1989 — ‘3615 code Père Noël’ aka ‘Deadly Games’

Posted in Uncategorized on May 30, 2020 by Justin T.

1989-2

The 80s are finally drawing to a close. How did we end the “Decade of Greed” around the world? Some pretty significant events took place at the end, as it turns out.

1989 was the year of the Lome Prieta earthquake that shook the California Bay Area. The 6.9 seismic event caused 63 deaths and injured over 3,500 people. I was in San Francisco when the earthquake occurred. It was the end of my work day and I was turning on the television to watch the World Series. I remember looking down and briefly watching the floor roll like waves before I rushed outside. That year also saw the fall of the Berlin Wall as the East Berlin Communist Party announced that citizens were free to cross the barrier that had divided the city into two for twenty-eight years. East and West Berliners alike flocked to the wall for what turned into “the greatest and best street party in the history of the world.” I didn’t have a television at the time so had to listen to radio reports of one of the most significant world events to have occurred in my lifetime. In the case of Texas v. Johnson the United States Supreme Court ruled with a majority of 5 — 4 that flag burning is legal as a form of protest. This invalidated existing flag burning laws in 48 states. In China, a million students protested in Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing, calling for a new democratic government. The Chinese government declared martial law and soon sent tens of thousands of soldiers in to “restore order”. They fired indiscriminately into protesters and onlookers alike. There are no known numbers of people who died in the Tiananmen Square massacre but estimates range from hundreds to thousands. The identity of the brave Tank Man still remains unknown.

On a lighter note, Tim Berners-Lee wrote his first proposal for the World Wide Web, the network you are very likely using to read this review right now. The first episodes of The Simpsons and Seinfeld aired that year. The Game Boy debuted and in Japan the first high-definition television images were broadcast. 

I realize I am getting older as it is getting harder to find people I am familiar with for this part of my posts… I’m also starting to wonder what this section will look like the closer we get to present day. Born in 1989 were Taylor Swift, Rob Gronkowski, Brie Larson, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Lily James, Avicii, Nicholas Hoult, Ashley Benson, Jane Levy, Dakota Johnson, Jake Lloyd, James Harden, Trixie Mattel, Imogen Poots, Hayden Panettiere, Anton Yelchin, Adam Rippon, Elizabeth Olsen, Adèle Haenel, Taron Egerton, Joe Jonas, Romeo Miller, Markiplier, Ayesha Curry, Fatima Ali, and Daniel Radcliffe. Passing away in 1989 were Emperor Hirohito, Ted Bundy, Bette Davis, Salvador Dali, Roy Eldridge, Maurice Evans, Sugar Ray Robinson, Mel Blanc, Irving Berlin, Samuel Beckett, Laurence Olivier, Lee Van Cleef, Graham Chapman, Huey P. Newton, Abbie Hoffman, William Shockley, Gilda Radner Robert Mapplethorpe, Billy Martin, Edward Abbey, Billy Tipton, and Lucille Ball.

There was only one Stephen King adaptation in 1989 and it came from one of his better works, Pet Semetary. I don’t recall being too impressed with the film but my wife and I will sometimes say to each other, “Not fair. Not fair!” Wes Craven released Shocker, starring Mitch Pileggi and Peter Berg. I caught it in the theater and thought it was good time. Brian Yuzna completed the supremely twisted Society, which didn’t see a release until 1992. I rented a full, uncut version of that one from the now out of business, and dearly missed, Le Video. Nicholas Cage turned in one of his strangest performances, in a long string of strange performances, in Vampire’s Kiss. Michele Soavi released The Church, another great, twisted film from Italy and produced by Dario Argento. Japan brought us a black and white brilliant bit of body horror with Tetsuo: The Iron Man, written, directed, and edited by Shinya Tsukamoto.

