It’s always great when you find a movie with cover art from the 1980’s that is just as awesome as the actual movie, it really doesn’t happen all that often. But today I wanted to showcase some vhs box art that’s just as killer as the actual movie. I watched for the first time Dario Argento’s ‘Phenomena’, the 116 minute cut the other night and it still stands as my fave Argento movie. Previously I’d only seen the heavily edited USA cut of the movie called ‘Creepers’ on VHS. One I distinctly remember back in the 80’s oogling at in the video stores as a kid like some forbidden fruit! It’s such a great piece of horror art and it inspired me to post an image of it today! Totally Metal too!!!! Iron Maiden & Motorhead! whoohoo!
Well it’s the Christmas season yet AGAIN! One of my favorite times to watch movies and every year I always try and hunt down the odd or forgotten Holiday themed horror movies to throw into the mix. Who doesn’t love a good holiday horror movie on rotation during this time of year right?! Well this season I’ve got 5 horror films I’m givin’ my stamp of Universal Dork approval for holiday viewing. That doesn’t mean that the theme of the movie is related to Christmas or the Holidays directly, but more so the events at the very least occur during this festive time of the year!
So here they are for 2019, track these down and pair ’em with some candy canes and spiked egg nog to get the damn party a started!!
The Oracle (1985)
Here’s a great 80’s supernatural horror flick from Roberta Findlay that takes place during the holiday season. It showcases a cold, snowy and mega sleezy NYC during Christmas time. There’s Christmas lights everywhere, holiday parties going on and christmas trees. It’s a pretty sweet little low budget horror movie that’s also pretty fun stylistically (it looks like it’s 1975 instead of ’85) and fully ambitious fx wise. Ouija boards during christmas is NEVER a good idea! It’s a movie it seems most holiday horror fanatics have missed out on over the years, so if you dig grimy supernatural holiday cheer, track this one down!
Dangerous Game (1988)
This awesome Aussie movie is brought to you by the director of Judgement Night, Predator 2 & Nightmare on Elm St Part 5. It takes place around Christmas time and features a gang of teenagers who decide to spend the night inside of a mall after one of them pisses off a mentally unstable psycho cop! The mall is decked out in X-mas decorations and makes for the perfect place for a tense game of cat and mouse! This one’s a ton of fun, filled with awesome action, great characters and even a healthy heroic dose of Christmas scenery, a crowd pleaser for sure!
The Day of The Beast (1995)
A Christmas Tale aka Cuento de Navidad (2005)
This is a great little Spanish Christmas horror flick from the director of ‘REC’. If you’re watching it for the first time in 2019 it might seem like it’s trying to capitalize off ‘Stranger Things’. However this one came out well before the craze of the Netflix series. It takes place during the 80’s, features a cast of kids who cruise around on their bikes who discover a woman in a Santa Suit stuck in a hole in the ground. They soon figure out she’s wanted by the police and refuse to help her out, things get interesting when voodoo magic is added to the mix and the kids find their holiday turned into a walking nightmare!! Track this one down, it’s so much fun!
Tales from the Third Dimension (1984)
So this is a rare horror anthology from 1984 that’s trying to do a Twilight Zone / ‘Tales from the Crypt’ mash up type of thing as evident by the awesome second rate “Cryptkeeper” character we meet at the start of the movie! Now I’m not going to recommend that you watch the entire movie as the first two segments really aren’t much to write home about, but the third and final 40 minute segment is definitely worth checking out. A full on Christmas themed horror story featuring two kids who stay at grandma’s house that kind of reminds me of M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘The Visit’. But wait there’s more, as Santa himself shows up in the flesh to push the story to wild holiday extremes!! A uniquely bizarre, largely lost and forgotten Holiday horror movie….here’s the whole thing on youtube if you can’t find a physical copy!
‘Tenement’ AKA ‘Game of Survival’ is the third movie from Roberta Findlay I’ve seen and so far she definitely knows how to serve up the grimy goods in true grindhouse flavor. Yeah, Roberta understood how to make a truly sleazy horror flick that’s for sure. Even though Tenement might be considered more of a low budget action/thriller, it’s got plenty of horror and gore to go around. Findlay surely didn’t give a damn if she offended anyone, even though this came out in ’85 it’s jam packed with scenes that you’d likely not see put to screen in 2019.
