The Unnamable (1988)

Directed by Jean-Paul Ouellette [Other horror films: The Unnamable II: The Statement of Randolph Carter (1992)]

I’m not entirely sure why this one has such a bad rap. I mean, it’s not a stellar film, but I’ve seen this around three times now, and I consistently have a fun time with it.

It’s true that the setting is somewhat stagnant, as most of the movie takes place in a dilapidated house (and what doesn’t occurs on a generic college campus), but I thought that, despite the obvious low-budget, they did well with what they had.

To be honest, a lot of the reason I find this worth watching is due to Mark Kinsey Stephenson’s character, Randolph Carter. His attitude, which is somewhat aloof yet very knowledgeable (almost arrogantly so), just cracked me up. He’s not really the main character (as Charles Klausmeyer’s Howard was involved in most of the action), but he was enjoyable every single time on-screen. I suspect some would be turned off by his demeanor, but I really respect what he was going for.

Certainly, Klausmeyer was decent too, but his character was nowhere near as interesting, and truth be told, perhaps that’s the one big issue, as any scene without Stephenson is automatically less engaging by the sole fact he’s not in the scene. I did like Alexandra Durrell in her role, though I wouldn’t have minded a bit more depth. Laura Albert stood out during her nude sequence, but otherwise, her character was pretty awful. Really, as far as performances go, no one really comes close to Mark Kinsey Stephenson.

As for the design of the titular Unnamable, I thought it was decent. Not mind-blowingly so, but effective, and the little backstory we got on the origin of the creature was fun. Related, while there wasn’t a lot of gore, there were a few note-worthy scenes so one doesn’t walk away empty-handed, which is nice.

On a final note, after the finale, when the credits start rolling, we’re graced with a beautifully somber song titled ‘Up There‘ by Mark Ryder & Phil Davies, a song that really ends the film on a good note, and has been on my iTunes ever since I first saw this movie. Definitely a quality piece of music.

Mark Kinsey Stephenson is a big reason I like this movie, but even ignoring his deeply amusing character, you still have a somewhat fun story good setting, and all-around solid, low-budget, horror story. Having seen this three times now, I can say that it does indeed hit the right spots.

8/10

Hide and Go Shriek (1988)

Directed by Skip Schoolnik [Other horror films: N/A]

This one might seem unassuming, what with being a slasher from the late 80’s, but I’ve long thought that Hide and Go Shriek was a bit of a hidden gem. I’m not saying it’s perfect by any means, but it is a thoroughly enjoyable slasher that’s always entertained me.

Cast-wise, most of them did decently. I don’t think there are that many memorable characters, though, aside from those given to us by Brittain Frye and perhaps Bunky Jones. Frye’s character, Randy, was just out there, and had a wildly fun personality, where Bunky Jones provided me with my favorite nude scene in the film (three of the four ladies here show off a little something, so if that’s what you’re into, you’ll enjoy this). Still, Ria Pavia, Sean Kanan, Annette Sinclair, and Donna Baltron all did reasonably well.

The setting here goes a long way to make the film enjoyable also. An after-hours excursion into a furniture store doesn’t sound too thrilling, but it’s a pretty big (and multi-layered) store, with a lot of mannequins and hiding places. It even comes with a freight elevator, which comes into play throughout the film (and provides a very solid death sequence). Also, a favorite scene of mine has always been when the group is trying to get the attention of a homeless man and some police officers across the street, but due to the shatterproof glass, they’re doomed to keep fighting for their survival.

As far as twists go, I wouldn’t say Hide and Go Shriek is amazing, but I was still pretty happy with it. It pretty much comes out of nowhere, but there is a bit of emotion during the finale, so I can easily excuse the seeming randomness.

I say this pretty much every time I review a slasher film, but as a fan of slashers, I’m not really that difficult to please. Hide and Go Shriek had solid tension, decently fun characters (that ridiculous ‘Walk this Way’ scene at the beginning a case in point), and good gore when it ventured in that direction. I’m sort of surprised there was never a sequel to this, but that makes this all the better, in my view.

