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

Biohazard (1985)

written, produced and directed by fred olen ray
viking films international

Oh, hey, look – it’s Aldo Ray again. Taking part in this ridiculous picture for exactly the reasons you’d surmise – he desperately needed some cash – he infuses his lines with all the believability of, say, a parrot. Not that authenticity is an important factor to a movie such as this, which more than anything else calls to mind the SF epics of the Atomic Age, made for as little money as possible, with whatever was lying around. The story revolves around a scientist tapping psychic powers to something something, and now there’s an alien life form. (It’s the director’s child in a costume that isn’t half bad, somehow.) This is the type of flick that features scenes in high desert areas because there’s no need for any sort of permits, the kind where all the various members of the “U.S. Army” sport mismatched “uniforms.” For its concluding statement, this production doesn’t even bother pretending it’s serious at all, leading one to reflect as to whether it ever had been. Pretending, that is.

why did i watch this movie?

My brother sent me a picture of the VHS box.

should you watch this movie?

Allegedly, Fred O. Ray made his first feature on a budget of $298. (And the white mouse will not explode, either.) And he allegedly paid A. Ray a thou for this one.

highlight and low point

I should stress that I’m unsure this movie is deliberately crummy by means of emulating the good ol’ days. I mean, I think the dialogue is as bad as it is without undue pretense, and the acting, too. That it wasn’t aiming any higher is a given, but the nonnegotiable parameters involved
pretty much guaranteed the outcome.

rating from outer space: D+

Bits & Pieces (1985)

directed by leland thomas
created and written by michael koby
trans world entertainment/the celluloid conspiracy

We may have discovered a new unintentional comedy champion. For a while, said unintentional comedy is confined mainly to the ridiculous attempt at portraying the schizoid tendencies of our deranged Maniac killer, and oh yes, those responsible for this film obviously saw that one. Then romance blossoms! With a particularly unwarranted and superficially crafted meet cute that sees our unlikely love connection detour on a date to the beach to the jacuzzi to the fireplace in what could be a Time Life infomercial … while a citywide manhunt is going on, mind you, with bodies of nubile bleach-blondes piling up. Patently amateurish in most aspects, that sense of dizzy irresponsibility saves this picture from total ignominity. Credit must be granted for skirting several of many possible cliché endings.

why did i watch this movie?

Maybe it reminded me of this. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I did, as it made for a nice mother-themed double feature with our antecedent selection (which, by the way, was often teamed with La novia ensangrentada in a dubious double feature of its own).

should you watch this movie?

An unattributed factoid on this picture’s IMDb page claims it was written in five days and shot in 10, and I’d be inclined to believe those were concurrent spans. Plus, it features naturalistic dialogue:

: “Tanya! The psycho! She’s dead! Murdered!”

Rosie’s mom: “Let’s call the police.”

highlight and low point

I would be remiss not to mention the original songs that highlight some key moments here, such as one of the male strip club scenes and the aforementioned romantic interlude. Unfortunately, these incredible numbers receive no attribution in the credits of this production. You should be dismayed.

rating from outer space: D

Demons (1985)

directed by lamberto bava
dacfilm, rome

A couple days ago, my brother says to me, “I was just thinking about the video for [Mötley Crüe’s] ‘Too Young to Fall in Love’ … what the hell WAS that? It made no sense.”

I thought for a moment. “That was the one with the ninjas, right?” I asked.
(It was. But maybe they were “samurai.”)

Well, sub out the ninjas for zombies – wait, sorry, “demons” – and exchange the “Asian” setting for a fortress-like movie theater in the middle of Berlin, add a lot of screaming … and it still might be more coherent than this Italian splatterfest. Clearly scripted with its eye firmly set on the teenage metalhead demographic (a key rampage is set to “Fast as a Shark” by Accept, and so forth), this blaring mess managed to give me a headache while also inducing boredom. Seriously, I was metaphorically glancing at my watch while enduring this nonsense. The ending sequence somehow manages to make even less sense than the rest of the film … in which Nostradamus is to blame for demonic carnage.

why did i watch this movie?

It sounded as though it would be a lot of fun. The novelty wore off quickly.

should you watch this movie?