Playing off a bit like John Carpenter’s ‘Assault on Precinct 13’ except in a run down inner city apartment building, Tenement features a pretty diverse cast of characters who face off in a violent battle of life or death. The bad apples in this one look like they stepped right out of ‘The Warriors’ and are just about the meanest most over the top street gang put to film. These drugged out leather clad assholes are ready kill nearly anything in sight, and when one of the tenants of the apartment complex tires of them hanging around in the basement he calls the cops, all hell breaks loose. Just when the residents decide to throw a party in celebration of the gang’s arrest, they’re let loose into the night by police. Hellbent on revenge they head back to the “tenement” to get bloody revenge on each and everyone who lives within it’s sweaty spray painted walls.
The film moves at a brisk pace and it’s not afraid to get ugly quick. There’s a shocking brutal scene of rape, beatings, drug overdoses, guttings and that’s just the damn start. As crazy as this sounds at the same time the production quality is pretty low, the acting often pretty flimsy/over the top and it’s all sorta hard to actually take seriously. That all being said, for a female film maker back in the 80’s (and especially today) it’s got more bite than most films of this genre made by men. The action and gore is pretty ambitious and luckily the blood here, looking basically like red paint, tames some of the it’s sheer brutality making it a bit more consumable for genre newbies. I really dug a lot of the characters as well, though some may seem a bit stereotyped but the protagonist, a grumpy loner bad ass hero named ‘Washington’ (a cool add to black horror heroes) gets the job done once the gang begins to wreck havoc on his turf, the tenement. It’s quite glorious actually once the surviving apartment tenants decide to band together and fight back, revenge is well served here for sure and it’s quite worth sitting through the earlier nastiness for some sweet revenge. Also never ever underestimate a pregnant woman in danger!
One of the best things about this mean little movie is the actual setting itself. The run down apartment building is a dirty gritty mess of a place. The perfect place for an inner city showdown to occur, with no help of course from the local police. A lot of Roberta Findlay’s movies, at least what I’ve seen so far, have this totally sleezy city vibe going on and it she works that angle quite well. When people bring up grindhouse films this one is actually the perfect example of the genre and for what it is this one’s easily one of the best out there. Her movies feel like they were made a decade earlier as well and have much more of of 70’s feel to them in look and style. A dark yet entertaining action packed urban battle that might not be the most digestible piece of cinema in 2019, but it’s surely something you likely won’t forget anytime soon!
I’d never seen a Roberta Findlay movie before up until a few days ago, but I’m pretty damn stoked to check out more of her work in the horror genre for sure! ‘The Oracle’ is a sweet yet nasty little horror film from 1985 that took me pleasantly by surprise. It really looks more like it was filmed in the late 70’s, even the clothing styles and general quality of the film has a gritty and dirty grindhouse vibe to it that certainly amplifies the charm. Taking place in the seedy areas of NYC during Christmas time (yeah a new holiday horror flick for the books) Jennifer & her asinine hubby move to a new apartment once occupied by an elderly psychic woman and soon stumble upon her creepy ass ouija board ‘The Oracle’ that she often used to communicate with the spirit world.
Jennifer, hyped on her new place, throws a swingin’ housewarming bash and with everyone witnessing, uses “the oracle” to contact a angry spirit of murdered man who demands bloody revenge upon his killers. From that point on the ghostly presence relentlessly terrorizes her & tries to manipulate her into avenging his death. Eventually she complies, but soon the murderers (the dead dude’s ex-wife & greedy biz partner) become suspicious of her snooping, and they re-hire the psycho who’d carried out the vicious killing before to try and track down Jennifer.
There’s a lot to love here with this mean ass supernatural horror romp. it’s got some truly unique characters, a cool female heroine & the killer is equally interesting being a trans/lesbian villain who’s as nasty as they come for horror movie standard of the day back then. The movie doesn’t go out of it’s way to get the point across, but in today’s landscape I doubt that you could present the character at all in the light portrayed in The Oracle. Still it was interesting deviation from the evil traditionally male killers of the 70’s & 80’s. For the obviously low budget it has it makes great use of it’s big city locales & it’s charming, ambitious special fx work. Interestingly enough this film came out a full year before 80’s cult classic ‘WITCHBOARD’.
These two actually have very similar plots and while Witchboard remains the winner here as far as quality horror there’s definitely something awesome about Findlay’s attempt. It’s nastier and carries a sort of sleezy quality that genre fans of B-movies might actually appreciate more when all is said and done. There’s plenty of subpar acting going on here and decent amount of fairly impressive gore to be found. The end of course tries to go the distance with it’s limited FX budget and in my opinion delivers the goods via a sweet little supernatural encounter.
