Stripped to Kill 2: Live Girls (1989)

Directed by Katt Shea [Other horror films: Stripped to Kill (1987), Dance of the Damned (1989), The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999)]

The first Stripped to Kill wasn’t exactly an amazing movie, but it did possess a decent amount of charm, along with a solid conclusion. This sequel isn’t near as good, and though it’s still certainly watchable, I can’t imagine many people thinking it’s better than the first.

One problem I had was that no actors from the first movie appear, or are even mentioned. If you’re making a sequel, even if you can’t get back any of the original performers, you can at least bring them up in conversation once, but no, with one exception, the only thing this movie shares with the first are the strippers.

The one exception is the character Shirl. In the first movie, this character is played by Diana Bellamy, and she stood out as a rather amusing character. The same can be said for Stripped to Kill 2’s Shirl, played by Virginia Peters. They don’t necessarily look alike, but they do have very similar roles (gathering information which is vital to the finale) and attitudes, so I’m pretty convinced this is supposed to be the same person, which makes it even worse they couldn’t do more to connect this to the first movie.

And to be fair, there’s a stripper here named Mantra, played by Debra Lamb. Lamb appeared in the first movie also, as an unnamed amateur stripper, so it’s likely the same character, but that’s not something I realized until checking IMDb credits, and that fact definitely wasn’t mentioned in the film, but still, thought it was worth pointing out.

Ignoring that, though, the story here isn’t quite as interesting or violent as what we got from the first one. We have a stripper who thinks she’s going crazy and killing people in her sleep (and to be fair, there’s somewhat convincing evidence of that), and a city cop investigating the crime, but can’t stop himself from falling for the stripper. It’s not exactly riveting, and I could have done without the elongated dream sequences (though they make sense come the ending), and overall, the story’s just average.

There’s a few things I like about the ending here, what with the identity of the killer, but especially compared to the first movie, this ending felt pretty tame and simple in comparison. I sort of appreciate the artsy dream sequences (which make me partially wonder if this movie was aiming a bit higher than it might seem on the surface), but there’s a handful of them throughout the film, and as this progressed, they sort of lost their charm.

Eb Lottimer was okay as the main detective. He wasn’t anything special, and ultimately pretty forgettable, but he had a sensual soul. Maria Ford (who appeared in a handful of 1990’s horror, such as The Haunting of Morella, The Unnamable II, Slumber Party Massacre III, and Necronomicon) was okay, but given that she thinks she’s going insane, her performance isn’t always the most stable. Karen Mayo-Chandler was decent, though again, as the movie goes on, I was less enthralled with her. As I mentioned, Virginia Peters was pretty fun, Debra Lamb was maybe the hottest woman there, and Marjean Holden was Something Else.

The kills here are far from great, mainly because we never really see them. It’s true that we might see the aftermath, some blood and a corpse, but as poor as the kills were in the first movie, it certainly outstripped this one (SEE WHAT I DID THERE????).

Stripped to Kill probably never needed a sequel, so with that in mind, Stripped to Kill 2: Live Girls probably outperformed expectations, and to be honest, I did like this a bit more than I thought I would. That said, I doubt it’s a movie that will stay with me long, and I’d mainly recommend people just catch the first movie.

6/10

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

Pet Sematary (1989)

Directed by Mary Lambert [Other horror films: Pet Sematary II (1992), Strange Frequency (2001), Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005), The Attic (2007), Mega Python vs. Gatoroid (2011)]

I first saw this film before reading the book, so I couldn’t really judge it much against the source material. It didn’t really matter, because I didn’t care much for it, but when I read the book and discovered I didn’t care much for that either, I was interested in seeing this again. And guess what? While I admit it follows the novel pretty close, I still don’t feel much an affinity toward it.

Why is that? Well, I found the book well-written (as is mostly anything of King’s, even the stuff I didn’t like), but the story itself wasn’t really doing it for me at all. Jud was an interesting character, as he is here, but that’s not enough, and some cool imagery (such as the graveyard and the burial ground) don’t make up for that.

The main performances (Dale Midkiff, Fred Gwynne, and Denise Crosby) were all fine, but if the story’s not interesting to me, then I’m not biting. Perhaps the coolest aspects of the book (being the history of the burial ground which Jud delves into, along with the story of Baterman) are really neutered, and the tall shape Louis sees while walking to the burial ground in the book, along with the accompanying insanity, is nowhere to be seen.