This year’s parade of sequels included Toxic Avenger: Part II and Part III, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D.Amityville 4Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, Halloween 5A Nightmare on Elm Street 5Stepfather II, Beyond the Door IIISleepaway Camp III, and Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out! Of that entire list, I believe I have only seen the Halloween and Stepfather sequels. The latter I recall being every bit as fantastic as the original. I considered viewing one of the many sequels I haven’t seen but set my sights to overseas instead. My eyes landed on the French Christmas slasher film…

3615CodePereNoel

‘3615 code Père Noël’ aka ‘Deadly Games’ (1989). Written and Directed by René Manzor. Starring Alain Lalanne, Louis Decreux, Patrick Floersheim, Brigitte Fossey, François-Éric Gendron, Stéphane Legros, and Franck Capillery.

Nine-year-old Thomas de Frémont (Alain Lalanne) lives with his mother (Brigitte Fossey) and grandfather (Louis Ducreux) in a huge mansion presumably paid for by his mother’s job as a manager at a nearby Printemps luxury department store. Thomas is a bit of a genius. He programs computers, fixes cars, and has rigged up harmless but clever traps and secret passageways around the home he uses when he plays with his dog. But he still believes in Santa Claus, going so far as to argue over the existence of “Père Noël” with his friend, Pilou (Stéphane Legros). To gather proof of the famed gift-giver’s existence, Thomas installed a complex security system in his home and programmed it to communicate with a device strapped to his arm he uses to operate the cameras. Our poor, young hero will be forced to put his system to the test as his household is soon to be visited by a deranged, vengeful, and not so jolly, derelict (Patrick Floersheim) dressed as Thomas’s yuletide hero. 

Continue reading

1988 — ‘The Nest’

Posted in Uncategorized on May 20, 2020 by Justin T.

1988-2

Welcome to 1988, the year I graduated high school! No more free education for me. This guy was moving on to… community college! And what with one thing and another and here we are, writing reviews for horror movies thirty-two years later.

The first trans-Atlantic fiber optic cable was laid, the eighth one overall. Called TAT-8, it was built by a consortium of companies and carried a 280 Mbps signal between the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. Soviet troops began their withdrawal from Afghanistan, drawing to a close the Soviet-Afghan war although civil war would continue in the region. The Iran – Iraq war ended that year with Iran accepting a cease-fire mediated by the United Nations. The eight-year war would incur enormous casualties, with varying estimates of between one and two million dead. In July, the United States shot down an Iranian passenger jet over the Persian Gulf. The crew of the USS Vincennes, the cruiser that launched the missile, claimed they mistook the Airbus A300 for a hostile Tomcat F-14. The Seikan Tunnel was built, connecting the two Japanese islands of Hokkaido and Honshu. The 33 miles long tunnel includes a 14.5 miles stretch that runs under a seabed.

Born in 1988 were Skirllex, Stephen Curry, Rihanna, Vanessa Hudgens, Rupert Grint, Emma Stone, Zoë Kravitz, Jessie J, Brenda Song, Brandon Rogers, Lizzo, Hayley Williams, Rose McIver, Conor McGregor, Claire Holt, Big Sean, A$AP Rocky, Kevin Durant, James Blake, Michael Cera, Kacey Musgraves, Jesse Plemons, Melissa Benoist, and Adele. Passing away in 1988 were Richard Feynman, Andy Gibb, Kurt Mahler, Robert A. Heinlein, Dawes Butler, Nico, Ramón Valdés, Son House, John Carradine, Roy Orbison, Pappy Boyington, Art Rooney, Raymond Carver, John Houseman, Clifford D. Simak, and Louis L’Amour.

