The Slayer aka Nightmare Island (1982)

directed by j. s. cardone
the international picture show company

For a flick with a ridiculously uninspired setup – two couples go to a remote island, where someone or something is bumping them off one by one – this small-time production winds up delivering a lot more than one would expect. I don’t think I’d go quite so far as to believe the claim that cineastes have long debated the manifold interpretations available to the ambiguous ending – how many people have even heard of this picture? – but although one’s immediate reaction to the final scene might be to feel a bit cheated, further reflection possibly may assuage such a response. It could also exacerbate it, of course, and hey, now I’m merging with those ca(s)hiers du cinéma(rt). Better than it should have been.


why did i watch this movie?

It’s called “The Slayer,” and it’s from 1982. Quod erat demonstrandum.


should you watch this movie?

It’s really more  of a character study than you’d be excused for expecting from a 1982 film called “The Slayer,” and kept reminding me of The Mutilator – which it predates – most likely because of the beachfront property.

highlight and low point

As Kay, Sarah Kendall gives audiences a pretty good indication of why they would never see her in anything ever again, but either her blank stares and flatness of affect eventually begin to seem more suitable or the dramatics of the rest of the movie overpower the urge to keep laughing. Kay’s an artist, which makes for an indefensibly inane analogy: though the plot here is akin to a paint-by-numbers kit, the end result is pleasing to the eye. The relationships between and among the couples are convincingly natural, and the final two minutes of this feature are a veritable tour de force.

rating from outer space: B+

The New York Ripper aka Lo squartatore di New York (1982)

directed by lucio fulci
fulvia film s.r.l.

“The violence here is ugly, demeaning and frightfully pathological,” the author proclaims, adding that the film “features long, lingering and loving shots of gratuitous sex, nudity and horrific violence.” He further contends that the picture is “reviled for its rampant misogyny, unspeakably deranged mutilation of women; and its duck-voiced, interminably quacking psychokiller” and “remains a hollow, forced, uninspired effort that very few have rallied to support.”

Well, sure, you think, but everyone’s a critic, and you crane your neck to see the title … and discover that those quotes are taken from the 1996 book Lucio Fulci: Beyond the Gates – A Tribute to the Maestro by Chas Balun.

I don’t have much to add, but allow me to correct a misspelling from Mr. Balun’s tome: when describing the scene with the prostitute and the razor blade and the eye and the nipple, the erstwhile scribe meant to write “bisected.”

why did i watch this movie?

Its notoriety, I guess. I also kept running across it while looking for blog fodder, so I figured I might as well just get it over with already.

should you watch this movie?

I suppose it depends on just how much you want to see that bisection alluded to up above. Trust me, you can live happily without hearing the maniacally quacking killer.

highlight and low point

The sheer overkill of most of the slashing, which favors closeups for emphasis, is kind of breathtaking in its appalling level of sadism. Also often filmed in extreme closeup: Yes, people’s eyes, the both of ’em. Five, six times, at least. The “psychological insights” are probably some sort of attempt to lend this picture a feeble justification for its existence, to no avail. The anachronistic music’s pretty groovy.

rating from outer space: F

Boardinghouse (1982)

written and directed by johnn wintergate
blustarr films

A “movie” only in the sense that someone filmed it, this amateur creation plays out like a cheap porno without the hardcore sex, or like an “erotic thriller” without the eroticism or thrills, or like a teen party comedy without humor or teens, or … I’d say you get the idea, but without experiencing this picture, you cannot. Shot on video – allegedly the first-ever film produced in that format and blown up for big-screen release – and beholden to the novelty of that medium in its contemporaneous milieu, the only thing this flick has going for it is the improbably weird story of its co-creators. The dramatic conclusion is akin to an extended Ozzy video – like, Ultimate Sin-era Ozzy, maybe.

why did i watch this movie?

Never mind that! Here’s a TRAILER!

should you watch this movie?

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is a warning to protect theater owners and the makers of this HorrorVision™ film. Viewers with nerve or heart conditions are advised to cover their eyes and ears whenever this object appears on the screen.”

“Thank you.”

highlight and low point

So, like, the writer/director/male lead and the female star of this movie (“Jonema” and “Kalassu,” who together are “internationally known as Lightstorm”) are disciples of “the Avatar, Sri Sathya Sai Baba,” and also the musicians behind the film’s soundtrack, which features two versions of their band, one of which performs in the picture under the name 33 1/3. This picture appears to include demonstrations of their lifelong devotion to the “constant practice of controlling and silencing the mind,” albeit in hyperbolized form. Oh, and their daughter is married to the lead singer of New Jersey’s long-running punk act Bouncing Souls. Please do not misuse this crucial information.

rating from outer space: D−

Death Dorm aka The Dorm That Dripped Blood aka Pranks (1982)

directed by jeffrey obrow and stephen carpenter
jeff obrow productions

Sloppy and unfocused, this run-of-the-mill affair struggled to hold my attention. The debut offering from Obrow and Carpenter, made a few years before their much more accomplished The Power, it reminded me why I find The Evil Dead so interesting as a filmmaker’s initial effort – its conceptualization. Here, all we have is a rather standard story about a small group of people being picked off one by one, with the usual false clues and misplaced suspicions. Many hallmarks of an essentially amateur production are also present, such as ragged editing and poorly paced and redundant scenes. I’m not saying I could do better; for a prospective script written by film students and shot on-campus during break, it’s more than good enough. Impressively, the ending contains an unexpected wrinkle.

why did i watch this movie?

