Night Ripper! (1986)

Written and Directed by Jeff Hathcock
A Video Features/Jeff Hathcock Production

I would be sorely tempted to break from my established format to give this gem the classic Devil’s DVD Bin treatment, as it has all the requisite ingredients: it’s (poorly) shot on video, the script and dialogue are lousy, the acting’s worse, characters show up and do stuff for little apparent reason and sometimes you’re not even sure who they are or who they’re supposed to be. and so forth. Unfortunately, I’m not capable of being that entertaining, so you’re stuck with my usual humdrum rundown. Someone’s killing “models” – that’s the plot. You’re supposed to suspect the “photographer” – there’s the intrigue. Everyone calls the killer “The Ripper,” which is enjoyable. The final (extremely slow-paced) stalking scene takes place in a room full of mannequins, because of course it does. Then it ends. Abruptly.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It somehow warranted a review in the “Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies”!

Should You Watch This Movie?

So, the SPACE RATS “rating system.” This release gets a very bad letter grade, but that shouldn’t imply I didn’t highly enjoy watching it. The thing is, it’s technically terrible in almost every possible way, which more or less dictates the judgment. But other quirks are involved as well … “B movies,”
naturally, get rated along the “B” continuum, and general-release or “Hollywood” films most often are assessed by “C” criteria. (“C” classically denoting an “average”
mark.) Ideally, very few features will receive A or F designations.

Highlight and Low Point

There’s no “ripping”! Just stabbing, actually depicted reasonably well given the limitations. (And the “quality” of … everything else.)

There’s also this:

Viewers get to “enjoy” that contemporary delight during an interminable sequence of a car driving across town.

Rating From Outer Space: D

Invaders From Mars (1986)

Directed by TOBE HOOPER

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

Trick or Treat (1986)

directed by charles martin smith
de laurentiis entertainment group

Growing up in the Rust Belt, my older brother and I were metalheads with questionable taste – redundant! – so we saw this picture in the theatre of pain, probably compelled by the presence of Gene $immon$ in the cast. Then as now, my impression of this flick is that it drags something terrible before it finally hits its final note, but I was suitably impressed by at least the first half or so of this ridiculous metal exploitation feature. Marc Price acquits himself pretty nicely in his star turn of “lead role for forgotten character actor from ’80s sitcom,” abetted by Large Marge and a dancer from Solid Gold. All of those things really existed, kids. So did heavy metal!

why did i watch this movie?

I had been contemplating revisiting this film for a while, and the time finally seemed right.

should you watch this movie?

I’d like to say it’s a fascinating look back at a specific era of moral hysteria in American culture, but it doesn’t really make that point especially well … so it’s just more of a nostalgia trip, really. But as a period piece, it isn’t flamboyant enough, either – ultimately it takes itself too seriously.

highlight and low point

Once “Sammi Curr” returns from the dead as an embodied electrical force or radio wave or whatever, the script is well past its peak and mainly delivers equal amounts of schlock and standard-issue shriek fare. This pic does occasionally attempt moments of humor, but they are likely to go unnoticed. The irony is thick, though, especially given that our hero is constantly dumped on because he’s a headbanger, but once the undead metal star returns, everyone likes his catchy song. But who wouldn’t:

rating from outer space: b−


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

directed by tobe hooper
cannon films/golan-globus productions

Hey, a new competitor for worst movie on this site! For some reason turning one of the best and most impactful horror movies ever made into an extended bout of broadly drawn “humor,” aggravating characterizations, little plot and no point, TCM2 is a chore to endure. Insulting in its carelessness, this flick only could have been more of a cartoon had The Mystery Machine appeared. (Much of the action takes place in an abandoned amusement park, for crying out loud. Where were the Harlem Globetrotters and Phyllis Diller?) Leatherface – sorry, “Bubba” – is reminiscent of Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster, which is not a compliment, much as Bill Moseley’s horrible character seems to have presaged alleged funnyman Jim Carrey’s equally irritating “Fire Marshall Bill.” (And in actuality was a template for Michael Keaton’s Betelgeuse.) Meanwhile, Dennis Hopper spends the first half of the film not even pretending he gives half a damn and the second half hamming it up wildly. Mr. Hooper allegedly wanted to compensate for the audience’s not recognizing the black humor in the original, but this extremely stupid and classless farce raises the question whether his first attempt was just a happy accident. Also commits the sequel’s sin of reductionism while simultaneously destroying continuity – a hapless combination. And the FX suck, too. Excruciating and disgraceful.

why did i watch this movie?

I recently had heard and read positive mentions of it, for which those responsible should have to forfeit their eyesight.

should you watch this movie?

Nobody should watch this movie. This movie should never have been made.

highlight and low point

Highlight: it eventually, mercifully, ends. If you ignore its sequel or two and the three titles following the 2003 reboot.

Rating from outer space: F

you don’t say

Chopping Mall (1986)

directed by jim wynorski
concorde pictures/trinity pictures

It’s a shame SPACE RATS has this capsule format, because the old me could’ve written thousands of words on the sociocultural implications of this classic. (The old me was a blast at parties.) That being said, it must be allowed that this is very nearly the perfect schlock horror creation. It’s a little too knowing, but it was produced by Julie Corman, husband of Roger, and if your producer’s last name is synonymous with the genre – having more or less invented it – that may be hard to avoid.  To be clear, this isn’t really much of a “horror” picture, either, and the revamped title (it was initially called “Killbots” for theatrical release) is wildly misleading, as no “chopping” occurs. The rogue security robots, however, are a delightful mixture of Battlestar Galactica Cylons and the Stern Electronics arcade game Berzerk, and a clear precursor to elements soon to be seen in RoboCop as well. The acting is wooden at times, the dialogue obvious and stilted, the continuity questionable and the FX often hilarious, but when the day is saved by … explosive paint? Well, you’ve got a cult smash on your hands, and deservedly so.

why did i watch this movie?

I’ve had it for at least a decade, so it seemed overdue.

should you watch this movie?

By all means.

highlight and low point
  1. Festooning the restaurant with Roger Corman movie posters and having two of the characters watching Attack of the Crab Monsters might have been a bit much
  2. As a former janitor, I couldn’t get over the fact that the mall is partly carpeted, as that is a terrible idea
  3. “House of Almonds” is a hilarious retail concept
  4.  The Sherman Oaks Galleria also starred in Fast Times at Ridgemont High
rating from outer space: b