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

Frenchman’s Farm (1987)

Directed by Ron Way [Other horror films: N/A]

This Australian mystery/horror/romance/drama is rather interesting. Not necessarily good, mind you, but interesting. Calling it horror is probably fine, but the film is definitely more focused on the mystery aspect than the multiple killings, which is a bit of a shame, really.

With Frenchman’s Farm, there’s a lot of exposition in a lot of scenes. There’s quite a few names and dates that you’d best try to remember, or otherwise you may get lost along the way. As it was, I actually missed something somewhere, so there’s something that didn’t make sense to me come the end (regarding the ghost of the farm), but I suspect that if I watched closer with a more attuned ear to the Australian accents, everything would be clearer.

As it is, because so much of the movie relies on understanding the mystery, I will admit to feeling it dragged past a certain point. To be fair, given the movie’s a hour and forty minutes, perhaps it would have felt like it was dragging anyways. There are some horror aspects that certainly pop up throughout the film (some rather effectively creepy, too), but I don’t know if it’s really enough to sate me given the total time spent with the film.

Being an Australian film, I don’t really know any of the actors here, but everyone involved did a reasonably good job, such as Tracey Tainsh and David Reyne, who play the main characters. Their relationship feels authentic, and I appreciate the both of them. Others who do well include Norman Kaye and Andrew Blackman. I want to give a special mention to John Meillon, who played Riley in the first two Crocodile Dundee movies. I didn’t even recognize him when watching the film due to his character having a mustache, but looking back, it’s definitely him, which is sort of cool.

While there was a lot I enjoyed about the film, I find it a hard one to really recommend to fellow horror fans, given that, while no doubt in my mind horror, that others would be inclined to disagree. Given the focus of this is far more the mystery the two main characters are trying to uncover, the horror portions (as great as some of them are, especially near the end) are overshadowed. Might be worth a look if you’re into Australian cinema, but otherwise, I suspect many would be disappointed, especially given some of the posters for this one.

7.5/10

The Attic (1980)

Directed by George Edwards [Other horror films: N/A] & Gary Graver [Other horror films: Trick or Treats (1982), Moon in Scorpio (1987), Evil Spirits (1990)]

Apparently a spin-off of sorts of another horror film titled The Killing Kind (a fact I didn’t know until about halfway through the film), The Attic works fine as a standalone movie. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work nearly as well as a horror film.

Predominately The Attic is a drama, a depressing story of the day-to-day life of an older woman who has little in life but her bitter, wheelchair-bound father, her job as head librarian for 19 years, and a new friend, a young woman who reminds her much of herself from so long ago.

Really, it’s top-notch drama, and there are plenty of really moving scenes showcasing how utterly empty so much of Louise’s (played by Carrie Snodgress) life is. The music helps with this tone, and two songs, ‘Who Cares’ by Kelly Garrett and ‘Come Love Me Again’ by Christopher Callin, really bring out the somber tone of the film.

Because it’s primarily a drama, and dramas really aren’t my thing (no disrespect to the genre), I was moderately bored through a lot of The Attic. The story is perfectly engaging, but not being a drama fan, personally, I felt it dragged and dragged. It didn’t help that the film is an hour and 40 minutes long, and the best part isn’t until the finale, a ten-minute sequence or so.

Performance-wise, most of the main players do well. Carrie Snodgress (who later starred in the somewhat forgettable Trick or Treats in 1982) was great here, and really came across as a woman living with constant despair, beaten down into submissiveness by an overbearing and bitter father. The father, played by Ray Milland, was a rather despicable character, and Milland did really well playing him. Others who stood out include Ruth Cox (who played perhaps the only really good character here) and Frances Bay (the grandmother from Happy Gilmore).

As good as the performances tended to be, though, the fact remains that until the finale, we get so very few horror sequences. Generally, they come in the form of Louise imagining striking out against her father (one such fantasy had a gorilla strangle him, which was perhaps the most fun this movie had to offer). The story’s downbeat and decent, but without the horror elements to pull me in, I just can’t really give this one that good a rating. The conclusion, though without any real big shock, was certainly decent, though.

