B.O.R.N. (1989)

Directed by Ross Hagen [Other horror films: Reel Horror (1985), Click: The Calendar Girl Killer (1990)]

I wasn’t really expecting that much from this movie, mainly because I thought that if it had been one of the unsung films of the 1980’s, I’d have heard about it by now. Well, either I’m listening in the wrong places, or I got a lot more out of B.O.R.N. than others did, because I found this movie superb.

Better known as Merchants of Death (which is the title it can most commonly be found under, it seems), B.O.R.N. (which stands for Body Organ Replacement Network) is a pretty damn dark movie for being a Troma release. When I heard that Troma jingle at the beginning, I was batting down the hatches for another Frostbiter or Blades, but instead, we have a pretty somber movie, with the appropriate soundtrack to boot.

For a movie that’s as low-budget as this one, the soundtrack is really impressive. It beautifully encapsulates the 1980’s, and helps the movie push a darker feel. The one vocal track in the film, a song by Jenifer Smith Meisner called ‘How Do You Begin,’ is a depressing ballad which first plays as a father muses over his three recently-abducted daughters, and boy, is it effective.

Obviously, the story itself isn’t really special, what with a father and a retired police detective trying to track down some missing girls, who were kidnapped by a black market organ syndicate, and you can sort of tell some things were rushed, but the performances here really pull a lot of it together.

I’ll get this out of the way first, though, because I hate to say it: Of all the performances, the one that did the most damage was P.J. Soles (of Halloween fame, totally), because of all the characters here, she felt the most overly and unforgivably evil, not to mention hammy. If we had maybe gotten a little background on her, it might of helped, but no such luck.

Everyone else was generally commendable, though. Playing the bereft father, Ross Hagen was great, and you really felt for his character as he was put through the wringer (and then some). Hoke Howell, who played the aforementioned retired detective, didn’t move me at first, but over the course of the film, I grew to appreciate him.

As much as I liked Hagen, it’s Russ Tamblyn’s character who really got to me. Much like Soles, his character is a bit over-the-top in his sinister nature, and he does abominable stuff in the film, but toward the end, when another character is beating him, he sort of breaks down, though he doesn’t cry, because his father didn’t want him to cry when he beat him. God, for a movie like this, you wouldn’t expect an emotional suckerpunch like that, but we got one.

Two others I wanted to briefly mention are William Smith and Clint Howard. William Smith is a big name, and his IMDb credits boasts nearly 300 appearances, and while this certainly isn’t one that he’ll be remembered for, playing the black market doctor, Smith is decently fun, though he doesn’t matter quite as much as many other characters. Related, while it was nice to see Clint Howard (Ice Cream Man has long been what I’ve best known him for), his character didn’t add much to the film, though had the story went a different route, he could have.

B.O.R.N. is a hell of a lot more somber than I ever expected, and there are some surprising and heart-wrenching deaths and scenes in this film that seem entirely inappropriate for a movie made on as small a budget as this was. I loved the whole vibe of this one, and while I wish there were a few changes, I think to Tamblyn and Hagen’s performances, and I forget them. Maybe it’s just me, but this was very much worth watching, and I’d definitely do so again.

9/10

Cat People (1982)

Directed by Paul Schrader [Other horror films: Witch Hunt (1994), Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005)]

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original Cat People, which I saw somewhat recently for the first time, but I honestly thought this was a bit worse. I get that some of the special effects are solid, and there’s some great nudity here, but it’s an almost two-hour films, and boy, did I think it dragged at times.

As far as the cast went, I liked most of them. Nastassja Kinski was pretty cute, and did well as the star. Annette O’Toole (who surprised me turning up here, as I know her only from 1990’s It) was also cute, and as both Kinski and O’Toole have topless scenes (though unfortunately not at the same time), you’d think the movie would get a 10. Alas, that’s not the case.

Malcolm McDowell (who I barely even recognized, but was much later in the Halloween remake, not to mention Silent Night) didn’t do anything for me. I didn’t care much at all for his character, and to me, he was one of the low points of the movie. Ed Begley Jr. is a big name, but I know him only from a single episode of The West Wing, along with a short role in Better Call Saul. Here, he was okay, but much like McDowell, I didn’t much care for his character.