As is often the case, as I was writing my review of The Power, I decided I should probably give this one a look.

should you watch this movie?

Aside from a cast of actors you’ll largely never see again, there’s nothing too interesting here aside from the opportunity to muse about the instincts of those who produce horror features. So very often the writers opt for set pieces and pat themes that conform to genre conventions. I suppose if you’re trying to sell investors and backers on your first attempt, this approach is reasonable, but it often just seems to be business as usual in this arena.

highlight and low point

Though it’s fairly easy at times to observe that these people had never made a movie before, they did a pretty convincing job with at least one of the death scenes.

Rating from outer space: c−

boy, that looks official

 

Visiting Hours (1982)

directed by jean claude lord
filmplan international/canadian film development corporation

Okay, I imagined this one was gonna be pretty lame, and in fact, I had put off watching it for the past couple years. It kept almost making the cut, but then I’d figure it was gonna be too tame and too much like a soap opera. Instead, it was actually a pretty taut affair, and despite some overly predictable developments, a rewarding choice. (It probably didn’t hurt that none of the other flicks I watched around the same time were much good.) Michael Ironside’s malevolent antihero is an implacable force, ably balancing out the fact that Wm. Shatner kept reminding me of so-called U. S. “president” Don T., through no fault of his own. (Shatner’s, that is.) A few genuinely surprising scenes during the climactic action were a welcome sight. I also found the subject matter, of a female media personality’s taking a stand opposing violence against women and triggering a backlash from a vigilante nutcase, to be very relevant in the current political climate.

why did i watch this movie?

The real question is what took me so long.

should you watch this movie?

It’s a quality choice for a random late-nite viewing when there’s nothing else “on.”

highlight and low point

My choice would probably be one and the same, to be honest: during one scene, the villain, Colt Hawker (!), sports a garment that appears to be leather-look vinyl or something similar. It looks godawful uncomfortable, and is quite apt for the scene, which involves a vicious misogynistic assault. It also precisely contextualizes the film. On a more personal note, I got a kick out of the fact that by coincidence, Lenore Zann plays minor roles in both this and Happy Birthday to Me, as I watched them during the same stretch.

rating from outer space: B

an AMC Gremlin, i believe

Alone in the Dark (1982)

directed by jack sholder
masada productions/new line productions

Sometimes, I watch a movie and I just wonder how it ended up exactly the way it did. Take this flighty little number: It plays essentially like a PG-rated family comedy, but it also includes some vaguely gory killings, flashes of nudity, a mislocated but frightening hallucination, and, unexpectedly, the band Sic F*cks. And Jack Palance, and Martin Landau, gleefully overacting as two deranged asylum escapees. Fans of the original NBC-TV series The A-Team will be glad to see “Howlin’ Mad” Murdock as the patriarch of the family in peril, and general film aficionados possibly will enjoy Donald Pleasence’s turn as the loopy, stoned head of the psychiatric institution turned porous by a power outage. Amusingly, the family never actually seems to be in the dark, thanks to the marvels of movie lighting. (Hardly anyone’s alone at any point, either.) Overall, a strangely effervescent experience given the subject matter.

why did i watch this movie?

I don’t recall exactly, but it’s possible the star-studded cast had something to do with it. It was described as being a lot more suspenseful.

should you watch this movie?

If you enjoy the way movies were made in the 1980s, as it’s very of that time. Change a few elements and it could have been almost any type of flick from its era. The “club” scenes, as always, are a bonus.

highlight and low point

Palance and Landau are highly entertaining, as is Pleasence’s understated performance, and the Sic F*cks were a treat (which ceased to be a mystery once I saw Adny Shernoff’s name attached to theirs in the credits). Drawbacks are a lack of commitment to the scare trade and what could be construed as tokenism in some of the stock characters.

rating from outer space: B

One Dark Night (1982)

directed by thomas mcloughlin
the picture company inc.

While it technically may be true that I’ve never personally been assaulted after hours in a mausoleum by psychokinetically controlled corpses , I think I safely can say that it wouldn’t seem as threatening in person as it does to several of the characters in this ’80s trumpery. The reason I state this with such confidence is that the dead (which appear to be wax dummies) are not reactivated or anything, they’re just being propelled slowly across the floor. That they apparently somehow manage to kill two people – by, uh, falling on them? – is a special bonus. The preposterous tale of a proponent of “psychic vampirism” experimenting in the manipulation of “bio-energy – the electromagnetic force in all living things,” this picture would be a complete failure if it weren’t so utterly absurd. As it is, it’s passable as kitsch … barely. The presence of Adam West helps in that regard, as does the fact that the dramatis personae largely are supposed to be portraying high-school students, which is patently ridiculous.

why did i watch this movie?

