Who knew that 1988’s Canadian cult creature feature ‘The Brain’ was actually a hidden holiday horror gem? Yep this monster movie from the opening scene has got Christmas decorations strewn all over the place and keeps up this trend for the full duration of the film. Christmas lights, trees, tinsel and Santa decorations are carefully placed in view. People every year search for those lost holiday horror gems and I’d say we can put ‘The Brain’ firmly in the “Takes place during the Christmas season” movies & if ‘Die Hard’ qualifies as a holiday film then this one certainly does as well!
Well is it worth the trouble to track down and check out this 2020 holiday season? YES! The Brain has everything I love in an 80’s horror flick. Cool likable characters, a wild giant rubbery monster, plenty of action and a ridiculous plot reminiscent of those classic 1950’s sci-fi creature features. Creepy ass Dr. Blakely (the dude from Re-Animator who loses his head-and does in The Brain too!) runs a seemingly normal TV show called “Independent Thinkers”, a popular weekly “self-help” program. However he’s not making his audience any wiser, he secretly serves an alien organism called The Brain, that brainwashes (duh!) the viewers using it’s other-worldy mind control techniques. It’s also got a hunger for human flesh & as it consumes it’s victims it also increases in size. The only one who stands to save the city and possibly the Earth is a wise crackin’ teenage practical joker and his super cute stylin’ girlfriend.
The Brain is a fun filled totally 80’s horror romp with plenty of action, cool villains and a rad slightly idiotic looking monster that’s brought to life via puppetry and animatronics. He’s kind of like giant hulking “Madball” toy from the 1980s. He attacks his victims with limited mobility as he “cruises” around on his snake-y bod. There’s also some cool kills that are unexpectedly sprinkled about the holiday landscape and rarely a dull moment to behold.
Most of the movie features our two main characters on the run and some of the settings are pretty sweet. I’m always a sucker for hiding out inside of an empty closed school all night! Easily one of my favorite places for mayhem to ensue. As I mentioned before, there’s enough holiday decor strewn about to warrant this one a watch during the Christmas season if you’re looking for something different this year. Besides that The Brain is a solid, entertaining, charming little monster movie that’s got a sweet release on blu ray from Scream Factory that looks great and has some cool little extras to give you tons of useless information on the the movies origins!
‘Hiruko The Goblin’ from 1990 has got to be one of the best horror movies from Japan I’ve ever seen. It hits all the right beats for me in what I personally love from the late 80’s early 90’s genre movies. Directed by the iconic Shinya Tsukamoto, most well known for his epic, bizarre cyber punk horror oddity ‘Tetsuo: the Iron Man’ he delivers another slam dunk here a couple years after with this. However, this particular movie of his has gotten a lot of criticism for being so totally different from ‘Tetsuo’. Haruko spends more time on character development, humor and over the top monsters, as well as a heavy dose of heart. For me this is a much better formula than the grimy bleak mood of most of this directors other work.
This plays out way more like ‘Evil Dead 2’ meets ‘The Ghostbusters’ then his cyberpunk Cronenbergian/ David Lynch tinged outings. The story is simple yet truly bizarre: a school has literally been built on a gate to Hell behind which hordes of demons await the moment they will be freed to wreak havoc on the physical plane. Hiruko is a powerful and cunning creature sent to Earth on a reconnaissance mission, he decapitates humans in order to assemble their heads on demonic spider like bodies and command them to do his wicked deeds. Eventually this gory predicament falls into the lap of an archaeology professor, who’s dramn to the abandoned school during summer time to investigate the supernatural shenanigans and stop this demonic onslaught.
One of my favorite aspects of this movie are the two protagonists a teenage high school student and his odd demon-lore obsessed archeologist uncle. When the boy’s father goes missing while exploring the caverns beneath the school, his eccentric uncle arrives on the scene to help him search the school armed with some nifty demon busting equiptment. From here it leads them on an epic surreal journey facing off with creatures in the creepy empty corridors of the school. It also explores family dynamics, all with a slightly light-hearted comedic edge to it amidst the mayhem.
The other big star of the show here is most definitely the special-effects showcased, if you’re a fan of 80s monster movies this one will definitely be right up your alley Hiruko and his minions are a true sight to behold and the director uses almost every 80’s style effect in the book to bring them to life. From animatronics to stop motion animation, it’s all here and the creepy aesthetics and setting of the film are the perfect place for this all to unfold. Also the movie’s got a relatively lean run time I’d less than 90 minutes, so it’s not something that’s going to put you to sleep. A true visual treat as well, with a little bit of everything for everyone. It’s ambitious horror film from what I consider the tail end of the golden age of the genre that more audiences in the U.S.A need to view. A cross between Ghostbusters, Evil Dead II, Poltergeist & The Thing done by way of Japanese brilliance. Also a perfect movie for this Halloween season that you might not have seen before! Physical copies of this can be pricey and hard to track down but I’m certain it must be streaming somewhere?! This need a deluxe blu ray release badly!!
