First let’s get this out of the way-HAPPY DAMN NEW YEAR! Let’s hope 2021 is leaps and bounds better than 2020, I mean things can’t get worse can they? Well back in 1973 Batman had one shitty ass New Years in issue #247. He and Robin had their hands full trying to stop a weirdo in a holiday sweater who’s planted canisters of nerve gas all around Gotham! Phew I’m glad I’m only suffering from a hangover and not doing THAT today. Check out this blast from the Caped Crusader’s troubled holiday past with this sweet classic cover drawn by Dick Giordano & Gaspar Saladino!
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!
Jim Henson’s 1986 nearly forgotten classic ‘A Christmas Toy’ is definitely on my list this year for holiday viewing. I’ll admit that I’ve yet to see this one, but from my limited poking around here on it, this definitely sounds right up my alley as a bit of a darkly unique Christmas tale. I see some major ‘Toy Story’ vibes here as there’s a gang of toys who spring to life when humans leave the room and keep order amongst themselves based on who’s the most beloved by their child owners!
We’ve got a whole new gang of puppets to behold from Henson who aren’t the classic Muppets and apparently the stakes and mental health of the toy’s are quite dangerous here. If one is seen by human eyes while moving around they apparently freeze in their tracks for the rest of their lives. I also am noticing the striking similarities to Child’s Play’s “Chucky” doll in the red headed female doll-coincidence? Hmmm….
Henson around this time was involved with a lot of projects and puppets were really all the rage. Movies like The Dark Crystal & Labyrinth were dominating human consciousness. A year later in 1987 Henson’s TV series “The Storyteller” would come out and that’s something I missed out on back in the day that’s been on my radar to check out for years. It’s a shame that in today’s day and age something like Henson’s fully hands on puppetry fails to somehow enthrall the masses in the way that CGI seems to captivate and dominate media.
So yes, I’m going to check this one out on Christmas eve this year and see if it’s really truly a lost holiday classic. One thing I’ve heard in several reviews is that The Christmas toy actually plays out more like a horror movie with real stakes and a creepy witch like villain named “Meteora”. This sounds exactly like something as a fan of weird old holiday kids specials that just might be right up my alley. Have you seen it? If so is this one a must watch?
I never could get enough of the classic black Spider-man suit! Back in the 1980’s it was quite a controversy to give Peter Parker some new duds especially something as bold as the black costume! I loved it and it’s no wonder it was brought back several times through the years despite it becoming one of his most famous villians, Venom! Anyway here’s a favorite cover of mine from Web of Spider-man Annual #2 way back in 1986!! Charles Vess has done some truly stunning work and anytime he tackled Spider-man you knew you were in for a treat! Check it out!
This Halloween I’m gonna make a few obscure retro foreign horror movie recommendations that you may have missed out on from that oh so sweet era of the genre: the 1980’s! I just checked out a rad little Hong Kong Horror movie from 1987 called ‘Vampire’s Breakfast’!!
This forgotten little horror gem is a load of fun with a heapin’ dose of spooky settings, comedy, romance and action in the way that only Hong Kong cinema delivered back in the day. I really enjoyed how for the most part this one plays the horror pretty straight, keeping the all too usual Hong Kong “slapstick potty humor” out of the equation entirely. For me some of the 80’s Hong Kong stuff can be completely ruined by crappy potty humor and comedy that just plain hasn’t aged well (and keep in mind I’m not normally easily offended either). Nope, here we have a cool cast of characters and genuinely nasty “American/European” style vamp on the loose rather than the traditional Chinese hopping kind. We’ve got some funky footage of Hong Kong in the 80’s here and totally sweet fashion of the era in full swing.
The iconic Kent Cheng stars as a newspaper reporter who’s hot on the trail of a serial killer and after poking around a police crime scene begins to suspect that the killer might actually be a living breathing vampire. No one takes him seriously except a boozed up car stereo thief, who he reluctantly teams up with to track down the suspected bloodsucker. Along the way though he interviews one of the killer’s victims who barely escaped with her life, the oh soooo cute Emily Chu looking as stylee as ever.
