Night of the Creeps (1986)

Directed by Fred Dekker [Other horror films: The Monster Squad (1987)]

This is a solid piece of campy fun, and while Night of the Creeps is a rather tongue-in-cheek film, it’s not too much as to be distracting, and ends up an all-around entertaining movie.

Honestly, there’s not that much to the story, and ignoring the stylistic black-and-white flashback introduction, the movie takes place over the course of just a few days. That doesn’t make the film weak, by any means, but it certainly doesn’t have that epic feel you might expect (which is probably to it’s benefit).

If there’s one place where I think the movie maybe went a bit overboard, it’s with the constant references to famous horror-related directors and actors, such as Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter, Steve Miner, Sam Raimi, and David Cronenberg, among others. We got it after the first few names popped up. On the other hand, Atkins’ saying “Thrill me” never got old, nor was I unhappy to see Dick Miller for a few moments.

Jason Lively wasn’t the best here – I just didn’t really care for the look of him. I think he was a fine companion piece with Jill Whitlow, though, and his friendship with Steve Marshall (who, in himself, was a sort of unique character, what with the disability) was sort of nice to see.

Let’s be honest, though. The true star here is Dick Miller, who’s been in tons of horror films, from Chopping Mall to Gremlins, The Little Shop of Horrors to The Howling, Demon Knight – wait, no. Upon further examination, I think Tom Atkins is the true star, though as always, it’s fantastic to see Dick Miller pop up, even though it’s for only a single scene.

Tom Atkins (The Fog, Halloween: Season of the Witch, and Maniac Cop) was great here. You couldn’t help but feel for him upon learning about his full backstory, and that scene in which he decides to help out Spanky as opposed to killing himself was oddly touching, as was the conclusion. Atkins was great here, and I thought he brought a lot to this film, especially since virtually no one else here aside from Miller had experience with horror.

The special effects are all pretty good aside from that pile of slugs at the end, which looked somewhat janky (and to be fair, that dog puppet didn’t look the best either). Slugs are admittedly probably hard to mess up, but they looked good here, and the zombie designs were all admirable (if a bit uninspired, but that wasn’t the focus, so I can’t complain).

With quite a few amusing quotes throughout (including the one on the poster about the ‘good news/bad news’) and a good sense of what this movie was going for, Night of the Creeps is a good film that’s well-worth it’s cult classic status. It doesn’t blow me away, but it’s always a fun watch.

7.5/10

From Beyond (1986)

Directed by Stuart Gordon [Other horror films: Re-Animator (1985), Dolls (1986), Daughter of Darkness (1990), The Pit and the Pendulum (1991), Castle Freak (1995), Dagon (2001)]

I have to admit that when I saw this film for the first time, it didn’t click. If you were to ask me what I didn’t like about it, I don’t know entirely if I would be able to give a great answer. The truth is I’m pretty sure I watched it on the same day I watch seven or eight other classic horror films, and this just got lost in the sauce, as Howie Hawkins (the presidential candidate I voted for in 2020) would often say.

So seeing it again was a nice surprise. I still can’t admit to loving it, because I don’t. I think the atmosphere is great, the main performances are solid, even the story is decently interesting (with elements of both Videodrome and a sprinkle of Prince of Darkness thrown in), but I lose interest in the last thirty minutes or so (once they leave the house and hit the mental institution). It’s not a bad direction, but I didn’t care much for it.

Of course, Jeffrey Combs (who I recently saw in The Attic Expeditions, and is most well-known for Re-Animator and voicing the Question in Justice League Unlimited) is a treat to see here, and there’s a  decent amount of sympathy felt for his character despite not really knowing much about him. Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator and Chopping Mall) was attractive here, especially in her glasses. Ken Foree (who, in fact, I forgot was in this – I loved him in Dawn of the Dead) was a lot of fun too.

Even with the strong cast and amazing special effects, the atmosphere doesn’t carry over to the mental institution, at least in my view. It’s still a good movie, but I’m rating it around average, and can only hope that I eventually grow to enjoy it as much as many other seem to.

