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!
I’ve been on the hunt lately for lost movie gems from the 1980’s and I’ve found that there’s really some pretty amazing films out there that most here in the USA never knew existed. One such is ‘Cemetery of Terror’ or as it’s known in Mexico ‘Cementerio del Terror’ that captures that perfect charm of classic 80’s B-movie horror. I think it’s so good, I’d put it up against some of the best the genre had to offer. Director Ruben Galindo Jr. crafted a sweet atmospheric horror flick that plays out like ‘The Goonies’ meets Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’ in a spooky Mexican cemetery. This supernatural slasher/zombie mash up’s got literally everything I love about 1980’s horror flicks. Cool characters, sweet 80’s fashion, a pretty impressive soundtrack, good gore and excellent sets! For a low budget horror movie Galindo truly shines with what he had to work with and it’s clear to see it as an unseen influence to current hits like ‘Stranger Things’. That classic 1980’s “Amblin kids in danger vibe” is definitely in full effect here.
The story goes something like this:
Dr. Cardan (Hugo Stiglitz) is haunted by violent nightmares & suspects that a psychotic serial killer has figured out a way to cheat death, returning from the grave to continue his vicious spree of carnage. Local law enforcement refuses to accept his claims, but his hunch is taken more seriously when they find that a group of reckless teenagers pulled a Halloween prank, stealing the killer’s body from the morgue. When the teens recite an incantation from a mysterious book they discover in an abandoned mansion, it reanimates the corpse, along with all of the bodies from the nearby cemetery. All out undead mayhem ensues as a group of trick or treaters also wander into the deadly cemetery where the supernatural slasher roams looking for his next victim!
The graveyard itself looks like it was pulled out of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video (watch for the MJ tour jacket one of the kids sport) full of creepy trees, fog a plenty, spider webs galore and the look of the zombies are actually pretty amazing as well. The younger gang of kids who get involved in the mix are pretty awesome as well, they bring a sorta “Monster Squad” type of feel to it and you’re never quite sure if they’re going to survive the night. Though it does have that lighter 80’s “kids in danger vibe” don’t mistake it for kiddie horror, it’s actually got some decent gore and the revived psycho is mean as hell.
More people here in the US need to check this one out, it appeared on a double feature dvd over a decade ago called ‘Crypt of Terror: Horror from South of the Border’ that’s now long out of print. You can still find copies on ebay & it even comes with one of Galindo’s later horror movies from 1989 called ‘Grave Robbers’ which is also awesome. You might also find it on youtube but I’m not sure it’s subtitled. Anyway Cemetery of Terror has put 80’s Mexican horror fully on my radar and I’m excited to track down more of Ruben Galindo Jr’s movies!!
If you love puppets as much as I do then this is most definitely for YOU! Have you ever imagined what horror movie would look like if everyone one in it was a puppet? Well imagine no more because someone is indeed wrapping up an ALL puppet horror flick called ‘Frank & Zed’! Holy Moly!!
Yeah this one looks like a total blast and it was recently fully funded off of a Kickstarter. It’s also comes straight outta my base of operations here in Portland, Oregon from mastermind Jesse Blanchard. Damn! It looks like a demented version of the muppet show, but with even better looking puppets. It’s gonna be a full on puppet slaughter by the looks of the footage out there. We’ll see if a puppet themed movie can really dish out the goods check this shit out! I’m stoked to see this thing is a go and is a full on feature film!
Frank & Zed is the 100% puppet horror monster movie that lives up to that premise. Done with the attention to detail and world building of the Dark Crystal and the mad mayhem and glee of Meet the Feebles (the only other two features done with this method).
It stars two classic monsters, Frank & Zed whose powerful master is long defeated. Since his death, they have survived the wrath of the mob by hiding in the ruins of an old castle. But they are soon discovered and their fates, along with those of the village below, will be decided in the prophesied ‘Orgy of Blood.’
