Creature aka Titan Find (1985)

Directed by William Malone
Trans World Entertainment

A fairly shameless ripoff/amalgam of Alien and The Thing – I mean, you’ll be thinking this long before one of the characters actually mentions the latter damn movie herself – this picture also has the dubious distinction of being yet another low-budget would-be space epic, hampered at many a turn by the hokey FX, budget sets and blatant matte paintings. (The spacesuits themselves are nearly unbelievably ersatz; they’re the cinematic equivalent of those packaged drugstore Halloween costumes with the vinyl one-piece tunics and molded plastic masks.) Despite such shortcomings, however, it’s a not-ineffective thriller. Even with its shameful title monster, which I neglected to mention in my list of detriments up there. Add all of those ingredients and you get a “cult classic,” which status allegedly has accrued to this flick. Hey, why not. Fun fact: There’s a Director’s Cut, and I plan to watch it. Eventually.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It looked and sounded both preposterous and intriguing … especially the whole “director’s cut” thing. That’s ONE way to pique one’s interest in an underfinanced production of which one otherwise never has heard.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Clearly, my taste is highly questionable, but I did already admit I intend to watch another version of this film. So it must have something going for it.


Highlight and Low Point

Klaus Kinski appears in this, and I’ve had a difficult time enjoying his acting since reading of allegations at least one of his children has made – so it’s especially alarming that he first makes his presence known by graphically groping and assaulting one of the female crewmembers … purportedly an unscripted, um, ad-lib. Oh, and the alien itself is a somewhat hilariously unintimidating letdown, given the mostly effective buildup.

Rating From Outer Space: B

Invaders From Mars (1986)

Directed by TOBE HOOPER
Golan-Globus

Surprisingly entertaining despite some significant drawbacks – chief among them the extremely subpar performance of the lead child actor and some pacing/editing issues – this remake of a 1950s film I haven’t seen showcases director Tobe Hooper’s flair for understated comedic touches, although as usual I have less than no use for the references, homages, and tips of the cap to other movies and/or genres and/or directors. (Which is why I only know about them from online “research.”) What little plot there is – Martians think a NASA/SETI launch is an invasion, so they travel to Earth to preempt it – largely managed to evade my notice, as the few moments of expository dialogue aren’t exactly Pulitzer material. Decent creature and FX work abound, alongside some dependable B-movie performances from the likes of Karen Black, Louise Fletcher and James Karen. Incidentally, the hints of creeping/creepy conformity would in the original have predated those in Invasion of the Body Snatchers by several years.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I’ve always heard that this was an above-average offering, especially given its somewhat dubious provenance.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Sure, if you’d like to relive the experience of watching a network television “Movie of the Week” or late-night basic cable.

Highlight and Low Point

The FX really are fairly exemplary, notwithstanding the somewhat absurdist design of the majority of the Martians themselves. Hunter Carson is a severe detraction (if not distraction) as David Gardner, though in his defense, he was 10 when the film was released and his mother’s also in the cast. (That being Karen Black, who plays the credulous school nurse.) I mean, look, it’s a Cannon Films remake of a 1950s B movie. That statement more or less sums up the overall experience.

Rating From Outer Space: B

to all a GOODNIGHT (1980)

Directed by David Hess
Intercontinental Worldwide Distributing Corporation/Four Features Partners

Utterly disjointed, this train wreck of a prototype slasher flick is somehow largely enjoyable, albeit mainly on dubious grounds. A gaggle of coeds and their imported beaux are being slaughtered for Some Reason by an Unknown Assailant – who the viewer knows is dressed as Santa Claus. The initial reveal is no surprise, but the SHOCKING twist that immediately follows is … actually fairly unexpected. Most of the killings are absurdly unconvincing, the gore as well, and trying to keep abreast of the film’s botched continuity is an ongoing challenge. (The distinct majority of the acting, meanwhile, is on par with the gore and the killings.) The “action” drags significantly as the conclusion nears, to boot. Still and all, fans of dreck should be delighted.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Well, it was Christmas week. (I’m a little behind.) I was pointed in this direction by The Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies by Peter Normanton, but this is as good a place as any to point out that director Hess (of The Last House on the Left repute) also co-wrote and recorded a song called
“Speedy Gonzalez” (among other lesser creations).


