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+

C.H.U.D. (1984)

directed by douglas cheek
bonime associates, ltd.

Well, it’s obviously a disgraceful admission on my part that I didn’t see this the way it was clearly meant to be seen, on videocassette rented from the mom ‘n’ pop (actually, it was just “pop”) establishment down the street from where I lived as a kid. Or anytime since. Somebody should’ve told me it was this rewarding. Honestly, I’m not even sure why I never saw it, except that as a young person I didn’t actually watch many horror movies at all, and maybe because the title eliminates any suspense? Whatever the case, this is low-budget, low-grade horror at a peak, a Reagan-era relic of nuclear panic. Shot under the streets of NYC and laden with intransigent officials, it’s the gritty story of one plucky little guy’s quest to find out why everyone’s disappearing and a truly terrible battle plan hatched far too late to eradicate a horde of deadly mutants. And more! (It’s actually several guys.) Just today I had to defend my pronouncement that this flick is “good.” People, man.

why did i watch this movie?

I owed it to myself.

should you watch this movie?

Act now – don’t hesitate!

highlight and low point

Though this picture is ostensibly about hideous freaks coming outta the sewers, having been spawned there due to government negligence, what makes it enjoyable are the various interactions the normal people have. The scene where The Reverend initially spots the C.H.U.D. participating in what appears to be some sort of rite is intriguing, if scant. (More could have been done with it.) And as a former resident of New York City, I swear, when characters first start winding through the subway tunnels, I could conjure the smell. Now that’s olfactory memory.

rating from outer space: B+

Vultures (1984)

produced, written and directed by paul leder
star world productions inC.

An almost interesting exercise in what I imagine an Agatha Christie novel to be like – I must have read at least one, right? – this forgotten flick mainly suffers from a poorly established cast of thousands and a tendency to drag things out for way too long. This is particularly noticeable as it nears the ending but detours a few times before relenting and taking the exit. If they hadn’t been so damned serious here, they had the grounds for a terrific farce, at least, though I suppose that’s been done to death (sorry) as well. At a certain point, if only for just a bit, the mystery almost takes control, but it gets a little lost in the confusing welter of names and faces. The red herrings and the detective’s shaggy-dog pursuit wear on you after a while as well. But you probably won’t see the twist coming, exactly, even once you’ve noticed that something’s clearly awry.

why did i watch this movie?

Paul Leder directed I Dismember Mama, and that coerced me to try another one. Not sure why THIS one, though. (Neither can I recall where I found it.)

should you watch this movie?

Little information about this production exists. It’s often not unlike a madeforTV affair and it may have had more than one videocassette release. But I’m grasping at straws, really. Scant information is offered here. (Article contains spoilers.)

highlight and low point

Some (sorry to say) washed-up Hollywood also-rans pop in here, and Aldo Ray‘s appearance tops that list, as it’s barely a cameo. Yvonne De Carlo has a more substantial role. And why neglect Kipp Whitman. This film may possibly remind you of 1970s television.

rating from outer space: C+

Daddy’s Deadly Darling (1984) aka Pigs (1973), etc., etc.

produced and directed (and likely written) by marc lawrence
safia s.a.

Untangling which of the many edits or releases this particular edition represented of what was intended to be called “The 13th Pig” took me some sleuthing, as this oft-rejiggered should-be cult classic’s tangle of different owners and distributors practically redefines the term “exploitation.” The picture itself wasn’t what I’d expected, either, even if I’d be hard-pressed to explicate exactly what that might have been; instead, this little oddity is a somewhat insightful meditation on mental illness, child sex abuse, codependency, and other fun, happy stuff. Oh, yeah, and multiple bodies get fed to (or are “turned into”) pigs, hence the ostensible original title. Nothing terribly graphic occurs herein until just before this version’s tacked-on coda, but a creepy, unsettling vibe sustains itself via many little details. One big detail: the two main actors were father and daughter, only enhancing the oddity. Ah, the movie business.

why did i watch this movie?

The title – “Pigs,” that is – and given year (which in this case was ’72), along with a brief synopsis, granted me visions of misbegotten bloody backwoods savagery, thematically aligning with whatever tangent I was pursuing.

should you watch this movie?

Well, now that I think I’ve tracked down the director’s preferred version of his movie, I’m planning to watch it again, if that tells you anything.

highlight and low point

As “Zambrini,” Lawrence portrays a cunning expediency in a manner suggesting a deranged hybrid of Michael Richards as Kramer and Christopher Lloyd’s Jim Ignatowski from Taxi. His daughter Toni seemingly perfected the oblivious affect of the dangerously disordered mind. Charles Bernstein’s ridiculous period-perfect pop ditty is a marvel.

