Cat’s Eye (1985)

Directed by Lewis Teague [Other horror films: Alligator (1980), Cujo (1983), The Triangle (2001)]

This is either the second or third time I’ve seen this King-based anthology, and I’m not any more fond of it now than I was the first time I saw it. Cat’s Eye isn’t without promise, and I appreciate they decided to adapt some of King’s lesser known stories, but the movie is too comedic for me to really fully care for.

The first two stories here (all connected, as the title implies, by being witnessed by a cat) are based off short stories written by Stephen King, “Quitters, Inc.” and “The Ledge,” both published in King’s first collection of stories, Night Shift (a copy of which I’ve owned for years, and as such, it’s quite threadbare, really on it’s last legs). If you’ve read early Stephen King, you know that his writing style, especially in his short stories, can come across as clinical, very matter-of-fact. Not dry, but almost reminiscence of 70’s horror – bleak and without much in the way of hope.

Cat’s Eye throws that out the window and instead brings a lot of comedic influences into both of these stories. For ‘Quitters, Inc.,” we get an utterly ridiculous hallucination sequence with cigarettes (and quality singing from Alan King’s character), and for “The Ledge,” Kenneth McMillan’s Cressner is a lot goofier, almost a spoof of a classic mob boss.

It’s also worth mentioning that the conclusion of “The Ledge” was far better in the short story than it was in this adaptation, and that’s even discounting the dodgy special effects.

My disappointment with how they choose to adapt these stories notwithstanding, I think most of the main cast was okay. Not great – no one here really stands out exceptionally well, aside from maybe, and I say maybe, Alan King – but passable. James Woods (Videodrome) was a bit dicey, but likely did the best with the role he had. Robert Hays felt a bit uninspired as the lead in “The Ledge,” and Kenneth McMillan had potential. I was sort of surprised to see a young James Rebhorn (The Game and Independence Day), but his character didn’t really do anything, so it doesn’t really warrant this mention.

The third story, about a girl and her troubles with one trolly boi, wasn’t based off a King short story. As far as the special effects went, especially concerning the troll, it was probably the best of the three, but I also felt that it really went on too long. Candy Clark was pretty decent as a somewhat hateable mother, and Drew Barrymore (previously in Firestarter) was okay, but I didn’t care for the story.

Honestly, that sums this up. We get three stories here spanning an hour and a half, and while I like the source material for the first two, I just didn’t enjoy how they brought them to the silver screen. Also, while some might find such references cute, the opening which winked at both Cujo and Christine made me groan. It just felt forced, similar to the reference of Pinhead in Bride of Chucky.

Cat’s Eye has it’s place, and the movie certainly has it’s fans, but I can’t say I’ve ever been one, and I doubt the style they go for here will ever really work for me.

5/10

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)

Directed by Danny Steinmann [Other horror films: The Unseen (1980)]

By-and-large, I feel that this film’s been unfairly maligned since it’s release. Some of my feelings stem from nostalgia, no doubt, but even so, I have always found this a very solid and definitely acceptable entry into the series. Also, I should say that, unlike most of my reviews, there are spoilers here, so be warned.

I mean, look at how many memorable characters are here.

Who can forget Demon (Miguel A. Núñez) and his enchiladas? Joey (Dominick Brascia) and his love of chocolate bars? Reggie (Shavar Ross) and his recklessness? Roy (Dick Wieand) and his son? Violet (Tiffany Helm) and her dancing? Robin (Juliette Cummins) and her breasts, and related, Jake (Jerry Pavlon) and his amazing come-on? Ethel (Carol Locatell) and her stew?

See, I remember all of this stuff, and most of them I’ve remembered since childhood. And none of that even includes the plethora of great kills, such as a guy impaled by a pole or someone’s skull getting crushed by the tightening of a belt. Slit throats, gut stabs, even a solid axe murder to open things up – this movie has both the memorable characters and the gore to back it up.

John Shepard (who plays Tommy years after the events of The Final Chapter) was interesting in that, while he was one of the main protagonists, he rarely felt like it, given the fact he had very few lines and didn’t pop up in a significant way until the finale of the film. He knew how to fight, though, I’ll give him that. Melanie Kinnaman was more an action-oriented woman toward the end, but I sort of thought she never got the character that many of the others got, so I can’t say I found her entirely satisfying.