Should You Watch This Movie?

Not if you persist in considering a lack of redeeming qualities a detriment.


Highlight and Low Point

The story holds that the original version of this picture available on VHS featured that time-honored pitfall of low-budget terror, scenes that are too dark to be able to discern what may or may not be occurring (such as in, say, Island of Blood, for just one pertinent example). That is not a problem in the Blu-ray release, which brandishes an unfettered “day for night” technique that doesn’t even bother with the pretense.

Rating From Outer Space: D+

Don’t Open Till Christmas (1984)

Directed by Edmund Purdom
Additional scenes written and directed by Al McGoohan
Spectacular International Films

Wow, here’s a distressed downer of a flick for ya. I know, I know, a Christmas-themed slasher that’s a downer? What a sorry state of affairs. Not unlike Christmas Evil in its backstory – and to be honest, not unlike dozens of other horror films in that backstory, either, except for the “Santa Claus” angle – this London-based film gives you a lot of disheveled or otherwise distasteful Santas, some cheesy killings, a little T ‘n’ A, and few survivors. Plus some 1984 British Punks stealing a drunken Santa’s bicycle. The filmmakers (at least three directors at various times!) don’t seem to invest a whole lot in any of the red herrings, and overall there’s kind of a lack of urgency about the whole affair. It’s not half bad, though, even if it does meander a bit too much.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It was the yuletide, so I was duty-bound … although I see I apparently never posted a review of the exemplary Black Christmas, so I’ll have to rectify that eventually.

Should You Watch This Movie?

This flick’s credits include ‘Experience’ Santa Claus, Theatre Santa Claus, Dungeon Santa Claus, Store Santa Claus, Market Santa Claus, Drunken Santa Claus, Circus Santa Claus, Circus Santa Claus (yes, two), and “Santa Claus in car.” They all seem kinda grubby, as does everything else in the picture.

Highlight and Low Point

I appreciated the scene that takes place within the London Dungeon tourist trap, serving as it does as a kind of signifier of the genre’s lingua franca. (Hey, one can semioticize anything, should one wish to do so.) A scene wherein a lonely middle-aged Herbert visits a peep show confers an incongruous subtlety.

Rating From Outer Space: C+

Wolfen (1981)

Directed by Michael Wadleigh
A King-Hitzig Production

For years, I managed to remain confused as to whether I’d seen this (werewolf) picture, because in my mind I eternally conflated it with The Howling. (It didn’t help that both were released the same year.) Usually, I managed to clear up my confusion by remembering that “Howling” has Dee Wallace in it, and that’s the one I’d actually seen. Yet I still wondered if I’d ever watched this flick, so I decided to lay that question to rest. Turns out I’d never seen it. Turns out it isn’t even about werewolves! Turns out it’s a bit unclear exactly what kind of movie it is, but I can tell you it involves “Indians,” hotchpotch Native American mythologisms, wolves, some prescient Homeland Security-type apparatus, domestic and international terrorism, an NYPD detective who’s British and pairs up with a heavily armed police psychologist, a weirdo who works at the zoo, and I’m probably forgetting some other stuff. To sum up: if you’re not sure you’ve seen it … you haven’t.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I just “explained” that!



Should You Watch This Movie?

Not if you’re looking for werewolves.


H
ighlight and Low Point

The main “Indian” character is played by Edward James Olmos, which is at least somewhat curious given that many Native Americans are employed in bit parts or small supporting roles. The terrorism subplot seems really incidental. The wolves wind up being arbitrarily selective about their victims, and the alpha is pure white, although if that was explained, I missed it. Allegedly, the ruined church was built and destroyed just for this production, which seems insanely wasteful given what’s revealed by the actual footage of the South Bronx environs. The “wolfen,” uh, POV segments are … idiosyncratic.