And: “It seems as though dead people just don’t have any civil rights at all.”

rating from outer space: C+

Bloodbath at the House of Death (1984)

directed by ray cameron
wildwood productions

This intermittently amusing English spoof may well have struck me funnier were I British, or approximately 10 years old. (I believe you call an affair such as this one a “broad farce.”) The production is rife with personalities and/or characters that did not resonate with me, and the less said about much of its sense of humour, the better. That being said, it had its good points, with Vincent Price’s absurdly campy centuries-old malevolent priest being a particular highlight. Although a few gags are repeated until maddening, and the overall story – once it eventually (almost) coheres – appears to belie its original aim, this film might hold dimwitted appeal to fans of … lowbrow British television. Not really my spot of tea.

why did i watch this movie?

By now you know I will watch anything with a title such as this.

should you watch this movie?

Anglophiles might enjoy placing the various performers in context of their larger careers, I guess.

highlight and low point

Vincent Price’s initial monologue is so delightfully overwrought it surpasses parody and becomes a true work of comic art; indeed, it is hilarious enough a moment that it sustained me throughout the rest of the film, which is largely lazy and witless. A few other vignettes – an S&M-tinged religious flashback and a scene involving phantom sex among them – are curious enough to add further impetus to the viewing urge, but even the more successful tropes feel halfhearted at times, and a handful of random contemporary allusions (among them Star Wars and E.T. ) either feel misguided, serve little purpose, or frankly are just kind of baffling. Oh, and the ending curries (sorry) more than a bit of a Rocky Horror vibe as well.

Rating from outer space: D+

“ha, ha, very droll”

Blood Theatre aka Movie House Massacre (1984)

written, directed, produced by alice raley
movie house productions

Oh, my. Technically speaking, this is a terrible movie … the kind in which the authorial credits intentionally may be misleading. (Purportedly, this is the directorial debut feature for Rick Sloane, and Alice Raley allegedly appears in it, but the title screens propose what’s reported up top, and who knows.) Honestly, it’s hard to say if this picture even aspires to being anything more than “terrible,” though it occasionally seems to think it’s attempting to ape the outrageous style of a John Waters film. (Among other factors, however, it lacks the élan of early Waters, along with the incisive writing.) The “acting” is perhaps middle-school level, the “humor” falls extremely flat, pacing is an afterthought, and even at barely 75 minutes it appears to contain an awful lot of padding. (The FX are intermittently effective, I’ll grant it that.) AND YET. Cliché though it may be, this heap transcends its ill-intentioned conception. If you “like” garbage cinema, that is – the standard disclaimer.

why did i watch this movie?

Its reputation preceded it.

should you watch this movie?

How much weight is borne by one man’s opinion, one man wonders.

highlight and low point

So this is where assessment gets tricky: throughout this tale of a cut-rate, scruple-free theater chain, several fake trailers – with names such as “Clown Whores of Hollywood” and “Nightmare of the Lost Whores” – are shown … and frankly, these may have been better ideas, even if they betray a certain lack of taste or deportment on behalf of their, uh, auteur. Who had previously screened the trailers. At which point we recall that this production is credited to somebody else. This particular faux film doesn’t have any actual ending or resolution; it just stops.

rating from outer space: D

Invitation to Hell (1984)

directed by wes craven
moonlight productions, II

I don’t think I realized this was a made-for-TV picture when I opted to watch it, and I’m kinda glad, as that’s where a lot of what passes for its charm resides. Well, that and the oh-so-’80s themes and vibe, from its stars (Robert Urich! Soleil Moon Frye!) to its heavy-handed insistence on conformity and social climbing – “The last 10 years haven’t been easy on us, Matt … and I want a piece of the pie” – and let’s not overlook that it’s centered around a company called “Micro-Digitech” and a mysteriously affiliated country club. It couldn’t have been more of the moment. Unfortunately, aside from its high kitsch quotient, this flick doesn’t have a whole lot going for it. Nothing about it will surprise you, and it probably could’ve done with less content restriction than primetime viewing would allow.

note: NOT product placement

why did i watch this movie?

By now you probably know the answer to that question.

should you watch this movie?

Though it’s the kind of thing that should’ve just been sealed in a time capsule, not used for actual entertainment purposes, this production is rather amusing, if quite lightweight.

highlight and low point

For a forgettable and mostly ridiculous period piece, it must be noted that taken piecemeal it offers high value. From Susan Lucci’s vampy society hostess to Kevin McCarthy’s telling inclusion, there’s a lot of fun to be had here. (I particularly enjoyed that the location of the veterinarian’s home business was highly reminiscent of that of the Devil Dog kennels, much as the Winslow family’s house appears to be located in the same neighborhood.) The ludicrously rudimentary FX leading into the finale would have to be seen to be believed.