Having seen this one somewhere from four to five times now, I can say I greatly enjoy this, and recommend it to fans of slashers.

8.5/10

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

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

Directed by Renny Harlin [Other horror films: Prison (1987), Deep Blue Sea (1999), T.R.A.X. (2000), Mindhunters (2004), Exorcist: The Beginning (2004), The Covenant (2006), The Dyatlov Pass Incident (2013)]

Ah, The Dream Master, when the Elm Street series starts going bad. It’s a mild deterioration at first, though, because while The Dream Master is a far cry from Dream Warriors, it’s still a decently fun movie, but then it veers to some really goofy stuff that doesn’t really work for me, and leads to a conclusion that just wasn’t great.

Disappointingly, Patricia Arquette decided against reprising her role as Kristen, and instead Tuesday Knight played her. Knight’s perfectly fine, but given that the others from Dream Warriors returned (Ken Sagoes and Rodney Eastman), it felt like a loss. I do think Alice is a solid character, played by Lisa Wilcox, but more interesting was her brother, Rick, played by Andras Jones (though he had one of the weakest kills in the series). I didn’t care much for any of the side-characters though, such as Toy Newkirk (Shelia), Danny Hassel (Dan), and Brooke Theiss (Debbie). Nice seeing Robert Shaye (long-time producer of the series) as a teacher, though.

Robert Englund is about as good as he always is, though some of his material is a bit questionable. I didn’t think he needed to wear sunglasses, or suck someone’s soul out by kissing them, or much of what he did here. My favorite kill is probably one toward the beginning, with things kept simple as he just gut-stabs a character with a killer line. He’s not as cheesy here as he later becomes, but it’s in this film where it’s more noticeable (no doubt, he was a little silly in the third, but that just felt darker overall than this one did).

Some of the finale here doesn’t really work for me. I thought the time-reversal was a bit weak, and overall, things felt a bit more disjointed toward the end. Also, Freddy’s demise here didn’t wow me, largely because I don’t believe for a second he’s never encountered a mirror since becoming the lovable dream demon he is. Unless it only works if he’s in a church, or some stupid thing like that. The whole final confrontation here lacked the special feel that was present in the first three movies (yes, even the second), and Alice sort of had easy sailing. Flash a mirror, and boom, she’s pretty much fine.

Of course, I can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic in regards to this film. Obviously, I was born in the early 1990’s, so I never saw this in theaters, but I saw portions of this when I was a kid, and some of the scenes I liked then, I still think are special (such as the last moments of Kincaid, where the whole of the Earth seems to be a junkyard, which looked so fake, but still held appeal). Even so, this is when I believe the series starts losing it’s grasp on the subject, and if they had ended it here instead of embarrassing themselves with The Dream Child, perhaps that would have been ideal.

The Dream Master isn’t a bad film, but I do think it feels a lot more average than the three previous entries, and overall, I just find the film about middle of the road.

Just remember, tell ’em Freddy sent ya!

7/10

The Brain (1988)

Directed by Ed Hunt [Other horror films: Point of No Return (1976), Bloody Birthday (1981), Halloween Hell (2014)]

I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy this film all that much (despite the fact that it’s long sat in a ‘want-to-see’ list of mine), but while I didn’t absolutely love it, The Brain was still a decently fun and enjoyable film, and not nearly as goofy as one might think.

It’s hard to say exactly why the film works better than expected. The story itself is somewhat interesting, true, and most of the main performances are competent, but even so, it lacks that flair that’d truly make it amazing. The fact that the film takes itself more seriously probably goes a long way to explain why I personally enjoyed it more than I initially thought I would, so there’s that.