5/10

Clownhouse (1989)

Directed by Victor Salva [Other horror films: The Nature of the Beast (1995), Jeepers Creepers (2001), Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003), Rosewood Lane (2011), Haunted (2014), Jeepers Creepers 3 (2017)]

As far as the plot’s concerned, there’s not really a lot to Clownhouse. Over the course of a few hours, three escaped mental patients, dressed up as clowns, terrorize three brothers in a large house. That’s pretty much it, but it works out well do to the solid tension and suspense through the film.

A large part of whether or not someone’s likely to find this creepy may be their feelings on clowns. Personally, I don’t know if I’ve ever even seen a clown in person, but I always felt they were a bit on the sinister side. There’s a lot of great scenes in this film showing these clowns in the background, or their gloved hands, and it’s rather creepy much of the time.

The three brothers (played by Nathan Forrest Winters, Brian McHugh, and Sam Rockwell, the only one to make a career of acting) really act like brothers, with their constant bickering, some of it rather mean-spirited, and I certainly got the sense that while there were often unkind toward each other, deep down there was love there. Personally, I think all three brothers did pretty well – Rockwell was rather funny at times, McHugh showed solid sensitivity and maturity, and Winters, despite his oldest brother constantly picking on him, really fought back against the horrors they were facing.

It’s not until the final thirty minutes when all three brothers actually realize there are clowns prowling their property, but that doesn’t mean the movie was slow or without tension beforehand. The escaped mental patients really are messed up and creepy, especially their leader, played by Michael Jerome West (credited for some reason as ‘Tree’). The three of them, though West is most notable by far, are unsettling throughout the movie, and despite the plot not really being much, they make a lot out of it.

There are plenty of really solid scenes here, such as the fortune teller sequence (which really showcases the personalities of the brothers well), the scene in which the oldest and youngest brothers are walking to a store to pick up some popcorn (loved the clown chase here), and the scene early on with the real clowns in the circus show. With the music and the close-up on his face, that scene is still unsettling. And let’s not forget the scene in which the youngest kid first sees the clowns outside – again, damn creepy stuff.

Clownhouse doesn’t have that much going for it in terms of gore, but much like Halloween, it really doesn’t need any, as the tension carries it. I also love the music here, too – upbeat, jovial, carnival music, it really works well with the film and ratchets up the intensity.

When I first saw this film some years back, I was rather impressed with it. Seeing it again, even from a blurry and out-of-sync audio/video VHS rip, Clownhouse still impresses me. The director, Victor Salva, went on to direct what many consider a modern-day classic, Jeepers Creepers. Here, he made a solid film which isn’t demanding insofar as length goes, and is a rather enjoyable movie. It’s a shame that, given Salva’s history of sexual abuse, that this movie will likely never be given the praise it may well deserve. As for me, I quite enjoy this one.

8/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

Deliria (1987)

Directed by Michele Soavi [Other horror films: La chiesa (1989), La setta (1991), Dellamorte Dellamore (1994)]

Perhaps it’s due to the fact that, at the time of this writing (4/23/2019, should anyone be interested) I’m drunk off my fucking ass, but this movie was excellent. Great death scenes, damn good suspense, fantastic movie, and just overall a fun movie.

I saw this before, and I enjoyed it, but this time around, I get the sense I enjoyed it a lot more. I have virtually no complaints about Deliria (as that’s it’s original title), and it really has a lot of things going for it.

The funky Italian music is especially fun throughout the film, and toward the ending, there’s a great sequence on the catwalks with the music playing that was just a delight. The special effects were great, and pretty much every kill was enjoyable (favorites including the dismemberment and decapitation, along with the drill and chainsaw). My all-time favorite kill, though, was one of the earlier ones, when a character gets stabbed on-stage. The way that scene was filmed was great, and it had such an epic feel to it (music, of course, played a large part in that). It’s not necessarily an overly gory kill, but it was my favorite in the film.

