Last nite I picked up quite an interesting new VHS release at Portland Oregon’s Tanker Tape Swap, a great event where you can have drinks a’ plenty while doing some serious rare retro movie shopping! Black Wideo, a new Portland based VHS label was there with their first release, the 1989 oddball, no budget, shot on video, long lost horror comedy ‘Executioner: The Musical’.
One thing I’ve always adored is the amazing cover art from vhs tapes of the 80’s and ‘Executioner: The Musical’ surely delivers that tradition with it’s stunning cover, bbq’d burgers and grilled eyeballs anyone? If I didn’t know better I’d have assumed this tape was released in the 80’s and someone just unearthed a big box of deadstock vhs. Anyway this morning before work I popped this sucker into my vcr (the movie’s only 25 minutes long and perfect for breakfast viewing) and now I’ve got it’s theme song stuck firmly in my brain still, hours later. What we’ve got here is a charming little slice of lost 80’s video nostalgia. The simple plot for this: there’s a weird singing hooded executioner dude on the loose and his presence in the city’s got the suburban teens undie’s in a total bundle. It’s NOT safe anymore to walk the streets and even worse the teenagers aren’t able to ‘party hardy’ like they used to. It seems the killer’s favorite time to strike, when a ‘killer’ party is going down!
One of the my favorite parts of this one is the bad boy greaser teen character, who’s down right P.O.’d that he can’t party. I mean he’s reeeeally upset about it, so damn much so that he leads the rest of his pals (who’re a bit like rejects from a ‘Breakfast Club’ audition) into a full on ridiculously awesome numbskull “pop song” about how bad they wanna throw a damn party, immediately. Even though the music here’s pretty much a guy and his acoustic guitar (with some help from his friends at times), the songs are oddly catchy, albeit 100% idiotic. I mean that in a good way and being that the short film is from the late 80’s you get some sweet nostalgic fashion choices and fully over the top teen stereotypes on display (and for some reason spotting vintage Doritos bags in movies always seem to get me quite excited-YUM!) . Like the rich kid with his boat shoes, no socks, short shorts & English accent, the stoner druggie dude & the classic nerd with the taped glasses are all on display and ready to get sliced up and even “sing” some songs.
‘Executioner: The Musical’ may not be for everyone, but if you dig weird stuff from the 80’s and low budget oddities you’re likely to find something quite endearing about it. For horror fans there’s enough red kool-aid and corn syrupy blood to go around & a syringe to the skull as well! With such a short run time it’s hardly a commitment & it’s the perfect opener for a night of trashy retro horror movies. Check out Black Wideo for a copy, it seems they’ve got plans to release more from the director, Scott Grenke’s archive of lost films! Beware though, the film’s theme song “Friendly Killer” just might get stuck in your head for far longer than you ever thought possible!
I recently checked out a pretty sweet little horror anthology from 1985 called ‘Night Train to Terror’ on VHS and it did indeed deliver the goods, especially in that oh so ridiculously sweet 80’s way. It’s not always easy to find a decent horror anthology but this one had a certain charm about it especially with it’s rather ambitious special fx & visuals that really made it such a damn good time.
The movie certainly kicks off with a total bang as we’re thrust into a full blown dance party on a train, with crazy 80’s fashion, a super cheezed out band rockin’ performing a totally “rad” third rate pop song. Now that’s a train I want to reserve a seat on! Anyway, soon we realize that God and Satan are also on a train that’s flying through outer space and trying to determine who will live on the party train as it’s going to crash. This is where we see the frightening tales of evil materialize on screen as it sets the stage for the stories involving some of the more questionable passengers.
So what we’ve got here are a few cool tales of terror, what’s really interesting is these stories here are all apparently edited versions of different horror films: Death Wish Club, Cataclysm and an unfinished movie project with Richard Moll (of Night Court fame) called Scream Your Head Off. Yeah and if you’re for some reason a big Richard Moll fan you’ll be pleased to know he stars in two of the segments! Also while we’re on the hot topic of Richard Moll flicks, you’ve got to check out ‘The Dungeonmaster’ from 1984, which is easily one of the most ridiculously fun horror/Sci fi flicks of the 80s. So back to the Night Train, it would seem one reason why these segments work so well is that they’ve likely trimmed out all of the excess fat from these movies and got to get straight to the damn point. So many obscure 80’s horror flicks would be bonafide cult classics if they’d trim 20 or so minutes from their run times. That’s a fact!
Yep, Night Train has got a lot to offer in it’s spooky entries, but don’t expect shit to make a heckuva lot of sense. The stories are actually kinda confusing, probably because they’ve been majorly butchered to pieces. That being said, there’s some cool shit going on, there’s one about a dude who drugs women, then kills them only to collect their organs. There’s a ton of nudity and some gore and of course Richard Moll shows up. The next segment’s about a freaky ass death club, whose members are obsessed with near death experiences, not the “out of body” stuff but like putting themselves into elaborate death traps to see if they can survive it. This one’s also pretty damn confusing, but there’s some cool ass traps and a rad killer insect that they let out of a bottle to fly around them at a dinner table..oh yeah and then some killer big hungry monster bugs! Lastly the third one was fucking fantastic, It had some weird ass Nazi guy who never ages, you guessed it…more Richard Moll, monsters a plenty and a totally excellent stop-motion animation creature sequence. This one’s story is super confusing as well, or maybe i’m just stupid, but it doesn’t really matter because it’s all 80’s gory goodness. I’d say just drink some booze and smoke a joint before watching, as it’s not there to wow anyone with a well crafted story that’s for sure!