Tom Bresnahan does well as the sympathetic main character, and Cynthia Preston, playing his girlfriend, does pretty good also. Preston, on a side-note, later appeared in Prom Night III: The Last Kiss, which I’ve yet to see, but thought it was worth mentioning. Otherwise, she’s not done that much for the genre. David Gale, however, well-known for his role in Re-Animator and Bride of Re-Animator, has both done a bit more for the horror genre, and more so, does pretty memorably in The Brain (though toward the end, his plot sort of runs thin). As a threatening presence, George Buza puts up a good performance.

There were a few issues I had toward the conclusion of the film regarding main character Jim’s actions, such as approaching his mother (in hopes, I guess, that she hadn’t been brainwashed somehow), something like ten minutes after criticizing another character for wanting to do the same thing. I was sort of expecting a Halloween III: Season of the Witch twist with Preston’s character, but one was never even hinted at, which felt off. Lastly, I got a slight sense that things were a bit anticlimactic, and while I sort of liked the final scene, it definitely threw me off-guard.

Where The Brain really shines is in their psychedelic hallucination sequences. The one that opens the movie is fantastic, and there are a few throughout the film that really show promise. In a way, it felt like watching some of the more trippy dreams from A Nightmare on Elm Street. It gives a very ‘what the hell am I watching’ feel to the film.

Overall, I don’t think The Brain is amazing, but I do think it’s a pretty fun slice of wild, 80’s horror, and probably worth at least one look-see, because I think that this would make quite a few fans of the genre reasonably happy.

7/10

This was covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if interested, listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this below.

Maniac Cop (1988)

Directed by William Lustig [Other horror films: Maniac (1980), Maniac Cop 2 (1990), Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1992), Uncle Sam (1996)]

This is a film I’ve seen before, and my initial positive feelings I had after first viewing it haven’t much changed. It’s not an amazing movie, but it’s a very solid late 80’s slasher with supernatural underpinnings.

My biggest complaint with the film is that some scenes strike me as oddly cut, as if there was supposed to be a bit more to them. Nothing story-wise is missing, and it mostly only happened during the first thirty minutes, but it was certainly noticeable. Another thing is story-based – while I enjoy movies focused around revenge, I generally like having some sense of sympathy for the individual seeking revenge, which was entirely lacking here.

I’m not much a fan of police, given the history of their brutality toward various minority communities (at least in the USA), not to mention outright murder and other sickening, indefensible acts, so when there’s a cop who is thrown into prison for police brutality, as the killer cop in this film was, and he ends up getting attacked in prison, I can’t help but cheer for the prisoners. Many cops are bad enough, but the violent, zero tolerance officers, as Cordell seemingly was, are certainly not worth sympathy.

Tom Atkins (Night of the Creeps and Halloween III: Season of the Witch) does well here, though I can’t say I overly care for where his story takes him. More interesting is Bruce Campbell (of The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II fame), who is fun to see here. He doesn’t necessarily blow the roof off the building, but his character was pretty interesting. Laurene Landon isn’t a name I know, but she does fine here, thought she’s nothing overly special. Someone who is special, though, is Robert D’Zar, with his imposing physique that totally makes the character of Matt Cordell the memorable killer that he is. Though he has little dialogue, D’Zar really steals the scenes he’s in.

There are some great death scenes in the film, and also a solid use of flashbacks. For the kills, perhaps the breakout sequence, along with the St. Patrick’s Day scenes, are my favorite, but most of the deaths here, even the strangulations, are solid. I did enjoy the flashbacks, giving us more meat to the story, and certainly never boring (which is something that could really be said for most of Maniac Cop, as it consistently keeps up a good pace). Also, while it was somewhat quick, I enjoyed the conclusion also.

As the movie stands, Maniac Cop isn’t amazing, like I said. It’s certainly a lot of fun, and I love how Cordell’s character has a consistent aura of mystery around him (such as obscuring his face until the finale), but it’s not a film I’d rate nearly as high as some other 80’s classics. This all said, Maniac Cop is a good viewing, and a solid rewatch, certainly one that I’d recommend to anyone interested.