It’s not just a handful of characters, though, that was the problem. The story overall leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Kinski did a great job as playing a sympathetic character, but her story arc ends in a way that I really didn’t like. I didn’t love the original, like I said, but even that was a bit more satisfactory than this was.

About the pool scene, on a side-note. I do think the original movie did the sequence better, but, and this is a big but, the original didn’t have a topless O’Toole, so as classic as it was, this might just edge it out insofar as rewatchability goes, amiright?

To be honest, I just found Cat People a generally dull remake. The movie isn’t terrible, but it wasn’t my type of thing, and while it had some solid nudity, which I can’t overstate, that doesn’t make up for the fact that I didn’t care for the story, which is the fatal problem here.

5/10

Jaws 3-D (1983)

Directed by Joe Alves [Other horror films: N/A]

The story here isn’t that great, but it’s 3-D, guys, so we cool?

Alas, the answer is no, and Jaws 3-D, while not necessarily God-awful, is pretty mediocre, especially after the second film, which I found quite a bit more enjoyable than the first.

Here, the idea is interesting, but there’s about an hour-long set-up, and then even once things seem ready to go, we find out it’s another shark that’s cause for concern, not the one we dealt with for most of the past hour-and-a-half. All of that could be excused if much of it was worth seeing, but I don’t believe that’s the case.

It’s no fault of the performances, though, most of which are at least decent. True, Dennis Quaid’s a bit dull and doesn’t really do that much, but Bess Armstrong and Lea Thompson (Back to the Future-fame) were attractive enough to make up for that. I wasn’t feeling John Putch as Sean at all, but I did like the animated characters portrayed by Louis Gossett Jr. and Simon MacCorkindale (I have no idea who MacCorkindale is, but he was really fun here). Lastly, P.H. Moriarty was solid here, and had a fantastic emotional scene toward the end which I really appreciated (although it was likely lost in the shit 3-D).

Truth be told, I don’t know if the 3-D here is really that bad – I opted out of wearing one of the many pairs of 3-D glasses I have lying around the apartment, but it definitely didn’t seem great, or anything to really warrant the format (which can likely be said for most movies made in 3-D during the 1980’s). The ending possessed atrocious 3-D action, along with a laughable slow motion scene, so kudos there.

As mediocre as this is, though, I don’t think it’s quite as bad as the current IMDb score indicates (right now, this movie sits at a 3.7/10, and #77 in the Bottom 100 movies). It’s not good, but is is really that bad? I don’t see it, because as much as the story bored me, some of the performances really brought some life to the film, such as MacCorkindale, Armstrong, Gossett Jr., and Moriarty. Was it sometimes a bit much? Sure, but if any movie needed it, Jaws 3-D did.

Had the story been better written, I think the movie could have had some potential. At the same time, after two somewhat decently successful Jaws movies, I don’t really think they needed to make a third one, especially a 3-D addition. I don’t begrudge the solid performances in the film, but the movie itself isn’t particularly good. In all honesty, though, I don’t think it’s near as bad as many seem to think it is.

6/10

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

Directed by Renny Harlin [Other horror films: Prison (1987), Deep Blue Sea (1999), T.R.A.X. (2000), Mindhunters (2004), Exorcist: The Beginning (2004), The Covenant (2006), The Dyatlov Pass Incident (2013)]

Ah, The Dream Master, when the Elm Street series starts going bad. It’s a mild deterioration at first, though, because while The Dream Master is a far cry from Dream Warriors, it’s still a decently fun movie, but then it veers to some really goofy stuff that doesn’t really work for me, and leads to a conclusion that just wasn’t great.