Of course it’s love at first sight and we’re then treated to a full on 80’s style Hong Kong “John Hughs” cheezy romance, which is a total charm amidst the horror. The thing I really dig about this is movie, are the horror elements, unafraid to get nasty when it needs to as well as some action sequences that can be pretty exciting as well. No kung fu here though, which is kind of nice actually as it plants this one in a more believable horror setting, but that’s not to say the portly Kent Cheng can’t deliver the kicks, check out 1989’s ‘Vampire Buster’ to see his skills.
There’s a lot to love here if you’re looking for something different this Halloween, the vampire here is plenty fierce as well. He’s got a pretty sinister look and raises plenty of Hell on the foggy streets of Hong Kong. There’s also some unexpected moments of gore as well that ramp things up nicely in the finale. I’d say this one definitely deserves more love and most definitely a cleaned up blu ray release with more fleshed out subtitles. A colorful, creepy tale full of endearing characters and a brisk pace make this one standout viewing this Halloween for those who love uncovering hidden gems from horror’s sweet spot era of the 1980’s.
Are you looking for the perfect movie to watch this Halloween that’s got a little bit of everything for everyone? Well I’d highly recommend a little gem from 1985 called ‘The Midnight Hour’. This was originally aired on ABC back in the day as a made for TV movie. That being said it feels much more like a theatrical production, with genuinely spooky sets and some pretty sweet & spooky special fx. Imagine a whole movie with the look and feel of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ and I must mention the music here’s also perfectly curated to the Halloween season at hand. One of the best sequences involves The Smiths “How Soon is Now” being the soundtrack to a truly uniquely executed vampire attack, it’s a ton of fun. The premise is nice and simple too, when a gang of teenage Halloween party goers sneak into a local spooky costume shop where they find a strange scroll made of human skin. When opening it and reading it aloud it revives a 300-year-old witch and a horde of ghouls, vampires & werewolves who head off into town to raise some mischeif and do a little holiday partying to boot!
There’s some great casting, we get some totally sweet 80’s personalities, the likes of LeVar Burton, Shari Belafonte, Peter Deluise & Kurtwood Smith among other super recognizable tv stars of the era. The whole thing is just so innocently charming, while still at times hitting some surprisingly darker tones. It’s really got something for everyone here, a bit of genuine horror, teen comedy (with some rather riske’ undertones for a tv movie), nostalic music, even a totally original 80’s song & dance number by Shari Belafonte called “Get Dead” to keep the party going all the way to midnight. There’s even a bit of a teenage love story at play here as well that features a ghostly teenage girl from the 1950’s who’s revived as well by the creepy incantation who roams the streets looking for love.
The Midnight Hour was directed by Jack Bender who went on to direct ‘Child’s Play 3’ (and a few other interesting made for tv movies as well) and it’s clear here he’s already got a penchant for horror. So if you’re looking for something totally nostalgic and a ton of halloween fun without getting too gory or scary, look no further, The Midnight Hour is a great opener for a double feature movie night. A warm up for some real scares of whatever you choose to fully creep out those who dare to stick around!
Here’s a pretty neat little modern throwback horror movie I took a chance on recently that turned out be quite a bit of fun. ‘Book of Monsters‘ is a low budget British creature feature that clearly makes it’s best attempt to harken back to the gory glory days of 80’s horror flicks like ‘Evil Dead 2’ & ‘Night of the Creeps’. It takes place on the main character, Sophie’s 18th birthday, when she reluctantly decides to throw a birthday party at her house. Her and her two friends are hardly the cool kids in school and aren’t even sure anyone will actually show up. To their surprise the birthday bash attracts a whole crew of unruly teens and even a few of the school bullies. Well it doesn’t take long before some weird supernatural shit goes down due to meddling with a necronomicon type of book. A full on bloodbath occurs when some creatures emerge from another dimension, invade her house and begin to slaughter the rowdy party guests. Sophie and her pals must band together to fend off the attack and protect their classmates from monster carnage.
