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’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!
With the recent announcement of ‘American Horror Story: 1984’ looking to cash in on success of 80’s throwback series like ‘Stranger Things’ and Stephen King’s reboot of ‘IT’ I thought it’d be nice to give a shout out to a great flick from 1983 called ‘The House on Sorority Row’ I watched a couple days ago. ‘American Horror Story: 1984’ is going to be fully immersed in the 1980’s slasher genre. That being said here’s a pitch perfect Slasher flick I recommend they watch before releasing the new season, they likely’ll need all the help they can get by trying to convincingly tackle the genre. This mysterious little flick from 1983 deserves a helluva lot more praise than it’s gotten throughout the years. Director Mark Rosman brings one of the best to the genre!
The House on Sorority Row’s filled with a pretty tightly knit little mystery that’s full of fairly unpredictable twists and turns that never lag in it’s execution. Hitting all the slasher tropes in a pretty unique way, considering it was released back in 1983. First off we’ve got a full cast of great characters, almost entirely female as well and rather than giving us a troop of the usual moronic teenagers for the killer to prey upon, we get ones who you just might care about getting off’d. Our gang of sorority sisters here are a pleasure to see onscreen and most definitely take the plot into some fascinating territory. There’s the old seemingly mentally unstable sorority house mother who desperately wants the girls out of the house for the summer. However determined to throw one final grand graduation bash at the house, the sorority sisters get into a heated argument with her that quickly escalates to uncomfortable levels. They devise a plan to play a wicked prank on her, and in doing so set into motion a night of terror as they try and cover up their actions from the public. Deciding the show must go on they reluctantly continue with the big bash and soon find them being stalked by a ruthless slasher out to put the kebosh on their festivities.
Sounds simple enough, but there’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye, the set up to this one is pretty awesome as the girls quickly prove they can be just as nasty and cunning as any 80’s frat boy. The acting for the most part is rock solid here too, but don’t fret, as there’s still plenty of 80’s cheez to go around. One of the highlights being the grad party and it’s totally rad live power pop band ‘4 Out of 5 Doctors’ who perform there that boost the level of fun up a few notches alone. It’s the kind of party that makes you wanna jump into a time machine to attend & get down in the 1980’s. We’ve also got a great final girl here that’s totally worth rooting for as she slowly throughout the evening puts the pieces of the bizarre mystery together while her & her friends are stalked on the spooky campus. It feels a bit like a demented Scooby Doo mystery that takes itself fully seriously in the best way possible.
It’s also not afraid to get nasty with it’s gore fx there’s plenty of inventive kills scattered about to revel in as well. The finale really ramps things up and keeps you for the most part guessing til the end about what the fuck is actually going one here. The killer is pretty awesome too and the last 5 minutes (which I wish would’ve lasted longer actually) are filled with tension, thoroughly impressive camera work & the reveal of the maniac in the flesh is pretty iconic in it’s own right. This one’s really got it all as far as slashers go, a stunning orchestral score from Richard Band, great spooky sets, sweet fx, excellent characters, a cool mystery and a pretty sweet ass slasher villain. If you’ve never seen this one and are a fan of the genre this one hits a home run!
I for some damn reason checked out this shoddy sequel to the 1990 horror flick ‘Mirror Mirror’ the other night & the one surprise greater than anything this film could muster up was Mark “Incredible Hulk” Ruffalo in his first “real” movie appearance! So ‘Mirror Mirror 2: Raven Dance’ came out in 1994, though it really feels much more like a mid 80’s movie with it’s special fx work/plot. It starts off pretty strong actually, showing a lot of cheezy promise, that is if you’re a fan of low budget 80’s horror stuff. We’ve got creepy nuns in a convent along with a “terrifying” giant vintage mirror that’s some sort of portal to another dimension of evil. It emits that 80’s style energy electricity fx I love so much, all over the damn place turning a bunch of nuns into piles of burnt ash, it’s admittedly a pretty sweet opening making me for a second think I’d unearthed some sort of forgotten gem of a horror flick!
Well we then switch to “present day” 1994 where we meet a bad ass alternative rock band on tour, who seem to be channeling the Red Hot Chili Peppers and for some reason they’re rehearsing for a gig in town at the old church. There’s a random teenage girl there hanging out with them, who ends up being the main focus of the movie and of course the douchey band members can’t resist uncovering the giant haunted mirror & are sadly destroyed all too soon by the evil mirror’s supernatural energy blasts. I was hoping these idiots would be present most of the movie but alas…Anyway Roddy Mcdowell also stars in one of his most boring roles and the movie slogs along at a snail’s pace until Mark Rufflo emerges as some sort of “mysterious” character who might be evil but it also some sort of “sexy” love interest. That actually was pretty unexpected!
Throw in a weird crazed handyman, a useless subplot with a greedy stepsister trying to extort some big money from the main character and eventually about 30 seconds of a pretty cool monster, more energy bursts from the mirror and well….ah…ok…who gives a shit, let’s not waste anymore time trying to explain this crappy ass mess, so here’s Mark Ruffalo’s first movie appearance in this boring pile of shit waste of time horror flick!!