Been a movie watchin’ fiend lately & luckily most of the flicks, most of which I’d call largely forgotten cinema, have been surprisingly damn good! So listen up I’m gonna throw a bunch of short reviews for some films that are worth the trouble to track down if like me you’re looking for some lost gems! Let’s get on with this shit today we’ve got some great what I like to coin ‘John Hughes Horror’ in…
Night Life (1989)
First up let it be known this cool ass little movie was never officially released on dvd so it’s a tuff one to track down. You can hunt down a copy on vhs or like I did buy a bootleg copy of it on dvd from Ioffer.com, a great site for stuff like this. Anyway I wanna start off saying that this movie has Scott Grimes, that red headed kid from Critters 1&2 so it instantly had me there as I love those two movies. It’s essentially an 80’s teen high school bully movie with zombies. Scott Grimes or “Archie” in the movie, who channels a bit of Michael J. Fox, works at a mortuary for his jerky uncle (John Astin) and is bullied by four assholes (two preppy jock-y couples) from his school. Turns out he’s totally infatuated with one of the girls and the bullies quickly devise a plan to set him up on a “date” that ultimately destroys him teenage life. He’s also got an older lady pal, a cute local mechanic that he hangs out with all the time that he’s also crushed out on, who’s clearly put him in the friend zone. Ahh to be a teenager again…
Well one day those same four prepster bullies meet their demise in a horrible car crash, and of course Archie has to take them back to the mortuary. It seems though he’s in high school he accompanies the police to crimes scenes and is oddly in charge of the “dirty work” of dealing with the dead, I guess that shit flew back in the 80’s huh? Only problem is the four assholes become zombies when a bolt of lightning strikes the roof of the mortuary, something clearly foreshadowed earlier when a dead frog’s legs twitch when given an electrical charge by his science teacher. The nice thing here is these Zombies aren’t your mindless walkers, they’re more ruthless, cunning & have one clear driving their every move: to turn Archie into mince meat!! This begins a totally outrageous game of cat and mouse that plays out like a great extended episode of Tales From The Crypt in the best way.
The movie’s got a light hearted feel to it but isn’t afraid to get down and dirty when it needs to either. The zombie bullies use their newly acquired blood lust to carry out some pretty inventive on screen kills too. This may not be a traditional zombie apocalypse flick, but it’s one of the most unique and who needs more of the apocalypse anyway. Even in the 80’s that shit was overdone. Even way back in 89′ Tony Timpone of Fangoria praised it “the most original, off-beat & entertaining zombie films in years, a must see!”. I gotta agree it’s a ton of fun, has great stunts, cool fx, gore, rad looking zombies, sets & characters. Pretty much everything I love about the 80’s all wrapped into one. This one deserves an official release it’s definitely a lost gem. I’m pretty floored at how this movie doesn’t have more love these days, hopefully someone will clean it up and give it a proper release if you’re a fan of 80’s horror and those John Hughs-esque flick of that era you’ll find a lot here to love!! One last interesting tidbit here is that director David Acomba was one the two directors responsible for the infamously bad 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special!! But hey don’t hold that against him!!
Unlike a most people I’ve STILL got the dvd mailers from Netflix coming my way. Let’s face the facts folks most movies online on Netflix watch instantly kinda suck, it’s crazy how many movies I’ve started and never finished on that damn website! So I’ve been combing the DVD version of the site trying to find cool old b-movie movies they’ve got in their ample reserve. Surprisingly I’ve found some decent lil’ gems there, most of said movies have terrible reviews and super duper low star ratings. I’m going to chronicle those here, the first one I’m recommending is a movie from 1989 called “Amok Train” or as it’s also known “Beyond the Door III”. Keep in mind this movie actually has nothing to do with either of the two previous ‘Beyond The Doors’ but even the Amok Train’s title screen calls it ‘Beyond the Door III’ in the actual movie.
Directed by Jeff Kwitny, who only directed four movies, one was the 1988 ski horror flick “Iced” that I now need to see as well. I wasn’t expecting a god damn thing from “Amok Train” to be honest but this movie actually delivered all the glorious 80’s cheez I personally crave on all levels! From it’s start I could tell just from the odd setting alone, as it was shot in Serbia and actually features some stunning locations that it had some promise going forward. The plot follows some American college students who head off on a class trip to Yugoslavia and witness some crazy ass pagan rituals, after traveling on a creepy ferry, which were surprisingly effectively pulled off. After most of the students survive the deadly encounter from the crazed locals they frantically run off into the woods and come across a moving train that’s barreling through the countryside. Of course they are able to just barely hop aboard (most of them at least) to their “safety” and of course that’s where the rest of the flick’s craziness mostly ensues.
I totally dig the setting of “the trapped on a train with evil forces” aspect of this one. The movie moves along at relatively fast pace as well. It’s got it’s fair share of impressive but ridiculous special effects, as well as some of the most idiotic “train out of control” sequences I’ve ever seen out on film. These scenes though, for me at least, enhance this C-level cinematic experience to higher levels of fun as the train seems to have an evil mind of it’s own. It switches course to evil paths on randomly appearing moving “possessed” train tracks. There’s some pretty cool yet cheezed out shit going on here, like the fact the train’s engine suddenly begins feeding on people rather than coal and the train is on a tight schedule to get one of the “virgin” college students on a perverted play date with the devil himself.
