Return to Horror High (1987)

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About:
A few years ago a masked killer wrought carnage upon Crippen High School and was never found.  Today, a Hollywood film crew sets up shop at the now abandoned school to film the story of the unsolved killing spree.  But when cast and crew members start mysteriously disappearing, everyone begins to fear that the unknown killer has returned…to horror high!

Review:
This movie has been hanging around Netflix for a while so I finally gave it a shot – these high school themed slashers are usually pretty fun.  This is also the feature film debut of George Clooney, who, to my knowledge, has not tried to buy to rights to it in order to keep it from ever being seen again, a la Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger with that Texas Chainsaw Massacre spinoff (which, incidentally, I once bought for $2 at a gas station in Chesterton, IN).  Turns out he didn’t need to, since he has only a few short minutes of screen time and is the first one to get whacked.  Ironically his character, an actor playing the police officer in the film (within the film), decides to leave the set before they start filming because he’s been offered a better role elsewhere.

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Slick George – he always knew just when to cut and run

Despite all the signs that it might be a good movie, this one was pretty bad.  The scare tactics and special effects were really nothing special, and the story itself was incredibly annoying.  The boneheads who made this thought they’d have some fun with us by making us believe that the plot was actually advancing, only to reveal that the whole scene we’d been watching for the last ten minutes was actually just a scene they had been filming for their movie or, even worse, just a dream.

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A wonderful, wonderful dream

Return to Horror High is supposed to be a spoof of all the slasher films that seem to run together, as well as  an indictment of how these movies often prioritize blood, guts, and boobs to an absurd degree.  But is that supposed to be an excuse for this being an incredibly shitty movie itself?  After a cursory review of this movie on the internet it seems there’s a consensus that, by the ending, no one has any fucking clue what’s going on.  Put me squarely in that lot.

This movie moves at a plodding pace, with maybe 4 or 5 kills over an hour and a half, and nothing much of a real story in between.  The whole time I’m wondering why we never actually see the kill – no close ups or gory special effects.  (Spoiler ahead) Turns out it’s because no one actually died – surprise!!  From what I can piece together, the film crew figured out who the original killer was, then faked all their own deaths so the police would believe that the killer struck again.  Then after a few months they’d release the movie as a gimmick for stirring up publicity: “they all died…but the film survived!”

This of course would entail all of the cast and crew members, well known Hollywood figures who supposedly perished, changing their names and getting plastic surgery in order preserve the farce that they really died.  This would also mean that the police are in fact so dumb they can’t tell the difference from an actual corpse and a guy laying still with his eyes closed, or from an actual severed arm and a movie prop.

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Did that sheet just sneeze?

A couple quick notes before closing the book on this mess: I do feel I should give the director some credit for his artistic command of boobage; although they were infrequent, the ones we did see were top notch.  We also were exposed to the ultra-rare exploding boob.  Secondly, if you saw this you may have recognized the guy playing the sleazy producer, Alex Rococo, as the voice of The Simpsons character Roger Myers Jr. - the CEO of I&S Studios, which produces Itchy & Scratchy.

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Or you may not have. Whatever

You may have also noticed that the oversexed female cop, who’s turn-ons include greasy food and blood, as Maureen McCormick, the actress better known for her role as Marcia Brady in The Brady Bunch.

brady
That’s her groping her bloody bosom

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not bring to everyone’s attention the worst love scene in movie history – this shit makes even the retina-searing scump-fests in Hellgate look like a classy high budget porno.  Set to a Wendy Fraser ballad, our leading man and woman go at it late at night while an unexplained and completely random welding crew is at work right outside their window, with the camera making frequent jump cuts to enigmatic childrens’ drawings that are for some reason tacked to the wall.  And worst of all, we don’t even get to see boobs!