Otherwise, you have a strong and memorable cast here. Miguel A. Núñez (who, along with Mark Venturini, was also in The Return of the Living Dead) was fun for his short screen-time, and of course Shavar Ross was great as Reggie, as we don’t often see younger kids go against Jason* (aside from Tommy, of course). I sort of wanted to see more of both Tiffany Helm and Juliette Cummins, but even with what we got, they were good characters.

And who doesn’t want to see more of Carol Locatell calling her mentally-challenged son a dildo?

*And as for the final twenty minutes, I can agree that some of it, I didn’t care for, whereas other portions I thought were entirely fine. Spoilers are in these upcoming lines, to be clear: the fact that Jason wasn’t actually Jason but someone using the legend in order to get revenge wasn’t something I found problematic at all. If anything, I thought it was a novel use of how scared the community still was of Jason, and that even a normal individual could use the legend for his own benefit.

[Still spoilers here] The thing I didn’t care for was Tommy’s ascension at the end to seemingly becoming a killer in his own right – no, luckily, this wasn’t carried on into the following film, but it just rubbed me the wrong way, and I wish that, after his dream sequence, he’d have woken up and been done with the troubles Jason caused him his whole life.

Aside from that, this is a hard movie for me to dislike, and in fact, I couldn’t ever imagine giving this lower than a least an 8/10, especially given the fact I’ve seen it so often and enjoy so much of it. You have great kills, some great breasts, great music (Violet’s dancing to “His Eyes” by Pseudo Echo was beautiful – and also beautiful is the chorus to that song, going “There is a man with no life in his eyes,” which is perfect for a Friday the 13th movie), and overall a great atmosphere.

The ending could have used a different direction as far as Tommy’s character went, but if I’m being honest with you, and I see no reason not to be, that’s really my only problem with this one. Otherwise, it’s a fantastic entry into the series, and is about as good as Part 2 and The Final Chapter.

8.5/10

The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Directed by Dan O’Bannon [Other horror films: The Resurrected (1991)]

One of the best examples of a movie firmly with it’s feet in the 1980’s, The Return of the Living Dead has long been a favorite of mine. I don’t usually go for zombie comedies, but this one is a classic, and I do rather enjoy it.

It helps that the humor isn’t usually too goofy. There are a few scenes I could have done without, but for the most part, while the film certainly has comedy in it, it’s a lot more tame as opposed to an all-out goof-fest, which I am quite happy about, and personally makes it an easier film for me to get behind.

Also, that music – those funky beats that pop up whenever something goes down are just great. After that body is cremated, and the ashes rise into the air as the rain starts, and that music starts up, it just sounds great. It has a dark vibe to it (which lends the movie great atmosphere at times), and related, you gotta love the movie’s conclusion, from the solution the general has to the rains afterward.

I won’t spend much time on the performances, because most of them are fair in this film. James Karen and Thom Mathews’ (Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives) antics that started the whole thing were sort of funny (“This is completely solid,” slaps it and it breaks open – cracked me up). I didn’t care for Clu Gulager’s (A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge) character at first, but he grew on me a bit throughout the film. Don Calfa played his role pretty straight, which was impressive, and I also liked him.

Most of the teen characters were interchangeable. I don’t know how Beverly Randolph’s Tina started hanging out with that bunch, but whateves. Jewel Shepard was rather attractive at times, but none of that matters when Linnea Quigley strips naked early on in the film and stays in stages of being undressed throughout. Her character was odd anyway (with some really interesting and memorable lines of dialogue), but boy, does she have a cute butt. I could watch her in the graveyard naked for longer than I care to admit.

This is just one of those easy films that you can throw on at almost any point and have a fun time with. There’s nothing too deep here – just pure 80’s fun, with a bitching soundtrack, decent characters through, solid zombie design (need I even mention my homeboi Tarman?), and a great conclusion.

Even if you’re not a typical fan of zombie films, I’d recommend checking this one out, as it really is a ton of fun.