It’s a simple story to follow and with a short run time of 84 minutes it’s a perfect party movie (literally) to watch on a Saturday nite with a gang of old school horror fans. One of it’s strongest parts is the protagonist Sophie, who’s a totally likable heroine who struggles with self esteem, teenage sexuality and the strange events of her past which tie into the supernatural events that occur. She’s also one of the only gay horror hero’s I can really recall seeing and they present this aspect of her character in a way that doesn’t feel fully forced into the narrative. Sure we got some bigoted bullies and typical teen jerks but those were always prevalent in the 80’s teen horror movies that likely inspired this one.
Now onto the horror aspect of things, though I liked the movie, I’ve got to admit I’m a bit tired of the ‘evil book/necronomicon’ angle of things, it feels pretty played out and I kind of wish they’d have used a different reasoning for the summoning of the monsters. Hardly a complaint really as once things get going here it’s pretty fun & action packed. The monster & gore effects are pretty ambitious for the most part. For the budget they had to work with they deliver a fair share of cool practical fx work avoiding for the most part cgi entirely (if my memory serves me correctly). The monster designs are pretty good too, one looks a bit like it was ripped out of M. Knight Shyamalan’s the village, one’s like a standard slasher dude and the other is kind of like a “Natasha Henstridge” Species/cenobite type-o creature. They all do a decent amount of gory, goopy damage too & it’s all executed in a fairly cartoonish way so it could easily be digested by the light weight horror fans. Oh yeah some evil garden gnomes are thrown in as well, that with a little more budget could have been far more crowd pleasing- but still an “A” for effort. There’s lots of chainsaws and general ass kicking done by the three female leads and even though most Hollywood blockbusters are trying to currently shoehorn girl power into movies ‘Book of Monsters’ does it in a tasteful way that doesn’t feel like it’s blatantly pushing some agenda for brownie points.
If ‘Book of Monsters‘ had been released in 1987 it’d have been a bonafide cult classic, it’s a nice switch from all the shoddy CGI & digital blood of modern horror movies. It leaves the door open for a sequel and I think if it gets one with more cash behind it, there’s a possibility the second installment could very well end up as a modern day cult classic. For the meantime though I think the best crowd for ‘Book of Monsters’ are those who miss the glory days of 1980’s schlock, goofy gore & teen horror flicks!
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 had the stupid pleasure of checking out ‘Kick or Die’ a karate infused thriller from 1987 I found on VHS a couple nights ago and damn was it jam packed with a boatload of dumb shit to revel at. Basically what we got here is a psycho serial rapist who’s preying upon women at college campus and to solve the ongoing problem they hire a karate expert with PTSD to come to the campus and teach the women how to kick…..OR DIE! Yeah, this one also has a secondary sub plot with one of the college girls on campus trying to become a superstar pop singer, good thing that the karate expert teacher dude who she quickly falls in love with has friends in high places! Yeah he knows another big shot karate expert who owns a powerhouse record company!
Anyway I got ahead of myself, let me back up a bit, so things naturally get a bit crazy when PTSD karate guy arrives on the campus, it seems trouble follows this guy everywhere as naturally an evil punk ass motorcycle gang arrives pretty much the second he gets there to beat everyone up in the campus restaurant. So karate teacher dude steps in on the action and “kicks” their asses and in doing so pretty much demolishes the small business owners restaurant, but it’s the 80’s and people are usually fine with that! We’ve got a ton of absurdly ridiculous characters here in this one, for instance the biker gang dudes are way way over the top and of course make another appearance later coincidentally at the most inopportune moment.
The main character karate guy is really given his share of overly dramatic layers as a character as well and his sensual “chemistry’ with the pop star college girl feels fully forced in a great way. The movie at one point seems to almost abandon the whole psycho rapist plot entirely with a new side plot of the college girl’s sudden rise to fame as a potential pop superstar. But don’t fret it’s all part of Kick or Die’s bigger better plotline that’s sure to shock viewers at the film’s stunning finale….