8/10

This was covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if interested, listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss it and having fun.

The Blob (1988)

Directed by Chuck Russell [Other horror films: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), Bless the Child (2000)]

Often considered one of the better remakes of the 1980’s, I’d only seen The Blob once before, edited on Chiller, prior to seeing it again. It certainly holds up better than what I remember, and all-in-all, it’s an enjoyable film.

There’s a little unpacking I have to do first, though. The original Blob, from 1958, is one of my favorite horror films. It’s a movie I grew up on, and I’ve watched my VHS copy so many times, I’m surprised the tape’s not frayed. When I first saw the remake, edited as it was, I went in with the idea nothing could match up to the original, given how much I loved it, and with that frame of mind going in, it didn’t. I didn’t hate the film when I first saw it, but I didn’t think it was particularly good, either.

I now see that The Blob is a good movie, though the 1958 version is still my go-to.

The effects in the film are probably the best of the 1980’s, and there’s a lot of gruesome body melting here, all of which is appreciated. I preferred the simpler look of the Blob from the original, but this is still okay. The multitude of deaths in the film, many of which are rather violent, certainly make the film even more memorable. Also, the conclusion as a whole, though somewhat expected, was still a lot of fun.

Shawnee Smith (best known, perhaps, as her role of Amanda from the Saw films) does solidly here as a kick-ass cheerleader. Kevin Dillon (who is a guy I’ve never heard of before) also did great job in his anti-authority teen role. Perhaps most disappointing here is Jeffrey DeMunn, who is an actor I really like, having appeared in Storm of the Century, The Green Mile, and The Mist. He’s great here, make no mistake, but I feel they could have done a lot more with him than they did. Lastly, both Joe Seneca (who played an utterly detestable character) and Art LaFleur stood out positively also.

Overall, I think The Blob is a good film, and a very enjoyable piece of 80’s horror. It doesn’t quite capture the magic of the original, but it’s an enjoyable film all the same, and though I don’t agree, I can certainly see why many prefer it to the original 50’s classic.

8/10

This was covered on a Fight Evil podcast. If interested, listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one below.

Hard Rock Nightmare (1988)

Hard Rock

Directed by Dominick Brascia [Other horror films: Evil Laugh (1986)]

I don’t really know how else to describe this movie but ‘fun.’ It’s not overly cheesy, nor is it particularly gory, but I had a blast watching this flick, which is part-werewolf, part-something else.

A lot of the music in the film is sort of generic hard rock, but whatever, it worked and kept me engaged. The characters, while nothing special, all brought a little something to the film (be it nudity, in the case of Annie Mikan, or just a fun personality, such as Tom Shell). There’s also a lot of fun to be had with just the opening scene (that grandfather had me breaking out laughing twice in the first two minutes), and a dream sequence later in the film was just so bizarre, it’d be hard not to laugh.

Much of the cast was fun too, even if they weren’t particularly good. Susan Grillo was cute, as was Lisa Guggenheim. Annie Mikan did really well as the bitch of the group. Couldn’t stand her, but she did her role as it was meant to be done. Troy Donahue at first is a bit generic, but toward the end, his acting was a blast to behold, in the most ridiculous way. Greg Joujon-Roche was decent as one of the leading characters.

As for the twist at the end, I have to imagine it would turn some people, maybe a lot of people, away. As for me? Threw me for a loop, and I loved it. What helped was Troy Donahue’s utterly over-the-top acting during the scene, and it made that finale something special.

Directed by the same guy who did the slasher Evil Laugh (Dominick Brascia, who really only did these two horror films before moving onto other pastures), a film I recall rather liking quite a bit, Hard Rock Nightmare might not quite end up being what you’re expecting. I had a lot of fun with it, but then again, my taste in movies is somewhat eclectic. I just know that I enjoyed the hell out of this despite the lack of gore. Solid, if a bit low-budget, film, and one I’d definitely watch again in the future.