At least the ending was moderately unchanged, but I still think the novel did it better, ending on a more open-ended note than did the movie. Another small thing that bothered me was Pascow’s character. At first, it’s fine, but he keeps popping up with the wife near the end, and it bordered on comedic, which really didn’t fit the dark themes of the movie.

I’m not a fan of this movie, I don’t think it’s horrible, but both before and after reading the novel, it does little for me (and to be fair, the same can be said for the novel), and that’s problematic. I know that many out there enjoy this, but Pet Sematary doesn’t work for me.

5/10

B.O.R.N. (1989)

Directed by Ross Hagen [Other horror films: Reel Horror (1985), Click: The Calendar Girl Killer (1990)]

I wasn’t really expecting that much from this movie, mainly because I thought that if it had been one of the unsung films of the 1980’s, I’d have heard about it by now. Well, either I’m listening in the wrong places, or I got a lot more out of B.O.R.N. than others did, because I found this movie superb.

Better known as Merchants of Death (which is the title it can most commonly be found under, it seems), B.O.R.N. (which stands for Body Organ Replacement Network) is a pretty damn dark movie for being a Troma release. When I heard that Troma jingle at the beginning, I was batting down the hatches for another Frostbiter or Blades, but instead, we have a pretty somber movie, with the appropriate soundtrack to boot.

For a movie that’s as low-budget as this one, the soundtrack is really impressive. It beautifully encapsulates the 1980’s, and helps the movie push a darker feel. The one vocal track in the film, a song by Jenifer Smith Meisner called ‘How Do You Begin,’ is a depressing ballad which first plays as a father muses over his three recently-abducted daughters, and boy, is it effective.

Obviously, the story itself isn’t really special, what with a father and a retired police detective trying to track down some missing girls, who were kidnapped by a black market organ syndicate, and you can sort of tell some things were rushed, but the performances here really pull a lot of it together.

I’ll get this out of the way first, though, because I hate to say it: Of all the performances, the one that did the most damage was P.J. Soles (of Halloween fame, totally), because of all the characters here, she felt the most overly and unforgivably evil, not to mention hammy. If we had maybe gotten a little background on her, it might of helped, but no such luck.

Everyone else was generally commendable, though. Playing the bereft father, Ross Hagen was great, and you really felt for his character as he was put through the wringer (and then some). Hoke Howell, who played the aforementioned retired detective, didn’t move me at first, but over the course of the film, I grew to appreciate him.

As much as I liked Hagen, it’s Russ Tamblyn’s character who really got to me. Much like Soles, his character is a bit over-the-top in his sinister nature, and he does abominable stuff in the film, but toward the end, when another character is beating him, he sort of breaks down, though he doesn’t cry, because his father didn’t want him to cry when he beat him. God, for a movie like this, you wouldn’t expect an emotional suckerpunch like that, but we got one.

Two others I wanted to briefly mention are William Smith and Clint Howard. William Smith is a big name, and his IMDb credits boasts nearly 300 appearances, and while this certainly isn’t one that he’ll be remembered for, playing the black market doctor, Smith is decently fun, though he doesn’t matter quite as much as many other characters. Related, while it was nice to see Clint Howard (Ice Cream Man has long been what I’ve best known him for), his character didn’t add much to the film, though had the story went a different route, he could have.

B.O.R.N. is a hell of a lot more somber than I ever expected, and there are some surprising and heart-wrenching deaths and scenes in this film that seem entirely inappropriate for a movie made on as small a budget as this was. I loved the whole vibe of this one, and while I wish there were a few changes, I think to Tamblyn and Hagen’s performances, and I forget them. Maybe it’s just me, but this was very much worth watching, and I’d definitely do so again.

9/10

DeepStar Six (1989)

Directed by Sean S. Cunningham [Other horror films: Case of the Full Moon Murder (1973), Friday the 13th (1980), A Stranger Is Watching (1982), The New Kids (1985), XCU: Extreme Close Up (2001), Trapped Ashes (2006, segment ‘Jibaku’)]

I’ve seen this one once before, and I feel that not much has changed insofar as my view on this aquatic adventure: while much of the story is decently fun, and some of the performances are memorable, I think the film is about as average as it gets.

My only complaint, really, with the story is how, for much of the middle portion of the film, DeepStar Six feels more like an underwater action film as opposed to anything resembling horror. I have nothing against action films (if I did, you better believe this would be getting a lower rating), but that type of focus took away from what I came into this movie for. Once the underwater beast pops up again in the final twenty minutes or so, things pick up nicely.