I’m quite curious to check out more of Findlay’s movies, from what I’ve read it seems she dabbled in directing “X-rated” stuff in the 1960’s, 70’s & 80’s before tackling the horror genre with this movie in ’85. I’m curious about her string of movies through the 80’s, her most popular being Tenement. If you’re a fan of trashy 80’s horror you just might dig The Oracle & now you’ve got an excuse to give this underrated gem a whirl during the holiday season too!
We’re getting closer to the big day-yep Christmas will be soon upon us, from now until then though what’s out there worth a view on the ol’ tube? It can be tuff to find new things each year to check out, sometimes the usual traditional movies and specials need a break.
I mean you can only watch the ‘Star Wars Holiday Special’ so many times right? That being said here’s a few ideas this year of some Christmas movies worth a spin from Universal Dork! Let’s get the holiday party started already!!
The Christmas Chronicles (2018)
I checked out this new Christmas movie which you can stream on Netflix last night and thought it was actually a ton of fun. We’ve got Kurt Russell as slightly rough around the edges Santa, who’s sleigh gets into an accident when a brother and sister sneak aboard it while he’s out delivering presents. It’s a sweet little holiday movie with some decent comedy & fun adventure. Russell’s Santa teams up with the two kids and they try and help him save Christmas after he loses his gift sack in the sleigh crash. For new Holiday stuff this one was WAY better than what I was initially expecting.
Silent Partner (1978)
This is an interesting one that I just discovered this year while searching for forgotten holiday movies, a Canadian thriller set during Christmas. A mild mannered bank teller gets wind of a bank robbery plot ahead of time and steals the cash himself before the thieves arrive. When the psycho robber, who’s also a mall Santa realizes he’s been tricked, he hunts down the teller with a serious bone to pick to try and get the cash for himself. This one’s a forgotten Holiday gem of a thriller!
The Children (2008)
This one’s on my list for a revisit over the next week or so, I remembered thinking it was a pretty effective British holiday themed horror flick when I saw it back in 2008. Taking place during the Christmas season it follows two family’s who get together for a snow filled weekend of fun. Things take a turn when their children become psycho killers after contracting some sort of disease. Check it out if you’re looking for something truly scary this Christmas!
Frostbiter: Wrath of the Wendigo (1995)
Here’s one that’s a ton of fun, Frostbiter was filmed back in the late 80’s but wasn’t released until 1995 when Troma decided to finally get it out there to the public. It’s a snow packed, low budget, splatter filled tale that’s in the same arena as Evil Dead 2. It also stars Ron Asheton, famed guitar legend of The Stooges, has a bunch of cool puppets, bad ass stop motion monsters and takes place in the fictional town of Bedford Falls, where “It’s a Wonderful Life” takes place. It’s got a pretty cool soundtrack as well and for a budget of ten thousand bucks this one is way more fun that it should be! Watch the FULL movie here…
Life & Adventures of Santa Claus (1985)
Total forgotten Rankin Bass weirdness, this stop motion production looks like it could take place in the RB Rudolph universe however it’s somehow got more in common with The Lord of the Rings! A weird adventure that follows Santa’s early years as he hangs out with forest Wizards and battles orc like monsters who want to put the kibosh on his plans of toy making! One of my favorites, it’s a pretty bizarre Christmas production from Rankin Bass that many people haven’t heard of!
Night of the Comet (1984)
It’s been sooo long since I’ve watched this one but the other day I’d remembered that ‘Night of the Comet’ is somewhat of a holiday movie, taking place around at the time of Christmas. This year it’s on the watch list. This cult classic features a group of survivors of a zombie attack triggered by a strange comet find themselves on the run from mad scientists as well. There’s a ton of Christmas references and it’s filled to the absolute brim with 1980’s goodness-give this a whirl this year too!
Oh how I love me some 1980’s Mike Zeck comic book covers!! He did a ton of rad covers in the 80’s for G.I. Joe and here is easily in my opinion one of his best. Issue number 38 from 1985’s cover proves that often times keeping things simple is the best recipe for something memorable. Here we’ve got an excellent depiction of big baddie Destro as he’s facing off with Cobra’s most popular ninja badass Storm Shadow! This one is a total classic and you can feel the tension between these two iconic villains, one of my fave ‘Joe covers by one of the best comic book artists ever…
Wait a second here! How could it be that I’ve never heard of the cartoon ‘Defenders of the Earth’ from 1985?! Up until a few minutes ago I never even knew it existed. This cool 80’s cartoon even aired for 65 episodes and featured legendary comic characters The Phantom, Flash Gordon, Mandrake the Magician, Lothar along with their children kicking villain ass. I know, everyone probably has seen the shit out of this show except me, I grew up in Wisconsin, never had cable tv and perhaps there it just simply didn’t air around where I lived?!
