The Evil Dead (1981)

Directed by Sam Raimi [Other horror films: It’s Murder! (1977), Crimewave (1985), Evil Dead II (1987), Army of Darkness (1992), The Gift (2000), Drag Me to Hell (2009)]

Probably one of horror fandom’s more beloved movies, The Evil Dead succeeds in possessing a strong atmosphere and special effects that go beyond, far beyond, expectations. So of course, in typical Jiggy fashion, it’s never been a movie I’ve ever been overly fond of.

Which isn’t to say that it’s not okay. I could sort of see myself watching this one every couple of years (though at what point in my life I’ll be revisiting a movie that often, I really couldn’t say), and it definitely has enough going for it to be a movie that horror fans should at least give a shot once, but from the first time I saw it, it’s never been my particular cup of tea.

Part of this (and an admittedly small part) might be because, while I find Ash’s character development sort of interesting, he’s not a character that really stands out to me. Sure, he seems the everyman that you’d expect, sometimes too scared in tense situations to jump into action (I certainly can’t blame him there), but even when he really starts fighting back (about an hour or so into the movie), I just don’t feel much in the way of interest for him.

Another thing is that while this movie is primarily a dark story of demonic forces possessing and thus torturing the last remaining character, there are some occasional lighter elements thrown in (the demonic mocking, over-the-top violence at times). Now, this is upped to 11 in the second film, but the amusing thing is that it felt more consistent in the second movie, and I personally find myself gravitating more toward that one than I ever did this.

But like I said, none of this is to say the movie is by any means bad. It’s obviously a film that has a place in the heart of a lot of people, and I certainly respect what Raimi and Campbell were able to due with a limited budget (those gore scenes themselves, from the pencil stabbing to the epic finale, were well-worth watching the movie for), and again, the atmosphere is great.

As for the cast, the only name that really need be mentioned is Bruce Campbell, who starts off as a pretty unassuming character but, of course, over the course of the film becomes more willing to stand up and fight. Campbell was in a variety of films after this point (such as Maniac Cop, Moontrap, and Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat), and you can see why. If there was anyone else who might deserve a mention, it’d be Ellen Sandweiss, who was my personal favorite character, and it’s a shame she went the way she did (especially after that tree rape).

And speaking of that tree rape, what a disturbing scene. It’s not even all that explicit (though it does provide one of the two scenes of nudity in the film), but it is a scene that stands out and probably remains one of the more unforgettable sequences of the film.

I do admit to finding the ending a bit of a cop-out, but I won’t deny that it has an element of charm to it. Which can really be said for the whole of the film – though it’s not and never has been a movie I really cared for, it’s still charming, and it does enough right to merit it’s status. It’s just that The Evil Dead doesn’t do near as much for me as it does so many others.


The Burning (1981)

Directed by Tony Maylam [Other horror films: The Sins of Dorian Gray (1983), Split Second (1992)]

For a long time, this has often been one of the first slashers I recommend when asked by someone who doesn’t have a background in 80’s classics, as I’ve always found The Burning a very solid film. I still do, and though it may not be spectacular, it’s very much worth a look.

It has that classic slasher feel that fans of 80’s horror would love – a pretty solid opening origin, memorable special effects (that raft scene is the most referenced sequence in this film for a reason), and a pretty good antagonist in Cropsy (and Cropsy’s choice of weapon – garden shears – was inspired).

To an extent, I do think many performances are of the more forgettable variety. True, Dave (Jason Alexander, known mostly for a long-running role on Seinfeld) was pretty solid, defending both Alfred (Brian Backer) and Woodstock (Fisher Stevens) on multiple occasions. Glazer (Larry Joshua) definitely feels like a dickish bully (I love how he tries to drown Alfred, and flaunts it to the girls on the raft), and Alfred (who amusingly reminds me of a younger David Krumholtz) is okay in his own awkward way, but everyone else is either undercooked or merely average.

Admittedly, I did like Todd (Brian Matthews), but I don’t know if he stands out that well, and it’s the same with a lot of the women, such as Michelle (Leah Ayres), Karen (Carolyn Houlihan, who graces us with one of the few nude scenes in the film). I wish I could have liked Eddy (Ned Eisenberg) a bit more, and I wish we had more scenes with Tiger (Shelley Bruce) and Sally (Carrick Glenn, who gave us a quick nude shower scene), so there was some room for improvement.