It felt REALLY dated, and not just because I was watching a murky VHS upload. Too redolent of MTV, perhaps.

highlight and low point

This is the sort of flick wherein the language barrier makes the dialogue sound like phrases read from a textbook, and where the characters narrate all the action and describe everything they’re doing. Example: Three characters are watching a demon claw its way out of a woman’s back. One of them exclaims, “Look at her back!” They are all already looking at her back.

rating from outer space: D+

The Stuff (1985)

written and directed by LARRY COHEN

Here – if you don’t know – is your basic Body Snatchers tale about a, um, parasitic dessert. Well, it isn’t really a dessert, but it’s being sold that way at the behest of a secret business cabal whose profit motive compels it to ignore that it turns people into … something or another, somehow. Unless (or until) it kills them. As it proceeds, this flick rather unexpectedly invokes Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now, while also managing to be evocative of Stripes, which requires a certain deftness. It’s also got some kinda shadow government thing going on, a rogue former FBI agent whose motivation remained unclear to me, a public relations and/or advertising maven as an uninteresting love interest, often laughable FX, a child actor in a lead role, and a strangely laid-back demeanor on everyone’s behalf, considering that, you know, the existence of the human race is being threatened by deliciousness on behalf of Big Confection.

why did i watch this movie?

It’s a Larry Cohen picture, or hadn’t you noticed?

should you watch this movie?

It’s fun, and not notably demanding.

highlight and low point

Satirical moments abound here, and they’re often pretty sharp, but the detritus of the 1980s cultural milieu contributes plenty of its own zest. At times, scenes seem to have been completed well after being shot, with conspicuous use of green screens, superimposed effects, and the like. (Trying to induce terror via a whipped cream-like substance has its perils.) Occasional FX involving body deterioration is actually pretty effective, though, especially in a questionably timed demise during the film’s climax. Superlative is the scene featuring an exploding The Stuff establishment stationed between what resemble McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken eateries from a model train setup.

rating from outer space: b–

The Strangeness (“1985”)

directed by david michael hillman

“Strangeness” is deciding to film nearly an entire movie inside an unconvincing “mine.” (Very obviously plaster.) With at least some cast members who never may have acted before, or since. And a creature that is kind of an amalgam of those found in The Deadly Spawn and The Mutations, only less credible. Plus a miraculous exit from deep within the mine that’s completely ludicrous. As to that “strangeness” … they couldn’t come up with a better name for it, you know? And despite the fact that one of the characters is a writer concocting an adventure yarn out of this abandoned gold mine’s backstory, the “strangeness” is never discussed by anyone. As for the other characters … yeah.

why did i watch this movie?

Little-seen pix sometimes end up being called “overlooked gems” or attracting attention for this feature or that one, but … there’s usually a reason nobody’s seen ’em.

should you watch this movie?

That’s really not necessary, unless you want to see an “abandoned mine” that looks even more ersatz than the one in The Boogens. Fun fact: the credits read “Copyright © 1980 By Stellarwind–The Strangeness.” It took FIVE YEARS to find a straight-to-video distributor!

highlight and low point

A final look at the mysterious underground creature, showing it in stop-motion glory devouring what is obviously an action figure purporting to be one of the actors, in a poorly filmed and ineptly edited insert, does not heighten the fear factor and the intimidation level of the monstrous oddity. The stiffly acted characters, most of which are unconvincing or irritating, each bear a significant personal flaw. For a film that largely takes place in dark caverns, it’s usually fairly easy to follow the proceedings – a rarity for such a low-budget undertaking.

rating from outer space: D+

Re-Animator (1985)

directed by stuart gordon
empire pictures

“H.P. Lovecraft’s Re-Animator,” the title card proudly boasts, and yes, it IS set at Miskatonic University, so it’s got that covered. Now, have I READ Mr. Lovecraft’s story of the same name? I do not think I have, despite the many times I’ve dipped into his oeuvre to while away some bleak hours enmeshed in his obfuscatory, eldritch and often oddly vague universe. This is a highly professional production, and the assured direction feels like kind of a blessing given what are often the limitations of these genre offerings. Absurdist at times, possibly to leaven the effects of its abundant grotesquerie, this picture nonetheless manages to disquiet, with Jeffrey Combs deserving much of the credit for his effective portrayal of an appropriately deranged Lovecraftian scientist. Although often rampantly silly, this is also undoubtedly a film that understands that horror doesn’t necessarily need to be laden with shocks and starts. It’s definitely not for the squeamish, though, as medical practicum and biological experimentation share screen time with copious bloodletting.

why did i watch this movie?

It’s no. six on Johnny Ramone’s top-10 list, and kind of a must-see in the annals of comedic humor.

should you watch this movie?

While I’m not sure I’d call it “timeless,” this flick still achieves everything it tries – and serves as perhaps the model for its particular brand of deranged horror-comedy, with some of its notes echoed a few short years later by Evil Dead 2, for one.

highlight and low point

The FX are pretty spectacular in this picture, really, especially given how outré some of the concepts are. (I’m thinking of the whole “head in a lab tray” sequence here.) Also, it’s impressive that no matter how ridiculous things get, no one ever really acknowledges that fact.

note misspelled label behind dead cat

rating from outer space: a

Cementerio del Terror (1985)

directed by rubén galindo jr.
dynamic films inc./producciones torrente s.a.