7/10

April Fool’s Day (1986)

Directed by Fred Walton [Other horror films: When a Stranger Calls (1979), I Saw What You Did (1988), Trapped (1989), Homewrecker (1992), When a Stranger Calls Back (1993)]

Though mired somewhat by a mixed reception, April Fool’s Day is a classic that I will never not enjoy.

A large part of this is due to all of the characters. In truth, the kills themselves are somewhat light, but the variety of characters here still add a lot of vitality to the movie, and the opening scenes, while almost overwhelming insofar character introductions (there are quite a few characters thrown at us that we need to keep track of), do a good job of showing us who we’ll be watching for the next hour and a half.

So let’s take an unnecessarily lengthy time and go over each and every cast-member, shall we?

Jay Baker cracks me up here. He plays the Texas boy Harvey, and he’s fun in pretty much every single scene he’s in. It helps that he wants to plow some fields wink wink. Deborah Goodrich (Nikki) never really stuck with me, but she’s in the movie, so she’s fine too. It helps that her name is Mary O’Reilly O’Toole O’Shea, and she fucks on the first date. You know who else is fine? Ken Olandt (Rob, who was also in Leprechaun), as he’s a solid protagonist and there’s little to really dislike him for.

Griffin O’Neil (Skip) is of good quality. No complaints. Leah Pinsent (Nan) is probably my favorite character, especially toward the end when she’s just trying to read her book in peace amidst the celebrations going on. I really find her a lot of fun here, as Nan is totally my type. Clayton Rohner (Chaz) is something else, and of course, in this case, ‘something else’ means a lot of fun. He also wants to hide the sausage with Thomas F. Wilson (Back to the Future, brah), and seeing Rohner and Wilson just goof around like that is a lot of fun.

I don’t know if Amy Steel stands out amidst the characters as much as she did earlier in Friday the 13th Part 2, but she still makes for a pretty solid focal point. It’s Deborah Foreman (my girl Muffy) who really shows talent, though her obviously different personality in the latter half of the film felt almost too telling (which I guess is the point, so I won’t complain). Foreman’s probably best well known for, aside from this one, Destroyer, Waxwork, Lobster Man from Mars, and the ever-classic Valley Girl (this last one is, unfortunately, not horror), and I definitely think she’s a lot of fun here, from beginning to end.

Certainly, it could be said the kills are lacking. Much of the action, such as it is, happens off-screen, and usually that would be at least a mild cause for concern, but it works here due to, one, the nature of the story, and secondly, you’re already having a lot of fun watching these guys hang out, mess around, and get fooled by fake cigars, so the fact that the blood is a bit light isn’t a giant issue.

As for the conclusion, I think it’s pretty suspenseful, and they really get all the juice they possibly could out of the situation (I do love it that when Kit finally figures out what’s going on, Rob is still bellowing in the background). It’s worth mentioning too that, even had I not loved the ending (and I’m not going as far as to say I loved it, but I never had a problem with it), it wouldn’t badly impact the rest of the film – look at Slaughter High. That had perhaps one of the worst endings imaginable, and it still rocks in awesomeness.

From the beautiful island setting to the collection of fun and playful characters (I really can’t get enough of the cast – fantastic job all around getting these performers together), April Fool’s Day has never disappointed me. It’s not the best the 80’s has to offer, but it is pretty damn good, and I’ll stand by that.

8.5/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss April Fool’s Day, a true classic.

Crawlspace (1986)

Directed by David Schmoeller [Other horror films: Tourist Trap (1979), Catacombs (1988), Puppet Master (1989), The Arrival (1991), Netherworld (1992), Possessed (2005), Little Monsters (2012), Puppet Master: Blitzkrieg Massacre (2018), Death Heads: Brain Drain (2018)]

Honestly, there’s not really a lot to Crawlspace. Oh, sure, it’s short, at only an hour and twenty minutes long, but more to the point, there’s not a whole lot of story here. Girl moves into an apartment building, girl hears strange noises, girl finds out landlord is a Nazi. I mean, we’ve all been there, right?

Well, perhaps not, but it is true that this movie doesn’t really feel that active. It’s not that there’s really a boring moment here, because I don’t think it drags at any point, it’s more that it just felt, for lack of a better adjective, shallow.