The raft scene in the film is great, with quality tensions and fantastic special effects, with fingers being cut off and the like. It’s easy to see why it stands out – while the other kills are decent, Cropsy’s massacre of five, what with the cinematography, was glorious (and of course, a lot of credit also goes to Tom Savini). This said, the ax to the face at the end is quite good also.

It might also go without saying, but the music – a sort of funky electronic style that wouldn’t feel out of place in an Italian film – is on point, especially during the opening credits.

As far as camp-based slashers, The Burning doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any means. I always enjoyed it more than Madman, but it doesn’t have the same pull as many of the Friday the 13th films. Still, it’s a solidly-made slasher that hits many of the right spots, and is definitely worth a watch if you’re a fan of classic slasher films.


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

Ghost Story (1981)

Directed by John Irvin [Other horror films: Haunted: The Ferryman (1974), Dot.Kill (2005)]

I have to admit that I wish I liked this one more than I do. I’ve seen it once before, but didn’t remember too much about it aside from the general idea and a few scenes. And damn it, just that alone was enough for me to consider the movie good, but after seeing it with fresh eyes and keeping my expectations in check, I need to be honest and admit that I think Ghost Story had potential but ultimately faltered.

The cast is stellar here, my favorites being the old-timers in the Chowder Society, being Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and John Houseman. I don’t particularly know any of these actors well (Melvyn Douglas being the potential exception, as I’ve seen him in The Old Dark House, The Vampire Bat, and The Changeling), but I think they work fantastically off each other. They strike me as life-long friends, and to quote Icona Pop, “I love it.”

Elsewise, we have Craig Wasson and Alice Krige. Wasson, of course, was Neil in Dream Warriors (he looks different enough here that if you didn’t catch on to this fact, I wouldn’t blame you), and he was certainly decent in that film, but here, he doesn’t really make a huge impression (even during his extended flashback). As for Krige, I definitely dug her character in the flashback (along with feeling rather bad for her), but for most of the film, she doesn’t especially overwhelm with personality.

I think many of the film’s better scenes take place during the Chowder Society flashback in the latter half of the film, and much of what came before felt somewhat plodding, especially Wasson’s flashback, little of which really interested me (and there wasn’t much of an ommpf at the end to even make the sequence worth it). I mean, the location was great – a small, New England town enshrouded in snowfall – but the story, while occasionally atmospheric, just fell flat, and the whole subplot with the escaped asylum patients didn’t do a thing for me.

Certainly I respect the way they decided to tell the story here, what with multiple flashbacks with some tense scenes in-between during the present-day, but I can’t help but think that if we had seen a bit more of the younger Chowder Society (Ken Olin, Kurt Johnson, Tim Choate, and Mark Chamberlin), things would have maybe smoothed out a bit (not that any of those four are near as good as their older counterparts, but those sequences were still enjoyable and, near the ending, tragic). That said, it still made for a fine idea, it’s just the execution felt a bit weak.

And alas, I think that could really be said for the whole of the film. I wish I could enjoy the film more than I do, but it just runs on too long with too little content of interest, and ultimately, I think Ghost Story, while it has some strong points, ultimately ends up only of moderate interest.


Wolfen (1981)

Directed by Michael Wadleigh [Other horror films: N/A]

This is a movie that I’ve been aware about for pretty much as long as I can remember. I recall, the few times this film has been brought up, being warned against calling this a werewolf film (which, given the title, is certainly a reasonable assumption), but aside from that, I went into this knowing very little.

Despite the almost two hour run-time, I feel like I’m leaving much the same way.

I’m not saying that Wolfen is a bad movie, but I will admit that I left quite underwhelmed, especially given, again, that the film was almost two hours. Now, I’ve not read the novel this film was based on (written by Whitley Strieber), but the story here, while starting out interesting, pretty quickly becomes more of a grind than anything else.

It was nice to see a younger Edward James Olmos, who I know mostly from his roles in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The West Wing, but I didn’t really get his character, and despite the explanation given, I also didn’t really get the Wolfen. Diane Venora played an okay character, but I have a hard time believing she’d be attracted to Albert Finney’s character (Finney, on a side-note, is an actor I know only from Big Fish, so it’s interesting to see him in a role like this). Finney himself gave a fine performance, but I just couldn’t get into the story, and that’s the main issue.

