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

Children of the Corn (1984)

Directed by Fritz Kiersch [Other horror films: Surveillance (2006), The Hunt (2006)]

In some aspects, Children of the Corn has aged somewhat poorly, and it’s not necessarily the best translation of one of King’s short stories (from Night Shift, a copy of which was shown on the dashboard of the main characters’ car at one point) to a full-length film, but despite this, Children of the Corn is a very solid attempt, and one I’ve loved since childhood.

Let’s start with two things – the opening of the film and the music. It opens with a massacre in a diner by the youth of a small town, and a violent massacre at that, with plenty of scythes and the like. And that haunting music, a choir of sorts, belies the notion of the children’s innocence. That is a fantastically effective opening, period. End of story.

Now, few scenes really compete with that sequence, but later in the film, there is another pretty good scene in which a mechanic is being tormented by the Gatlin kids, and ends up getting entirely messed up. These kids know no mercy, thanks to the beast that is Malachai (Courtney Gains).

I want to touch on the interesting concept of the King story, and of this movie, then onto a small examination of the relationship between Malachai and Isaac, as it certainly impacts my view of the film.

Pray tell, why did kids kill adults at the beginning? Interestingly enough, the youth of Gatlin rallied beyond young child pastor Isaac, who held secret meetings in the corn, and decried the depravity of adults. The adults of this small Nebraska town were generally Baptist, but that’s not old school enough for Isaac, who believes that once you’re past a certain age, any hope of salvation is gone.

The solution? Kill off all the adults, form a new religion worshipping ‘He-Who-Walks-Behind-The-Rows’ (in a small farming community, you can see why that title would have appeal), and sacrifice everyone who turns of age for the sake of their soul. Realistically, a small town, even in Nebraska, couldn’t disappear off the map (though apparently, it wasn’t on the map to begin with) – even if you can ignore out-of-town relations, the IRS want their taxes, not to mention eventually the Census.

Still, the idea’s damn cool.

The relationship between Malachai and Isaac (John Franklin) is an interesting one – Isaac is the clear spiritual leader, but Malachai has a strong following, and is seen as doing more for their faith (it doesn’t hurt that he’s more of a hard-liner than Isaac, as music and games are forbidden, but Isaac lets that pass at times). Them Gatlin kids ain’t got no time for Isaac’s ‘mercy,’ and so turn to Malachai. That scene where Malachai revolts against Isaac’s authority (screaming ‘seize him’ didn’t get Isaac anywhere) is another one that pulls this movie to higher grounds.

Also, when he’s holding Burt’s wife (Linda Hamilton) at knife-point in the center of a dead town, crying out for the Outlander, again, fantastic scene.

Of course, it’s not all good, as the movie is somewhat drenched in the aura of the 1980’s, especially the somewhat cheesy conclusion and final scene. Believe you me, the original short story was so much better, and this waters it down just as bad as the adaptation of Cujo did. Also, it does take a little bit for the movie to get going, as a lot of the first half of the film are the two main characters (Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton) looking for any signs of life from the aforementioned dead town, but personally, I thought it had solid atmosphere.

And on that note, while I wasn’t really blown away by either Horton or Hamilton (Hamilton, of course, soon becoming famous for her role in The Terminator movies), both John Franklin (Isaac) and Courtney Gains (Malachai) were fantastic, and I can’t applaud their performances enough.

I think the idea behind this movie (and story) is better than the final product, and I wish this movie touched more upon the religious views of the kids, but still, Children of the Corn has a lot going for it, and while I’d never say it’s perfect, I don’t really understand the hate this one sometimes get. But again, maybe some of my viewpoints are drenched in nostalgia. Still, I find this a very solid movie, and always have a quality time with it.

8.5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if interested, you can listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one below.

Wild beasts – Belve feroci (1984)

Directed by Franco Prosperi [Other horror films: Mondo cane (1962), Africa addio (1966)]

This Italian movie is something of a hoot. Truth be told, while it has the tendency to drag a little, overall, I definitely think it’s a film worth seeing, should you be a fan of Italian entries to the genre.

I wouldn’t say you should see it for the cast, however – make no mistake, I think the principal actors/actresses (John Aldrich and Lorraine De Selle) do fine, but neither one is special, especially considering the rather horrible dubbing job done. I did appreciate Ugo Bologna as the Police Chief, along with Louisa Lloyd as De Selle’s bratty daughter (and, on a side-note, I detected what had to be close to underage nudity early on in the film, which came as a bit of a shock). Still, these four are virtually the only important cast members, and while none of them are bad (which isn’t to say unlikable), it’s not why you’d come to this flick.

Instead, it’d be for the sometimes brutal animal attacks, of all flavors. Favorites of mine including an elephant stomping on a woman’s head (unfortunately cut somewhat short), an epic rat attack toward the beginning, which was beautifully gory, and a rather tragic attack upon a blind man by his seeing dog (which was filmed in a much more somber way than you might expect from a piece of schlock like this). The gore is never too in-you-face, and there are plenty of suspenseful scenes that go without, but when it did pop up, it was generally of solid quality.

At times, though, because of switching between mostly random people being attacked by random animals (such as the six minute cheetah chase, which was moderately suspenseful), the movie felt a bit aimless at times. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, because within the context of the story, such a route makes sense, but Wild Beasts definitely felt a bit off at times.

Personally, I think that this movie had a lot of get-up-and-go despite some of the issues I had with the cohesiveness (I should point out that the conclusion is pretty cool, albeit a bit weak in the way it played out). It’s not a great movie, but I do think that this Italian flick has a lot of character, and while I wish it had more gore, there were some kills (such as the seeing dog attack and the rat attack) that were well-worth seeing, and generally, I’d say Wild Beasts is enjoyable, just not special.