There’s also this cool 80’s badass soldier lady that joins the gang on the train who talks a lot of tuff guy shit and a killer scarf..yeah a killer scarf! The cast who’s got a It’s got some good gore also and stars Bo Svenson for anyone who gives a shit. For a flick I had zero expectations for it made for quite a fun evening of tokin’ and boozin’ it up a bit. If you dig obscure horror stuff that’s not on anyone’s radar then seek this out especially if you’re like me and still get pumped when you see that red and white Netflix dvd envelope in your mailbox!!
‘Beyond The Gates‘ is the first feature film from Jackson Stewart, an indie horror movie I’ve been super excited about for a long time. Last night I dropped the seven bones on Google Play to check it out. What originally really excited me about this movie was it’s central focus on a sinister VHS board game from the 1980’s called…you guessed it “Beyond The Gates”. These creepy VHS games were pretty popular back when I was a kid, so of course I automatically dug the nostalgia factor that this one had to offer from the start. I also was quite happy to see Graham Skipper (The Mind’s Eye, Almost Human) as one of the leads and also horror icon Barbara Crampton (From Beyond, Re-animator, We Are Still Here) as the creepy host of the VHS board game.
This one has a lot going for it from the get go and it’s quite an intriguing little mystery. Long story short, two brothers come to find that their alcoholic father has gone missing leaving behind his business, an old video store that he started back in 1992. Ah yes, the local video store, what great memories I have of those. Well as the brothers meet up to box up video tapes, close shop and reminisce about their childhood they discover the old VHS board game in the office.
Things get stranger when they realize the VHS tape from the game was the last thing their father had watched before he disappeared. This begins a series of bizarre events as the brothers and one of their girlfriends decide to give the game a try. I don’t want to give away any clues of the story, it’s a pretty engaging movie and a great dramatic story of two brothers finding peace with each other and their past. There’s a lot in this movie that I can relate to personally and that honestly is the strongest aspect of ‘Beyond The Gates’. It’s got a lot of heart.
I did like this movie, however it could have been one of the best horror movies of 2016 if perhaps it had a bit more of an imagination with the horror side of things and hey maybe a bigger budget? The horror aspect of this one kinda let me down. There were a couple of cool scenes that seemed like they were warming us up for a knock out finale. Sadly that knock out never really arrived, in fact the finale seemed like something that we might have expected to see around the half way mark. The movie had a 3 million dollar budget and personally I think they could have stretched it a bit and really given us a more surreal adventurous final act. I’ve seen movies with smaller budgets go a lot further than this. To me it seemed like a good movie that maybe ran out of money near the end of filming. The potential for some truly crazy stylized 80’s horror was definitely there but it lacked the imagination to give fright fans a truly memorable experience.
Overall I liked this movie more as drama and if I’d have known ahead of time that that’s more of what this was I’d be a little less critical of the horror aspect of things. That being said I still give it a thumbs up for a sweet yet creepy story that knows how to pull at your heartstrings. Check it out!
So my first entry I did on the top ten “stranded on an island” movies has easily been my most popular post here at Universal Dork, sooooo naturally I am giving a sequel to it right here, today! I simply love the idea of being castaway to a remote island, far away from the bustle of everyday life. There’s something about this idea that has always captivated audiences and it remains to be a situation I often think about every damn time I get on an airplane. So let’s not waste any time and get right to one of the most romantic, exciting and frightening movie topics of all time. It’s time to take a look at the other movies that deserve to be on this epic list!
10. Swept Away, 2002
Yeah this list is going to have some cheezy ass movies on it and this one here is a guilty please to start it off. It’s also likely the most well known of the bunch. Of course this movie was a box office mega bomb and totally panned by the critics.
However if you’re looking for a fun time on a stranded island with the legendary icon Madonna then look no further!
9. The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark, 1980
Here’s an interesting Disney movie with Silver Spoons star Ricky Schroder – Bonus right there folks! It seems that Disney was all in on the whole desert island theme as this was just one of quite a few that follow a similar storyline.
While this movie isn’t bound to blow your mind it’s got a pretty cool premise of flipping a B-29 bomber over on it’s back and sailing it to civilization! Continue reading