Can it truly be that there were no Stephen King movies in 1988? It appears that a six-year streak is broken this year that won’t be broken again until 2000, if you include made for television films. This wasn’t my favorite year for horror movies. We had more sequels, of course, including Fright Night Part 2, Friday the 13th Part VII, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, Howling IV, Return of the Living Dead Part II, Phantasm II, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, Zombi 3, and Poltergeist III. David Cronenberg released Dead Ringers, featuring Jeremy Irons in a dual role as gynecologist twins. It’s been a while since I’ve seen that one but I recall being disappointed by the lack of the gruesome effects that I grew used to seeing in his movies. The killer doll flick Child’s Play was released, featuring Brad Dourif as the voice of Chucky. This would be the first of eight films in the franchise, which still seems to be going strong with three releases in the last decade. John Carpenter directed They Live, which features a great out and out brawl between Keith David and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Bruce Campbell battles an undead police officer in the William Lustig directed feature, Maniac Cop. Hugh Grant starred in Ken Russell’s The Lair of the White Worm, which I almost picked but I wasn’t sure I was in the mood for a Ken Russell film.

And so I more or less threw a dart and came upon…

The Nest

The Nest (1988)Directed by Terence H. Winkless. Starring Frank Luz, Robert Lansing, Lisa Langlois, Terri Treas, Diana Bellamy, Stephen Davies, Jack Collins, and Nancy Morgan.

In the small, Northeastern coastal town of North Port, as portrayed by various Southern Californian towns including Studio City and Malibu, Sheriff Richard Tarbell (Frank Luz) rekindles a romance with his high school sweetheart, Elizabeth (Lisa Langlois) when she returns home after a sudden absence four years prior. She’s the daughter of the town’s mayor, Elias Johnson (Robert Lansing, who has a serious case of “hey, I’ve seen this guy before” face). The mayor has been up to no good as he’s been letting a company called Intec perform experiments on the outskirts of town, the kind which turn roaches into killer bugs we might expect to find in a Corman production. The genetically manipulated insects begin killing the inhabitants of the town and soon threaten to wipe out its entire population. It’s up to our lovestruck Sheriff to get his act together and save North Port from becoming overrun by killer roaches.

I know, I’ve been whining about the b-movies I’ve been saddling myself with for the past several weeks, and here I am, once again, eating a vat of Corman-produced cheese. No, not that Corman this time but rather his wife, Julie Corman, though she used her husband’s production company, New Concorde, for this film instead of her own, Trinity Pictures. Anyway, this is another one of those movies that stuck out to me because I’d seen the cover frequently in video stores yet I never bothered to pick it up. I also confess that I was partially taken in by a trailer that hinted at a creature feature that could be right up my alley. I’ll take monster transformations and gore for $1000, Alex.

Continue reading

1987 — ‘Opera’

Posted in Uncategorized on May 17, 2020 by Justin T.

1987

1987 saw Black Monday when the stock market took an unexpected crash with the Dow Jones falling over 500 points. Though this was a larger stock market drop than Black Monday in 1929, the effects were nowhere near as long-lasting as all losses were recovered by September of the following year. Eighteen-year-old German aviator Mathias Rust flew a Cessna from the Utersen airport in Heist, Germany into Red Square in Moscow with the intent to build an “imaginary bridge” between the East and the West. This embarrassed the Soviet military and several leaders were dismissed as a result. Rust was pardoned after serving fourteen months of a four-year sentence. U.S. President Ronald Reagan gave his Berlin Wall speech at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin, imploring General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” The Single European Act (SEA) went into effect on July 1st with a goal to create a single market within the European Community by 1992. The Simpsons made their first television appearance in a short cartoon featured as a part of the Tracey Ullman Show. The first SXSW festival was held in Austin, Texas.

I am older than Zac Efron, Wiz Khalifa, Evan Rachel Wood, Blake Lively, Kendrick Lamar, Noah Reid, Joss Stone, Jesse McCartney, Marco Andretti, Ellen Page, Kesha, Michael B. Jordan, Tom Felton, Phil Lester, Kevin Jonas, Hillary Duff, Karen Gillan, Ronda Rousey, and Frank Ocean. Passing away in 1987 were Ray Bolger, Alistair MacLean, Liberace, Andy Warhol, Randolph Scott, Maria von Trapp, Paul Butterfield, Rita Hayworth, Fred Astaire, Jackie Gleason, Lee Marvin, Peter Tosh, Lorne Greene, James Baldwin, and Danny Kaye.