You know, scads of scare flicks have a similar “plot” as this one (the “spend a night in the mausoleum or equivalent for some reason” part, that is, not the telekinesis gobbledygook), so I may have chosen to start here because of the inspired title.

should you watch this movie?

The laughs one may get from the special effects are probably not fair compensation for enduring the hour and a half.

highlight and low point

The climactic scenes featuring the “attack” of the corpse puppets are hard to beat for sheer folly, but the director does not seem to have had much more skill in guiding the living cast members.

rating from outer space: d

Midnight (1982)

directed by john russo
independent-international pictures corp.

This delight’s got a little bit of everything. It’s got a weird Satanist family cult, it’s got a teenage runaway from Troubles At Home, it’s got Lawrence Tierney, it’s got a road-trip film contained within it, it’s of a visual quality usually associated with home movies from the dawn of time, and it’s got a fabulous theme song that is completely out of place in its grim milieu and sounds as though it’s from the wrong decade besides. Midnight is also strangely paced and edited, and could be a Christian message movie in disguise. Let’s see, what else … travel montages, black characters that seem as misplaced as the title song, a blatant ripoff of Psycho, and an extremely abrupt and unlikely ending involving rescue, redemption and revenge. Oh, and more of the rebarbative laughter à la the goons from Death Weekend. All told, an entertaining exploitation picture – and based on a novel! Which I cannot WAIT to read. The auteur was a colleague of George Romero.

why did i watch this movie?

The allure of a low-budget flick involving running afoul of the law and Satanists was too great to ignore.

should you watch this movie?

This is an exemplary achievement in its genre, so if a mishmash of simulacra – both horror and otherwise – filmed quasi-guerrilla-style over a weekend with minimal postproduction is your bag …

highlight and low point

The chorus of “Midnight,” allegedly by “Quintessence”:

You’re on your own, you’re all alone, you can’t go home … a-ny-more You’re on your own, you’re all alone and midnight’s at your door

The “backwoods” angle is trite.

rating from outer space: C+

it is easy to identify a Satanist

Island of Blood aka Whodunit? (1982)

directed by bill naud
creative film makers/srn

Apparently also known by the terribly baffling title Scared Alive, this is one baffling, terrible piece of filmmaking. Not only is the script lousy, and the acting, but it’s technically awful as well – a large portion of the movie takes place at night, in various dark locations, and is so poorly lit and filmed that it is often impossible to tell what is happening, or which characters are involved. At other times, it is also difficult to discern which characters are which for other reasons, leading to further confusion. During several onscreen conversations, I found myself wondering who the dialogue was referencing, being unable to place the name. (Since characters seemed to go unaccounted and reappear at random, this is perhaps not entirely my fault.) Probably not quite as bad as George Phblat’s infamous Benji Saves the Universe, but it’s gotta be close. The ridiculous murder-presaging song that plays incessantly throughout (it’s called “Face to Face”) is kinda catchy.

why did i watch this movie?

I will once again allow that I chose this particular film precisely because it sounded as though it could not possibly be any good at all. I have been honing this skill for many moons.

should you watch this movie?

“It’s really bad” is my final statement on that.

highlight and low point

The fact that a terrible movie features within it the making of a terrible movie might have been interesting had the creative geniuses behind the cameras the wherewithal to evince any self-awareness, but we’re plunging too far into the realm of the purely theoretical here. At least one of the murders is so preposterous and slapdash that one might reasonably suspect this whole affair to be a jape.

rating from outer space: d-

Next of Kin (1982)

directed by tony williams
filmco limited/sis/the film house

Here’s a rarity for this list: a good movie. Actually good, that is, not “good for a horror movie,” not “good” (scare quotes) – a film that’s well-written, well-acted, well-directed … how the hell did this happen? I feel cheated. Not quite the supernatural assault suggested by the promotional artwork, this Australian feature is a rather more subtle affair centering around strange goings-on in the retirement home the main character has inherited following her mother’s death. These eldritch occurrences seem to have been foreshadowed by similar happenings related in her mother’s diary decades earlier. Are things not what they seem? How DO things seem? WHO can one trust, et cetera. This picture appears never to have had a domestic theatrical release, and the fine lead actress appears never to have had a further career. An understated, somewhat ethereal affair, its scares and the tension it creates are earned by never overplaying its hand and always retaining some rooting in reality. As I said, it’s a good one.

why did i watch this movie?

I actually passed on checking this one out several times, as the cover art and the vague synopsis seemed to portend more of a demonic, FX-laden tale than interested me. Obviously, this resistance crumbled.

should you watch this movie?

It’s not going to scare you out of your wits or anything, but it carries itself with and merits considerably more gravitas than your typical horror.

highlight and low point

The attention to qualities often underserved or overlooked in horror cinema, niceties such as plot, character development, writing and direction, elevates this drama over many of its fellow travelers. A fairly significant clue to the outcome is given away during the opening moments, and the accents occasionally make dialogue a bit difficult for American ears. (Mine, anyway.)

rating from outer space: a-