I finally got a round to checking out 1989’s ‘Saga of the Phoenix’, the wildly entertaining sequel to ‘The Peacock King’ from cult classic Hong Kong director Lam Ngai Kai (Riki-Oh). If you’re a fan of ‘Riki-Oh’ I highly recommend checking out the director’s other work and while ‘Saga of the Phoenix’ isn’t as shockingly violent, it’s easily just as wild and crazy as anything he’s ever done. In the sequel we follow once again, the exploits of the two magical monks Lucky Fruit and Peacock but more so this time the “Hell Virgin” Ashura who in the last movie caused some major problems, almost destroying mankind as we know it while under the enchantment of the devil. Ashura though still loves the mortal world and eventually is granted permission to live there for 7 days, only if she makes a promise to stay out of any mischief that might interfere with the human world. She gladly accepts and quickly hunts down a weird gremlin creature named “Genie” when arriving on Earth. Peacock, Lucky Fruit and 3 bad ass nuns are also then sent down to chaperone her visit, but of course the wicked “Hell Concubine” has other plans, to send her evil minions there as well to try and corrupt her once again.
Though I’ve heard many seem to think this one is more “kid friendly”, probably because the gremlin character “Genie”is focused on quite a bit. Though we follow Ashura and him running around Hong Kong in the 80’s having fun (which I totally dug), it’s still got plenty of downright bizarre scenarios to behold that I think places it in a league all of it’s own and quite a worthy sequel. There’s also the inclusion of a brother and sister human duo that befriend the main characters and the brother just happens to be a madcap inventor of an inter dimensional time machine. Go figure! There’s a few hints of romance and of course the three nun protectors all decide to go for a dip in the human’s swimming pool after their outfits get shredded in battle, donning swimsuits for the first time in their rather “sheltered” life. There’s also some pretty perplexing plot choices surrounding the character of Genie that just kind of have to be seen to be believed. The character which is a mix of puppet and stop-motion animation has got plenty to do here and is given more than his fair share of moments to shine and even scare.
Sure there’s a lot going on here in a movie with an admittedly flimsy plot, the good thing is that the majority of it all is one helluva good time. Bleeding sweet 80’s fashion & locations, outrageous characters, wild sets, puppets, stop motion animation, giant monsters and plenty of neon lasers to behold, it’s hard not to at least be enamored by all of the eye candy. There’s also a splash of martial arts action thrown in the mix to keep the action going at a steady pace from Lucky Fruit and Peacock. Sure there’s lot’s of logic issues with the plot & the dialogue (translations likely) can be a bit incoherent at times but there’s more than enough outrageous charm throughout to easily satisfy fans of directors like Steven Speilberg, Sam Raimi & Peter Jackson’s 80’s and early 90’s work.
If you’re a fan of weird 80’s fantasy, action & horror you definitely need track down The Peacock King & The Saga of the Phoenix. It’s jam packed with all the things I love so much about that era of film making. Lam Ngai Kai (aka Ngai Choi Lam) is easily the best cult director out of Hong Kong for the time, it’s a shame he completely disappeared from film making after 1992. Perhaps he decided his body work couldn’t be topped? Thankfully he’s left behind a truly unique legacy of outrageous films that have yet to be explored by a huge portion of American cinemaniacs.
I never even knew a movie existed where Charles Bronson and Will Sampson (Chief Bromden from ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’) teamed up to battle a giant albino monster buffalo up until a couple weeks ago. But yeah ‘The White Buffalo’ is just that, a wild west adventure flick that channels ‘Jaws’ in obvious ways but alsogives a lot more to ponder upon later. This 1977 action flick features Bronson as Wild Bill Hickock who’s haunted by nightmares of a vicious monster buffalo, so much so that he’s developed a bad habit of grabbin’ his pistols during the dreams and randomly firing it in real life while he’s in a deep slumber.
The visions intensify and soon Bronson’s on a cross country quest to track down this pesky monster. There’s some great action in between of course where Bronson kicks a ton of ass and gets into some crazy saloon shootouts, cuz let’s not forget what he’s best known for, over the top ass kickin’ action. Meanwhile the awesome Will Sampson plays the legendary Crazy Horse, who’s daughter happens to be slaughtered by the giant buffalo in a bloody massacre on his settlement and it inspires a quest of revenge against the beast.
I really dig this forgotten gem, from the cool sets to the atmospheric gothic journey when Bronson heads off on into the mountains in a stage coach, to the drama between Hickock and Crazy Horse as they try to come to terms with the white man’s dominance in the world. Of course my favorite part of this 70’s horror/action hybrid is the threat of the giant beast looming in the mountians, which I read was inspired by the success of ‘Jaws’. The creature appears within an almost dream like landscape, even when outside of Bronson’s nightmares.