Stephen King movies maintained their steady course with an adaptation of The Running ManCreepshow 2, and A Return to Salem’s Lot, the latter of which doesn’t seem to have had any direct creative input by King himself. We had plenty of sequels, more than I care to exhaustively name here, that include Howling IIIIt’s Alive IIIEvil Dead IIJaws the Revenge, and Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2. Kiefer Sutherland bared his fangs in the playful Joel Schumaker film, The Lost Boys. Kyle MacLachlan starred in one of my favorite sci-horror-action movies, The Hidden, which I thought came out later than this. Peter Jackson released his feature debut, the fantastic, gross-out tale of alien invasion, Bad Taste. Alan Parker directed Angel Heart, a movie more famous for its controversial sex scene rather than being any good.

For this year, I wanted to steer clear of the cheesy b-movies that seemed so prevalent in the 80s, They’re fun but I’ve had my share for a bit. It was tempting to revisit the outrageous Street Trash, but I thought it might be time to look overseas. I would have opted for Ching Siu-tung’s classic A Chinese Ghost Story but I didn’t quite trust the copies I found available on YouTube or Dailymotion. Instead I landed on Dario Argento’s…

OperaTitle

Opera (1987). Directed by Dario Argento. Starring Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson, Daria Nicolodi, Urbano Barberini, Antonella Vitale, William McNamara, and Barbara Cupisti.

Rehearsals for a production of Verdi’s version of Macbeth are underway at the Parma Opera House. So you know it’s going to be a cheesy show! Har-de-har-har! Anyway, the star, Mara Cecova, after throwing a tantrum over the ravens that are an integral part of the production, is injured when she rushes out of the opera house and into the street. Her understudy, Betty (Cristina Marsillach), is now thrust into the spotlight in the lead role of Lady Macbeth. The young actress freaks out a bit prior to taking the stage but pulls off a successful performance, in spite of the murder of a stagehand that takes place in one of the theatre’s viewing boxes. The legendary curse of the play seems to be taking its toll as the killer continues his rampage, focusing on Betty although not killing her. Instead, he ties her up and tapes pins below her eyes to prevent her from blinking, forcing her to watch as he brutally kills his victims in front of her. Who is the crazed, masked killer, and what is his fascination with the young, budding opera star?

Continue reading

1986 — ‘Rawhead Rex’

Posted in Uncategorized on May 5, 2020 by Justin T.

1986.1

Welcome to 1986, the year I turned sixteen! I know it’s a cliche but if only I knew then what I know now… or even what I knew ten years later. Oh well, no use living in the past… oh, wait…

In 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded during its ascent, just 73 seconds after lift-off. All crew members aboard were killed, including a civilian schoolteacher. As I recall, I was in my second-period biology class when I heard about the incident from the school principal over the PA system. I remember a classmate and I staring at each other in horror as we listened. In the Soviet Union, the nuclear power reactor in Chernobyl exploded, releasing radiation into the surrounding area and affecting the health of thousands of people nearby. Some of the contaminated dust traveled through the atmosphere as far as Sweden and Finland. The Iran-Contra affair was revealed in 1986 when it was discovered that the Reagan administration was selling arms to Iran with the intent to divert the funds to the Contras in Nicaragua. The Soviet Union launched the Mir Space Station, which would remain in low earth orbit until 2001. IBM revealed its first laptop computer, the PC Convertible. Funded by Steve Jobs, Pixar spun off from the Lucasfilm computer division into its own corporation. The Oprah Winfrey Show premiered, The Legend of Zelda was released for the NES, and Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone’s vaults to much hype but with almost nothing to show but trash.