Rating From Outer Space: C

Blood Tracks aka Heavy Metal (1985)

Directed by Mike Jackson AKA Mats Helge (Olsson)
“Associate Director: Derek Ford”
Smart Egg Pictures

What starts out appearing to be merely a lighthearted, empty-headed (Swedish!) hair metal adventure turns out to be a plodding formulaic exercise beholden to dangers lurking in a poorly lit, seemingly abandoned building. Actually, back up … the adventure begins with an introductory vignette that makes little sense as it happens and manages to make even less sense later. (A woman fatally wounds her abusive … husband? Landlord? Prefect? Naturally, she and her children must hide from society forevermore.) This idea must have looked good to somebody on paper – rockin’ rock band, video hi-jinks, naked chixx, the aforementioned dangers lurking in a poorly lit, seemingly abandoned building, and so forth – but on film it quickly grows rather tedious. Neither the atrocious dubbing nor the copious gratuitous nudity provides any succor.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I was suckered in by the “promise” of yet another asinine “metal”-themed fright flick. (I’m not even sure if I was aware of the Swedish angle.)


Should You Watch This Movie?

I’ll say this: it’s no Black Roses or Rocktober Blood. Hell, it isn’t even “Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare.” I suppose if you’re really feeling nostalgic for images of purported glam-metal excess, this may suffice –but may I suggest seeking treatment instead?


Highlight and Low Point

It’s possible I’d be inclined to point out a creatively grisly murder or two, but at least one of them is unfortunately edited in such a way as to severely diminish its impact. The SPECIAL APPERANCE (sic) by EASY ACTION – not this one – who portray a band called “Solid Gold” – not this one – somehow manages to undermine the dignity of poseur glam.

Don’t just take my word for it, tho!

Rating From Outer Space: D

Slugs aka Slugs: muerte viscosa aka Slugs – The Movie (1988)

Directed by J.P. Simon
Dister Productions

“Based on the novel ‘SLUGS’ by Shaun Hutson.” No, I haven’t read it, but you better believe I’m going to try to track THAT baby down. This entertaining piece of dreck is the sort of film so unconcerned with “verisimilitude” – there we go again – that it sticks a desk and a flag in a room and decides, “Okay! Sheriff’s office.” Said sheriff’s big scene, being dismissive of our well-meaning protagonist (“Mike Brady,” for crying out loud), may remind certain informed viewers of John Vernon’s similar scene in Killer Klowns from Outer Space … which came out the very same year. What a golden age of cinema THAT was! I also got a big “Pieces”* vibe from this picture, mainly due to the utter disregard for any sort of credibility whatsoever – for characters, motivations, acting ability, dialogue, etc. At the end the sewers blow up, which should remind you of … other movies. You get the drift. MIndless fun, and as a bonus, the slugs are kind of unnerving, even seeming threatening. And there’s a LOT of them.

*It happens to be from the same director, which I swear I didn’t know beforehand

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Of course you know the real mystery is why I hadn’t already seen it.


Should You Watch This Movie?

It is a testament to the undying power of schlock cinema.


Highlight and Low Point

WOULD this flick be even better if instead of a toxic waste repository, the underlying explanation given for the presence of rampaging mutant killer slugs was alien involvement, or maybe that the town was built on an “Indian burial ground”? That’s debatable. Use the phrase “You ain’t got the authority to declare happy birthday!” during your next workplace dispute.

Rating From Outer Space: B

Scream for Help (1984)

Produced and Directed by Michael Winner

This “British horror film” (set in … New Rochelle, New York?) could have gone any number of ways – and for a while indeed seems unsure where it may be going – before ultimately becoming an almost-suspenseful yarn about a resourceful mother and daughter surviving what is in effect a multifaceted home invasion. There’s actually a surprising amount of prurience and some notable lapses in taste here, which I guess are supposed to lend verisimilitude, even if not much evidence of any concern for that notion is present in the early going. Once the action gets up a head of steam, it’s passable entertainment; prior to that, it’s a sometimes amusing, often annoying spectacle of irritating adolescent flights of fancy. The heroine’s soundtrack song – written by John Paul Jones and sung by Jon Anderson – from “Led Zeppelin” and “Yes,” respectively, for anyone reading this who somehow ISN’T an old white person – is highly amusing maudlin treacle.