8.5/10

House (1985)

Directed by Steve Miner [Other horror films: Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981), Friday the 13th Part III (1982), Warlock (1989), Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998), Lake Placid (1999), Day of the Dead (2008)]

House holds a special place in my heart. It’s not an overly special movie, but it’s a movie I remember very vividly seeing bits and pieces of as a kid, and though it’s not particularly frightening nowadays, this movie really scared me when I was younger.

To tell the truth, some scenes here still got my heart racing, as pathetic as that might be to admit. While the comedy did occasionally veer to too silly a level, it’s the scares here that stood out, such as that ghoul woman attempting to abduct the child or the multitude of monstrous hands attacking the protagonist from the mirror.

Really, I find the whole concept of House intriguing. The main character (played by William Cobb) is dealing with both the trauma of his experiences in Vietnam along with his recently losing his son, who has gone missing. The house in question, which contains within it different dimensions (or something akin to that – it’s not much touched on), looked quite grand, and the whole mirror sequence onward were true quality to see again.

Cobb did sometimes get a bit goofy, but he was still a very solid main character, and I enjoyed the conclusion, which ended somewhat like the first A Nightmare on Elm Street. None of the side characters really added as much as you’d hope for (be it George Wendt or Mary Stavin), but as the movie’s really a personal journey for Cobb’s character, I think that could be excused. Richard Moll made for a solid antagonist, though.

The way House was put together really works, too. With many flashbacks to Cobb’s time in Vietnam setting up the conclusion, and plenty of ghoulish attacks (that overweight ghoul perhaps being the most memorable) and adventures (Cobb’s journey into the mirror onward), the movie really came together wonderfully, and though I wish a few things were added to the end, and some of the humor stripped down, the film’s enjoyable whether or not there’s a blot of nostalgia over it.

Sure, some of the special effects seem a bit goofy, and the comedy sometimes becomes a bit much, but there are some decently funny lines and scenes in here too, and the multiple issues that Cobb’s character deals with works even ignoring the comedic overlay. It’s a movie that scared me as a kid, and seeing this again after some time, it’s a movie I really enjoy now.

8/10

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

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

The Stuff (1985)

Directed by Larry Cohen [Other horror films: It’s Alive (1974), God Told Me To (1976), It Lives Again (1978), Full Moon High (1981), Q (1982), Special Effects (1984), It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive (1987), A Return to Salem’s Lot (1987), Wicked Stepmother (1989), The Ambulance (1990)]

This is a goofy, generally pretty silly, movie, but even so, I do think the Stuff has enough going for it to counter that, and now that I’ve seen it twice, I can definitely say it has it’s place in 1980’s classics.

Going after the consumerism in the U.S. is an interesting direction for a horror flick to take, but this one does it well. I really like the occasional commercials that pop up (and that catchy jingle ensures that we can’t get enough of The Stuff), and it lends the movie a slightly more realistic feel. A company selling a dangerous product is the basis of capitalism, so the fact that the main character here, Mo, is an industrial saboteur, makes it all the more fun.

As Mo, Michael Moriarty is a lot of fun. His ridiculously funny Southern accent really gives the character more feeling, and he certainly seems skilled in his job, as we see throughout the film. I don’t really know Moriarty from anything (Troll being the exception, and I barely recall him in that), so it’s nice to see an actor unknown to me do this well.

The others here are mostly solid, but I don’t think anyone’s really special. Paul Sorvino’s caricature of a right-wing (and racist) nutbag was sort of funny, but he was a bit too over-the-top for my liking. Better was Garrett Morris, but he didn’t really appear near as much as I would’ve liked. As for Andrea Marcovicci, well, I appreciate how they left out much of the romantic angle between her and Moriarty’s character, but I wanted more from her than what we got.

Regardless, it’s the silly story here that keeps us entertained more than anything. The story goes all over the place, literally, as the group travels to different locations in order to learn more about and battle The Stuff. Speaking of which, is there anything catchier than The Stuff’s jingle? Can’t get enough of the Stuff indeed.

The Stuff isn’t an amazing movie, but I’ve seen it a couple of times and it’s fun enough. I liked the special effects here, and the message against consumerism was welcomed also. It’s not a movie that’s necessarily a stand-out of the 1980’s, but I do think it’s worth at least a watch, and probably multiple.

7.5/10

The Stuff was covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if you can’t get enough of the Stuff, listen as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss the film.