I am older than Mischa Barton, Amber Riley, Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen, Shia LaBeouf, Amanda Bynes, Lady Gaga, Lindsay Lohan, Emilia Clarke, Usain Bolt, Armie Hammer, Shaun White, Kit Harrington, Ellie Goulding, Drake, Aaron Swartz, Megan Fox, Hannah Hart, Kevin Gates, and Jamie Bell. Passing away in 1986 were Donna Reed, Frank Herbert, Ray Milland, Georgia O’Keefe, Benny Goodman, Ted Knight, Cary Grant, Desi Arnez, Andrei Tarkovsky, and James Cagney.

Stephen King adaptations kept coming at an average of two a year with the non-horror film Stand by Me and his directorial debut, Maximum Overdrive. Rutger Hauer terrorized C.  Thomas Howell in The Hitcher. James Cameron brought us the first, and best, sequel to AlienAliens. Stuart Gordon and Jeffery Combs teamed up again to bring us the fantastic From Beyond. Michael Rooker scared the hell out of us in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Lamberto Bava directed Demons 2, the sequel to the previous year’s Demons. I don’t remember the sequel as well as the original but I recall enjoying it quite a bit. David Cronenberg directed a remake of the Vincent Price classic, The Fly. I remember going with my high school girlfriend and her mother to see it and Aliens in the theater in one go. It wasn’t a double feature, we just bought tickets to both movies. Other sequels included Poltergeist 2, and Psycho III, the former of which I saw and thought was pretty good, though I’ve never seen the latter. And how could I forget The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2? Oh, that’s right, because it’s a forgettable movie.

Speaking of forgettable, for this year I chose…

RawheadRexTitle

Rawhead Rex (1986). Directed by George Pavlou. Starring David Dukes, Kelly Piper, Ronan Wilmott, Niall Tobin, Hugh O’Conor, Cora Lunny, and Heinrich von Schellendorf.

In the quaint, vulnerable Irish town of Rathmorne, a group of farmers is attempting to remove a large, stone column from a field. Most of them give up by day’s end but one of them remains, in spite of the encroaching storm. Predictably enough, lightning hits the pillar, smoke billows from underneath, and the titular heavy metal demon Rawhead Rex is released from his prison, starting his inevitable killing spree with the poor farmer. Traveling American Howard Hallenbeck (David Dukes, who previously played Edith Bunker’s would-be rapist in a “very special episode” of All in the Family) has brought his family to Ireland on a working vacation to research the local church and its Pagan origins. His timing sucks though as the Rex is on the loose, running through the town on a murderous rampage. Howard and his family are soon to learn more about local pre-Christian, Pagan rituals than he ever thought he’d care to.

Continue reading

1985 — ‘The Creature’ aka ‘The Titan Find’

Posted in Uncategorized on April 29, 2020 by Justin T.

1985

1985 was the year we saw the worldwide benefit concert, Live Aid, organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise relief funds for the famine in Ethiopia. Performances of note included a Led Zeppelin reunion of sorts, which included Phil Collins on drums. I remember watching this performance as this was right around the time when my interest in Zeppelin was high. It was quite a mess, as I recall. The highlight was, of course, Queen’s performance at Wembley Stadium, which I have a vague recollection of seeing. My interest in Queen had waned a bit at that point and it wouldn’t be until years later when my ears would awaken and I would realize how fantastic a vocalist Freddie Mercury was. Anyway, the concert raised over 100 million dollars but the actual benefit to Ethiopa is questionable, at best. An exposé by Spin magazine a year later reported that the Ethiopian dictator used some of the funds to purchase weapons from Russia.

Elsewhere in the world, Mikhail Gorbachev replaced Konstantin Chernenko as the leader of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev adopted as a slogan “glasnost”, a word that translates to “openness” and was intended to define his vision of increasing freedom of speech and press in the Soviet Union. He worked with President Reagan to limit nuclear armament and to end the Cold War. His efforts would lead to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and cause him to resign. The border between Spain and Gibraltar opened for the first time since it was closed by Franciso Franco in 1969. The first .com domain name, symbolics.com, was registered. Microsoft introduced its first version of Windows, version 1.0. The Nintendo NES became available in the United States, Coca-Cola introduced the short-lived and much-reviled New Coke, cable channel VH1 premiered, Bill Watterson published his first Calvin & Hobbes comic strip, and Blockbuster Video opened its first rental store.

