the novel, it does little for me (and to be fair, the same can be said for the novel), and that’s problematic. I know that many out there enjoy this, but Pet Sematary doesn’t work for me.

5/10