Fright Night (1985)

Directed by Tom Holland [Other horror films: Child’s Play (1988), Two-Fisted Tales (1992, segment ‘King of the Road’), The Langoliers (1994), Thinner (1996), Tom Holland’s Twisted Tales (2014), Rock, Paper, Scissors (2017)]

Perhaps one of my favorite vampire films, Fright Night is a lot of fun and sets a high standard for a modern-age vampire story, and does a great job in a subgenre of horror often stuck in the 1950’s.

The story is, of course, a lot of fun, and really has that 80’s vibe that sticks with you (most noticeable during the scenes right before and during the club sequence), and the characters too are mostly memorable also. I’m somewhat lukewarm when it comes to William Ragsdale’s performance, but Chris Sarandon, Roddy McDowall, and Stephen Geoffreys all do great. I don’t really understand Evil Ed’s character, but McDowall’s great performance as Peter Vincent more than makes up for small issues insofar as casting was involved.

As far as special effects go, Fright Night has a lot to boast about, as there’s few scenes here that don’t look pretty solid. Melting vampires, multiple transformations, a great wolf-to-man transition, the movie has a lot going for it. Two scenes in particular really impressed me, one being Evil Ed’s first attack on Peter Vincent, and then the death of Jonathan Stark’s character, what with the rapidly deteriorating body. Even Evil Ed’s second attack on Vincent (“His dinner’s in the oven!”) was great, and somewhat emotional also.

Not everything in Fright Night works, but to be honest, most of what doesn’t do it for me are smaller things (such as Ragsdale’s acting). I do adore the ending of the film, and absolutely love McDowall’s somewhat complicated character, and for these reasons, and others, Fright Night has long been one of my favorite vampire movies, definitely one that any fan of 80’s horror should check out if they’ve not done so already.

8.5/10

This classic vampire film was covered on Fight Evil’s seventh podcast by Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and myself, which you can listen to below.

Silver Bullet (1985)

Silver Bullet

Directed by Daniel Attias [Other horror films: N/A]

Having seen this one a couple of times now, I think that Silver Bullet is a decent werewolf flick with a somewhat nostalgic feel, but I don’t think it’s quite as good as many others seem to feel it is.

The story (based off the Stephen King novel Cycle of the Werewolf) is pretty fun, although I don’t really think it was necessary to have it be narrated by Megan Follows’ character. I enjoyed the mystery elements, however little they were used, in which the identity of the werewolf was trying to be ferreted out. The special effects, not to mention death scenes, were generally good (the decapitation near the beginning being a highlight for me), though the werewolf transformation was a bit lacking.

Silver Bullet did have a solid cast, though. I’ve never been overly fond of Gary Busey, but he does pretty good here, and his character is certainly memorable. Corey Haim does great with his role, and while Megan Follows (playing Haim’s sister) didn’t seem that relevant to the plot until the end, I really liked her also (though again, her narration of the events seemed somewhat pointless). Terry O’Quinn was rather fun as the sheriff, and it’s nice seeing him a few years prior to The Stepfather. I wasn’t completely won over by Everett McGill, though – he just seemed a bit much at times, and occasionally felt somewhat ridiculous.

I’ve not read the source material for this one yet, so I can look at this from a slightly less critical point-of-view than other King adaptations. The first time I saw it, I wasn’t overly impressed, but with a fresh viewing, I feel I understand the appeal of the movie a bit more. The 1980’s was one of the most important decades for werewolf movies, and while Silver Bullet’s no An American Werewolf in London, I definitely enjoy it more than The Howling.

I wish that they had done a little more with the whole mysterious identity of the werewolf before the reveal, and a few other things felt like they needed some expanding, but I still found this a somewhat enjoyable movie, one of the better werewolf films, and overall, I’d rate it somewhere around average, with the performances (especially those of Haim and Follows) being the highlights.

7/10

Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch (1985)

Howling II

Directed by Philippe Mora [Other horror films: The Beast Within (1982), Howling III (1987), Communion (1989)]

The first sequel to the 1981 film, commonly known as Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (which, believe it or not, is actually more ridiculous than Stirba – Werewolf Bitch), has little value, but still provides silly entertainment. It’s not a movie that I’d want to see again any time soon, but it does possess a bit of charm.

