Curtains (1983)

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

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

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

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

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

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

6.5/10

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

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

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.

Christine (1983)

Directed by John Carpenter [Other horror films: Halloween (1978), Someone’s Watching Me! (1978), The Fog (1980), The Thing (1982), Prince of Darkness (1987), They Live (1988), Body Bags (1993, segments ‘The Gas Station’ & ‘Hair’), In the Mouth of Madness (1994), Village of the Damned (1995), Vampires (1998), Ghosts of Mars (2001), The Ward (2010)]

One of the more well-known horror films I haven’t seen until just now, Christine was a decent movie with a bit going for it, but I can’t pretend that I thought it was great or, even more so, that it really needed to be an hour and 50 minutes.

I’ve never read all of the Stephen King novel this movie’s based off – I got very, very close to the ending once, but for some reason, I didn’t seal the deal. That was many years ago, so the characters here, not to mention most of the scenes, all seem new to me, which I guess is a positive going into a movie that has as many fans as this one does.

Keith Gordon was decent as one of the central characters. I pretty much felt for him throughout most of the film (and I should also say that never once did I feel bad for his parents, who drove me up the wall), and seeing him change as the movie goes on was sort of fun to see. I think John Stockwell was marginally more interesting, though not exactly memorable, and Alexandra Paul somewhat inconsequential.

It was nice to see Harry Dean Stanton (Alien) for a bit, and even nicer to randomly see Stuart Charno (I didn’t know the name beforehand, but he’s Ted from Friday the 13th Part 2), though neither one really got enough screen-time to make much of a difference. Robert Prosky was solid, and William Ostrander made for a quality bully (who had an amazingly high level of aggression).

Another thing that I have to mention is the quality soundtrack. Not just the miscellaneous 50’s songs either, but the solid 80’s vibe this film has, at times reminding me of Halloween III: Season of the Witch and other classics from the same era. Definitely found myself digging it.

Problematically, though, while I like most of the story, I really don’t think this needed to be as long as it was. I think it probably would have been perfectly acceptable to trim out fifteen, maybe twenty minutes, and all would have been well. I don’t necessarily think the movie drags a substantial amount, but I did find myself losing focus once or twice.

Of course, there are scenes here that make it worth it, such as the first car chase sequence, but then you get to the conclusion, which I personally felt was all hat and no cattle. I mean, it was okay for some of the action, but I just found it somewhat underwhelming. Admittedly, I don’t know what else they could have done to an evil car, but there you go.

Christine isn’t a movie that I had a deep interest in seeing beforehand, and ultimately, I don’t think it’s anywhere near a great film, but it’s decent, and I think that people have a good reason for enjoying it. I find it somewhat below average, if only because I don’t think the length of the film awarded the content any, but I didn’t have a bad time with it, and perhaps with another viewing down the line, I’ll appreciate it more.

6.5/10

Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Directed by Robert Hiltzik [Other horror films: Return to Sleepaway Camp (2008)]

Of the classic slashers of the early 80’s, Sleepaway Camp has never been a favorite of mine. In my view, both Friday the 13th and The Burning are more enjoyable, and while this certainly stands out in some ways (including, of course, the finale), I still can’t bring myself to overly adore it.

Not that Sleepaway Camp is a bad movie. It’s, for lack of a better word, interesting, and some parts are really hard to take seriously, such as Desiree Gould’s Aunt Martha or Owen Hughes’ possibly pedophilic Artie (who had a solid almost-death scene, on a side-note). The tongue-in-cheek style isn’t too overbearing, but it certainly is noticeable at times (Mike Kellin as Mel is another somewhat over-the-top character), which gives the film a unique feeling, but doesn’t endear me too much to it.

As far as deaths go, though, the movie’s golden. The hair curler scene was solid, but even better (at least for me, being allergic) was the beehive in the bathroom, which was perhaps one of my favorite scenes in the movie. As aforementioned, Hughes’ character gets his head pushed into boiling water (think My Bloody Valentine, although arguably more violent), and that too stood out.

Acting’s a bit of a mixed bag (in part due to the fact that many of the extras were actually played by younger kids as opposed to established actors and actresses), but for a slasher, it’s not particularly noticeable. Felissa Rose was solid as Angela, and had that quiet, somewhat awkward teen style down. Jonathan Tiersten wasn’t great, but his exuberance was welcomed. Both Karen Fields and Katherine Kamhi (who popped up a year later in the forgotten slasher Silent Madness) did great as the bitchy girls you just want to see die, and Christopher Collet does okay as one of Angela’s anchors to happiness.

Overall, though, while the film is enjoyable enough, like I said, both Friday the 13th and The Burning come to mind first when thinking of solid camp-based slashers. Sleepaway Camp is certainly still worth a watch (if for anything, for the unexpected but solidly built-up conclusion), but I don’t know if it’s a movie that would otherwise blow you away. At least, it never did me.

7/10

This is one of the films discussed on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if you want to hear myself and Chucky (@ChuckyFE) talk about Sleepaway Camp, listen below.

Skullduggery (1983)

Directed by Ota Richter [Other horror films: N/A]

I’ve had the vaguest notions of this Canadian film for many years, never really knowing what it was about, aside from some cursed young man going on a killing spree. I guess that’s all you need to know, and all you get to know, because Skullduggery is entirely illogical and nonsensical in a way I’ve rarely witnessed before.

