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 give 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, starting to grow 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 1984’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

The Nail Gun Massacre (1985)

Nail Gun

Directed by Bill Leslie [Other horror films: N/A] & Terry Loftin [Other horror films: N/A]

While certainly a gory movie, everything else was a bit of a hassle to sit through, and ultimately, much is left to be desired after finishing this.

The one thing this early straight-to-video horror gets right is the gore. It’s not always great, and it’s moderately derivative, but at the very least, this movie has it. The body count is pretty high here, too – at least ten to twelve on-screen deaths, which is sort of nice. Unfortunately, that’s sort of all this film can really boast about.

Everything else is quite shoddy. I’m even a fan of SOV horror – I enjoyed Night Ripper (1986), Cannibal Campout (1988), Houseboat Horror (1989), Spine (1986), and a handful of others. This film, though, just wasn’t as enjoyable as any of the ones I listed. It’s a shame, as this movie could have played as a serious rape-revenge film, like I Spit on Your Grave, but instead of taking that route, it goes the ‘serial killer making terrible jokes’ direction, and it came across as rather ridiculous, especially given the killer’s backstory.

I don’t expect great acting, but at least one or two performances that stand out would be nice. Instead, all we got here was Ron Queen, who was amusing only in the fact he always had the same neutral expression on his face. Queen is literally the only one who really stood out in any way, which is amazing, as for a low-budget SOV film, this movie doesn’t really have that small a cast.

I think that this movie could have been better if they had chosen to approach the material differently. Instead of making it a product of the 80’s, if they went more for the feel of the aforementioned I Spit on Your Grave or Toolbox Murders, it’d have been a bit better. For an 80’s film, this movie was just dry, and even when it was trying to add a little spice with the killer’s idiotic comments, it just made it worse. Aside from some decent gore, The Nail Gun Massacre isn’t that worth watching, which is really a shame, as it really had potential.

5/10

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

ANOES2

Directed by Jack Sholder [Other horror films: Alone in the Dark (1982), The Hidden (1987), Natural Selection (1994), Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies (1999), Arachnid (2001), 12 Days of Terror (2004)]

I’ve seen this movie so many times, it’s really hard to take a step back and look at the whole picture. Portions of this movie are really cool, and the special effects are amazing (Freddy popping out of Jesse’s body, Freddy’s melting face at the end, etc.), but the movie, as a final product, is rather nonsensical.

There were subplots that weren’t really expanded on (such as why the house was hot, why things kept catching fire or exploding), elements of Freddy’s abilities that weren’t touched upon the previous movie, and the fact that almost all of Freddy’s appearances toward the end seem to be in this reality, not a dream world, was left completely alone.

The movie is a mess. But as much a mess as it is, I still think it’s fun and rather unique, which makes sense as it’s probably the black sheep of the original series (the first film to Freddy’s Dead).

Despite having a bunch of no-name actors, I think things work out okay. Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Rusler, Clu Gulager, and Marshall Bell are all pretty memorably characters (especially Bell, who dominated as a gay gym coach). The acting isn’t great, and sure, sometimes Myers’ got a bit much, but still, I think it worked. Robert Englund, of course, did well as Freddy.

Somewhat related, while it doesn’t really make sense to me, I did like the whole poolside massacre sequence. Solid stuff, including one of my favorite lines of Freddy’s, being, “You are all my children now.” Again, it doesn’t make sense, but it’s a fun scene.

The original movie is a beloved classic, so any sequel would come as a disappointment, and given that this one is so far removed from the first, it hits this one even harder. And without a doubt, the third movie blows this one out of the water. But still, I’ve seen this movie multiple times, perhaps seven, eight times now, and Freddy’s Revenge is fun. Wish they tried tightening the story, or doing more with Grady, or even touching more on what is obviously Jesse’s battle with his sexuality, but still, it’s a fun mess. And it’s still better than the god-awful fifth movie.

7.5/10

This sequel was covered on episode #32 of Fight Evil’s podcast, so if you wanna hear Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and myself discuss this on, give it a shot.