Respect where respect is due, Klaus Kinski gives a great performance (apparently he wasn’t that enjoyable off-camera, which was interesting to learn). It’s not that his character is filled with unique backstory or emotion, it’s just that he plays his role in a very creepy, yet subtle, style, and he’s pretty much all you’re watching when on-screen.

Problematically, he’s about one of the only reasons to go out of your way to watch this, though. It’s not that the other performances are bad, or even lacking (I personally enjoyed the main character, played by one Talia Balsam), it’s just that there’s not a lot to this movie, and Kinski’s character is pretty much the focus for a large portion of it.

Hell, most of the kills themselves aren’t exactly that memorable, save for maybe the chair scene, and while I’ll give credit to the ending for being somewhat suspenseful (a chase through air ducts being both claustrophobic and tense), along with the woman trapped in the cage added an additional uneasy vibe, I just couldn’t find it in me to call this an overly memorable movie.

I think I’ve seen this one maybe three times before, perhaps only two. No matter how many times I saw it before this most recent viewing, though, I don’t think I was ever amazed with it. No doubt that Crawlspace is competent, and occasionally compelling, but it’s certainly not much more than that. Not bad with a single watch, but I really don’t think multiple viewings does this one much good.

6.5/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen to the wonderful video below to hear Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss Crawlspace.

Witchboard (1986)

Directed by Kevin Tenney [Other horror films: Night of the Demons (1988), The Cellar (1988), Witchtrap (1989), Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway (1993), Pinocchio’s Revenge (1996), The Second Arrival (1998), Endangered Species (2002), Brain Dead (2007)]

I’ll be honest, this was a bit of a disappointing rewatch. I saw this film once before quite some time back, and I remembered having a good enough time with it. Seeing it again, though, I struggle to exactly capture why I felt that before. Some of the movie was interesting, but overall, I can’t help but see Witchboard as moderately underwhelming.

As far as leads go, Tawny Kitaen, Todd Allen, and Stephen Nichols are fine. Both Nichols’ and Allen’s characters can be dicks, but hey, it’s the manly competition to get the girl, so why not? As it is, their story is decent, as they used to be friends, fell apart, and through the course of the film, begin to again get on friendly terms. If there’s any performance here that’s really memorable, though, it’s Kathleen Wilhoite as a medium Zarabeth, who’s wacky but decently entertaining.

Some of the creepy scenes here, including dream sequences, are solid, and the special effects throughout, while nothing amazing, are still certainly decent. It’s just that the story isn’t necessarily my favorite thing, and though elements are sort of interesting (such as the mystery behind the spirit that’s going after Kitaen’s character), all pulled together, it doesn’t do a lot for me.

Witchboard isn’t as good as I remember, which is a shame, because, as I said, I recall having a solid time with this one. It’s still an okay movie, and for a supernatural flick from the latter half of the 1980’s, it’s decent, but unless my view drastically changes the next time I chance this one, Witchboard, for what it does right, is probably a bit below average.

6/10

Aliens (1986)

Directed by James Cameron [Other horror films: Piranha Part Two: The Spawning (1981)]

While it’s true that it took me until my most-recent viewing of Alien to fully appreciate it, Aliens is a movie I loved from ‘hello,’ and it’s probably the best horror/action/science fiction movie in the history of the moving pictures.

Let’s dispense with the problems first, though:

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the myriad of great performances (it’d almost be easier to talk about those who didn’t make a positive impression, but that didn’t strike me as fair).

I loved Sigourney Weaver in the first movie, but she’s even better here. Once she takes control, she really takes control (the scene in which Ripley usurps Gorman is fantastic), and though she’s all bad-ass, she still has a sensitive side, as seen when dealing with Newt (Carrie Henn) and Hudson (Bill Paxton). She is the exact right person in that situation, and I enjoyed watching her kick ass throughout (especially in regards to Paul Reiser’s character).