Many performances are certainly memorable, if not entirely enjoyable. Greg Evigan (who appeared a few years previously in Stripped to Kill) was pretty good as the focal point, though I don’t know if he’s overly memorable. Taurean Blacque (who was a long-standing star on the series Hill Street Blues) was rather great, and I wish the guy had gotten a bit more screen-time. Of course, I think the most memorable guy here is Miguel Ferrer (who later appeared in The Stand mini-series and 1997’s enjoyable The Night Flier), who was pretty fun throughout, and pretty much one of my favorite characters. Others I enjoyed to varying degrees include Nia Peeples, Matt McCoy, and Elya Baskin (also in Air Force One, an enjoyable Harrison Ford flick).

The special effects are overall pretty good. I don’t really love the design of the underwater creature menacing the crew, but plenty of the deaths are really solid, a few bordering on gruesome (such as the death due to lack of depressurization). I just wish there wasn’t such a lengthy period of time that more focused on a disaster-type situation.

Directed by Sean S. Cunningham (of Friday the 13th fame), I can’t necessarily pinpoint why I don’t like DeepStar Six anymore than I do, but it’s much the same as when I first saw it. That said, I certainly don’t dislike the film, so I’d probably call this a perfect example, at least in my view, a very average movie with some good and some mediocre.

7/10

Clownhouse (1989)

Directed by Victor Salva [Other horror films: The Nature of the Beast (1995), Jeepers Creepers (2001), Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003), Rosewood Lane (2011), Haunted (2014), Jeepers Creepers 3 (2017)]

As far as the plot’s concerned, there’s not really a lot to Clownhouse. Over the course of a few hours, three escaped mental patients, dressed up as clowns, terrorize three brothers in a large house. That’s pretty much it, but it works out well do to the solid tension and suspense through the film.

A large part of whether or not someone’s likely to find this creepy may be their feelings on clowns. Personally, I don’t know if I’ve ever even seen a clown in person, but I always felt they were a bit on the sinister side. There’s a lot of great scenes in this film showing these clowns in the background, or their gloved hands, and it’s rather creepy much of the time.

The three brothers (played by Nathan Forrest Winters, Brian McHugh, and Sam Rockwell, the only one to make a career of acting) really act like brothers, with their constant bickering, some of it rather mean-spirited, and I certainly got the sense that while there were often unkind toward each other, deep down there was love there. Personally, I think all three brothers did pretty well – Rockwell was rather funny at times, McHugh showed solid sensitivity and maturity, and Winters, despite his oldest brother constantly picking on him, really fought back against the horrors they were facing.

It’s not until the final thirty minutes when all three brothers actually realize there are clowns prowling their property, but that doesn’t mean the movie was slow or without tension beforehand. The escaped mental patients really are messed up and creepy, especially their leader, played by Michael Jerome West (credited for some reason as ‘Tree’). The three of them, though West is most notable by far, are unsettling throughout the movie, and despite the plot not really being much, they make a lot out of it.

There are plenty of really solid scenes here, such as the fortune teller sequence (which really showcases the personalities of the brothers well), the scene in which the oldest and youngest brothers are walking to a store to pick up some popcorn (loved the clown chase here), and the scene early on with the real clowns in the circus show. With the music and the close-up on his face, that scene is still unsettling. And let’s not forget the scene in which the youngest kid first sees the clowns outside – again, damn creepy stuff.

Clownhouse doesn’t have that much going for it in terms of gore, but much like Halloween, it really doesn’t need any, as the tension carries it. I also love the music here, too – upbeat, jovial, carnival music, it really works well with the film and ratchets up the intensity.

When I first saw this film some years back, I was rather impressed with it. Seeing it again, even from a blurry and out-of-sync audio/video VHS rip, Clownhouse still impresses me. The director, Victor Salva, went on to direct what many consider a modern-day classic, Jeepers Creepers. Here, he made a solid film which isn’t demanding insofar as length goes, and is a rather enjoyable movie. It’s a shame that, given Salva’s history of sexual abuse, that this movie will likely never be given the praise it may well deserve. As for me, I quite enjoy this one.

8/10

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

The Dead Pit (1989)

Directed by Brett Leonard [Other horror films: The Lawnmower Man (1992), Hideaway (1995), Man-Thing (2005), Feed (2005)]

The Dead Pit is an interesting movie, and I don’t think it’s spoken about near as much as it should be. Far be it for me to call it a classic, I will say that, though I’ve only seen it twice now, it’s an extremely fun and somewhat unique experience from the late 1980’s, and by-and-large, I love it.