Disappointingly, Patricia Arquette decided against reprising her role as Kristen, and instead Tuesday Knight played her. Knight’s perfectly fine, but given that the others from Dream Warriors returned (Ken Sagoes and Rodney Eastman), it felt like a loss. I do think Alice is a solid character, played by Lisa Wilcox, but more interesting was her brother, Rick, played by Andras Jones (though he had one of the weakest kills in the series). I didn’t care much for any of the side-characters though, such as Toy Newkirk (Shelia), Danny Hassel (Dan), and Brooke Theiss (Debbie). Nice seeing Robert Shaye (long-time producer of the series) as a teacher, though.

Robert Englund is about as good as he always is, though some of his material is a bit questionable. I didn’t think he needed to wear sunglasses, or suck someone’s soul out by kissing them, or much of what he did here. My favorite kill is probably one toward the beginning, with things kept simple as he just gut-stabs a character with a killer line. He’s not as cheesy here as he later becomes, but it’s in this film where it’s more noticeable (no doubt, he was a little silly in the third, but that just felt darker overall than this one did).

Some of the finale here doesn’t really work for me. I thought the time-reversal was a bit weak, and overall, things felt a bit more disjointed toward the end. Also, Freddy’s demise here didn’t wow me, largely because I don’t believe for a second he’s never encountered a mirror since becoming the lovable dream demon he is. Unless it only works if he’s in a church, or some stupid thing like that. The whole final confrontation here lacked the special feel that was present in the first three movies (yes, even the second), and Alice sort of had easy sailing. Flash a mirror, and boom, she’s pretty much fine.

Of course, I can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic in regards to this film. Obviously, I was born in the early 1990’s, so I never saw this in theaters, but I saw portions of this when I was a kid, and some of the scenes I liked then, I still think are special (such as the last moments of Kincaid, where the whole of the Earth seems to be a junkyard, which looked so fake, but still held appeal). Even so, this is when I believe the series starts losing it’s grasp on the subject, and if they had ended it here instead of embarrassing themselves with The Dream Child, perhaps that would have been ideal.

The Dream Master isn’t a bad film, but I do think it feels a lot more average than the three previous entries, and overall, I just find the film about middle of the road.

Just remember, tell ’em Freddy sent ya!

7/10

Sorority House Massacre (1986)

Directed by Carol Frank [Other horror films: N/A]

For a somewhat lower-budget, mid-80’s slasher, I think that Sorority House Massacre has quite a bit going for it. While the killer certainly leaves something to be desired, the film often carries with it a rather more artistic feel (especially during the dream sequences), and helps the film stand out positively.

What really sets this one apart from more lackluster slashers around the same time (some that come to mind include Blood Hook, Killer Workout, and Open House) were the more artistic portions of the film, most often the dream sequences. It’s not uncommon that I feel dream sequences in films turn me off, but the ones in this movie are done pretty well, and occasionally provide some creepy imagery (the picture that starts bleeding, for instance).

On the other hand, no one in the cast really bowled me over. I did like the main actress, Angela O’Neill, well enough, but the other girls and miscellaneous guys were pretty much just the generic bunch you’d expect. Luckily, that doesn’t really harm the film much, as the body count insured that most of them are dead by the end of the film anyway. One performance that did bother me was the killer, played by John C. Russell. He just didn’t seem that frightening (though I did like how they portrayed his insanity, what with hallucinating the college-aged girls as his little sisters). I think they could have done a better job with him, though.

The story was pretty standard with no real surprises, but it was pleasant enough, and the special effects were competent to nonexistent, but really, for a 70 minute slasher, I wasn’t complaining. I did like the tepee kill, and there were a few solid painful looking stabbings, but nothing over-the-top. One scene I did like the was montage of three of the girls changing clothes. Some hot, nude bodies changing clothes to 80’s synth music is just what the doctor ordered…

Obviously, I’m a rather large fan of slashers, especially 80’s slashers, so it might not come as a shock that I thought Sorority House Massacre worked out for the best. Honestly, though I’d seen this one before, I forgot just to what extent I enjoyed it, so while it doesn’t have the same name recognition of The Slumber Party Massacre or The House on Sorority Row, I’d give this one a go. It may not be amazing, but I do think it was very competently made, and even had a few surprisingly creepy scenes.

