Dead & Buried (1981)

Dead & Buried

Directed by Gary Sherman [Other horror films: Death Line (1972), Mysterious Two (1982), Poltergeist III (1988), 39: A Film by Carroll McKane (2006)]

I’ve now seen this film twice, and it has thoroughly been cemented into my favorite horror flicks of the 1980’s.

Dead & Buried is a moody and atmospheric classic, one that I think every horror fan should give a shot. The plot takes you for a ride – you might think you see what’s coming, but you may be in for a surprise. The atmosphere is wonderfully tense and mysterious, and like the main character, Sheriff Dan Gillis (played by James Farentino), you’re wondering what the hell is going on.

Dead & Buried is an innovative movie that is held back only by leaving a few too many unanswered questions at the end, along with some moderately hokey acting by Farentino later on in the flick. But the positives far outweigh the downsides.

James Farentino and Jack Albertson (playing a very memorable coroner/mortician) did amazing throughout the film, and although, like I said, Farentino got a bit iffy toward the end, he still did a damn fine job. Also worth noting: while he didn’t appear much, Robert Englund was also in the flick, playing one of the townsfolk. Always fun to see him, no matter how unsubstantial the role.

The gore level isn’t all that high, but there are amazing special effects throughout (Stan Winston did so well here), and really, just for those alone, it’s worth watching.

It’s hard to overstate how amazing this film is, even with the drawbacks. It may feel like a Twilight Zone episode at times, albeit a violent one, but that just adds to it’s charm. A fine movie in any horror fan’s collection, Dead & Buried has been overlooked for far too long. This movie certainly did it for me, and that ending is not one I will be forgetting anytime soon.

9/10

Prom Night (1980)

Prom Night

Directed by Paul Lynch [Other horror films: Humongous (1982), Mania (1986, segments ‘Have a Nice Day’ & ‘The Good Samaritan’)]

I’ve seen this movie around five times now, and I can finally appreciate it more than I’ve been able to in the past. My main problems stemmed from the fact that many of the characters seemed interchangeable – the difference between Kelly and Jude and Vicki and even Jamie Lee Curtis’ Kim never stuck with me, and so I lost track of who’s who and what relationship between everybody was as the movie dragged on, which wasn’t helped out by the fact Nick and Alex didn’t look all that different from each other either. With this most recent viewing, though, things were cleared up, and while it doesn’t save the film, it goes a long way in increasing my rating.

Aside from Jamie Lee Curtis (who, by the way, had some fantastically cheesy dance scenes toward the end), there weren’t a whole lot of stand-out performances. I liked Nielsen well enough, along with Eddie Benton (mega-bitch Wendy), Michael Tough (Kim’s brother, Alex), Joy Thompson (Jude), and Sheldon Rybowski (Slick, a deliciously fun character), but none of them blew me away. Which is sort of a shame, because for the first two acts, next to nothing horror-wise occurs to keep us otherwise occupied.

Which is my biggest gripe of the film – it’s drags on too long at the beginning. Once we get an hour in, I start having a great time (that decapitation is still a favorite of mine), but getting there is, more than anything else, a chore. It feels like Carrie (1976), in many ways, actually, as it just drags on and on until we finally get to an epic finale.

I did like the end, which was actually rather somber. There were plenty of attractive ladies throughout, and while nudity wasn’t high, it was still a nice plus. Again, Jamie Lee Curtis did a good job (even though that disco dance is so dated), though her role in Terror Train, also from 1980, stuck with me more. Lastly, the song that bled into the credits, ‘Fade to Black’ by Gordene Simpson, was beautifully sung, and though I didn’t notice it during my first viewings of this flick, it really is a nice song that I’ll not forget.

Prom Night, despite the problems I have (not mentioned, but I feel the killer’s absence would have been noted, for instance), has a lot of charm. It drags, but it is still a decently well-done slasher that is just outclassed by others from the same time (such as My Bloody Valentine, which came out a year later). I still don’t love this flick. But I’m closer than I have been before.

6.5/10

This was covered on Fight Evil’s second podcast, so you can listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this.

The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

Slumber Party Massacre

Directed by Amy Holden Jones [Other horror films: N/A]

My views on this film haven’t much changed since I last saw it.

It’s a quick-paced, fun, cheesy slasher movie. The 80’s soundtrack is both fun and nostalgic, and the female nudity is both memorable and captivating. At under 80 minutes, this movie doesn’t take long for things to begin happening, and given that the story’s moderately paper-thin, that’s only a positive.

The killer is a bit uninspired, but I do like the his choice of weaponry, being a drill. Gore throughout the film is pretty good, and given the quick-paced nature of the movie, it really doesn’t seem like all that long a time.

The Slumber Party Massacre is a simple movie, and while most of the characters are decent, none of them really stand out (though the neighbor, played by Rigg Kennedy, is a damn cool cat), it’s a fun movie that is always a good time. Not a long review, but don’t really have much to say. A good slasher worth watching.

7.5/10

Cujo (1983)

Cujo

Directed by Lewis Teague [Other horror films: Alligator (1980), Cat’s Eye (1985), The Triangle (2001)]

I’ve seen this once or twice before, and it always fell a bit flat for me for various reasons. That said, upon rewatching it, I can appreciate it just a tad more. The biggest problem for me is how sentimental and sappy the film can come across as. Sure, it might have been hard to keep the original ending from the book in a time when happy endings were all the rage, but I think the end product would have made the film more menacing and less sappy.