Star Cheryl Lawson was never really in much, and her only other venture into the horror genre was The Vineyard (1989), but she did reasonably well here, and she got topless once, so who would complain? Seriously, I thought her performance here was good, and she worked well with Stephen Gregory Foster (who himself is a bit of a nobody, but his character here was by far the best). Jeremy Slate was solid in his role, and while he didn’t do much, I liked Danny Gochnauer’s look in the movie.

There’s a lot of atmosphere here, and the opening sequence, a nine-minute origin story to the titular dead pit, was fantastic, and really brought the intrigue into the movie quick. After we finally get the title (in a really hideous text, making it one of the more questionable things in the movie), we’re introduced to a creepy old psychiatric hospital, a seemingly demonic, insane doctor, and a pit of bodies hidden in the basement of one of the old buildings. Talk about a great set-up.

There’s only one place where the movie starts feeling a bit drowsy, and that’s when it turns from an almost slasher/demon type-story into a typical zombie movie. It doesn’t finish off that way, and the ending itself is pretty solid (along with an expected, yet still cool, flashback reveal), but still, a generic zombie massacre, even if it comes with okay gore, didn’t really gel with me, though it makes complete sense in the context of the story.

Another thing I liked here, and that was the color scheme. There are times when green and red lights are used to good effect, and while it’s not nearly as artsy as something Argento might do, it still brought a little flare to the film.

I don’t hear The Dead Pit brought up that often, which I think is a shame, because while a few parts might be hokey (the glowing eyes, for instance), it has a lot going for it, and I genuinely think it’s a solid movie, and one of the better flicks from the late 1980’s.

8.5/10

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

Redneck Zombies (1989)

kinopoisk.ru

Directed by Pericles Lewnes [Other horror films: N/A]

I am somewhat ashamed to say that I actually have a pretty good time with this movie, mostly due to the fact of how utterly stupid so much of it.

For some reason, I’ve seen this at least twice before, and some scenes are pretty damn memorable, such as the introduction of the Tobacco Man (sort of a parody of the neighborhood staple ice cream man) and a rather odd, yet ominous, sequence at a local butcher’s house. Other scenes stand out also, such as the LSD-inspired zombie sequence, along with the autopsy scene which, while ultimately silly, was entertaining if only due to Anthony Burlington-Smith’s over-the-top antics.

Being a lower-budget film, the gore is pretty damn good, in a Nathan Schiff way. I rather liked the scene in which a zombie pushed his thumbs through another’s eyes and a solid decapitation toward the end. Obviously, this movie was aiming to be gory, and they certainly did a good job with what they had.

Most of the actors and actresses here weren’t in anything else, which probably isn’t surprising due to the nature of the film. It’s difficult to judge many of them, too, because they sort of tried to make this a traditionally bad film. Lisa DeHaven doesn’t really seem like final girl material (which isn’t a spoiler, as it’s shown at the very beginning of the film she survives), and didn’t particularly stand out. I did like James Housely, but he didn’t add all that much to the story. Bucky Santini was something else entirely.

There were times when the silly nature of the film was too much for me, such as the almost line-for-line parody of the hitchhiker from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Also, the high levels of stupidity the rednecks had was, again, a bit much (though the “Don’t open ’till Christmas” line did make me sort of chuckle). It’s not an easy film to necessarily like, but if you can get past some of the really stupid scenes, I do think it’s a movie you can enjoy.

Redneck Zombies is classic Troma entertainment. Great gore, horrible acting, and a somewhat interesting taking on a often-told story. Just think of it as a low-budget and politically incorrect (the Jew joke at the beginning got me laughing, I admit) version of The Return of the Living Dead, but even then, you’ll not really understand what this film’s like until you chance a watch. For as stupid as it is, I do enjoy it, and that certainly counts for something. It’s indeed the epitome of horror.

6.5/10

Family Reunion (1989)

Family Reunion

Directed by Michael Hawes [Other horror films: N/A]

I hadn’t really heard of this one before watching it, and thus, had no expectations one way or the other going in. I am happy to report that despite the lower budget, this movie is something that’s probably worth watching.

It’s a bit of a slow beginning, but it’s bolstered by the fact that the actors really feel like a family in a stressful situation. Mel Novak did well as the father, and occasionally came off with an Amityville Horror vibe. A.J. Woods and Kaylin Cool did great as the bickering younger brother and older sister. Neither of them had any other roles in anything else, so it’s especially impressive. It was a well put-together cast, so despite the sluggish beginning, I was still glued to the screen.

The story itself was moderately fascinating also. At times, it felt more like one of those 70’s devil worshiper movies, and because the movie lacked much of the lighter tone normally found in 80’s films for a drier, 70’s feel, it felt somewhat authentic, in a disjointed, ‘what’s-going-on’ way.