I don’t want to give off the false impression, though, that the movie’s good. Were it not for Christopher Lee’s presence, I sort of doubt this movie would be worth mentioning at all. It’s interesting that Lee plays his character so straight in a movie that’s this wacky. That said, the movie’s not necessarily overtly comedic – I’m not entirely sure the funniest scene (the hotel check-in) was even meant to be a joke.

Which says quite a lot about this. The tone is far more hammy than the first movie (which, to remind you, I wasn’t a fan of either), and the spectacularly bad special effects during some of the scenes really make this one of those bad 80’s movies a group of friends might watch for the sole purpose of making fun of.

There were some special effects worth noting, though, mostly when it came to the gore – there were occasionally some good stabbings and the like, and a memorable scene in which a character’s eyes, under the evil influences of a wolf goddess, pop out. I’ll admit, I sort of thought that was cool.

The tone and occasionally-goofy effects aside, though, what hurts the movie most is the story. The idea of hunting down an evil leader of a werewolf group seems, to me, a close-to-impossible story to actually do well. Much of the movie was filmed in Czechoslovakia, which gives a more authentic feel to the film, but ultimately couldn’t improve the plot any.

As stated, Christopher Lee is about the only performance here of worth. I sort of liked Annie McEnroe, but her character made far too many idiotic mistakes. Still, she’s probably the second-best performance here. As for Reb Brown, Marsha Hunt, and Sybil Danning, they provide nothing but generally unnecessary nudity.

A few final notes – those cuts, those very comic book, silly cuts, seemed pretty pointless, as they added nothing to the movie but an additional negative quirk for people to smile in a befuddled manner at. And that song, seemingly one of the only songs they had (“In the pale, pale light/pale, pale, light of the moonglow”) started out being rather annoying, but honestly, after it was played for the third time, began growing on me.

The second Howling film is definitely worse than the first, which is a shame, as the first itself is below average. If you’re into ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ cinema, this movie may well appeal to you. I first saw this many years back (five, if not more), and I thought it was goofy then. I feel much the same now, and honestly, despite occasional hokey charm, I don’t know if this movie is worth it.

5/10

Bloodstream (1985)

Bloodstream

Directed by Michael J. Murphy [Other horror films: Invitation to Hell (1982), The Last Night (1983), The Hereafter (1983), Death Run (1987), Moonchild (1989), The Rite of Spring (1995), Skare (2007), Zk3 (2013), Nekros (2015)]

This is a bit of an obscurity that I’ve wanted to see ever since I read a review for it on A Slash Above. And after seeing it, I can say that it’s a pretty okay film for the quality it is.

Shot on Super 8mm, this is an awfully low-budget film, and the quality of the available print isn’t great. Video’s a bit scratchy, occasionally switching to black and white as the color becomes faded. The audio’s also quite murky at points. But if you can set these presentation issues aside, this movie has a lot to offer.

In many ways, it’s a bit like 1980’s Deadline. Deadline was a drama, dressed up as a horror flick by the fact that throughout the film, random horror clips played. Really, the movie was a somewhat depressing drama, but the effect of playing random horror clips, sometimes quite graphic, and putting to the viewer the connection between on-screen violence and actions, it was interesting. Bloodstream does some of this too, splicing into the story a lot of random, violent horror clips that the protagonist is watching on television.

Some of these are pretty gory, but nowhere as gory as the actual kills in the film. A dismemberment is of particular amusement, but a good throat-slitting and some other solid kills really make this a British version of one of Nathan Schiff’s entries to the genre. As a slasher fan, these kills are damn solid. And the in-universe movies have some entertaining deaths as well, including an extraordinarily fake-looking decapitation, and a good ax death.

I’ve not seen any other Michael J. Murphy films – perhaps his best known titles are The Last Night (1983) and Invitation to Hell (1982, not to be confused with a film of the same title from 1984 directed by Wes Craven). If this is any indication of how his others films are, though, I’d say they might be worth a look. Bloodstream is a very low-budget film, and if you can’t get into that, I’d recommend not coming near this one, especially since the print is so iffy. As for me, though, this British film had both a pretty interesting plot (it was indeed a nice revenge tale that independent movie-makers could get behind) and great gore.

8/10