I am older than Deborah Ann Woll, Jonathan Groff, Emile Hirsch, Keira Knightley, Rooney Mara, Gal Gadot, Lily Allen, Carey Mulligan, Dave Franco, Lana Del Rey, Michael Phelps, Douglas Smith, Emily Kinney, Tatiana Maslany, T-Pain, Bruno Mars, Michelle Trachtenberg, Allyson Felix, Carly Rae Jepsen, Chrissy Teigen, Frankie Muniz, Dwight Howard, and Anna Kendrick. Passing away in 1985 were Orson Welles, Rock Hudson, Yul Brynner, Clarence Nash, Sir Michael Redgrave, Marc Chagall, Juan Arvizu, and Ricky Nelson.

We had some more great horror movies come out in 1985. Stuart Gordon directed Re-Animator, featuring Jeffrey Combs in a fantastic performance as Herbert West. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 was released. Though not as great as the original it is still a fine film in its own respect. Lamberto Bava released the amazing Demons, a movie with a superbly satisfying level of demons and gore. Dan O’Bannon released Return of the Living Dead, a tongue in cheek but loving take on Romero’s Living Dead movies. Speaking of which, Romero would also release Day of the Dead in 1985 which, though it is the goriest of the series to that point, is the weakest. We had two more Stephen King adaptations, Cat’s Eye and Silver Bullet, both of which are fairly average entries as I recall. Dario Argento released Phenomena, a film that I thought was terrible, even in its original, non-U.S. cut. I am willing to give it another go but I didn’t opt for it this time around.

For this round, I picked a movie that I’ve repeatedly seen the cover for but never got around to checking out. A movie with two titles, one of The Creature and the other…

TheTitanFind_title

The Creature aka The Titan Find (1985). Directed by William Malone. Starring Stan Ivar, Wendy Schaal, Lyan Ward, Robert Jaffe, Diane Salinger, Annette McCarthy, Marie Laurin, and Klaus Kinski.

During the month of April, presumably in the distant future, some significant problems related to space travel have presumably been solved and multinational corporations have begun exploring the solar system for resources. A pair of goofball geologists for the American company NTI are researching… I dunno, geology, I guess, on the Saturn moon of Titan when they discover a canister holding an alien lifeform. But the lifeform isn’t as incapacitated as they first presume and while taking what amount to tourist photos of the canister, it kills one of the researchers. The ship returns a couple of months later, its pilot dead in his chair, and crashes into the moon-orbiting space station Concorde. After this event, NTI sends another ship with a ragtag crew of ostensible victims and heroes back to Titan. Upon approaching the moon, they detect a distress signal from NTI’s rival West German multinational corporation Richter Dynamics. As we might have learned in Alien, distress signals can only lead to trouble, which is exactly what the crew of the Shenandoah find in the form of a vicious, hungry alien creature.

Continue reading

1984 — ‘The Initiation’

Posted in Uncategorized on April 21, 2020 by Justin T.

1984a

Welcome to 1984, the year we all realized Orwell was right! Of course, we read 1984 in high school that year and I really should pick it up and give it a reread. But, alas, I am watching horror movies instead.

In 1984, Indira Gandhi, the only female to have ever served as Prime Minister of India, was assassinated, shot to death by her own bodyguards. The attack was a response to Operation Blue Star, a military action ordered by Gandhi earlier that year to remove a militant Sikh leader from the Golden Temple in the Indian state of Punjab. The U. K. agreed to relinquish Hong Kong back to China, ending over 150 years of colonial rule. Apple released the first Macintosh that year, introduced through a Super Bowl commercial directed by Ridley Scott. HP released the first desktop laser printer, the LaserJet. The cost of a new house in the U.S. averaged $86,730, the average yearly income was $21,600, a gallon of gas was $1.10, and a movie ticket cost $2.50.