I finally checked out an animated movie I’ve been curious about for years! ‘The Plague Dogs’ from 1982 is from the same team who brought us ‘Watership Down’ so if you’re familiar with that you know right off the bat that you’re in for something quite special. Like Watership down The Plague Dogs is hardly a children’s movie, it deals with some pretty damn heavy stuff. We the follow two dogs Snitter (John Hurt) & Rowf (Christopher Benjamin) who’re caged in a lab where they’re continuously abused by scientists for testing purposes.
However one day, one of the “white coats” (as the dog’s call the doctors) accidentally leaves Snitter’s cage door ajar and both him and Rowf escape to the open countryside. In the wild they struggle to find food and shelter and find help from a mischevious fox named the Tod (James Bolam). The three of them go on an epic journey. where the two dogs long to find a new kind family to take them in, but once the Government tell the locals that the two of them are infected with the bubonic plague, it becomes a race for survival as true danger lurks around every corner.
The Plague Dogs goes in some shockingly dark directions, some sequences so surprising I’d paused the movie to double check the rating. Much of it’s admittedly depressing and bleak but done so beautifully with it’s animation and painted backdrops that’s it’s really worth the effort. It’s the morning after and the movie still weighs heavily in my mind so much so that I’d really rank this in the top 10 best animated features I’ve seen. There’s so much heart in it’s characters and by mid point in the movie there’s nothing more I’d wanted than to see these characters get a happy ending. Be warned though, this one doesn’t play out like a Disney movie of the 80’s, no one remains safe here and some of the directions it goes in will literally have you on the edge of your seat. At least it did for me. All that being said I’d wondered who they made this movie for back in the early 1980s, as most kids seeing it might be fully scarred after viewing. I suppose ‘Watership Down’ follows this same formula and has a similar reputation. I’m surprised it took me this long to finally view as it’s clearly in a league of it’s own, one that nearly had me in tears several times, unlike anything I’ve seen in recent years. Continue reading
One thing I love are those weird ass toys of the 70’s & 80’s many of them long forgotten by most. Today I was thinking about a strange action figure line called ‘The Supernaturals’. This bizarre gang of monster toys from 1987 had a gimmick, a spooky 3-D hologram sticker attached to their bodies, often times the heads and torso that really created an incredibly creepy unmistakable look for these action figures. These dudes were pretty damn awesome, each one came with a mini comic book that explained origins of the ghosty heroes and villains.
They also had glow in the dark hands and weapons just to make them even spookier when the lights went out as well as spooktacular vehicles they used in battle. I had a few of these as a kid, they were truly bizarre and that’s one of the main reasons why this toy line was so short lived. Luckily someone was kind enough to upload these old commercials of them so they can truly live on forever!!!
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!!!
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!
I’m always on the lookout for forgotten movie gems!! So I revisited a little creature feature called ‘The Kindred’ I’d seen waaaay back in the late 80’s and oddly never heard a peep about since. I came across the image of it’s excellent movie poster online and decided to track it down again. This one to my surprise, is one of those movies that was for some reason only released on VHS, so finding a copy was a little challenge at first. You might be able to check it out on Youtube, but I always try and avoid that if possible because the picture usually ends up a bit more blurry & pixelated.
Well turns out that this is a flick that really deserves far more love and could benefit greatly from official “cleaned up” release on dvd as the vhs transfer is pretty dark and muddy at times. But what we’ve got here is one heckuva solid monster movie from 1987 that’s largely influenced by H.P. Lovecraft. By the time I got to watching it I was a bit stoned so the plot was slightly confusing at first. Luckily that didn’t mean shit as the movie starts out with a bang and is full of plenty of awesome gruesome visuals throughout. Swift pacing can be a big problem with a lot of horror movies from the 80’s and The Kindred luckily moves along a pretty brisk pace.
Basically it’s about a guy who discovers upon his mother’s deathbed that he’s got a long lost brother named ‘Anthony’. Only problem is Anthony is small mutant monster who’s living a secluded lab, being experimented on by mad scientists. The guy goes on a quest to solve the mystery of the whereabouts of his ol’ lost bro Anthony and he gets a lot more than he bargains for. Because of course when he finds him it’s not your average family reunion full of hugs and kisses. As the mystery cleverly unfolds it’s clear Anthony isn’t your typical sibling. Nope, things get weird quick, people transform into mutant fish human hybrids and start turning up dead. I really enjoyed how towards the last 30 minutes the movie’s tone shifts & it suddenly becomes a full on “trapped in house with a monster fight for survival”.