7/10

Day of the Reaper (1984)

day of the

Directed by Tim Ritter [Other horror films: Twisted Illusions (1985), Truth or Dare?: A Critical Madness (1986), Killing Spree (1987), Wicked Games (1994), Creep (1995), Alien Agenda: Endangered Species (1998), Screaming for Sanity: Truth or Dare 3 (1998), Twisted Illusions 2 (2004), Deadly Dares: Truth or Dare Part IV (2011), Hi-8 (Horror Independent 8) (2013, segment ‘Switchblade Insane’), I Dared You! Truth or Dare Part 5 (2017), Trashsploitation (2018, segment ‘Truth or Dare’), Hi-Death (2018, segment ‘Dealers of Death’)]

Tim Ritter’s first film (made when he was a teenager), this is one that I’ve literally wanted to see ever since I first heard about it many years back. It went pretty much as expected, for better or for worse.

Firstly, the story was rather lacking. Part of this was because both the video and audio quality of the copy I managed to see were atrocious, but those technical aspects aside, the story doesn’t have a lot to offer, and toward the end, when things take sort of a supernatural turn (which didn’t seem explained all that well, and felt shoehorned in there), I didn’t care for it.

It’s the gore that would probably interest most people, though, and it’s generally pretty good. A pencil in the eye, a throat-slitting, multiple dismemberments. All decent stuff. I just wish that the camera and lighting had been better, so we could have gotten a fuller effect of the mayhem.

Acting throughout was all pretty stale, though the individual who played the detective was hilariously over-active. I don’t know the actor’s name (he’s not listed on IMDb, and the credits of the film only list the actors, not the roles they play), but the way that man delivered his dialogue, in a long, rambling, “I don’t need books anyway, who needs books?” was beautiful to behold. No one else stands out, but for an extraordinarily amateurish film, that’s not really a negative.

And amateurish it was. Even stripping away the problems with the audio and video, the story wasn’t great, and more so, felt moderately hollow at times. Plenty of lower-budget films possess more feeling than much of this one did, but I mostly chalk that up to this being Ritter’s first film. On a slight side-note, I’ve only seen one other Ritter movie, being the somewhat enjoyable Killing Spree from 1987. I certainly wouldn’t judge his output on this one, as it’s his first outing.

Day of the Reaper certainly has a place in the genre, especially among SOV fans. It’s never quite as gory as some of Schiff’s work (such as They Don’t Cut the Grass Anymore, which came out in 1985), or really as gory as H.G. Lewis’ material, but it still shows promise, despite all it’s shortcomings. Truthfully, though, I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it, but if you’re a fan of early SOV horror flicks, or a major Ritter fan, I’d check it out if you’re able to find it.

5/10

Mr. Wrong (1984)

Mr Wrong

Directed by Gaylene Preston [Other horror films: N/A]

At many points throughout the film, Mr. Wrong feels like a traditional ghost story, and I think that it’s a feeling that works out pretty well, thought it doesn’t leave me feeling utterly wowed.

This New Zealand flick might be a bit conventional at times, and you can certainly see the ending coming from some miles away, but it has that spooky vibe that works. Featuring a woman who isn’t the generic beauty queen also helps out, and gives the film a somewhat more ‘everyman’s’ feel.

Heather Bolton does a good job as the main character, and at times, I think one can really feel the terror she too feels. David Letch has a good, ominous presence, though I would have liked a bit more back-story regarding him.

The biggest detriment this film has is the fact that while it certainly has chills, it’s extraordinarily light on actual kills. While I wasn’t expecting any gore (which was good, as there’s none to be found), I was hoping for a higher body count than what we actually got. Related, the movie occasionally feels as though it has a sluggish pace, and while there are really well-done and suspenseful sequences at times, it does drag a bit.

Still, if traditional ghost stories are your thing, then I think this would work out. It’s certainly nothing overly special, but it’s a very competently-made and compelling film, so if you can get beyond the New Zealand accents, I’d give it a go.

7.5/10

Interface (1984)

Interface

Directed by Andy Anderson [Other horror films: N/A]

I can barely think of an appropriate response to this film.

This conspiracy-driven action/horror/comedy mix is something that was certainly an experience to view. It wasn’t particularly good, and the horror vibe sort of disappeared about halfway through the film, instead feeling like some cheap conspiracy thriller, mixed with comedic quips every other sentence, yet it still maintained a high level of violence.

I’m not entirely sure what this movie was going for. I’ll admit that much of the comedy I found amusing, partially because the two main characters, played by John S. Davies and Lauren Lane, had such a goofy, over-the-top style. Early on, the film was just odd, what with a prankster starting a shoot-out, a man being killed by a phone call, and a prostitute being blown up by a television (talk about sentences you never expect to write).

Which isn’t to say the film wasn’t odd later on – it just followed a slightly more generic route, with a bunch of people attempting to kill the two main characters, almost exclusively with firearms (which is why the film feels much more action than horror past a certain point). This isn’t also to say the film isn’t amusing, because it really can be. The problem is, it’s not consistently so.

The biggest problem, though, is that the plot didn’t seem to know where it wanted to go. If it stuck to a more horror feel, I think that it’d have done more for me. And those Atari/electronic voices annoyed the hell out of me, on a side-note. Interface is a strange movie that might do more for you than it did for me. I’d just recommending watching it, and see how it goes, but don’t expect too much. It’s an 80’s obscurity for a reason.

5.5/10

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street

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

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

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

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

9.5/10

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