8.5/10

Demon Warrior (1988)

Demon Warrior

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

This will be a bit shorter than other reviews I’ve written, because I can’t think of that much to say about this somewhat obscure flick.

Filmed in Texas, this late 80’s movie is pretty cheesy, with a demon in the guise of a Native American going around killing a group of friends who came out to some cursed land for hunting. The kills themselves are moderately fun, if a bit astylistic, such as some individuals getting shot with arrows, an okay scalping, and a pretty decent car crash (especially for a movie of this low-budget nature).

The problem is that there’s far more drama among the group of friends than there is action, or even anything mildly interesting. I was somewhat taken in some of the friend’s ongoing problems, but at the same time, boy, was it a grind to get through. There was a bit of nudity at the beginning, which was welcomed, but for much of the film, it’s just not that engaging.

Actors and actresses throughout did about as well as you might expect. There weren’t any truly awful performances, at least, but the main characters, played by Wiley M. Pickett and Leslie Mullin, weren’t dripping with amazing ability either. John Garrett’s character had some funny lines now and again, but nothing to praise that much.

I’ve wanted to see this one for some time now, and I’m not exactly surprised by the fact it’s not great. Late 80’s horror can be quite a bit hit-or-miss. Still, Demon Warrior may not be a bad watch if you’re a fan of 80’s cheese (and that ending was a good example of how much cheese this movie has). I caught a VHS rip of the film, which allowed a very retro feeling to it. I sort of doubt this hit DVD, so it’s one you might want to look out for. That said, I wouldn’t expect a classic if you do give it a shot.

6/10

Nightmare Sisters (1988)

Nightmare Sisters

Directed by David DeCoteau [Other horror films: Dreamaniac (1986), Creepozoids (1987), Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988), Murder Weapon (1989), Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge (1991), Blonde Heaven (1995), Skeletons (1997), Shrieker (1998), Curse of the Puppet Master (1998), Talisman (1998), Frankenstein Reborn! (1998), The Killey Eye (1999), Witchouse (1999), Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy (1999), Totem (1999), Retro Puppet Master (1999), Voodoo Academy (2000), Prison of the Dead (2000), The Brotherhood (2001), Final Stab (2001), The Brotherhood 2: Young Warlocks (2001), The Frightening (2002), Wolves of Wall Street (2002), The Brotherhood III: Young Demons (2003), Leeches! (2003), Speed Demon (2003), Ring of Darkness (2004), Tomb of Terror (2004, segment ‘Evil Never Dies’), The Sisterhood (2004), Possessed (2005), The Brotherhood IV: The Complex (2005), Killer Bash (2005), Witches of the Caribbean (2005), Frankenstein & the Werewolf Reborn! (2005), Beastly Boyz (2006), Grizzly Rage (2007), The Raven (2007), House of Usher (2008), The Brotherhood V: Alumni (2009), The Brotherhood VI: Initiation (2009), The Pit and the Pendulum (2009), Nightfall (2009), Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010), A Dream Within a Dream (2011), 1313: Wicked Stepbrother (2011), 1313: Actor Slash Model (2011), 1313: Boy Crazies (2011), 1313: Giant Killer Bees! (2011), 1313: Haunted Frat (2011), 1313: Bigfoot Island (2011), 1313: Cougar Cult (2012), Snow White: A Deadly Summer (2012), 1313: Night of the Widow (2012), 1313: Frankenqueen (2012), 2: Voodoo Academy (2012), Immortal Kiss: Queen of the Night (2012), Hansel & Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft (2013), The Dead Reborn (2013), 3 Wicked Witches (2014), 666: Kreepy Kerry (2014), Devilish Charm (2014), Knock ’em Dead (2014), Bigfoot vs. D.B. Cooper (2014), 90210 Shark Attack (2014), 3 Scream Queens (2014), Evil Exhumed (2016), Sorority Slaughterhouse (2016), Asian Ghost Story (2016), Bloody Blacksmith (2016), Swamp Freak (2017), Puppet Master: Blitzkrieg Massacre (2018), Bunker of Blood: Chapter 6: Zombie Lust: Night Flesh (2018), Bunker of Blood: Chapter 5: Psycho Sideshow: Demon Freaks (2018)]

This movie is wholly too goofy for me to get into. I’m not entirely averse to silly horror movies – when I saw Terror Toons (2002) perhaps five years back, I sort of liked it. But there’s a line to how much I can take, and Nightmare Sisters went far, far past it.