7.5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. If you’re interesting in hearing Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one, check out the video below.

Rats – Notte di terrore (1984)

Directed by Bruno Mattei [Other horror films: Casa privata per le SS (1977), KZ9 – Lager di sterminio (1977), Virus (1980), L’altro inferno (1981), Violenza in un carcere femminile (1982), Zombi 3 (1988), Terminator II (1989), Non aprite quella porta 3 (1990), Occhi senza volto (1994), Cruel Jaws (1995), Snuff killer – La morte in diretta (2003), Mondo cannibale (2004), Nella terra dei cannibali (2004), La tomba (2006), L’isola dei morti viventi (2007), Zombi: La creazione (2007)] & Claudio Fragasso [Other horror films: Virus (1980), Leviatán (1984), Zombi 3 (1988), After Death (Oltre la morte) (1989), La casa 5 (1990), Non aprite quella porta 3 (1990), Troll 2 (1990), Una notte da paura (2012)]

This Italian movie, most commonly known as Rats: Night of Terror, is one that I’ve wanted to see for quite some time. I can’t say I’m overly impressed with the film after seeing it, but I can admit that I was amused throughout a lot of it.

The version I watched was English-dubbed, which I think caused the film to come across as a lot more goofy than it originally probably was. Some of the dialogue here was just really bad, but in a somewhat hilarious way. Related, so much of the acting was over-the-top, and I don’t think that can be blamed simply on the poor dubbing job.

Playing the main character Kurt was Ottaviano Dell’Acqua, who had some of the more ridiculous acting portions. He was pretty fun, though, and I generally thought he was one of the few really stand-out characters. Fausto Lombardi fits that bill also, and he was certainly my favorite in the film. If there’s one character that I wish we got any background on, it’d be this guy. On the other side of things, Ann-Gisel Glass and Moune Duvivier were among the worst performances I’ve seen. Mercifully, Duvivier was one of the first ones dead, but we had to suffer through Glass’ melodramatic, overwrought performance throughout most of the film. Others did about as well, in a cheesy way, as you could expect.

I thought that there was some pretty decent gore here, though I’ll be honest and admit I was expecting a bit more in that department. Still, seeing rats crawl out of peoples’ mouths and jumping onto people was fun enough, so while the film didn’t shine insofar as the gore was concerned, I don’t think it was that big a problem.

How different this film would have been if I saw it in it’s original Italian, I don’t know. It wouldn’t have changed the bad acting, but it probably would have been a bit easier to take seriously. On the other hand, the ending is so ridiculous, it has to be seen to be believed. For a post-apocalyptic film, I didn’t have nearly as much fun as I did with 2019: After the Fall of New York, but Rats: Night of Terror was still a somewhat amusing film, and though it’s below average, I can see myself giving it another view in the future.

6/10

Sweet Sixteen (1983)

Directed by Jim Sotos [Other horror films: Forced Entry (1976)]

While not really a lot better than many other slashers that came out around the same time period, Sweet Sixteen definitely isn’t much worse. Some of the kills are a bit on the repetitive side, but the mystery is solid, and there are plenty of enjoyable characters here.

There’s a few performances that really help out. Dana Kimmell (of Friday the 13th Part III fame) and Steve Antin did well as brother and sister, though Kimmell came across as so much more memorable than did Antin. Bo Hopkins does great as a lead here, and comes across well-casted. Oddly, while Aleisa Shirley was beautiful, and shined in her nude scenes, aside from the conclusion, I don’t think she stood out all that much. Others who did, though, include Don Shanks, Patrick Macnee, Susan Strasberg, and Sharon Farrell (who also starred in 1974’s It’s Alive).

As far as gore goes, it’s definitely lighter than others around the same time, and like I said, the kills themselves are rather repetitive, but I don’t really think it hurt the film too much. Since the story was pretty engaging, and can lead one to suspect any number of potential suspects, I think any misgivings about lack of gore can mostly be forgiven.