There are a lot of elements about this movie that I can’t make heads or tails of at all, such as the gorilla in the hospital (who appeared to be smoking), or the (evil/possessed?) jester doll, or the funeral chase sequence, or the lengthy costume party at the end (it started out normal, but then it became Satanic somewhere along the way, I guess?), or the magician, or the snake/heart attack, or the most unenthusiastic DM I’ve ever seen, or the random cuts of a guy in shadows putting a puzzle together, or the tic-tac-toe guy who pops up every other scene for no reason, or the guy in a sparkly suit playing piano, or the suit of armor that lives with the jester/killer…

This film is utterly bewildering.

I guess it’s fair to call it a slasher, as multiple people get killed with swords or knives, but this movie is so out there that I doubt many would really want to count it. Certainly, with the threadbare plot they had, it could have been a more conventional slasher, but the direction Skullduggery defies explanation. I mean it – I’m floored.

You know what? I think that says it all. This movie is bizarre on a level that few movies I’ve seen are (only ones that immediately comes to mind is 1981’s The Territory or 1989’s Things), but it’s also rather dull despite the crazy stuff in the film.

Just watch it. Be amazed. But I don’t think anything could really prepare you for this. The theme song is catchy stuff, though.

4/10

2019 – Dopo la caduta di New York (1983)

2019

Directed by Sergio Martino [Other horror films: Lo strano vizio della signora Wardh (1971), La cado dello scorpione (1971), Tutti i colori del buio (1972), Il tuo vizio è una stanza chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave (1972), I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale (1973), Morte sospetta di una minorenne (1975), La montagna del dio cannibale (1978), L’isola degli uomini pesce (1979), Il fiume del grande caimano (1979), Assassinio al cimitero etrusco (1982), American risciò (1989), La regina degli uomini pesce (1995), Mozart è un assassino (1999)]

I’ve never seen either Mad Max or Escape from New York (non-horror films are not really my thing, generally speaking), but I have to imagine this Italian movie, known in the US as 2019: After the Fall of New, is quite a bit like those films. A fantastic action/science fiction/horror medley, this film is a lot of fun, and comes highly recommended.

Post-apocalyptic movies can sometimes not quite work out, but this one does, due to multiple factors, being the fun cast of characters, the soundtrack, the heavy gore, and just general fun of the action. Primarily, if you’re looking for an action-filled flick, this is it. Plenty of brawl sequences, some gun play, interesting weapons, and further helping this along is the strong gore throughout the film. Two of my favorite instances being a rather brutal eye-gouging and a multiple-person decapitation – those aside, other sequences of splatter can be found, and the special effects are decent enough to back up the ambitious gore.

A small note on the soundtrack – it’s filled with a bunch of fun Italian electronic tracks. It’s a funky soundtrack, and certainly added a little something special to the film.

Michael Sopkiw does pretty damn good as the main character, and he has a fun presence also. The same can be said for most of the cast, but in particular, Valentine Monnier, Romano Puppo, Louis Ecclesia, and George Eastman, brought most of the fun to the film. I do wish that there had been more scenes of the three central characters (Sopkiw, Puppo, and a Paolo Maria Scalondro) in what was left of New York, but what we got was still action-packed amusement.

Brought to us by well-known director Sergio Martino (if I tried to list his better-known additions to the genre, this paragraph would be at least three lines longer, so lucky, they’re listed above), 2019: After the Fall of New York is a lot of fun, and if you’re a fan of post-apocalyptic films, gory Italian movies, or just having a good time, this is a movie I’d recommend looking into.

8.5/10

Mortuary (1983)

Mortuary

Directed by Howard Avedis [Other horror films: They’re Playing with Fire (1984)]

I’ve long heard about this film, and for some time now, have been interested in seeing it. Does it live up to my expectations? For the most part, but it does have one glaring problem.

Mortuary has a lot of class for a slasher, and while the story itself was lacking in the atmosphere I was hoping it’d convey, there are plenty of suspenseful and well-done scenes. The setting, a coastal California city, stood out, and many of the actors were solid.

Mary McDonough, David Wysocki, Christopher George, and Bill Paxton all stood out positively (which, for George, is a good thing, as this is his final film before his death). Paxton in particular did extremely well with his role, a quirky, possibly messed up son of a mortician. He was over-the-top at times (the scene with him skipping through the graveyard was a bit much), but his character was fun, especially toward the end.

While we had decent suspense throughout, the one big problem with this film is lack of kills. On-screen, we get very little in the way of deaths, which is disappointing, as the few we do get are decently well-done. Something like two, three death scenes tops doesn’t really do it for me, and while certainly the story was interesting and captivating, a few additional tertiary characters to be bumped off would have made a positive difference.

That said, Mortuary ended up as a fine film. Sure, the route it took was one almost utterly expected (the ending itself wasn’t too far removed from Happy Birthday to Me), but this film took it with class. A solid movie, I just wish it had spent a bit more time giving us some kills. Otherwise, this is certainly worth a look for fans of the slasher subgenre.

8/10

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