The giant beast is actually pretty well done I think, considering the times, using animatronics and puppetry and well placed camera angles. there’s some pretty bloody and intense scenes later as well when the duo finally confronts the albino behemoth. Considering the movie had a PG rating back then at least it gets nice and dirty when it needs to. We all know those 70’s “PG” rated flicks can feel a lot more like an R rated movie in modern times. The movie definitely works best showcasing the unlikely alliance between Bronson & Sampson and does it’s best to show what sort of bonds and trust can develop against a greater threat. I had a blast with this one and it’s easily become one of my favorite Bronson movies! Track this one down, it’s a unique little largely forgotten monster flick!
1992’s ‘Private Wars’ from PM Entertainment is an 80’s action fan’s dream come come true. It’s got everything you’re likely to want from the genre and more which was a pleasant surprise as I wasn’t sure just what to expect when I picked this sucker up randomly on VHS recently. From the cover it didn’t look like anything particularly special but within the film’s first 5 minutes or so it was clear this was gonna be a total spectacle to behold. We’ve got a great cast here as well, one of the films several leads is Steve Railsback (Lifeforce, Nukie), who stars as an unlikely anti-hero, a drunken wild card who from the movie’s fully over the top get go sets up the mayhem that pretty much continues to ensue for the duration of the film. Also equally bad ass is Dan Tullis Jr. who you just might remember for his role as “Officer Dan” on the sitcom Married… with Children. He gives the movie a damn fine does of comedy as well as some sweet ass action!
There’s a lot of stuff to fully enjoy here and luckily the pace of the movie rarely if ever lets up. We’ve basically got a wealthy sinister asshole businessman who’s dead set on getting the inhabitants of an old neighborhood to abandon their homes so he can build a huge boring business center there. To achieve his deviant goals, he bribes the corrupt local cops and uses organized gangs to harass pretty much any woman, man or even child who sets foot near them. There’s an incredible sequence that simply must be seen to be believed where the local gangster thugs go on a crazed rampage ruining kid’s toys, jump kicking innocent side walkers, shoving the elderly people, kicking over full trash cans and destroying fruit stands! These guys mean business and they quickly cross the damn line when they set one of the beloved locals on fire. The neighborhood bands together to unsuccessfully try to stop them and soon they look to employ the skills of drunken fuck up tuff guy Steve Railsback to help the cause.
This one’s filled to the brim eratic action scenes, wild explosions, crazy ass car crashes, kung fu mayhem, charismatic characters and some pretty well timed comedy. There’s an totally hilarious scene where the neighborhood watch gets together to audition locals badasses to help them out that’s totally unforgettable. They also seem to love strapping people to the front of vehicles and the surprisingly impressive stunts and explosions make me totally miss those golden years of action movies before everything was done via CGI. Private Wars has true heart as well and throws some pretty sweet nods to ‘Rocky’ when Railsback finally cleans up his act in order to get ready for the final battle with the greedy developer and his goons. It’s the perfect party movie and is truly a forgotten gem of an action movie that’s sure to put a smile on any 80’s action fans face. Seek this one out, it’s totally worth it!!!
Been on a VHS binge lately watching tons of old forgotten movies, some are of course are steamin’ turds but every now and again you come across something that’s a total delight! I ran across a copy of 1991’s ‘Children of the Night’ and was fairly certain it was again going to be another crapper, however this one proved to be a totally sweet romp of a horror comedy. I’m a giganto fan of 80’s horror and this one while being from 91′ has still got that great old school vibe and charm coming off the tail end of 1980’s. In my opinion a lot of flicks up through 1994 more or less continue to keep that feel in tact. That being said, I had a good feeling about this one when I’d seen that Peter Deluise of ’21 Jump Street” fame was billed as the star, I watched the shit out of that show as a kid in the 80’s and he was one of my favorite characters from the series for sure. Then I noticed Karen Black also starred and then that the director was Tony Randel of ‘Hellraiser 2’ & ‘Ticks’ fame.