The setting for some of these scenes were top-notch, though. When Finney and Venora first go to that really horrible, decimated portion of New York City, it brings to mind vibes of Cabrini Green from Candyman (only this was more desolate and looked a hell of a lot worse). I lived in Gary, Indiana a bit as a child, but I’ve never seen anything as sad as that. Also, that bridge scene with Finney and Olmos was fantastic, and though there were no Wolfen in sight, I thought it was one of the tensest moments of the movie.

Alas, it all comes back to the story, which I just didn’t care for, and despite some quality scenes (such as the undiscussed yet still enjoyable sequence in which Finney and Gregory Hines are looking for the Wolfen in the ruins of derelict buildings), I just don’t think this movie was really worth the time. Perhaps if I read the novel and then came back to try the film out again, I’d get more from it, but as it stands, I can’t say Wolfen did much for me.


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).


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.


Eyes of a Stranger (1981)

Directed by Ken Wiederhorn [Other horror films: Shock Waves (1977), Return of the Living Dead: Part II (1988), Dark Tower (1989)]

This is a somewhat well-known film that I’ve not seen until now, which is a shame, as it’s pretty good. It’s not amazing, but as a big fan of slashers, I have very little to complain about.

In many ways, I think the performances stand out more here than the gore, which isn’t necessarily common for many slasher films. Lauren Tewes does pretty well as the lead, though she’s not exactly the most exciting character. On the other hand, though, John DiSanti does a fantastic job as the sleazy, rather disturbing antagonist. We never really learn why DiSanti’s character has the psychosis he does, but that didn’t bother me much. His character is brutal, efficient, and pretty enjoyable to watch despite his atrocious acts.

Better than both DiSanti and Tewes, though, and the real stand-out in the film, is Jennifer Jason Leigh. She later went on to appear in both The Hitcher (1986) and the enjoyable television movie Buried Alive (1990). While this isn’t her first role, it is her first feature film, and as she plays a somewhat challenging character (someone who can neither see nor hear), she does amazingly. She feels like such a vulnerable person who, via flashback, we see had a very traumatic experience, so seeing her come into her own at the end was such a cheer-out-loud moment. I loved Leigh here, and her character is the one that you won’t likely forget after seeing this.

As I mentioned before, the gore is pretty decent, though it’s not really the showcase here. In many ways, this film feels a bit more like a thriller than a horror (and from my understanding, it was originally meant to be a thriller before they decided to move more toward the slasher direction), but we definitely get some gory scenes, along with some occasional nudity (actually, for a slasher that feels a bit more classy, I was a bit surprised by the amount of nudity in the film). It may not be a highlight, but if you’re a slasher fan, I don’t think there’s much to complain about.

And honestly, while I know the movie wasn’t perfect, off the top of my head, I have no major complaints. I enjoyed the plot well enough, and the suspenseful scene in which Tewes’ character is searching for evidence in the antagonist’s apartment was definitely on point. I guess they could have added in a few additional kills, but really, we got a decent body count here, so really, I can’t complain about that either.

Eyes of a Stranger isn’t necessarily a classic, but I do think it’s pretty overlooked, which is admittedly easy to do as the early 1980’s are somewhat over-saturated with slashers. I don’t think this movie’s anything overly flashy or even special, but I don’t have any real issues with the film, and the ending was one of the most satisfying sequences I’ve seen in a little while. If this is one that you’ve missed, I’d certainly look into it. Even if you don’t love it, it’s still a great way to spend an hour-and-a-half.


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

Night School (1981)

Directed by Ken Hughes [Other horror films: N/A]

This is one I’ve seen once before, and I don’t recall particularly enjoying it the first time around. Seeing Night School again confirmed, at least to me, that it’s certainly no classic of the 1980’s, but at the same time, it does have some pretty decent kills.

Putting the kills aside for the time being, Night School doesn’t strike me as that memorable a movie. The plot’s decent for a slasher flick, and we get some solid suspects and a bit of procedural detective work, but there’s not a lot here that strikes me as inspired.