Yep, Anthony escapes from the lab and mutates into a giant monster. The movie has got some awesome tentacled monsters, great practical fx work & an surprisingly intriguing story at it’s core. It also moves along without ever becoming a bore and when the shit hits the fan it’s a nice gory action packed spectacle to behold. I’d really love to see a cleaned up version of this movie on dvd to really appreciate the fx work that went into it, hoping Scream Factory or some releases this in the near future, I’ll be down for another viewing! If you love great monster movies of the 1980’s this one definitely worth tracking down!
I’ve been trying to find some cool different movies this week for a Christmas horror movie night this weekend and I’ve gotta tell ya’ aside from the go to standards like (Black Christmas, Rare Exports, Silent Night Deadly Night, etc.) the pickin’s are pretty dang slim! There’s a serious shortage of cool weird ass fun Holiday flicks out there (however there are quite few unwatchable messes) but doing the research I’ve found two that I need to see, hopefully before Christmas is upon us this year!
First up is an odd movie way back from 1984 called “Tales of the Third Dimension”. This anthology was apparently released originally in 3-D & from what I gather the third and final story “Visions of Sugar Plums” which just happens to be the Christmas story is the only segment that’s well worth watching.
It involves two kids being dropped off at their Grandma’s house during Christmas the bad news is that Granny’s almost out of meds! So Granny loses her mind and then all sorts of crazy shit goes down, I could only find one clip on Youtube but it’s a damn good one. I’d like to get my hands on this full episode I’ve only seen it for sale on Amazon but it’s got a cool ass movie poster as well. This one could be worth the trouble of hunting down if you’re looking for something new this year!
Second I found a french movie from 1989 that looks pretty amazing called “Deadly Games” or “Game Over” or “3615 Hide and Freak” or it’s original title “3615 code Pere Noel”. This one looks pretty incredible and I actually tracked down a copy online and I’m hoping it gets here before Christmas.
This movie’s pretty unknown here in the USA but many see it as a darker version of “Home Alone” even though this one was filmed and released before. It’s described as a mix between Home Alone and Rambo boasting some dynamic action sequences.
The main character is rich kid who’s mansion home is invaded by an incredibly creepy down on his luck psycho in a Santa costume. The kid gets suited up in his army duds and paints his face all camo as he sets up deadly traps all over and tries to protect his Grandpa from the attacker.
It looks like quite an adventure and I’m always game for a cool 80’s flick done in that old school Amblin style. You can watch the whole thing on You Tube, but unfortunately it’s all in German. Check out this rad trailer!
So you’re looking for an awesome 80’s survival flick huh? Well look no further because “Fortress” from 1985 delivers the goods big time!! This one seems to be somewhat of a forgotten gem, it was released on HBO back in the 80’s and later in 86′ in theaters in Australia where the movie was produced. I take great joy in watching awesome (or bad) movies from the 1980’s that some slipped under my radar for some reason and this one pretty much non stop awesomeness. It tells the simple story of a school teacher who’s class comes under attack by shotgun wielding masked psychos hell bent on taking everyone captive and hiding them in a cave in the Australian outback.
All goes as planned until the teacher (Rachel Ward) decides to take matters into her own hands. You got a ton of action, some truly awesome locales, creepy bad guys (one who with a Santa Claus mask) and a bit of an Amblin “kids in danger” style film making here that was surely missed by the masses.
Right around the third act the movie gets pretty intense when the teacher and her students become a major force to be reckoned with. Almost transforming into bloodthirsty “Lord of the Flies” type savages the finale of this film is awesome.
Then add in the shocking end scene the movie becomes even more perplexing and unforgettable! Trust me if you’re a fan of weird 80’s horror/thriller/kids movie hybrid flicks then this one will not disappoint!! You can get this one right on Netflix too!
Ever have a memory of a TV show as a kid that as an adult you couldn’t remember what it was called or for that matter if the thing even really existed? Well today I want to spotlight one of those very lost/found memories in way of an old Halloween special waaay back from 1981 called “The Crown of Bogg”!! What makes this one special you might wonder?
Well being a big fan of puppets (I mean who isn’t right?) this one was made by none other than Paul Fusco, the damn creator of ALF!!! Well this one aired long before Alf was gobbling up cats on nationwide tv it’s nonetheless just as charming and weird! This one might bring to mind classics like The Fraggles with it’s strange muppet style, wacky songs and humor. With a character names like “King Mildew” you know this one is worth a watch if you’re looking for a odd long lost Halloween special to tune into before you watch some more well known classics!! Check it!! Damn how I do love Youtube!!