So, when you and your pals have tricked your girlfriends into accompanying you to a spooky abandoned house on All Hallow’s Eve – and boy are they MAD, having expected a “jet set party” – naturally, what you next propose is to bring a dead person back to life. Oh, sure, they’re doubtful, until you reasonably explain that the first step is to acquire a dead body from the morgue, at which point you all pile into the car. Does a downpour stop you from performing the ritual, i.e. reading from “the black book”? Of course it doesn’t. But once you’ve successfully revived Devlon – Devlon! – HE sure stops you, i.e. kills you. Up until this point in this generic Mexican flick, it’s reasonably entertaining, but once its focus switches to a group of children stranded in the graveyard, it becomes reminiscent of any random Scooby-Doo episode – then turns into the most blatant ripoff of the “Thriller” video imaginable, albeit with a much smaller budget. So blatant one of the kids sports a jacket with M. Jackson’s famous visage painted on the back. (Also spotted: “Pepsi Free.”)

why did i watch this movie?

Though attracted helplessly by the witless title, I’m not sure, as the undead generally are not my preference.

should you watch this movie?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t deliver much more than a few guffaws, and not nearly enough to justify itself.

highlight and low point

The nonunion equivalents of what are maybe supposed to be recognizable rock songs are pretty interesting, and I sure wasn’t expecting the scene in which the “professor” steals the police chief’s car in order to track down “Devlon.” You probably have a friend who creates better zombie makeup than this film’s FX department.

rating from outer space: D+

it is easy to access the morgue

Deadly Intruder (1985)

directed by john mccauley
channel one productions

By almost any reasonable measure, this straight-to-video extravaganza isn’t any good. And yet it manages to project a kooky kind of charm, possibly because some aspects of it are just so … off. Unlike some of the other bad films I’ve denigrated herein, the filmmakers involved in this venture seem to have known what they were doing, but just do not appear to have been very proficient. Take the editing: the cuts interspersing glimpses of the characters’ domestic lives with the mounting terror, etc., are so ham-handed it’s jarring. The dialogue, meanwhile, continually interjects minutiae into random conversations. And then there’s the music, which at a certain point reaches a kind of lunatic insistence that is sorta breathtaking. On top of all that, the SHOCKING twist almost could work, but for anyone who for some reason is paying careful attention, one line rings a few too many bells, even with the painstaking misdirection involved. Classic ending, too. Oh, and one extremely minor character disappears during the climax, never again to be glimpsed or mentioned.

why did i watch this movie?

I could not ignore the creative and descriptive title.

should you watch this movie?

Probably not on purpose, but it is a good way to contemplate the Platonic ideal of straight-to-video.

highlight and low point

I really don’t want to ruin the fun for anyone who might theoretically watch this, but the scene in which an assailant takes his victim on a picnic obviously is unparalleled in cinematic history. The blatantly obvious use of a body double in the nude bathing scene is also top-notch. An early scene in a “police station” that is a glorious example of why-bother set dressing features an extended, juvenile scatology gag.

rating from outer space: C+

The Mutilator (1985)

directed by buddy cooper and john s. douglass
OK productions

More or less what the previously discussed Nightmare/Blood Harvest probably imagines itself to be, this little pic has most of what you want from a kill-crazy 1980s indie feature: actors you’ll never see again, no attempt to hide the killer’s identity from the audience, an offbeat attitude, a rockin’ homemade theme song, and imaginative death scenes. What do I mean by “offbeat” approach, you’d like to know. The theme song I mentioned is “Fall Break,” the original working title for the film. Think about that for a second, while considering that the majority of the action takes place in or around a beachside bungalow. The characters are of a similar bent – they’re caricatured but not generic – and the humorous elements remain subtle and never overwhelm, despite the fact that the entire plot setup is basically absurd. Even that fact is treated with a shrug of acknowledgement. Mutilator sets a reliable template for a successful slasher film, one which was rarely followed so well without becoming repetitious in the countless ensuing rehashes.

why did i watch this movie?

As one among hundreds (or more!) of ’80s-era slasher flicks I’d neither seen nor knew existed, I was lured in by not only the impressive title characterization but the premise: kid accidentally kills his mother while cleaning his dad’s gun; mayhem ensues.

should you watch this movie?

Operating under the premise that you enjoy ’80s-era slasher flicks, I think you’d embrace this exemplar of the genre’s charms.

highlight and low point

The fact that this film doesn’t take itself too seriously while not descending into farcical idiocy is what really recommends it, in my opinion. Who dies when is predictable, as is the climax, but that’s what eventually begat metahorror, after all.

rating from outer space: a-