The main character (Leonard Mann) was fine, as was his partner (Joseph R. Sicari), but I don’t really think many other cast members stood out, save for Drew Snyder and perhaps Rachel Ward. Annette Miller was sort of funny the few times she appeared, but really, as far as the cast goes, there’s not a lot that’s offered.

If anything puts this movie on the map, it’s the kills. The best was probably the locker room attack (which concluded with the killer throwing a severed head into an aquarium), but the diner sequence was pretty good also. When Night School leaned that way, it could be pretty suspenseful, so credit where credit is due.

Unfortunately, I don’t think credit’s due that often. The ending is about what you would expect, and while there are some good things strewn throughout the film, there’s not enough here at all to really think that highly of it overall. Honestly, while it may be worth a single watch, I don’t think Night School is worth too much more.


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

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

Directed by George Mihalka [Other horror films: The Blue Man (1985), Psychic (1991), Relative Fear (1994)]

What’s the best slasher ever made?

I’ll save you time, and just admit it’s Halloween, which is a spectacular flick. But what’s the second-best slasher ever made? Well, say no more, because it’s My Bloody Valentine.

Truthfully, I don’t know exactly why I love this movie as much as I do. I mean, I love all the performances, I think the story’s fantastic, the killer’s interesting, the theme track very enjoyable, the kills amazing, the setting is great and everything else is flawless, but as for specifics, it’s difficult.

Let’s spend a few minutes (INB4ITSHOURS) on the performances. Here’s a list of those who stood out: Don Francks (as sheriff, very solid and memorable performance), Keith Knight (Hollis is perhaps one of my favorite characters from a slasher film), Neil Affleck (Axel is pretty fun all-around), Lori Hallier (‘Sarah, be my bloody valentine’), Paul Kelman (T.J. is a solid mystery here), Alf Humphreys (good comic relief in a believable way), Cynthia Dale (really loved her character here, plus she’s Hollis’ girl, so you know she’s fun), Rob Stein (very memorable look), and his girl Helene Udy.

What works here is that all of these characters feel like they live in a small town where most men work in the mines and the girls wait for them to get out and go out to drink. This movie feels incredibly real to me, and while it’s somewhat odd how some of the girls dress more like it’s the 1950’s than the early 80’s, it doesn’t really do anything to impact my view on this. I love the small-town mentality, where everyone knows everyone, and these teenagers really pulled it off, not to mention Don Francks (the sheriff Newby), Larry Reynolds (the mayor), and Patricia Hamilton.

The design of the killer is just amazing. It’s simple, what with a mining suit and a pickaxe, but it’s damn effective, and one of my favorite scenes in the annals of horror is when the killer is walking through the mine, smashing his pickaxe into the hanging lights. The characters can’t see him, but they hear the lights breaking, and it’s just amazingly great. Plus, he writes killer rhymes (‘It happened once. It happened twice. Cancel the dance or it’ll happen thrice’).

Many bring up the song from Madman, but I think, without a doubt, ‘The Ballad of Harry Warden‘ blows it away. The song’s good lyrically and musically, and fits beautifully into the credits following the insane laughter of the killer. It’s on my iTunes, so it’s not good just for the movie or for horror-themed songs, but for any occasion.

If you watch the film with the cuts in, you’ll probably have an okay time, but if you get the uncut version, then you really have a lot of fun. A guy has his head boiled while he’s held down. A woman is struck by a pickaxe and thrown into a dryer. A girl is impaled on a shower-head. A double-impalement by a drill. Nailgun to the head and hung as so the body detaches. And a favorite of mine, a man pickaxed through the face, causing an eye to hang out (you know the MPAA took that one out before you could say ‘there should be no MPAA’). God, this is solid gore, and it’s a shame that the movie’s existed so long without the uncut scenes, as many people who see the cut version won’t realize how solid this stuff is. I’ve watched the cut version once, and like I said, it’s still a good movie, but seeing the gore in whole just completes the good times.

Like I said, I really like the setting of My Bloody Valentine. It’s a small town (named Valentine Bluffs – who couldn’t love that?) with a main industry of mining. Few are going to college after high school – they’re going to the mines, and those who do try to get out just end up back home (poor T.J. – I always wondered what mistakes he made out west). But was Hollis particularly sad about his fortune? Not so much, nor was Axel, nor do any of the characters seem particularly disheartened. The bar is always lively (despite the grumpy bartender, appropriately named Happy and played brilliantly by Jack Van Evera, who died just the following year), and even the junkyard is a place to just chill. I love the vibe here, and though it’s entirely different from my experience growing up, I find it somehow relatable.