Most of the main performances are pretty decent. Barbara Cupisti and David Brandon in particular impressed me, but I also rather enjoyed Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Loredana Parrella, Martin Philips, James Sampson, and Ulrike Schwerk. Clain Parker played the killer wearing the owl headpiece (which, by the way, was a rather random yet fun addition to the film), and I really loved Parker’s calm style, especially the sequence when he’s just sitting around all those he’s killed, stroking a cat (which, on a side-note, was a fantastically suspenseful sequence).

While I sort of wish the film had gone the giallo route (by attempting to hide the identity of the killer, or throwing in some type of plot twist where there were multiple killers), I sort of appreciate how the movie kept things simple. We know who the killer is from the beginning, and the body count rises and rises in generally gory and satisfying ways.

Truth be told, I don’t think there’s any really big issues with the film. If you’re a fan of slashers, I really don’t see where this film would do you wrong. Pretty much everything’s solid about it, and there’s even a little humor provided by two cops sitting outside the studio while all the mayhem’s taking place (the younger cop played by the director, Michele Soavi). Whether you know this movie as StageFright, Aquaris, Deliria, whatever, this Italian movie has the goods, and was a fantastic rewatch.

9/10

Inferno (1980)

Directed by Dario Argento [Other horror films: L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo (1970), Il gatto a nove code (1971), 4 mosche di velluto grigio (1971), Profondo rosso (1975), Suspiria (1977), Tenebre (1982), Phenomena (1985), Opera (1987), Due occhi diabolici (1990, segment ‘The Black Cat’), Trauma (1993), La sindrome di Stendhal (1996), Il fantasma dell’opera (1998), Non ho sonno (2001), Il cartaio (2004), Ti piace Hitchcock? (2005), La terza madre (2007), Giallo (2009), Dracula 3D (2012)]

While I’ve seen Suspiria a few times before, perhaps as many as three times, I’ve not seen Inferno up until the point of this writing. It’s a difficult movie to really get a feel for, but I’ll say that, while it wasn’t as striking and, I suspect, as memorable as Suspiria, there’s still stuff in here to enjoy.

It’s just possible that the movie lacks a certain cohesion. That’s not to say that Suspiria didn’t, but Inferno takes it to a whole new level. There’s a basic plot here, but the movie takes a rather meandering and sometimes disjointed approach to it, especially with Leigh McCloskey’s character not having a clue as to what was going on until the ending, and I’m guessing he didn’t really know then.

Inferno has a rather dream-like quality to it. There are some scenes that just seem off, or riddled with awkward dialogue, or character actions that don’t make a lot of sense. Most of the kills are great, but we never really find out who exactly is the one doing most of them, and generally, portions of the movie strike me as somewhat nonsensical.

None of this means the movie isn’t enjoyable. I will say that it probably went on a bit longer than it needed to, and the conclusion was, well, not amazing (and just brought forth a few more questions that were never even attempted to be answered), but it’s still occasionally fun. The special effects are decent, and the lighting is, of course, rather seductively ambient (though I will say that Suspiria’s lighting was quite a bit better). I think, in terms of enjoyment of the ludicrous nature of the film, the whole eclipse scene was definitely a trip.

Generally, I don’t know if most of the performances are all that memorable. McCloskey sort of had appeal as the lead, given that he had no idea whatsoever that anything supernatural was even going on until the end. He was basically clueless throughout the whole film (which lead to a somewhat amusing line near the end), but I don’t know if that makes him necessarily memorable. That said, the same could be said for both Irene Miracle and Eleonora Giorgi. Daria Nicolodi seemed somewhat pointless, but Alido Valli was rather fun to see again (she was also in Suspiria).

It’s sort of hard to pinpoint what exactly makes this film a little less stellar than his former film in the series. Inferno does meander a bit, and at times feels a bit aimless. The conclusion, especially that skeleton costume, seemed a iffy. The soundtrack was just a bit eclectic. It’s still a decent film, and I do think it’s probably above average, but Suspiria is, in my opinion, better.

7.5/10