And Now More 80s Horror!
By Kristin Battestella
From Lovecraft, monsters, and mad science to slashers, ghosts, and the undead, those glorious eighties had a horrorific good time!
Blood Tide – James Earl Jones (The Great White Hope), Jose Ferrer (Cyrano de Bergerac), Martin Cove (Karate Kid), Lila Kedrova (Zorba the Greek) and plenty of pretty thanks to Deborah Shelton (Dallas), Lydia Cornell (Too Close for Comfort), and Mary Louise Weller (Animal House) keep this 1982 hour and twenty full of Lovecraftian low budget foreign flair, Greek superstitions, and island terror interesting. The opening prologue lays out the virgin sacrifice, nudity, beastly symbolism, and whiff of kinky to come, but the video print is subpar, drab, and too dark to see what’s happening – making for some viewer confusion along with the steady plot holes. Some characters and motivations also simply go unexplained, and Jones’ random Shakespearean dialogue is tough to understand in some scenes. Although there are interesting dialogue references to actor Paul Robeson and Othello, ironic considering the bitter history between Robeson and Ferrer. Unfortunately, iffy, dated music and too many muddled conversations establish nothing and keep the pace here too slow – get moving on the ancient tribal sacrifice, religion, and beasts! Once the deaths hit the water, things proceed quickly for the finale, but the monster is hokey and you really need to like bad, sleepy horror to get thru this one. Actually, if you ixnay the potential teens and spring break island sex romp standard of today, I’d like to see a stylized remake of this with another worthy, Oscar alum cast.
Creepshow 2 – The lengthy animated opening and frame story for this 1987 anthology sequel feels somewhat out of place and dampens the suspense of George Romero’s writing polish on these Stephen King tales, yet the beginning fifties-esque pleasantries of the “Old Chief Wood’nhead” first tale make for a fine down on its luck, eerie western. George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke) and Dorothy Lamour (Road to Bali) add a delightful charm to this tense blend of Navajo mysticism, hooligans, and quality revenge. While the ending feels a little rushed and the dated backwoods styles might be amusing or annoying to some, the mannequin effects are surprisingly well done. Story Two “The Raft” also offers plenty of dated eighties pot and college motifs with a hint of nudity and stupidity for good measure. People in horror movies never get away when they have the chance! Despite the unexplained killer oil slick and weak globular effects, there’s plenty of suspense here. The final tale “The Hitchhiker” starts with some saucy but leads to crazy, never say die, car chases and pursuits with a touch of humor and an ironic end. Again, the stories and the framing plot don’t exactly tie together, but there’s enough eerie entertainment here to marathon with the original Creepshow.
Dominique is Dead – An intriguing cast – including Jean Simmons (Guys and Dolls), Cliff Robertson (Charly), Jenny Agutter (Logan’s Run), and Simon Ward (The Tudors) – raises this 1980 ghost tale above its somewhat slow, quiet, uneven, and unpolished parts. Yes, there are too many shades of Gaslight and Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, but the in media res ghost talk happens quickly, creating an off kilter feeling. Is this supernatural, tawdry, crazy, or something else? The classical scoring, old-fashioned décor and style, and a certain classy candlelight and mood lighting carry a layer of spooky amid the dinner parties, too. Surreal red and blue photography, disappearing and reappearing objects, and creepy creaking noises and sounds add to the excellent, eerie mystery – not to mention that great house and garden scenery. The superb jump moments and scares are well done with people and built up tensions rather than relying on zany effects – we hardly have this kind of simple spooky tale these days. Of course, the seemingly unloved public domain print here is too dark at times, the voices are soft, the editing itself needed a do over, and the plot holes could sure use some clarifications. There are also one too many confusing reveals for the finale, but overall, this is a nice little atmospheric and gothic good time.