Without a doubt, My Bloody Valentine is one of my favorite horror movies. There’s nothing I don’t like about it, and I watched it something like three times in the first week I bought it. It has everything I look for in a slasher, including an interesting mystery (with some red herrings thrown in), a great atmosphere, a very memorable setting (being stalked in a mine has never been done so well), lovable characters (Hollis and Patty), and all-in-all, My Bloody Valentine never fails to impress me.


And to hear my gush about the film, look no futher than Fight Evil’s podcast, where Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I spoke about the film.

Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

Directed by Steve Miner [Other horror films: Friday the 13th Part III (1982), House (1985), Warlock (1989), Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998), Lake Placid (1999), Day of the Dead (2008)]

I think we can all agree that the first Friday the 13th is a great movie, but the second film is probably a bit better. That’s always been my feeling on it, anyway, but at the same time, the first five films of this series are all pretty solid in their own way, and all are above average. The second part isn’t the best of the five, but it is pretty damn solid.

The kills here are great. I think there’s only one that’s particularly weak, but most of them are of high quality, from the razor-wire garrote, and double impalement by spear to a machete to the face, hammer to the head, and of course the upside throat-slitting. Though Tom Savini wasn’t involved in this one, I thought the kills were all pretty great, which is nice to see.

Character-wise, there are some memorable ones here. Paul (John Furey) wasn’t that memorable, but Ginny (Amy Steel, also from the classic April Fool’s Day) was a fantastic character, and with her child psychology interest, she was a good choice of protagonist, as she, above anyone else, could even have the potential to get through to Jason (which she does, in a way). Ted (Stuart Charno) was pretty fun too, and unlike many in these films, finds a happier ending, which was a nice surprise.

The couples Terry (Kirsten Baker) and Scott (Russell Todd, later in Chopping Mall), along with Jeff (Bill Randolph) and Sandra (Marta Kober), don’t particularly interest me (though Baker did have a solid nude sequence), but all their deaths were welcomed. Mark (Tom McBride) and Vickie (Lauren-Marie Taylor, later in Girls Nite Out), though, were both enjoyable characters, Vickie in particular, as she was the cutest girl here, and I really liked her personality. Same for Mark, as a wheelchair-bound character in a slasher isn’t something you see everyday.

Seeing Adrienne King come back for the opening was decently fun, and did set up the movie well, but I don’t know how much I care for Jason going so far out of his way just to get revenge. Still, I’m glad they went as far as to bring King back, however briefly.

As for Jason, I really like his portrayal here. He runs, he makes mistakes (him breaking that chair toward the end always struck me as funny), he gets knocked down – Jason here seems a lot more human than he does in later films, and I thought that worked well. I also like the sack over his head – I get that the hockey mask is iconic, but I thought he looked reasonably frightening here, so I had no complaints. Steve Dash did great here as Jason, so it’s a shame he never played him again (though Warrington Gillette was credited as Jason, apparently Dash, the stunt double, played Jason for much of the film).

Of course, the ending is good fun, what with a rainstorm and characters finding bodies, getting killed, all that good stuff. Much like with the first film, I really enjoyed the finale, though I think the first one was better (though we do get a very clever way to deceive Jason here, which I thought was quite ingenious). Still, a lot of frantic running and fighting happen here in the final twenty minutes, and it’s all good fun, even the somewhat dreamily mysterious conclusion (we never really do find out what happens to Paul). I’m just happy that decapitated head didn’t wink, or something, because I won’t lie – they were definitely thinking of doing that.

Friday the 13th Part 2 isn’t the perfect slasher, but I do think it’s a lot of fun, and the likable and memorable characters here are certainly worth watching, and there are a few solidly funny quips here too (‘No seconds on desserts,’ or ‘the one with the puck’). I never hesitate to watch this one, and while I think the first movie has a better finale, Part II is a bit more enjoyable overall.


This is one of the films covered on the Fight Evil podcast, so if you’re into cool shit brah, here’s Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discussing this classic.