Sweet Sixteen isn’t really the most memorable slasher, especially as birthday-themed slashers have been done before (such as Happy Birthday to Me and Bloody Birthday), but it’s still a decently charming movie, and adds in some elements of racism against Native Americans to keep things a little more interesting. Really, this is one that I suspect many slasher fans would be fine with, but I don’t think it’d make most people’s top twenty slashers.

7.5/10

This is one of the film’s covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if you want to hear Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I talk this one over, check out the video below.

Turkey Shoot (1982)

Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith [Other horror films: Dead End Drive-In (1986), Out of the Body (1989), Night of the Demons 2 (1994), Leprechaun 3 (1995), Leprechaun 4: In Space (1996), Atomic Dog (1998), Sightings: Heartland Ghost (2002)]

This Australian action/horror mix is generally a lot of fun, sort of in The Most Dangerous Game vein, only gory, which brought quite a bit of additional enjoyment to the film.

Taking place in a fascist government’s ‘re-education camp’ led by, get this, a guy named Thatcher (played by Michael Craig), the camp’s motto is ‘Freedom is obedience, obedience is work, work is life.’ Anyone who disagrees with the far-right government is thrown into this camp, along with ‘deviants,’ such as homosexuals, the poor, and anyone else the far-right hates.

I don’t know anything about Australian politics, but the film certainly seems topical from an American point of view, given the wide swings we’ve taken to the right since the 1980’s onward. I always appreciate when horror films (or, partial horror films, as Turkey Shoot often feels far more action-orientated) tackle politics, and this one did it well.

Ignoring the fascist government, which punishes homosexuality by death yet allows rape by the prison camp’s guards, Turkey Shoot has a lot to offer in terms of excitement and gore. It takes about thirty minutes or so for things to really pick up, but once they do, there’s little breathing room past that point, which I rather enjoyed.

Plenty of gory scenes were to be seen here, such as a great dismemberment sequence, along with decent machete action, crossbow action, a guy getting cut in half with a bulldozer, a spike trap obliterating someone, and a solid scene in which someone’s set on fire. There’s no shortage of violence here, or potential violence (as the scene in which Olivia Hussey’s character is almost raped multiple times), and it’s definitely action-packed.

There were a few elements I didn’t care for, or felt out of place, such as a gorilla-type monster being used by one of the characters. The make-up was decent, but it just felt a bit too outlandish to me. That said, overall, the movie works, and a lot of that is due to the multiple solid performances.

Admittedly, I wasn’t overly excited with Olivia Hussey’s (perhaps best known as Audra from the 1990 television adaptation of Stephen King’s It) character for most of the film, but toward the end, she started becoming useful, and all worked out. Steve Railsback (who I saw just a few days ago in the 1985 Lifeforce) was a rather good leading character. Roger Ward and Michael Craig made a great pair of antagonists, Ward especially with his threatening appearance. Three others I liked include Bill Young, Michael Petrovitch, and Noel Ferrier.

I can imagine that some horror fans may be hard-pressed to consider this in the same genre as Halloween, but horror comes in many forms, and many people see different things as fitting into the genre. I don’t personally have a problem counting Turkey Shoot, or similar movies, such as The Most Dangerous Game or Battle Royale, as horror, but definitely don’t go into this one expecting something in the more traditional vein.

As Turkey Shoot stands, I think it’s a very solid Australian film, and it definitely exceeded my admittedly low expectations when it came to gore. With solid action and plenty of violence, Turkey Shoot was certainly worth watching, and I’d recommend it to fans of action-orientated horror flicks.

8.5/10

Lifeforce (1985)

Directed by Tobe Hooper [Other horror films: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Eaten Alive (1976), The Dark (1979), Salem’s Lot (1979), The Funhouse (1981), Poltergeist (1982), Invaders from Mars (1986), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), Spontaneous Combustion (1990), I’m Dangerous Tonight (1990), Night Terrors (1993), Body Bags (1993, segment ‘Eye’), The Mangler (1995), The Apartment Complex (1999), Crocodile (2000), Shadow Realm (2002), Toolbox Murders (2004), Mortuary (2005), Djinn (2013)]

Having seen this once before and enjoying the hell out of it, I’m disappointed to admit that, having seen it with fresh eyes, this mid-1980’s Tobe Hooper outing doesn’t really do that much for me.