And speaking of Reiser, boy, does he cause some whiplash. At first, he seems a decent guy, one of the few trying to back-up Ripley’s experience and get her back into a suitable profession, but then we find out something later on that shines a whole new light on him, and he quickly becomes one of the most hated characters in the whole of cinema (perhaps an overstatement, but man, I utterly abhor this guy, and I definitely thought he should have been killed just as soon as his secret and actions were discovered). Reiser does a great job playing a terrible character, so kudos.

It’s Gorman, played by William Hope, who at first seems to be the main antagonist. Very quickly, though, we find out that he’s not so much a bad man as he is just under-experienced. He certainly thought he had control of the situation, but when Ripley shoves him aside, he takes it gracefully, and I always low-key appreciated him for that. Another individual who takes a little while to really make a place for themselves is Hicks, played by Michael Biehn. To be honest, I barely noticed him until he retained command, but I loved him as soon as he sided with Ripley, and from there on out, he gave it his best to protect everyone.

Others who merit a positive mention are probably obvious, being Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Bill Paxton, Mark Rolston, and Al Matthews. Henriksen as the android Bishop really did well here. Being an android, he didn’t need to have much in the way of emotions, so Henriksen was a perfect fit, and I definitely enjoyed him throughout (especially towards the end). Goldstein kicked ass about as much as Weaver, and her comeback to Hudson near the beginning was cuttingly brutal.

Paxton’s Hudson lost control past a certain point, but he was still a solid character to the end, and though Rolston’s Drake didn’t last near as long as I was hoping, he too was a character I really found myself enjoying. Of everyone, though, it’s Al Matthews, who, as soon as he awakens from cryofreeze, the very second, he has a cigar in his mouth. Love that guy’s dedication. I also rather liked Colette Hiller, though she appeared for only a short time.

As far as the special effects go, everything here looks great, and though at first glance it might look like the movie runs a little long (as it’s around two-and-a-half hours), I think everything feels smooth and well-paced throughout the film. The setting is a nicely deserted alien world, and there are some absolutely fantastic scenes of suspense here (such as Ripley and the kid being trapped in the room with the facehuggers).

Let’s face it – Aliens is a fantastic movie, and this is probably one of my least controversial movie opinions of all time. The movie currently sits in IMDb’s top 100 movies, and I’m very much mistaken if I think that’s going to change anytime soon. It’s an action-packed ride with with a ton of suspense, scares (that locked room with Ripley and Newt gets my heart racing every time), action, and I can’t recommend the movie enough.

10/10

Sorority House Massacre (1986)

Directed by Carol Frank [Other horror films: N/A]

For a somewhat lower-budget, mid-80’s slasher, I think that Sorority House Massacre has quite a bit going for it. While the killer certainly leaves something to be desired, the film often carries with it a rather more artistic feel (especially during the dream sequences), and helps the film stand out positively.

What really sets this one apart from more lackluster slashers around the same time (some that come to mind include Blood Hook, Killer Workout, and Open House) were the more artistic portions of the film, most often the dream sequences. It’s not uncommon that I feel dream sequences in films turn me off, but the ones in this movie are done pretty well, and occasionally provide some creepy imagery (the picture that starts bleeding, for instance).

On the other hand, no one in the cast really bowled me over. I did like the main actress, Angela O’Neill, well enough, but the other girls and miscellaneous guys were pretty much just the generic bunch you’d expect. Luckily, that doesn’t really harm the film much, as the body count insured that most of them are dead by the end of the film anyway. One performance that did bother me was the killer, played by John C. Russell. He just didn’t seem that frightening (though I did like how they portrayed his insanity, what with hallucinating the college-aged girls as his little sisters). I think they could have done a better job with him, though.

The story was pretty standard with no real surprises, but it was pleasant enough, and the special effects were competent to nonexistent, but really, for a 70 minute slasher, I wasn’t complaining. I did like the tepee kill, and there were a few solid painful looking stabbings, but nothing over-the-top. One scene I did like the was montage of three of the girls changing clothes. Some hot, nude bodies changing clothes to 80’s synth music is just what the doctor ordered…

Obviously, I’m a rather large fan of slashers, especially 80’s slashers, so it might not come as a shock that I thought Sorority House Massacre worked out for the best. Honestly, though I’d seen this one before, I forgot just to what extent I enjoyed it, so while it doesn’t have the same name recognition of The Slumber Party Massacre or The House on Sorority Row, I’d give this one a go. It may not be amazing, but I do think it was very competently made, and even had a few surprisingly creepy scenes.