Rating from outer space: C−

Splatter University (1984)

directed by richard w. Haines
richard w. haines productions/aquifilm co.

I guess I gotta admit that this objectively terrible movie is right in my wheelhouse, because although it’s completely, laughably awful, I can’t bring myself to pan it outright or consign it to the trash heap with some of the others I’ve slagged around here. But make no mistake – it’s not good, at all. The murder scenes are almost all exactly the same: character opens door, character sees knife brandished by unknown attacker, character gets stabbed in the abdomen, character dies. (The identity of the killer is easy to deduce, as well.) Many if not all of the characters are ridiculously exaggerated stereotypes, and attempts to portray “campus life” are in a similar vein. The only reason I imagine anyone would want to watch this movie is to remember a bygone era of moviemaking. The DIY ethos that the seventies made necessary in many areas of the arts was of considerable value … even if the artifacts it produced may not have been.

why did i watch this movie?

Hey, man …

should you watch this movie?

This picture was largely filmed in 1981, the credits at the end seem to read “1982,” and Troma eventually released it in 1984. Its entry on Horrorpedia includes the director’s explanation that to make it feature-length and “marketable,” a new beginning and ending were grafted onto it along with the abysmal attempts at wacky collegiate humor.

highlight and low point

As the credits rolled, I noticed the name “George Seminara” and thought, wait, the George Seminara? Yep, that one. The names of the Three Stooges are borrowed for character monikers, which amused me. Oh, and the lead role is played by “one of the most sought after female keynote speakers in the country.”

rating from outer space: d−

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

directed by charles e. sellier, jr.
slayride, inc.

Okay, cancel your bets and shelve your arguments, because this is officially the greatest Christmas movie ever made. Notorious for its long career of being protested, reviled, censored and blackballed, this picture hardly deserved the denigration. So what if it portrays a murderous Santa who shoots dad and cuts mom’s throat after ripping her blouse open on the side of the road, in full view of one of her kids, after having already killed a store clerk, and why get all hot and bothered that one of those orphaned kids who witnessed the highway carnage grows up to be so traumatized by the very idea of old Saint Nick that he embarks on a Christmas Eve killing spree highlighted by impaling a topless Linnea Quigley on a stag’s head in her living room before gifting her little sister a boxcutter and leaving her with the mess? Man, people are sensitive sometimes. Ironically enough, the parental complaints lodged against the film upon its original release were that their little moppets would be traumatized by such a depiction of K. Kringle … which is, not to put too fine a point on it, exactly what the movie depicts.

why did i watch this movie?

Why did I wait so long? I remember admiring the box for this classic back in the good old days at the neighborhood video rental (which was actually the storefront of the TV repair shop).

should you watch this movie?

highlight and low point

Well, I guess Lilyan Chauvin’s portrayal of the orphanage’s humorless Mother Superior is a bit much, but why niggle. Robert Brian Wilson’s turn as confused, deranged Billy – kudos to the writers for their sagacious choice of names – is nearly perfect. The flick’s nerve, daring, gall, chutzpah – whichever you prefer – confers it its panache.

rating from outer space: a−

The Power (1984)

directed by jeffrey obrow & stephen carpenter
jeff obrow productions/film ventures international

Not at all credible, yet oddly captivating, this barely known film is an overlooked gem. Hmm, maybe that’s the work of fake Aztec deity Destacatyl, the enslaving god whose power gives this film its name, and apparently will kill whomever tries to control it. This, despite inhabiting a statuette only a few inches tall which vaguely resembles a Mrs. Butterworth (or Aunt Jemima) figurine. Seriously, though, this picture is actually pretty good. Sometimes, just the fact that the cast and crew believe in their creation can be enough, and the actors here are fully invested despite some of the production’s shortcomings. Allegedly released theatrically, distributed straight to video, I can only imagine that this movie never found a larger audience because it lacks for some important touchstones of its era. No nudity, not much in the way of gore, no slasher signifiers, no rockin’ soundtrack … it was doomed to obscurity, but it didn’t really deserve that fate.

why did i watch this movie?

With a nondescript name and a synopsis about possession via a cursed ancient totem or some such, I just HAD to know more.

should you watch this movie?

Well, do you have any better ideas?

highlight and low point

The storyline here revolves around a small-town newspaper with somewhat peculiar standards, and includes breathless dialogue such as, “You know, I remember a time when Sandy McKennah woulda jumped at a story like this.” The story, mind you, involves an unstable supernatural entity with inscrutable requirements for worship and a penchant for trashing rooms, not to mention multivarious physical effects on his or her presumptive adherents – but it’s no less believable than the high dudgeon expressed by Ms. McKennah whenever her journalistic standards are threatened by the suggestion that The Power is real.

rating from outer space: B−