Well I’m pleased to say from the start of this one (which I found out later was actually a Fangoria production) it fully delivered the goods and then some in all the ways I’d hoped for. Playing much more like a horror comedy we get a sweet little story of of teenage girl played by Ami Dolenz (also in ‘Ticks’ from 1993) who lives in a small town and accidentally awakens a wicked vampire lord while swimming in an underground pond below a church. Yeah that’s what she and her buddy do for fun…..well schoolteacher played by Peter Deluise later comes to town to see what’s up and ends up in the thick of a vampire attack where he teams up with the teen girl and a local town drunken preacher played by vinatge SNL alumni Garrett Morris. I gotta say when he arrived it was the icing on the damn cake, he’s known also as “Chocolate Chip Charlie” from the horror classic ‘The Stuff’ from 1985 and in this movie he drives around town at night drinkin’ mad amounts of whiskey in a crazy van that’s got a giant glowing cross spear mounted on the front it it to impale vampires with. By that point in the movie I was already in, but this solidified the deal for sure.
At the end of the ‘Children of the Night’ day plays a bit like ‘Evil Dead 2’ none of it can be taken too seriously but it’s not a full on spoof either. There’s a lot of cool FX work going on here as well as cool spooky inventive sets and locations. It’s a neat little horror adventure that’s not afraid to add some heart to it either. A lot like gory teen horror comedy that’d fit quite nicely along with 80’s cult classics like ‘Vamp’, ‘Critters’ or the highly underrated ‘Night Life’ from 1989. There’s also some cool ass action sequences and you also get some Karen Black super weird vampire lung moments to ponder upon! If you’re looking for some super fun lost nostalgia to watch with a gang of movie maniacs ‘Children of the Night’ is a prime choice in my opinion!
So you’ve seen all the ‘Friday The 13th’ movies, every installment of the ‘Halloween’ franchise, Seen all four ‘Scream’ films and all of the Child’s Play/Chucky flicks-What the hell’s next? Well don’t fret because there are some awesome lesser known slasher flicks you may’ve never heard of that you’ve gotta check out this Halloween. Let’s face it too, as far as slasher movies go, there are A LOT of terribly shitty ones you really don’t want to waste your time watching! I’ll save you the boredom of trudging through a bad 80’s slasher movie. If you’re looking for quality, here are 6 awesome ones you probably haven’t checked out yet, just in time for Halloween!!
1.Strange Behavior 1981 (AKA: Dead Kids)
This cool Aussie horror movie is definitely NOT your average slasher fare, which is all the more reason to check out this gem. 1981 hailed as the golden years of the slasher hurled a ton of forgettable genre movies in our direction but ‘Strange Behavior’ in my opinion remains one that’s got a lot more going for it than what appears on it surface initially. This campy mystery mixes the slasher with elements of sci-fi and 1950’s horror. It’s also got one of the most incredible teen party dance scenes in movie history! Dig it!
2. The Prowler (1981)
Worth it alone for the special fx work of master Tom Savini, The Prowler is a ton of fun and also has a cool mystery within it’s gory plot. It even features a memorable slasher dressed head to toe in WWII army fatigues that’s hell bent on hunting down horny teens. This movie has a lot more character than most of it’s peers, has some awesome spooky settings as well as some excellent moments of extreme tension! The Prowler is top notch when it comes to classy ass slasher movies.
3. Happy Birthday to Me (1981)
You see a trend here? 1981 everyone was competing to make the coolest slasher movie and ‘Happy Birthday To Me’ is considered by many to be one of the best the genre had to offer. This one’s beautifully filmed, filled with cool special fx and even stars Melissa Sue Anderson (Mary Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie) in the movie’s lead role! For it’s rather long run time (1 hour & 51 minutes) it never becomes dull and one of the reasons this one’s so damn charming is because of the incredibly ridiculous plot twists throughout that are played totally straight and serious- Scooby Doo and his gang would feel right at home in this one!
4. The Burning (1981)
Dang! 1981 AGAIN!! Here’s hands down on of the best, most entertaining slasher movies of all time. Although feeling incredibly similar to ‘Friday the 13th’ at first, this one’s a total classic that deserves far more praise. It’s filled with awesome gory, truly inventive kills, a cool disfigured monster-y slasher & most interestingly stars Jason Alexander (Seinfeld’s George Costanza) in his first movie role! A ton of fun and filled with ridiculous 80’s nostalgia, The Burning is a great time.
5. Tourist Trap (1979)
This one’s an interesting one for sure, for a PG rated movie it sure packs a weird creepy ass punch. It’ll make you develop a serious fear of mannequins, as a gang of traveling teenagers stops at a spooky roadside attraction that’s jam packed with em! To make matters worse there’s a masked slasher on the prowl who’s got telekinetic powers in which he uses to animate the freaky mannequins. Tourist Trap is filled with ultra trippy imagery and is a truly bizarre, utterly unique installment into the genre!
