Have a Dose of 70s Horrors and 80s Scares!
By Kristin Battestella
The calendar changes from 1979 to 1980 and the countries of origin may vary, but there’s still a plethora of campy vampires, juicy werewolves, and freaky witches to be had from the decades of yore. Here’s a helping of something for everyone, even the kids!
The Horrible Sexy Vampire – Some very bad music interrupts the smooth European dressings of this 1972 Spanish release, indeed. I’m also not really sure how they got the misrepresenting English title out of El vampiro de la autopista, which makes much more sense with the plot. Fortunately, the quick pace gets right to the scares, sheer lingerie, and ridiculously perky bathing boobies. The story is composed of some of the same old vampire hunting family tales, law and order skepticism, and undead history rehashing, and some of the talkative scenes are slow. However, there’s also a bit more thought to the plot in comparison to other T-n-A low budget horrors of the decade. The killings by an invisible perpetrator are somewhat goofy, sure, but also unique. I’m more concerned with this string of victims who all shower for 30 seconds sans soap or shampoo! Although a few of the players look like they might be speaking English but are overdubbed anyway, the voiceovers match and the dialogue is loud and clear. I could do without this lingering background humming sound, and more fast paced viewers might find the overall presentation dry compared to bigger gory and bloody treatments. However, this is a pleasant little mystery with some saucy treats and a bevy of perils and suspense.
Prime Evil – There isn’t a lot of information about this 1989 rarity from director Roberta Findlay (Shauna: Every Man’s Fantasy). The opening narration is stilted in its ominous sounding attempts, and the bad eighties chicks are replete with used nuns clichés, bad shoulder pad fashions, belted leotards, and fake offices one step away from the X-rated videos of the day. The sex scenes are laughable, too. The plot is fairly pointless as well- meandering towards a sacrificial hour as it collects boobs, babes, and inept cops with iffy mustaches calling evil priests “fart breath.” Yeah, the music is over the top, too. All that, and yet there’s some good blood and sexual symbolism here. Where’s the line between just naughty, depravity, and evil? It’s a bizarre mix of ecclesiastics and Satanism, abuse tales, some rituals, sacrifices, and perky virgin bosoms. You know, the usual dedicating a blood relative to Satan in order to remain young for 13 years- rinse, wash, repeat. The medieval opening and plague possibilities are solid, along with snowy locales and creepy church architecture. It’s nice to see the eighties Christmas in New York as well, for it’s subdued in comparison to today! Yes, this looks dated and really late night low budget and today’s viewer must take it all with tongue firmly in cheek. The Winter Solstice is also seriously painted in a bad light, but horror audiences looking for something to watch during the holidays can find some saucy fun in the campy good screams, make up effects, and juicy scares here.
The Werewolf vs the Vampire Woman – Never ever do an autopsy on a supposed werewolf on a moonlit night! Just one of the many warnings from this 1971 Spanish treat, the fifth in the loose Waldemar Daninsky series from writer and star Paul Naschy. Director Leon Klimovsky (The Vampire’s Night Orgy) tackles then-contemporary disbelieving science versus superstition with good screams, fun growls and fangs, zoom attacks, and slow motion eerie. There’s a good quality of blood, too, and a twisted medieval flashback establishes the satanic ritual roots. Of course, the nighttime photography is almost impossible to see, and the handheld forest camera action is poor. The werewolf makeup and effects may be a bit hokey but considering the low budget foreign production, they suffice. The flowing fashions and happy vamps running thru the glen can seem more like Frodo Lives hippie, I know. However, it is nonetheless very unnerving and effective. Actually, the pop references in the dialogue – such as man walking on the moon, James Bond, and the obligatory “Dracula! Ha ha.” – feels more dated amid the fine gothic history and Euro style. A touch of lingerie, bloody shackles, and crazy girl on girl suggestion keep the run of the mill acting and yell at the TV moments bemusing. Cap this eighty plus minutes with unusual monster relationships and cool mod clothes and you have a picture that’s a cut above the standard dollar bin foreign horror. Naturally, multiple video releases, unavailable uncut editions, international reissues, and title changes can make pursuing Naschy’s horror repertoire extremely frustrating. For fans of retro Euro-horror, however, this is worth the hunt.
The Witches Mountain – This 1972 Spanish wicked opens with a dead cat and a serious brat and proceeds with severe mustaches, woeful music, and terrible dubbing. The road trip mystery is very slow to get going, and the initial plotting is more repetitive and confusing than foreboding. Likewise, it’s tough to see the dark nighttime photography and some of the bonfire-esque sequences. At times, I wasn’t even sure who was who and there are only a handful of people here. The fashion designs and window dressings are also poor and dominated by the hideous patterns and icky fabrics we so often negatively associate with the decade. The Pyrenees location scenery is sweet, however, and the creepy increases as our bizarre couple travels from one weird hotel to the next and encounters a freaky old witch or two. Unfortunately, the whole setup is fairly obvious from start to finish and feels overlong and tough in getting to the fun ending. For sure, this one can be enjoyed half-asleep or with further indisposition at 3 a.m. with your kooky besties – but it isn’t really that good in production, performance, or plot.
And Here’s a little something Spooky for the Kids:
Mystery Mansion – This 1984 family friendly creepy seems rather obscure, and iffy kid acting and bad eighties feel good country music will make this one totally dry for contemporary adults. Wise audiences today will not find this scary- despite the presence of some crusty, bumbling redneck Unabomber looking escaped convicts. The flashbacks and dreams look low budget in your face, as do the treasure chase scenes, and the titular house is actually barely there. Having said all that, the outdoor scenery and river rafting looks like fun- this isn’t bad, just too juvenile and dated. Spooky kids growing beyond Goosebumps or youth interested in something a little more period or retro eerie can have some safe fun here.