Don’t just take my word for it, tho!

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

This title, too, was posted for posterity in the annals of the Internet Archive.


Should You Watch This Movie?

The way things keep escalating throughout is pretty gratifying, really, once the plot finally reveals itself.


Highlight and Low Point

This picture has some elements of humor in it, but they’re more or less attendant to having a teenage girl as the protagonist, rather than overtly comedic. More purposeful are the various ramifications of sexuality on display, which at one point find Christie swearing off physical relationships forever. At a particularly dramatic juncture, a character declaims “I have my whole life in front of me” and is immediately struck from behind by a car, and killed. That’s fairly indicative of the tenor throughout.

Rating From Outer Space: B+

Jaws Of Satan (1981)

Directed by Bob Claver
A Bill Wilson Production

This entertaining incompetence spotlights an endearing and enduring theme enrapturing schlock filmmakers since time immemorial – the Giant Deadly Snake that strangely resembles … an ordinary snake. (Decidedly not a giant one, either.) By the end of this ridiculous romp, we are supposed to believe the snake – a defanged cobra whose subordinate serpents get to be represented by blatantly superimposed hissing on the soundtrack – is actually Satan Himself. We are never told why, just as we never learn anything about the supposed familial curse dogging our beleaguered priest. But at least we get an analogue for our current times, as the local business big shot and his mayoral pal do their damnedest to circumvent a curfew that local health officials try to impose. “There have always been snakes in this area,” the dog track proprietor grumbles. But when his daughter, Christina Applegate, is bitten, well, his wife changes his tune tout de suite. Longtime TV producer/director Claver (Charles in Charge! The Munsters Today! Small Wonder!) applies his small-screen acumen to what appears to be his only feature-film directorial credit.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

A picture about a GDS that invokes Satan ain’t getting ignored around here.


Should You Watch This Movie?

Do you enjoy laughing at snakes? I’d recommend it if you like laughing at snakes.


Highlight and Low Point

Small Wonder somehow lasted for 96 episodes. The world is a strange and awful place sometimes. This production, meanwhile, features a burgeoning romance between the local doctor and her imported herpetologist as a subplot. The facial snakebite makeup is appealingly grotesque, the priest seems to smirk a lot, and dammit, that dog track means revenue, and it’s gonna open. Whatever scene he’s in, the sheriff is marvelously unconvincing.

Rating From Outer Space: D+

Rest in Pieces aka Descanse en piezas (1987)

Directed by “Joseph Braunstein” aka Jose Ramon Larraz
Jose Frade Producciones Cinematograficas aka “Calepas International INC.”

Terrible editing, acting that runs the gamut from A to B, a nonsensical plot about a life-after-death society and an inheritance, and the longest delayed appearance of a guaranteed nude scene in the history of cinema – oh, and credits that don’t even bother to name the cast, just the crew. Truly, this is a highlight of the 1980s video wasteland. Director Larraz (whose offerings Savage Lust and The House That Vanished were previously featured here) loves his mysterious deadly plots, but this production is so slapdash it plays more like a comedy. It can only be described as terribly entertaining, and I believe you probably know which word in that phrase should receive the emphasis. Now, why the hell haven’t I (yet) seen his British lesbian horror Vampyres? I gotta step up my game.

WHy Did I Watch This Movie?

See previous entry. You know, I’m fairly certain I could waste MORE of my precious time if I really tried … but here’s hoping I don’t decide to test that hypothesis.

 

Should You Watch This Movie?

Don’t you ever wonder how much of your precious time you could waste, should you really try?


Highlight and Low Point

The lead actress, Lorin Jean Vail, also had roles in an action movie (“Flex”) about a bodybuilder; an action movie whose description according to Wikipedia/IMDb is “A tough Arizona cop is teamed with a lesbian cop to catch a serial killer who is murdering police officers” (Arizona Heat); a movie called “The Patriot” (action! again); and played Bikini Girl #7 on a two-part episode of The Love Boat. Oh, and she portrayed herself in The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years.

Rating From Outer Space: D+