I am older than Eric Trump, Trevor Noah, Olivia Wilde, Mandy Moore, America Ferrera, Claire Foy, Henry Zebrowski, Mark Zuckerberg, Fantasia Barrino, Pau Dano, Aubrey Plaza, Prince Harry, Kyle Mooney, Dizzee Rascal, Katy Perry, Scarlett Johansson, Alison Sudol, LeBron James, and Kim Jong-un. Dying in 1984 were Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye, Richard Burton, Truman Capote, Ernest Tubb, and Peter Lawford.

We had two Stephen King adaptions in 1984, Firestarter and Children of the Corn. The latter would become a whole franchise of its own that spawned nine more movies, most of them direct to video. That’s a lot of corn. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter would break its promise to be the final movie in the franchise. Wes Craven released the fantastic A Nightmare on Elm Street. John Heard and Daniel Stern starred in C.H.U.D., a movie I wouldn’t get to see until years and years later. Troma Entertainment released The Toxic Avenger, the popularity of which prompted the film studio to release a slew of horror movies that are self-consciously campy in a way that I find off-putting. Joe Dante released Gremlins, a PG-rated film with enough violence that the MPAA changed its rating system to add a new category, PG-13. As I recall, a little PG-rated flick called Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which featured a man having his heart torn from his body, also played a part in the new rating.

As we traipse through the horror movies of the early to mid-80s, I am more and more surprised at how many I have already seen. As I reviewed the list for ’84, it seemed that I had already seen most, if not all, of the good ones. And so I got stuck watching…

TheInitiation_Title

The Initiation (1984). Directed by Larry Stewart. Starring Daphne Zuniga, Vera Miles, Clu Gulager, James Read, Marily Kagan, Robert Dowdell, Patti Heider, Frances Peterson, and Hunter Tylo.

Kelly Fairchild (Daphne Zuniga, in her first starring role) is a pledge for a sorority I can’t be bothered to remember the name of, but its leader has plans for an initiation that involves breaking into the gigantic, multi-level indoor mall Kelly’s father owns and stealing the clothes from the nightwatchman. It could be worse as far as college hazing rituals go, in theory at least. Kelly’s also having recurring nightmares that I struggle to describe without giving away one of the film’s major twists, but anyone even half paying attention will suss out what’s actually going on, though it is played off as a surprise. And not too far away there is a breakout at a sanitarium, where one of the residents looks suspiciously like Daphne Zuniga from behind. Soon, someone is killing people in town and the victims are all hitting a bit too close to home for Kelly, culminating in an all-night slaughter-fest at the mall.

This is a pretty average entry in the slasher genre, which was nearing the end of a golden age in 1984. I’m not a huge fan of slasher movies in general though so who am I to judge? There really isn’t too much to say about The Initiation. The dramatic, soap opera style twists that are the part of the slasher tropes are weak enough but the violence and gore are just as lackluster. The kills are bloody but lack any excitement or imagination. Maybe my expectations are too high or I’ve been numbed to this kind of thing after sitting through far more creatively violent movies. This might be a good enough entry point for someone just getting interested in the slasher genre, but probably not worth the time for someone a little more seasoned.

Daphne Zuniga is cute but not quite as charming as she would be in later movies (The Sure Thing, Spaceballs) and she has some acting moments that fall pretty flat. Vera Miles and Clu Gulager are genre staples that are more or less wasted. As for the rest of this supporting cast, there’s one moment that came out of nowhere that is probably the only high point of the movie. One of the initiates, Marcia (Marilyn Kagan) confesses to her friends that her apparent lack of libido, a source of great amusement to the sorority, is due to her having been molested as a child. I found it a surprisingly moving moment handled well by Kagan and a nice turn of the trope of the ditzy virgin. But then she is killed several minutes later after she sleeps with one of the co-ed guys, lessening the impact of what came before.