The special effects are generally really solid, at least insofar as the draining of the bodies’ energy goes, along with a few great scenes of general massacre during the finale, where the whole of London is under attack by what basically amounts to zombies. Even when in space, things looked pretty decent, though it wasn’t near as mind-blowing as movies that came before, such as the classic Alien.

For me, the biggest problem is that it seemed to drag, and I’m not sure some of the plot points where explained all that well (such as the exact connection between the space woman vampire played by Mathilda May and Steve Railsback). Some sequences were really enjoyable, such as the break-out of May’s character from the facility, or the finale with the devastation in London (in fact, much of the finale really picked things up from a formerly sluggish pace), but overall, I found myself somewhat struggling.

The main cast is all decent with little to really complain or compliment about. I did sort of like seeing Patrick Stewart (for the screen-time he got), as he’s appeared in only a few other horror films (2015’s Green Room and 1985’s The Doctor and the Devils). That said, the whole sequence which Stewart was mostly featured in didn’t really do that much for me. Both Steve Railsback and Peter Firth did perfectly fine, as did Frank Finlay (though he’s another character I wish appeared more). Mathilda May was reasonably attractive, so the fact she walked around nude for the first 40 minutes of the film didn’t hurt matters.

I think, for me, the story just wasn’t as fully realized as perhaps I thought it was when I first saw Lifeforce. It certainly has some positive things going for it, but after this time around, I think that Tobe Hooper has definitely directed better things in his career, such as the obvious picks of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Poltergeist, but also The Funhouse and perhaps even Toolbox Murders (2004), which was rather underwhelming itself. Maybe the next time I watch Lifeforce, I’ll get more from it, but as for now, I find the film below average, and while functional, not really that enjoyable

6/10

DeepStar Six (1989)

Directed by Sean S. Cunningham [Other horror films: Case of the Full Moon Murder (1973), Friday the 13th (1980), A Stranger Is Watching (1982), The New Kids (1985), XCU: Extreme Close Up (2001), Trapped Ashes (2006, segment ‘Jibaku’)]

I’ve seen this one once before, and I feel that not much has changed insofar as my view on this aquatic adventure: while much of the story is decently fun, and some of the performances are memorable, I think the film is about as average as it gets.

My only complaint, really, with the story is how, for much of the middle portion of the film, DeepStar Six feels more like an underwater action film as opposed to anything resembling horror. I have nothing against action films (if I did, you better believe this would be getting a lower rating), but that type of focus took away from what I came into this movie for. Once the underwater beast pops up again in the final twenty minutes or so, things pick up nicely.

Many performances are certainly memorable, if not entirely enjoyable. Greg Evigan (who appeared a few years previously in Stripped to Kill) was pretty good as the focal point, though I don’t know if he’s overly memorable. Taurean Blacque (who was a long-standing star on the series Hill Street Blues) was rather great, and I wish the guy had gotten a bit more screen-time. Of course, I think the most memorable guy here is Miguel Ferrer (who later appeared in The Stand mini-series and 1997’s enjoyable The Night Flier), who was pretty fun throughout, and pretty much one of my favorite characters. Others I enjoyed to varying degrees include Nia Peeples, Matt McCoy, and Elya Baskin (also in Air Force One, an enjoyable Harrison Ford flick).

The special effects are overall pretty good. I don’t really love the design of the underwater creature menacing the crew, but plenty of the deaths are really solid, a few bordering on gruesome (such as the death due to lack of depressurization). I just wish there wasn’t such a lengthy period of time that more focused on a disaster-type situation.

Directed by Sean S. Cunningham (of Friday the 13th fame), I can’t necessarily pinpoint why I don’t like DeepStar Six anymore than I do, but it’s much the same as when I first saw it. That said, I certainly don’t dislike the film, so I’d probably call this a perfect example, at least in my view, a very average movie with some good and some mediocre.

7/10