Overall: 3
The instances of unreconcilable plot holes in this film are far too many to point out here one by one.  And yea, I get that this whole movie is a spoof as well as a not-so-subtle commentary on the horror movie genre in general.  Despite all that I just cannot forgive a film, even a B movie horror flick, for making absolutely no sense.  You’d think this thing was written by monkeys.  Except even they would have probably had Clooney stick around for more than 5 minutes.

Re-Animator (1985)

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About:
An ambitious medical student creates a serum which he believes can bring the dead back to life.  Disregarding warnings and threats from the faculty, he and his roommate set out to prove that death can be beaten.  But when their experiments go horribly wrong, their academic reputations are the least of their worries…

Review:
I hate to admit that the first time I tried to watch this movie I fell asleep during the opening credits.  My bad! Re-Animator was a great flick and well deserving of its cult status.  I think in order for these types of movies to be a success it is important they not take themselves too serious, which is something Re-Animator certainly does not do.  The gore is so abundant and over-the-top all you can do is laugh in between dry heaves.

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This guy knows what I’m talking about, lol!

The protagonist, young and ambitious medical student Herbert West, is a complete dick head for most of the movie before suddenly morphing into the beloved hero at the end.  He transfers into Miskatonic University after studying abroad and immediately starts shit with faculty member Carl Hill, accusing him of plagiarizing his work on brain death and teaching his students outdated theories.

west
also a known dick to pencils

Turns out there is a reason the little bastard is so brash, and it’s because he’s invented a serum that, when injected into a corpse’s brain steam, will bring it back to life.  So far it’s worked on rabbits and cats, so it’ll probably work just as well on the stiffs down at the local morgue, right?

corpse
I don’t see why not

West ropes his new roommate, Dan Cain, the darling of the Miskatonic med school, into helping him gain access to the morgue and test his neon goo.  Also brought into the fold is Megan Halsay, Cain’s hot fiancee and daughter of the school’s surly dean.  Dean Halsay is already not too keen on Cain banging out his daughter on the reg, so you can imagine he’s more than a little purturbed when he finds out he’s also bringing her along to poke and prod at dead bodies.

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Best date night EVER!

My favorite scene is when West tests his re-animation serum on Cain’s dead cat, Rufus.  In  a Pet Sematary homage, the cat comes back to life even more demonic than cats are normally.  The two chase it around with a croquet mallet and baseball bat until thy finally make it explode by throwing it really hard against the wall:

Fuck you, demon toupee!

I don’t want to give much more away, but I will whet your whistle by letting you know that what ensues is plenty of re-animated corpses bleeding from each and every one of their orifices, guts spilling out by the bucket-full, and a dismembered zombie head going to town on a great pair of damsel boobs.

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Baby, you’ve reanimated my heart <3

Overall: 8
When it comes to zombies, I prefer rotting corpses brought back to life, as opposed to the ‘living dead’ model where people are turned after being infected by a virus.  Because the zombie genre seems to be chalk full of these latter types, Re-Animator struck a chord within my stone cold heart.  As mentioned, the gore for this movie is phenomenal; the make-up and special effects are top notch and the death scenes are really creative.  If you are looking for a good old fashioned splatter fest, you’ve found it in Re-Animator.

The Toxic Avenger (1984)

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About:

Melvin is a hopeless dweeb working as a health club janitor in Tromaville, New Jersey.  Continually drawing the ire of the roid-raging club members, one day a prank goes too far and sends Melvin careening out a window and into a barrel of toxic sludge.  However the green goop transforms him into a 7-foot muscle bound monster, and he takes it upon himself to stand up to the corrupt forces that are ruining the city.

Review:

While the Toxic Avenger is a spoof of campy 1950′s horror films, it is not really much of a horror film itself.  It is, however, one of the campiest and goriest movie I’ve ever seen and therefore has done more than enough to earn its place here.

I’m convinced!

The ridiculous tone is immediately set as the opening credits are shot over a hyper-sexualized gym scene with girls in skimpy bikinis and guys in those high-hemmed Umbros we’re all familiar with.