There’s some appeal to the movie, to be sure. Linnea Quigley’s a big name in horror, for good reason, having appeared in such classics as Graduation Day (1981), Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), The Return of the Living Dead (1985), and Night of the Demons (1988), and she’s a treat to see. Some of the other actors/actresses were decent, such as Brinke Stevens (perhaps the most attractive of the three girls) and William Dristas.

But Nightmare Sisters went overboard with it’s comedic style. The beginning fortune-teller portion overstays its welcome (“Hokey smokes, that’s a lot of ashes,” I admit, did get a slight chuckle), and then it takes something like fifty minutes until we’re given something resembling suspense. The somewhat famous bubble bath scene was okay, but again, after a few minutes, it doesn’t really add anything to the movie aside from more skin, which we really didn’t need.

I first saw this October 2017 during a horror movie challenge, and I was looking forward to it. What exactly I was expecting, I’m not sure, but I was disappointed then, and with a second viewing, I’m disappointed still. It may be a piece of 80’s cheese, and I know that it has it’s fans, but it’s far too cheesy for me.

4/10

Nightmare Sisters was covered on Fight Evil’s eighth podcast, and you can listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I talk about this below.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

hellraiser-ii-e1558485223431.jpg

Directed by Tony Randel [Other horror films: Children of the Night (1991), Amityville: It’s About Time (1992), Ticks (1993), Rattled (1996)]

As much as I enjoy this sequel, there’s no denying it lacks a bit of cohesiveness. Maybe a lot.

Immediately following the first movie, the first thirty minutes or so are decently fine (though I’ve never been a big Julia fan). But after a certain point, the movie takes a moderately odd turn once Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) and Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) enter the labyrinth. It feels a lot more disjointed, and some of the things that occur, I just don’t get (for instance, why does Channard immediately become the most powerful Cenobite there? – seems a bad idea, truth be told).

Which isn’t to say that Hellbound isn’t an enjoyable movie – it is. The special effects are fantastic, as are the multiple set pieces (the labyrinth, overall, looks damn cool). Some great ideas (though not fully developed) and badass lines (“We have an eternity to know your flesh,” not to mention, “Your suffering will be legendary, even in Hell”). It’s a fun, occasionally mindless, 80’s horror flick, so what’s not to love?

Elements feel, as I mentioned, underdeveloped. The whole idea that Cenobites were once humans themselves doesn’t really seem to mean much, and Channard’s power level seems off the charts, which seems a bad design for a newly-created Cenobite. What exactly Leviathan is, from my understanding, is never made clear, nor is what happens near the end (all you had to do was mess around with the puzzle more, and you destroy hell?). And then at the end, the pole popping up from the bed showing the tormented faces of Pinhead, Channard, Julia, etc, means what, exactly?

Visually-speaking, this movie is fantastic. Story-wise, it’s okay near the beginning (though not using Kirsty’s boyfriend from the first film certainly seems a noticeable weakness). Kenneth Cranham can be a little campy as his portrayal of Channard, and William Hope’s Kyle doesn’t really seem to have a point, but overall, most of the actors and actresses did fine. It’s just the lack of coherent plot that pulls it down a bit.

Common consensus, at least from my view, puts this movie around being just as good as the first one, and by-and-large, I don’t think that’s wrong. The first movie had a more streamlined plot, but I did like the almost epic feel this one had, or at least was aiming for. Despite my concerns, it’s still a solid movie. Just not as solid as the first.

7.5/10