7.5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. If you’re interesting in hearing Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one, check out the video below.

Camping del terrore (1986)

Directed by Ruggero Deodato [Other horror films: Ultimo mondo cannibale (1977), Cannibal Holocaust (1980), La casa sperduta nel parco (1980), Inferno in diretta (1984), Un delitto poco comune (1988), Minaccia d’amore (1988), Vortice mortale (1993), The Profane Exhibit (2013, segment ‘Bridge’), Ballad in Blood (2016), Deathcember (2019, segment ‘Casetta Sperduta in Campagna’)]

This Italian film (most commonly known as Body Count) was a bit of a muddled, scatter-shot mess. It was certainly still enjoyable as a slasher fan, but boy, you’d hope that Ruggero Deodato would have been able to make a more stable slasher than what this shows.

As it is, the kills throughout are decent. I particularly liked seeing one character’s fingers getting chopped off by an ax, or another in which a girl gets stabbed through the hand, and the killer twists the knife. There are some painful scenes in this one, and though it doesn’t really compete with the best of the best, the kills were very competent.

A bigger problem, though, is the story and characters. Maybe it’s because the movie’s Italian, but the story here seems a bit on the messy side. It’s true that I had an issue remembering who was who here (though to be honest, I don’t know if that matters much), but starting out the movie, then jumping 15 years later, then later throwing in a flashback of a ‘bear attack’ (that was very obviously a murder, on a side-note) just left me feeling jumbled. The ending, which implied that there was another killer, also didn’t help.

Even once we find out who’s behind the murders (which isn’t a big surprise, but there were a few legitimate suspects here), we’re told that one of the earliest murders (that happened in the introduction, 15 years prior to the core of the movie) wasn’t done by the killer. Wait, I missed something – who killed that first person, then? Maybe it slipped past me, or maybe that wasn’t clarified.

The characters here were all sort of goofy and hard to really feel much for. The worst offender was Andrew J. Lederer (who provided us with some solid male frontal nudity), but to be honest, he did crack me up a few times, and at least stood out, which can’t be said for any of the other teen characters (despite the fact that a handful of the young women weren’t what you might refer to as ‘modest’).

Some of the others here were okay, though. Ivan Rassimov (who starred in a handful of classic cannibal films, such as Man from Deep River, Jungle Holocaust, and Eaten Alive!) brought a solid performance as a sheriff, though I wish the movie did more with him. Ditto John Steiner, who I thought would play a bigger role here. David Hess (Last House on the Left) and Charles Napier were also solid presences, but given the story they’re dealing with, I don’t think either stood out.

I’ll give Body Count kudos for the 80’s score, which I rather liked, but I’ll take the kudos away due to the atrocious lighting at various parts throughout the movie. Maybe if the lighting had made some of the scenes more visible, some of the movie might have been more on the comprehensible side.

The question is, though, did I enjoy Body Count? I did, given all of it’s flaws. I still think this Italian slasher is below average, but hell, it’s an 80’s slasher, and there are decent kills here, so even if the story is lacking, at least we get a little something.

6/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if so intrigued, check out below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss Body Count.

Neon Maniacs (1986)

Directed by Joseph Mangine [Other horror films: N/A]

I’ll be forthcoming and admit that I didn’t go into this one with high expectations. Truthfully, I was thinking that I’d rather dislike it. But as it turns out, not only did I enjoy it, but despite some very glaring problems, I actually rather loved it.

I want to talk about the big problem with the film first before I go into praising it incessantly. We never find out what exactly the monsters are, or where they come from, or what they want, or why they want it. They seem to come out at night to kill, and that’s about all we know about them. Some of their designs are a bit off, but for most of the main ones, I thought they were decent (such as the one with ropes). Also, it could be argued that the film doesn’t have much coherency.

All of that said, though, I had a great time with this.