6. Popcorn (1991)
Enter the 1990’s!! Popcorn is a truly underrated gem of a flick that brings a disfigured psycho into the theater during a horror movie marathon. It’s filled with some neat-o plot twists, cool fx and and a unique story that twists in and out of the schlocky horror movies our onscreen characters are watching. It also stars Jill Schoelen, who’s a total 80’s horror movie cutie icon and legend Dee Wallace Stone for some extra added horror cred. Oddly the movie was shot in Jamaica which is why the people in it are always listening to reggae. Check this one out it’s got a lot of charm for an early 90’s slasher flick.
Do you miss amazing werewolf movies like ‘An American Werewolf in London’, ‘The Howling’ and ‘Dog Soldiers’? I sure as hell do! Well luckily there’s someone out there right now who’s funding a brand new 80’s style throwback werewolf flick that boasts no CGI at all and even additionally release it on VHS! Yep ‘Bonehill Road’ has been getting some attention lately in the horror community with it’s Indiegogo fundraising page. The project only has five short days left and has already exceeded it’s goal, but the more money they can raise the better it’s gonna be. Here’s one of the early werewolf designs below!
Director Todd Sheets has been making movies since 1985, many of which were shot on video and have an ultra low budget. However he’s got quite a unique indie style of his own and his movies definitely bring on the crazy gore while remaining a ton o’ fun. You can check out some of his crazy ass stuff on youtube. This project seems to be a bit of a labor of love and it seems Sheets is really going for a higher quality of story, effects work and full on scares this time around. Any money made from the Indiegogo page will go into one thing…the creature fx!! He’s going to really need the funds if he really wants to match the likes of movies like ‘The Howling’. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this project shapes up in the end, he’s going to release it on VHS as well which is a cool little novelty for all of us collectors of the dead media. Things get even better though, to perfectly match the vibe of the 1980’s the movie has just recently cast horror scream queen icon Linnea Quigley! how cool is that?!
This is a great way to support indie film makers with a dream who’re not cranking out the norm of PG-13 throwaway horror blockbusters for the masses. If you’re a fan of old school horror check out the Indiegogo page. We need more hand on horror like this, I really enjoyed more recent ventures like ‘Dog Soldiers’ & ‘Late Phases’ (which was a pretty brilliant old school style werewolf movie) but the fact remains that we just don’t get enough film that’s made by people who’re really truly have a passion for their projects. If you got some extra cash or have some experience in fx work check it out, Todd Sheets is looking to make his dream project into a modern monster masterpiece!
Here we have a rather rare VHS I ran across recently while doing some major thrift store shopping up in the north woods of Wisconsin! The Unholy is a pretty neat-o piece of 1980’s demon church cheeze! This is the kind of movie I really enjoy stumbling across.
The Unholy was released in 1988 and tells the story of a Father Michael (Ben Cross) who’s appointed to a church in New Orleans where two priests where murdered two years before. The movie’s pretty dang fun over all, giving you a ton weird ass 80’s goth night club types who perform violent looking mock rituals while the priest investigates the scenes in the New Orleans cult underground. If you’re intrigued by the over the top fashion and nightlife of the 1980’s you’ll dig this.
Of course Father Michael’s going to be ‘tempted’ by some rather ‘unholy’ racy, 80’s style, sexy situations by this demonic force running amuck. Yep this powerful sexy demon goes by the name “Desederious” and spends most of the time trying to seduce Father to the side of the Devil. Too bad Father Michael, despite being a priest doesn’t believe in demons or the Devil!
Well it doesn’t take long before his mind is changed once weird shit begins occurring around the church! This one does drag a bit during the middle with a bit too much jibber jabber going on that quite honestly I could give two shits about. I mean c’mon let’s get on with this shit and have a demon battle already! Well thankfully the third act of this movie is pretty satisfying as a fan of 80’s monster movies this one gets pretty good once Desederious shows her true form and Father Michael loses his sex drive pretty damn quickly!
Yep we get some pretty fun little pesky mini demon minions running around and Desederious looks pretty ridiculously awesome in her true demon form running around on all fours. I mean if I saw that fucking weird ass thing appear in a dark alley I’d most definitely run for the hills while peeing my pants!
‘The Unholy’ has a pretty decent cast, we even see Ned Beatty show up here, we get some fun as hell classic special effects and sweet 80’s fashion. if you can get through about 25 minutes of rather boring dialogue in the middle the third and final act will surely deliver the goods!! Seek this one out if you can and if you’re a true fan of C-movie 80’s horror!