This one also has some plot points that clearly wouldn’t be very well received in today’s climate of things, the villain of the movie is described as early on as a “black male” and mentioned again several times again in the movie that way. The psycho guy is a vile over the top filthy talkin’ monster of a man, so much so that it’s pretty hard to take any of his words or actions presented onscreen seriously. With all that being said, things take quite an interesting turn near the third act with a bonafide d-level M Night Shyamalan style twist that turns the movie upside down in a pretty ridiculous way. Actually if you stay with it to the end you’re likely to have a completely different view of the movie’s intentions as a whole. It really does make this one stand out a little more from the sheer absurdity of it. There’s some decent, dumb, over the top action & kung fu fights along the way as well, one confrontation with the college frat boys and PTSD karate teacher guy is pretty awesome to behold. For stupid movies this one’s a gem, it’s got a good fast pace to it and rarely loses steam with it’s ridiculous plot. If you’re searching for a fun, dumb movies to watch with a group of friends this one’s worth hunting down for sure. The title too, ‘Kick or Die” I must admit is pretty damn excellent as well…
Halloween is upon us all and everyone is diggin’ out their copies of Nightmare on Elm Street, Child’s Play, Friday the 13th etc & storming theaters to see the brand new Halloween flick! Freddy, Michael, Jason, Chucky, Leatherface, Ghostface, It’s really no secret, these guys are some of the most iconic ‘Slashers’ to grace the silver screen, but what about the other lesser known, but still cult classic slasher villains that don’t seem to get much credit around the Halloween season for their paths of destruction?
Well, let’s take a look at 10 cool movie slashers that simply deserve more credit for their onscreen evil, mayhem and unforgettable creepy ass slasher fashion stylings!! I’ve gone deeper than say Candyman, Pinhead & Leprechaun, so this ain’t the normal gang, but these oddballs all deserve a place at the big bad boys & girls table!
IRVING WALLACE from ‘Stage Fright’ (1987)
Here’s one of my all time favorite Slashers, this weird ass maniac from Michele Soavi’s cult classic ‘Stage Fright’ has definitely got the bizarre looks and creepy skills to cause a jam packed night of mayhem! One of the weirdest looking slasher’s in cinema, wearing huge Owl mask may make it awkward when stalking people, but it’ll surely scare the shit out of each and every one of them! I highly recommend giving this one a watch as it totally delivers on all levels! This dude deserves more slasher cred for sure!
THE PROWLER (1981)
This slasher from the Prowler who we’ll just call “The Prowler” is a definite force to be reckoned with, dressed uniquely in some cool military duds from WW2, he’s formulated a good solid look for himself, because of course we know fashion sense for a memorable slasher is simply a must. This guy’s a crazed military veteran who’s out for the kill in a small California town and pulls out all sorts of nasty kills on his victims with his military skills. The movie itself is one of the best in sea of highly forgettable trashy, often boring sea of slasher movies, add in the gory FX wizardry of Tom Savini and you’re in for a real treat!
MARY LOU from ‘Prom Night 2’ (1987)
Yep, I dig ‘Prom Night 2: Hello Mary Lou’ better than the first installment actually. It really doesn’t have much, if anything to do with the original at all and that’s fine by me. This one though does feature the supernatural killer “Mary Lou” a prom queen who in the 1950’s is burned alive on stage after being crowned by some jackass dudes. Later in the 80’s her spirit returns and she wreaks all sorts of mayhem upon the teens of her former high school. Mary Lou has a sort of “Freddy Kruger” type thing going on as she uses lots of wicked supernatural tricks to eliminate her prey! This one’s the best of the series and a total blast of a movie as well!
MANIAC COP (1988)
Maniac Cop is indeed a supernatural psycho and should be right up there with Freddy, Michael and the rest for sure! He’s got a great iconic look too as his face is all mashed up and of course he wears the blue cop uniform which is even more frightening now in 2018. He’s also played by the late icon Robert Z’dar, who was an imposing presence even without the make up. Maniac Cop’s strong as fuck and wherever the dude goes complete mayhem follows! It spawned some awesome sequels as well and the first two movies even star the legend himself, Bruce Campbell!!