So check this one out if you’re in the mood for a sweet 1980’s horror party flick, it delivers on all levels and you really don’t have to pay much attention to what’s going on, just sit back and enjoy the goofy ambition of it all…
I do tons of hunting around town here in Portland Oregon and beyond for awesome VHS tapes for my own viewing pleasure and also for my shop Hollywood Babylon. The fun is always running across cool movies, often times I never even knew existed. This is most definitely the case when I ran across a VHS copy of ‘VIBES’ from 1988 starring Cyndi Lauper and Jeff Goldblum!? Yeah, at least for me this was a surprise as I’d never even heard of this one before and the unlikely pairing of Goldblum as “Nick” & 80’s pop icon Lauper as “Sylvia” kinda blew my mind. At first I thought it was simply an 80’s rom com, but upon reading the synopsis on the back I was even more excited to find that Vibes is actually a supernatural adventure flick with light elements of Indiana Jones sprinkled about it’s odd colorful plot.
Talk about a movie that sounds right up my alley? Vibes was indeed a ton of fun and it’s two unlikely leads make it a full on trip down 80’s nostalgia lane. Both Lauper and Goldblum play quirky down on their luck psychics who are hired to head off to Ecuador to find the missing son of a mysterious wealthy fortune hunter. Both seem reluctant to work together even though Sylvia who’s major bad luck with men, seems immediately enamored with Nick who’s character is as over the top Godlbum-esque here as they come. Both use their unique powers to piece together the mystery they become entrenched in, Sylvia speaks with a dead woman named Louise and Nick can see the psychic history of objects from merely by touching them.
Once the two leave the city they quickly realize there’s a supernatural element at play and their employer hasn’t been entirely honest about why they’ve been hired for the job. It’s a total pleasure to see the two leads playing off each other and it’s quite obvious from the get go it’s gonna be physically impossible for Golblum to resist the cute as a button Lauper. Cyndi shines here with her extra thick New York accent and most of all it’s the unlikely pairing of these two icons that really make this one such a treat.
The back of the VHS boasts something of a special fx extravaganza from one of the dudes from Ghostbusters which was sadly a bit misleading. There are a few neat scenes of 80’s fx at play here but ultimately the supernatural spectacle here wasn’t nearly as impressive as I’d hoped for. A few more scenes of paranormal mayhem would have made this one a full on lost 80’s classic. It does have some great sets though and the Ecuador back drop gives this a bit of a Romancing the Stone vibes at times although with less physical adventure actually going on. There’s a great dance sequence between the two as well that’s pretty darn cute as well. The main reason to seek this out is the two leads, it’s an interesting pairing and filled with a ton of fun moments despite it being a full on bonafide box office flop. One of the best parts of the movie is the closing credits song by Cyndi Lauper called “Hole In My Heart” which is one of her best and adds to the pure nostalgia of this little forgotten gem of an 80’s movie.
I checked out the ‘The Mind’s Eye’ the latest feature film from up and coming horror director Joe Begos last night and it was well worth the seven bucks spent on Googleplay for the rental. As I mentioned in a recent post it’s been described as the perfect sequel to Cronenberg’s classic “Scanners”. I’d say that’s a great description of what you’re in store for with The Mind’s Eye. The movie set in 1990 certainly feels like it was indeed made back then and set in the same Scanners universe. It’s a mean, gritty little movie that’s packed with exploding heads and gore a plenty. There’s no comedy mixed in either which is nice when a director is taking some chances delivering a no B.S. action movie on a low budget.
It follows two people on the run from a sinister government organization who’re hellbent on weaponizing the their telekinetic powers. The movie’s over the top villain, a normal man who’s figured out how to harvest their powers for his own however is hot on their trail along with a gang of goons ready to be torn to pieces. It’s a simple plot and maybe not the most original concept as the movie clearly borrows from ‘Firestarter’ & Brian De Palma’s ‘The Fury’ but you know what? That’s totally ok-because ‘Stranger Things’ was amazing and really a just a full on rip off of similar movies as well. We’ve also got Graham Skipper back in the lead who previously starred in Bego’s first flick ‘Almost Human’ along with Larry Fessenden in the role of his father. I never tire of seeing Larry show up in my horror movies, he’s a great addition to this one as well though his role is quite brief.
The cool thing about this movie is that it really does feel like it’s been plucked from the late 80’s. Begos uses his effects wisely and nothing that he does feels like it would have appeared in a movie after 1990. You won’t get any CG here everything is done by way of practical effects making everything feel way more organic and real world. While not being a better movie than Scanners (But better than it’s many sequels) it certainly feels like a lost sci-fi/horror movie from the era, one that you might be hunting down today for a rare vhs copy of.
As cool as all this is there are points in the movie where you’re hoping for the psycho-kinetic battles to go a bit farther than they did. Begos doesn’t give you much new to chew on here and I was hoping a few times for things to get a bit more batshit crazy towards the end. Perhaps if Begos was given a bigger budget he’d have been able to expand on the genre rather than keep it evenly at bay. Either way if you come in it not expecting anything more than a cool ass movie that feel like it was made back in 1990 you won’t be disappointed. I’ve a feeling we’ll be seeing Joe Begos rise to the top of the horror genre in the next few years, I’ll definitely be there again for his next movie.