In a somewhat unique choice, Neon Maniacs plays itself pretty straight for most of the film. With a title like it has, you’d expect endless camp and maybe silly comedy (think Troma), but aside from a few funny lines (and the scene at the turnstiles), the movie’s nothing like that (which goes a long way to explain why I enjoyed it more than I thought I would). The characters know they’re in danger, and there’s a pretty somber tone throughout, especially toward the end (speaking of which, that final line is fantastic).

There’s a lot of great scenes here, such as the really cool pool sequence and much of the battle of the bands finale. That battle of the bands was fun especially because I actually really liked that first song, ‘Baby Lied.’ It was catchy and totally my jam. Even ignoring the fun music, though, when it randomly cut to Donna Locke’s character sitting atop the speakers and cheering, dressed as a vampire, I couldn’t help but laugh.

Donna Locke is perhaps the number one reason I loved this film. Her character’s utterly adorable, and is a lot more interesting and proactive than the actual main character of the film (played by Leilani Sarelle). She directs low-budget horror films, fights off a few monsters single-handedly, goes to investigate and videotape the monsters, and consistently tries to hook up with Sarelle in order to fight against them. Donna Locke’s character is utterly badass, and it’s a damn shame that Locke has never appeared in anything else. I really liked her character, and cheered whenever she was onscreen.

Clyde Hayes and Leilani Sarelle do well too, they’re just not nearly as memorable. Hayes previously appeared in the fourth Friday the 13th, but he was more prominent here, which worked well, as he was decently action-oriented. The scenes in which Hayes, Sarelle, and Locke worked together in order to fight off the monsters were all rather fun, so props to that.

Neon Maniacs surprised me. It has pretty good special effects, some effectively atmospheric sequences (such as Locke traveling in the fog), memorable characters, decent deaths, and enjoyable music, all tied together with a would-be campy plot played generally straight. I will admit to being taken aback, but that was my mistake. A really enjoyable movie, despite the origins of the monsters never being made clear.

8.5/10

This is one of the first movies Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I covered on our Fight Evil, so listen below as we awkwardly discuss it.

Ozone: The Attack of the Redneck Mutants (1986)

Directed by Matt Devlen [Other horror films: Tabloid (1989)]

This low-budget flick is not nearly as fun as the title would lead you to believe. In fact, it’s a pretty damn dry and boring film, and there’s very little here that’d be worth seeking it out for.

Does the movie occasionally boast some solid, low-budget gore? Sure, but it’s pretty sparse, and ultimately not really worth it. In the first half of the film, there was really only one scene worth watching (it was decently gory, luckily), but everything else was just utterly pointless filler (the highlight of which was an old woman chasing a chicken around her kitchen, cackling).

Let me let you all in on a secret: When the height of entertainment in the first half of a movie is an old woman chasing a chicken around a kitchen, cackling, you know that the film has problems.

The pitiful performances didn’t help much. Blue Thompson was the best of the bunch, which really, really isn’t saying anything. Scott Davis whined way too much, and Brad McCormick was just a ridiculous caricature of a hillbilly (though nothing so over-the-top as Redneck Zombies did, thank God).

Of course, nobody’s coming to this film because of the potentially solid acting – it’s for the low-fi gore. And I will admit, for a lower-budget film, the special effects and gore are decently effective. It’s nowhere near as good as Nathan Schiff, but it’s still decent. The problem is, save for the one aforementioned scene in the first half of the film, most of the movie just follows pretty uninteresting characters in extraordinarily dull ways.

We watch this farmer’s wife do some dishes and iron a few shirts as she looks to the window, where her husband’s outside giving water to their dog. We see an older woman knead some dough and chase a chicken. We see a wanna-be country singer (god, was her accent something else) get ready to go to her singing engagement (which takes place at the small general store). All of this is done without dialogue, and it’s more than a little boring.

Ozone: The Attack of the Redneck Mutants is nowhere near as fun as the title makes it sound. It was a painfully joyless experience, and the occasionally good gore (which including a tongue getting pulled out, an eyeball removed, and of course intestines being ripped from the stomach) doesn’t excuse this film’s unfortunately dry feel. Even if you are a gore-hound, there’s almost nothing about this one to recommend. It was just poor movie-making.

3.5/10