Speaking of which, while I love the suspenseful music the movie has to offer, the 80’s love/drama music can get a bit on the cheesy side. But that’s the 1980’s for you, I suppose. There’s also the fact the film drags a bit. Sure, it’s average insofar as length (just around an hour and a half), but it’s mostly a drama for the first fifty minutes (and I don’t know how interesting I found the whole affair issue, to be honest), and while the horror element is good when it gets there, the payoff doesn’t erase the set-up.

The actors and actresses are solid, though. Standouts include Dee Wallace, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Ed Lauter, and Jerry Hardin (not so much due to his role or screen time, which was minimal, but due to the fact he plays Deep Throat 15 years later in The X-Files). Oh, and the makeup for Cujo was excellent. On a side-note, though I know that Wallace had no choice but to fight Cujo off, I can’t help but feel bad for the dog.

In the gore department, there’s a few offerings, though not that many compared to other films of the time. Cujo can be a bit heavy in the drama department, which I think is why I underrated it before (and, to be fair, still do now). For all it is, it’s great portions and flaws, I think the film’s just slightly below average. Decently fun at times, but not particularly note-worthy.

6.5/10

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Directed by Wes Craven [Other horror films: The Last House on the Left (1972), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Stranger in Our House (1978), Deadly Blessing (1981), Swamp Thing (1982), Invitation to Hell (1984), The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1984), Chiller (1985), Deadly Friend (1986), The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), Shocker (1989), The People Under the Stairs (1991), New Nightmare (1994), Vampire in Brooklyn (1995), Scream (1996), Scream 2 (1997), Scream 3 (2000), Cursed (2005), My Soul to Take (2010), Scream 4 (2011)]

While not the best horror movie ever made, this classic comes pretty damn close. A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of my favorite 80’s horror flicks. You get good gore (both Tina’s and Glen’s deaths), you get memorable characters (Nancy, her mother and father, along with Freddy), unforgettable quotes (“Up yours with a twirling lawnmower”), creepy scenes (the whole dream sequence before Tina’s death) and a fantastic villain, in Freddy Krueger.

Performance-wise, you can’t go wrong with such individuals as John Saxon, Heather Langenkamp, Ronee Blakley, Amanda Wyss, an early Johnny Depp (though admittedly he is somewhat weak here), and of course, Robert Englund. Even from a non-nostalgic viewpoint, it’s a very strong cast that helps bring this movie together.

Truth be told, I won’t speak much more about this film – it’s one of the finest horror movies out there, and while not the best, it’s a likely top ten contender. There are a few flaws (some of the special effects, especially to the modern eye, look a bit hokey, and the acting isn’t always that stellar), but nothing that can’t be brushed away without too much difficulty. Truth be told, while this review is short, not much needs to be said – it’s a great movie, and one of the best horror films made.

9.5/10

This classic was covered on episode #27 of Fight Evil’s podcast, so listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

Pumpkinhead (1988)

Pumpkinhead

Directed by Stan Winston [Other horror films: Ghosts (1997)]

Personally, I never thought that Pumpkinhead got the love it deserved. For whatever the sequels were, the first Pumpkinhead, overall, is a damn solid film, and Lance Henriksen, an actor I generally don’t care for, put up a very good performance here. The set-up, showing a impoverished but loving father and son really allows us, as viewers, to understand why he wanted revenge after what happened to his son. And speaking of that, that scene in which he’s digging up the bones of Pumpkinhead has long been a favorite of mine, as the setting, a mist-covered, decrepit graveyard is truly a place you’d think twice before entering.

The on-going drama between the kids was less interesting, but as most of them die by the end of the film, such is life. Also, the fact that unlike many, if not most, 80’s horror films, Pumpkinhead is deadly serious has always struck me an interesting choice. There’s no humor to be found in this movie, not really even with the scenes featuring the kids. In many ways, it feels more like a 70’s movie than an 80’s one. One last note – the setting as a whole deeply intrigues me. Those people really look as though they’re living in 1920’s West Virginia poor communities. And yet, communities like that still exist, and certainly did back in 1988. Exaggerated a bit? Sure, but on the whole, that setting, for some reason, appealed greatly to me. Pumpkinhead’s a good film. Not perfect by any means, but a very solid title all the same.

8/10

Hellraiser (1987)

Hellraiser

Directed by Clive Barker [Other horror films: Nightbreed (1990), Lord of Illusions (1995), Clive Barker’s Salomé & The Forbidden (1998)]

This is a good film, and it’s still a good film upon seeing it again, but some parts just rub me the wrong way, one of them being Kirsty’s first on-screen appearance. She seems agitated, and is acting, in my opinion, oddly, yet no reason for this is given (unless it’s just the stress of moving to London, which is possible). That’s another issue I had, though – while this movie is supposed to take place in London, most of the characters seem to have American accents. I realize that this was a decision by someone who believed that it’d help with American viewership, but still, it sort of took me out of the immersive experience I’d have preferred.

Lastly, the homeless man/demon is following Kirsty before there’s any real reason for him to do so. Again, never expanded on. Still, the movie is solid. Cenobites are fantastic, Kirsty is a decent (and easy on the eyes) character, and Frank/Julie are quite the threatening pair. And of course the special effects are extremely solid for the most part. Overall, it’s a good film with a flaw or two. Certainly worth the watch if you’ve not seen it before. Great 80’s horror.

8/10

Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I covered this film in a ten-minute conversation on Fight Evil’s fifth podcast. Listen below if interested.