‘White Fire’ from 1984 is one helluva bizarre movie, it’s not only filled with a ton of crazy ass action sequences but it’s also got a complete WTF plot going for it that you kinda just have to see to believe. ‘White Fire’ starts off with two siblings (Bo and Ingrid) who witness a gang of crazed soldiers sadistically murder their parents. There’s fully over the top action kicking into gear right from the very start including a bonkers attack on the kid’s dad with a flame thrower that you just gotta see to beleive. It’s one of those “rewind & watch it again” scenes as the stunt dude is completely bombarded with a flame blast with no head or face protection, and for an instant the guy is fully engulfed in flame. Anyway only the two kids manage to survive the bloodshed. Flash forward twenty years later… Bo and his beautiful sister are grown up & employed at a hi-tech diamond mineshaft operation located in the desert that looks straight out of a 1960’s sci fi flick. The inseparable pair soon stumble upon the discovery of a legendary supernaturally powered diamond, called the “White Fire.” Both are immediately pursued by a gang of evil villainous thugs who’re dead set on getting their grubby hands on the diamond themselves. Check out this radical poster/box art for the flick:
Well once the pursuit starts, things get outta hand pretty quickly and we witness the bro and sis duo’s bizarrely epic kung fu skills & brother Bo even resorts to grabbing a chainsaw to fuck up a whole gang of goons on a dock. They’re a great team and soon we get to the real weird shit, lots of his sister Ingrid fully nude at a private swimming pool and Bo comes around afterward and rips his sisters towel off her refusing to give it back. They proceed to laugh about it while she’s completely exposed in front of her brother for far far to long. Ahhh that good old innocent brotherly love! Shit gets even weirder when his sister dies soon after while kung fu fighting a whole gang of villainous goons while still sporting her towel, that now refuses to fall off.
Naturally Bo is super duper bummed out to find his sister has been murdered but the next day he runs into a random lady in a bar while greivin’ n’ drinkin’ whom he ends up approaching with an offer she just can’t refuse! 50 grand to get a face transplant from his dead sister and learn to imitate her! Naturally the woman goes for it, because for some reason I’m a bit confused about still, having his sister alive will help them get the diamond or some shit? Whatever, Bo naturally falls in love with the woman and when she gets the face transplant things get mega awkward!! Now she looks identical to his dead sister, but what’s he to do, he’s already madly in love with her!
The rest of the movie’s a blast, iconic bad ass Fred Williamson shows up as a hired bounty hunter dude to raise some hell for the duo and there’s action a plenty to behold, even a dude who gets his crotch fully mangled by a table saw! There’s a surprising amount of gore here sprinkled throughout to compliment the bonkers plot that will leave you continuously scratching your head in confusion. White Fire’s got some rad locations too, most of it takes place in Turkey and it’s a treat to see the city of Istanbul in the 1980s. Directed by Jean-Marie Pallardy, who mainly directed porno flicks, ‘White Fire’ is definitely a party flick worth a watch with a gang of rowdy cinema fiends!
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!!!
I recently found a copy of the rare horror movie ‘The Keep’ from 1983 and finally checked it out for the first time last night. I’ve wanted to see this one for a long time, mainly because of how damn awesome the movie’s cover/poster artwork is, the it’s VHS cover always stuck with from when I was a kid hanging around in the horror sections of the videos stores while my parents were distracted.
The Keep was directed by Michael Mann, who I’ve always loved for his 1986 movie Manhunter, which was the first big screen appearance of Hannibal Lecter. So it seems this particular movie has been kinda shoved under the rug as Mann has admitted that he’s not a big fan of it. At least not a fan of the cut that was theatrically released. Apparently his version of the movie was originally 210 minutes long! Whoah! Supposedly Paramount told him to edit it down to just two hours, that version still didn’t sit well with test audiences so they edited the movie down even further to a mere 96 minutes. Of course that’s one of the main reasons why the movie is admittedly pretty hard to make any real sense of. It’s a slow burn, but I knew that from the start, and knew it wasn’t really your typical horror movie. Instead I viewed it for what it really is, a surreal, dream like horror fantasy and it really works well as exactly that.
It’s based around a group of Nazis who are sent to guard an huge, old, mysterious fortress in a Romanian mountain pass. One of them releases an powerful force trapped within the walls while thinking they’ll discover some sort of treasure behind them. A weird stranger senses this from his home back in Greece and travels to the keep to try and destroy the sinister force. As Nazi soldiers are eliminated, a Jewish father / daughter duo who both have information on the secrets of the bizarre stronghold arrive on the scene to make sense of the ghostly happenings. It’s a cool set up, but it’s a bit hard to comprehend as it’s filled with plot holes and many unanswered questions, likely that’d been explored in the mega extended version.
It’s also more of an art film really than a horror flick at the end of the day. It’s filled with ripe, hazy dream like atmosphere from start to finish, it’s a visual treat with a mostly quiet pace to it. When the creature though arrives on the scene from the walls of the keep it does get pretty intense and the finale is filled with a ton of great sequences that surely must’ve influenced a modern film maker like Panos Cosmatos (Mandy, Beyond the Black Rainbow). There are some amazing set pieces here, most filled with creepy fog, a pretty impressive hulk of a monster and some really excellent special fx work to behold as well. It certainly excels in it’s creation of a portal from another dimension spilling into our reality.
The cast also is pretty awesome as well, Scott Glenn, Gabriel Byrne and a much younger Ian Mckellan make this whole experience that much more enjoyable. Byrne plays a crazy Nazi and Mckellan shines as a sort of hero of the movie, being forced to work alongside the Nazis. Yeah folks, Ian was at one time “young” even though he’s still oddly kinda old even way back in 1983! I also have to mention the totally epic score from soundtrack legends Tangerine Dream, I gotta track the soundtrack down. The Keep was a delight to finally see after all these years, this movie desperately needs a re-release on blu-ray/dvd this time with the full 210 minutes of Mann’s vision!!