Re-Animator – This 1985 cult favorite and mad science meets undead mash up blessedly does not look mid eighties dated. Granted there may be some primitive cat designs – which aren’t for faint feline fans – but there isn’t any so obviously of the time music, cars, fashions, or gear. The camerawork and filming is also well edited and fast paced without too many major visual effects, again helping the action to hold up today. The physical gore, nudity, bloody people, and meaty props rise to the occasion – allowing Jeffrey Combs (Deep Space Nine), Bruce Abbott (Dark Justice), Barbara Crampton (Castle Freak), and David Gale (Guyver) to focus on the Lovecraft source. The solid, creepy players are as endearing as they are freaky, and there’s a pleasant, realistic layering of villainy, reluctance, genius, rights, and wrongs as the science gone awry plot progresses. Though there are some brain versus will power leaps of faith and unrealistic, unexplained medicines, the hints of black comedy campy or dark humor parody make the talking heads and telepathic control somehow believable in the established plot. The scientific dialogue is also not the expected high tech jargon, which helps the viewer enjoy the re-animated amusements. The multiple film editions – R, Unrated, and combinations of the two – however, may annoy contemporary audiences. Fortunately, the pace moves swiftly thanks to increasingly slick and nasty perversions, and everything is brought to a head for the finale. It’s twisted, both subtle and yet over the top, and humorously so wrong in some moments, but somehow, this is still so dang fun to watch.
Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning – This 1985 sequel starts promisingly by following John Shepherd (Thunder Run) as the grown up but traumatized Tommy Jarvis. Unfortunately, the half way house he’s in has less nutty people then the redneck crazy town nearby or the aptly named “Trailer Park” trailer park. Largely absent people create too many red herring tangents while others are introduced only to be killed or worse, unfulfillingly killed off screen. If this is Tommy’s story and we’re supposed to care about him, why is missing for most of the time? Law enforcement disappears, an inexplicably tricked out barn magically appears, and wow, there are too many endings – from the barn battle and hospital add ons to obligatory dream scares and a gotcha fade to black. The wise horror viewer can predict everything, and will shout at the television over all the unutilized vehicles, weapons, and means of escape. I do give props for the internal use of A Place in the Sun, nice boobs, and the murder mystery identity guessing game, but the dated fashions, music and bad singing, backwoods near fifties designs, and formulaic stereotypes are laughable. The Robot meets Stray Cats! Some of its crazy funny but overall, the annoying humor fuels the weak, uncreative, anonymous deaths as they come too easy and go for too many resets or cheap thrills and jump clichés. The attempt to offshoot the franchise or pass the hockey mask mantle and recapture the murder mystery of the original is an interesting concept, but by the end, you don’t blame the killer for doing what he does. Whoops. The R isn’t that hard today, and the poor mix of new killer, comedy, and slasher scares only works in a precious few memorable scenes.
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives – New town name, camp reopened for business, same old date for this 1986 reset. Jason Voorhees is back thanks to a magical dose of lightning, but the recasting of Tommy Jarvis with actor Thom Matthews (Return of the Living Dead) confuses the Bobby in the Shower approach regarding Part V even more. Did the last film not happen? Did any of Jason’s history matter? Tommy was to be the new killer, but now he’s suddenly a mistaken good guy with an occult book? Writer and Director Tom McLoughlin’s (Sometimes They Come Back) sardonic and self-referential camp counselors fall flat, and the resurrected, undead, put him back in the water Jason takes one too many leaps of faith for the audience. Quick deaths are made of the fashion victim teenagers, along with more no name murders stringing a plot together, and too little use is made of the annoying kids in peril actually at the dang camp. There’s also a strange clumsy humor and music for some deaths – Jason’s traditional ki ki ki theme feel like it’s in the wrong places – and more bad eighties tunes don’t help. There’s only one crappy sex scene and no nudity, but the attempts at something spiritual amid the supernatural aren’t followed thru either. Wild RV accidents, camaro chases, and more substantial law enforcement plots are very nice, however, and this outing is indeed better than the previous sequels. If you like ho hum slashers, this is certainly watchable, but it still falls short of the original.