Whatever the case I’m a bit stunned I missed out, as a kid in 1985 I would have loved this show. The animation looks solid too, and even as a kid I could tell when cartoons had shoddy work done on them, my first thought was that it looked like the same animators that worked on G.I. Joe. There was even a Marvel Comic book series of it too..
I guess Marvel legend Stan Lee even wrote the lyrics for the damn theme song! Damn! Is this some sort of proof of the Mandela Effect manifesting in my life? Anyway this is like a King Features version of The Avengers and I think this could make a pretty cool little movie. Anyone else miss this as a kid?!!
Wait now there were also action figures too?! What? Hmm….I am perplexed!!
And some Robot Chicken…
Ahhh yes I can still remember how stoked I was as a kid waaaay back in 1985 when John Byrne took over writing and drawing The Incredible Hulk for a far too short of a run. I was only 11 years old, but I seriously adored John Byrne, he was hands down my favorite comic book artist and The Hulk was my favorite comic book character. Byrne had been writing and drawing Alpha Flight, which of course I was a die hard fan of too, when he switched to full on Hulk mode with issue #314. I was thrilled!
I must have read that issue a hundred times and the cover itself couldn’t have been more awesome as it featured the Jade Giant in all of his Byrne-esque glory along with a gang of his deadliest villains behind him ready to start some shit. The Leader, Modok, The Rhino, Abomination & The Juggernaut! Byrne’s highly detailed artwork pushed The Hulk to new levels of awesomeness, the character was more massive than he’d ever been too. Though the villains on the cover end up being just part of Hulk’s over active imagination, the Byrne run fully made up for that with making Hulk-centric character Doc Samson one of, if not the main character of his short run. From that point in in Hulk history Doc Samson quickly became one of my favorite Marvel characters, the series also improved upon Doc’s costume, giving him a new one, ditching his classic but sorta awful lightning bolt suit he’d worn previously.
In the past we’d seen Samson tangle with the Hulk but never quite like this. I absolutely love how Byrne’s Hulk completely dwarf’s Samson in size like never before, yet he proves just how much of a bad ass the character really is with not only his brawn but also his brains. This issue is essentially one big fight between the two and begins with a more mindless version of the Hulk who’d been missing in another dimension called The Crossroads, exiled by Doctor Strange for over a year (those were great issues too!). Samson cleverly defeats The Hulk and makes Hulk history using his genius scientific intellect to actually separate Bruce Banner from The Hulk as two living breathing entities.
This was a great era of Hulk history and let’s face it John Byrne was easily one of the best comic book writers and artists of the 70’s & 80’s if not of all time. During this run he pumped out 8 issues, one being an awesome Marvel Fanfare where’s Byrne’s stunning artwork proved he was easily one of the best of all time when it came to drawing the jade giant. Another was The Hulk annual #14 which he wrote but master Hulk artist Sal Buscema drew. I love the Byrne era Hulk and apparently he’d had big plans for the series but was thwarted, there’s actually a great story about what went down here with the Byrne Hulk run for all of you Hulk-a-maniancs. Also check out ‘Incredible Hulk: Visionaries #1‘ Trade Paperback which features the whole output of Byrne 80’s Hulk. Ahhh those were the good ol’ days….
John Byrne had an amazing yet short run on The Incredible Hulk in 1985 and back then I was more than thrilled that he’d taken over the title as write AND artist! Byrne’s my favorite comic artist of all time and The Hulk my favorite superhero so this was to me a match made in heaven. Issue #314 was a great start and had great simplistic cover of the Jade Giant front & center along with some of his most devious villains! Yeah Modok too by Byrne is also a treat! Covers like this one prove that keeping it simple can be incredibly effective sometimes. I totally miss these awesome old school style Hulk stories. Today we have the Hulk killed off and replaced with the Totally awesome Hulk who’s alter ego is Amadeus Cho. Not a fan. I’m hoping someday Marvel can get back to what really worked for the Hulk and worry less about pandering to the mainstream narratives by changing their superheroes into other people. Ahhh…well at least I’ve got the classics to revisit!
When it comes to outstanding comic book covers by truly incredible artists The Gargoyle #1 is one of the best! A relatively obscure Marvel character got his own limited series in 1985 and was also a member of The Defenders around this time as well. Who better than to get to draw this monstrous superhero? Bernie Wrightson laid it onto paper like a true champ and gave us one of the best covers of his career! All four covers for this series are actually pretty incredible but this one takes the cake…