I’m no expert on the slasher genre but this strikes me as a below-average entry likely only meant for completists. At least I wasn’t so desperately bored as I was with Cat People. Sorry but I’m phoning this one in. The Initiation isn’t worth spending much more time on.

Next week… next year!

1983 — ‘Angst’

Posted in Uncategorized on April 13, 2020 by Justin T.

1983-1

Welcome to 1983! It’s the year I officially became a teenager. It was a scary time for everyone around me…

Elsewhere in the world, the United States invaded Grenada as a result of threats made by its Marxist government to approximately 1,000 American students living there at the time. The residing government was overthrown and a democratic government was restored to Grenada. In Beirut, a suicide bomber attacked the U.S. embassy, detonating a bomb that killed over 60 people. The Islamic Jihad Organization took responsibility for the bombing. The communication protocol of the ARPANET was changed to TCP/IP, which pretty much established the backbone of the Internet. M*A*S*H finished its eleven season run with a series finale, drawing an audience of over 100 million in the United States alone. The FCC approved the first commercially available mobile phone, Motorola’s DynaTAC 8000X.

Aziz Ansari, Emily Blunt, Martin Shkreli, Henry Cavill, Gabourey Sidibe, Domhnall Gleeson, Amber Tamblyn, Macklemore, Chris Hemsworth, Mila Kunis, Andrew Garfield, Zoe Kazan, Amy Winehouse, Donald Glover, Jesse Eisenberg, Adam Driver, and Jonah Hill were all born in 1983. Tennesse Williams, Karen Carpenter, Gloria Swanson, Jack Dempsey, David Niven, and Dennis Wilson all died in 1983.

In 1983 we saw three adaptations of Stephen King novels– ChristineCujo, and The Dead Zone, the last of which I saw in the theater. 3-D movies became more of a thing as two horror franchises released their third entries with 3-D versions, including Amityville 3-D and Jaws 3-D, the last of which I also saw in the theater. Psycho itself became a franchise when Psycho II was released. My dad took me to see Cronenberg’s Videodrome in the theater, which is kinda weird because it’s not really the kind of movie my dad likes. I, on the other hand, loved it.

I apparently saw more horror movies from this time than I recall because I’m starting to have difficulty choosing movies I haven’t already seen. Heck, based on reviews from the last couple of weeks it seems that I’ve seen so many some of them that they’ve almost completely dropped out of my mind. But I knew for sure that I hadn’t seen this next entry…

Angst_Title

Angst (1983). Directed by Gerald Kargl. Starring Erwin Leder, Sylvia Ryder, Edith Rosset, and Rudolf Götz.

An unnamed serial killer (Erwin Leder, who played “the Ghost” in 1981’s Das Boot) is released from a short prison stay for the random murder of an elderly woman at the front door of her home. Immediately upon obtaining his freedom, he starts planning his next murders. Wasting no time, I mean literally as he’s walking away from the prison, he heads into town searching for his next victims. After a couple of failed attempts, he breaks into a home and waits for the residents to arrive so that he can terrorize and murder them.

I’d never heard of Angst until I began searching for 1983 horror movies. It’s an Austrian film directed by Gerald Kargl, who doesn’t seem to have done much else in the way of feature films. The film didn’t see a Stateside release until the past few years; you can currently watch it on Shudder. Angst is based on the real-life Austrian mass murderer Werner Kniesek. He more or less performed the events are they are portrayed in the film, though it sounds like the real victims had it far worse. Reading more about the film I found comments and reviews that claimed it was an experience along the lines of Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer while being even more disturbing; one comment on IMDB claimed it makes Henry look like kindergarten. It is also a major source of inspiration for Gaspar Noé, the director of Irréversible, a film famous for its ten-minute long rape scene. So, yeah, I figured I was in for something pretty intense but I didn’t find Angst as hard to watch as those films. Frankly, I’m fine with that. Instead of a movie trying hard to shock its audience, I found a fascinating and unique character study of a serial killer the like of which I don’t recall having seen before.

Continue reading