As far as problems go, my main one is that the police subplot. It didn’t really go anywhere, despite a good twenty-five minutes, if not more, being spent on it. Not only that, but those portions at the police station were actually pretty cool, in a Storm of the Century-type way. Shame, really, that it didn’t play more into the plot.

Still, the downbeat conclusion was fun. I wouldn’t say that this film is amazing, but it felt unique. I wish it had some better death scenes, but I liked what we got. If you want a movie that’s a bit more out there, I’d recommend maybe giving this a look. I can’t guarantee you’ll love it, but I think that most would find it interesting, despite the lower budget at their disposal.

7.5/10

Things (1989)

Things

Directed by Andrew Jordan [Other horror films: N/A]

I have never in my life seen such an inept mess.

Really, I’m not entirely sure what to say about this one. The story, such as it was, seems incomplete. And in fact, so does the movie as a whole. Amber Lynn (who is best known for various roles in adult movies) literally just reads her dialogue off cue cards as a newscaster, adding literally nothing to the movie. Some of the dialogue is dubbed after the fact, which is painfully obvious. The lighting, the dialogue, the everything, it’s a mess.

The one thing this Canadian flick sort of gets right is the gore. Oh, most of the time, it was the blood of insect things (origins never really explained), but there was a scene of a guy being tortured (that had zero relevance to the plot, I’ll add) that was decent, and a guy lost some fingers. The gore wasn’t necessarily amazing, partially because the camera-work was so shoddy, but it still stood out in what otherwise was an atrocity of a film.

Honestly, though, this movie possesses some charm to it – the gore is, as I said, moderately solid, and while everything else fails (from the post-sync dubbing, to the lighting, acting, story, and any other element you could think to name), sitting back with some friends and watching this movie play out would be a hoot. Watching it alone? It might change you, but not really for the better.

Things is pretty much an inept, illogical mess. Some scenes don’t make any sense, there’s no context to some of the story, and everything seems pretty disjointed (at times, this felt sort of like The Suckling, but most of the time, Things defies comparison), which the post-dubbing doesn’t help with at all. Can Things be enjoyable in the right situation? Sure. But is it a film that I’m clamoring to see again? Oh God, no.

That said, anyone interested should definitely watch this, as a review can’t possibly do this bizarre film justice.

4/10

Offerings (1989)

Offerings

Directed by Christopher Reynolds [Other horror films: N/A]

So, you all know me: if it’s an 80’s slasher, chances are high that I love the movie. And this late 80’s addition to the genre is no different.

After a prank goes awry, those involved are slaughtered ten years later. Plot-wise, there’s not much going on, and I thought it worked out just fine. This independent Oklahoma rip-off of Halloween was a lot of fun. It’s low-budget, but has a lot of heart (think HauntedWeen, and this won’t be the last time I make the comparison). The musical score is a complete copy of Halloween’s, and the final twenty minutes (along with the fact the killer is mute, and just escaped from a mental institution) takes heavily from Halloween also.

Even so, there’s some memorable stuff in here, from hammy acting to decent kills. While the gore was kept to a minimum, there was some decent blood during a few scenes (which is definitely one area where HauntedWeen one-ups this film).

The acting was about how you’d expect, but I got a kick out of it. Our main girl Gretchen (played by Loretta Leigh Bowman) did her part well, and was an attractive young lady to boot. We got two zany side-characters, one being a mortician’s intern (played comically by Mark Massey – his only other role was in the SOV horror film The Ripper from 1985) and the other being Deputy Buddy (played by Barry Brown – his only other film being an early 90’s crime/thriller, which, worth noting, is the only other film the director of this movie directed). Both were zany goodness with strong Oklahoma accents (which is a trait shared by almost every cast member, our lead girl with the most notable accent).

Perhaps my favorite character, though, is Sheriff Chism. He’s a genial, nice guy, who actually tries his best to help the girls out. Really, Chism’s a great character, and I had fun with him. The actor who portrayed him, G. Michael Smith, has only this single movie under his belt, which is a shame. Most likely, he’s just a citizen of Oklahoma City (where this was filmed) who the director thought fit the role best, and boy, does he ever.

This movie had a few comedic scenes thrown in (including one juxtaposition near the end which I laughed aloud at), and overall, Offerings was a fun film. While lacking in the gore department, I got a kick out of this one, and while it might appeal purely to slasher fans of the bygone era, it’s a movie I recommend.

7.5/10