80s Horrors and Scares Again
By Kristin Battestella
Mirror mirror on the wall, I am a Garbage Pail Kids horror fiend eighties baby after all.
Galaxy of Terror – This 1981 SF freaky produced by Roger Corman (The Masque of the Red Death) has some fine scary and gory zooms, nice jump out moments, a little bit of fantasy, and some funny tossed in for good measure. The space scenery and creepy ship effects look good, especially decent if you think about how much worse and uber low budget it could have been. Okay, so it’s too dark in some spots, the eighties music is too loud, and the bad laser effects give me a headache. It’s tough to tell who is forgettable who beyond Erin Moran (Happy Days) and Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm Street), the controls look like Simon, and the creature effects are quite the hokey. Having said all that, the creepy and freaky works! Contemporary audiences might not like the rapacious nasties, psychological fears, and disturbing body horror if they haven’t seen this one before, but it still works damn fine and better than predictable modern slashers.
My Bloody Valentine – There’s more forgettable 1981 interchangeable hokey hicks here- but this time all the juicy gore, unique deaths, and claustrophobic dangers are in a great labyrinthine mine inhabited by a pickaxe wielding killer. The re-inserted deadly details are shocking and sweet, with interesting or askew camerawork, kink, and mystery. However, the scenes are unrestored and noticeably out of place- making a tough viewing for some audiences who expect a bit more polish on blu-ray. Naturally due to the titular Valentine plot twists, I’m not so sure this is a good October or Halloween-esque film. Then again, we could all use a little freaky in our February, for sure. I must say I did predict the killer’s identity before the finale, but it was dang entertaining in getting there nonetheless.
Near Dark – Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) also co-wrote this cult cowboy-esque and unique 1987 vampire tale starring Adrian Pasdar (Heroes), Jenny Wright (St. Elmo’s Fire), Bill Paxton (Aliens), Lance Henriksen (Aliens), Jenette Goldstein (Aliens), and Joshua John Miller (he’s the kid brother in Teen Witch!). Granted the Southern eighties style may seem dated or too country to some. However, this is quite the stylized show, with a serious look at nomadic vampire rites of passage and dangerous family drama. There’s even room for humor, sardonic fun, and a little romance, too. Traditional vampire bits are here- though in unexpected ways- and there is plenty of blood, gruesome, fire, and deaths. Yet this isn’t all gore and bite juice for the sake of it, rather most of the meat is handled by twisted performance alone. It’s subtle, sexy, and the blu-ray looks great.
Swamp Thing – There’s a great story here from the DC Comics plots- all kinds of kinky, monster innuendo, power debates, sociological statements, and demented science. I do, however, expect a little more polish from director Wes Craven (Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream), as the photography and editing presentation hampers this most. Despite the serious relationships onscreen, numerous and disjointed fade ins or weird slide transitions make this feel like a series of action incidents rather than a cohesive tale. Thankfully, the swampy water and South Carolina locations work wonderfully, and Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog), Ray Wise (Twin Peaks), and the late Dick Durock (also of the Swamp Thing TV series) are a lot of fun. Though he appears to have never been in anything else, Reggie Batts is also a scene-stealing treat as the sarcastic Jude. We can believe Barbeau as the smart, sexy woman who can handle herself, as well- just that dang 1982 mini afro mullet combo hair does not work. Louis Jourdan (Octopussy) is also mustache twisting villainy sweet, even if the monster make-up and the action finale is quite hokey. Fortunately, the uncut version is currently available on Netflix’s Instant Watch, complete with boobs a plenty. And really, I’m so, so tired of forthcoming 3D remakes!
The Thing – Director John Carpenter (Halloween, Christine) mixes alien fears, scary isolation, dangerous locations, miscommunications, mistrust, suspicion, and more in this 1982 science fiction freaky. In some of the hectic scenes, it may be tough to tell who is who in the all-male cast, yes. But stars Kurt Russell (Escape from New York), Keith David (Platoon), and Wilfred Brimley (Cocoon, or rather, The Quaker Oats Guy) build all the paranoia necessary. Everyone is afraid of not just the titular menacing getting in, but also of letting it out into the populated world- which is exactly what it wants. Maybe some of the effects are corny today, but the gore also looks gruesome good whilst also being realistic or bizarrely well thought. Jumps and scares, of the time restrictions, little technology to help, and a jury-rigged compound add to the horror, too. And again, I’m not interested in the remake. Why, oh why, oh why would anyone be?