The fat guy in the above clip eating the 6-foot hoagie while getting a massage is the corrupt mayor of Tromaville.  (On a side note, don’t try to eat anything while watching this movie.)  He and his henchmen facilitate the rampant drug-running that takes place in the gym and out on the streets.  A quartet of juiced-up meatheads, brothers Bozo and Slug and their two hot girlfriends, are the main tormentors of poor Melvin.  The group organizes a prank that ends up with him dressed in a pink tutu kissing a gussied-up sheep.  Ashamed, Melvin is chased by the other gym members through a second story window and in to a barrel of toxic waste.  Horribly disfigured, but now a huge-muscly beast, he absconds to the city dump, reemerging when the good citizens of Tromaville need someone to fight for them.

flowers
…although though he’d prefer to love…

The Toxic Avenger was produced and distributed by Troma Entertainment, the namesake of the fictional town in the film, which has made a name for itself creating over-the-top shock value farces since 1974.  Indeed, The Toxic Avenger seems to be the precursor for ‘violence for the sake of violence’ films like Hobo With a Shotgun.  Some of the uncouth scenes include a bandit blowing a hole through a blind girl’s seeing-eye dog.  Another scene shows a Bozo, Spud, and their girlfriends hitting pedestrians with their car, with a point system based upon the race and age of the victims.  After they run over a kid the girls jump out and take polaroids of the corpse so they can get off to them later in the steam room.  This is the kind of sick stuff that makes you feel gross just watching it.

Yea, sick stuff like this

But there also is a candidly humorous side of The Toxic Avenger that helps take the edge off the shock scenes by reminding you that this is just a big joke.  There are several funny moments, although the main gags in the film include getting hit in the balls, a blind girl bumping into things, and said blind girl bumping into a pair of balls.  I wish I could tell you this type of humor was banal and childish, but you know I was laughing the entire time.

Overall: 9

I remember The Toxic Avenger as an action figure and a spinoff cartoon when I was a kid.  I was vaguely aware it was based on a movie, and after finally seeing it, can’t believe it’s remained such a hidden gem for so long.  This movie is fantastic!  It’s hilariously campy and gory and disgusting in all the right ways.  You can bet this won’t be the last Troma movie reviewed on here.  Go find this movie and watch it right now!

Bonus**

The rare laserdisc edition of the film, released in 1998, includes an introduction in which Lloyd Kaufman, co-funder of Troma, interviews a homeless and destitute Toxie.  During their exchange Toxie gives a guy a blow job in exchange for crack.

These Troma guys just can’t stop 

New Year’s Evil (1980)

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About:

Blaze, the sexy host of LA’s hottest call-in radio show, is hosting a New Year’s Eve extravaganza that she hopes will send her to the top of the ratings.  A mysterious caller promises to kill someone every time a time zone rings in the new year, and continues calling back to play back recordings of his victims’ screams every time the clock strikes 12.  If the killer isn’t found before midnight Pacific Time, Blaze can New Year’s kiss her ratings and her life goodbye.

Review:

New Year’s Evil exists simply because some moron felt there needed to be a New Year’s Eve themed horror movie.  There really are no redeeming qualities to the film other than it acts as evidence of some of the more excessive 80′s fashion trends.

stockings
How did this ever go out of style?

The movie starts out with radio personality Blaze, a career-driven witch who is a negligent wife and mother, hosting some New Year’s Eve rock and roll show/telethon.  It’s never clear why there is a telethon going on, or how she’s supposed to hear them with all the rock music going on.

blaze
But with a face like that, does it even matter?

Speaking of the music, there was an original rock n’ roll soundtrack written for this movie.  The first band at this rock show gets up to the stage, and they start playing the same New Year’s Eve punk song you just heard five minutes earlier in the opening credits.

It’s a crime this was only in the movie three times

One of the first callers tells Blaze that his name is Evil and he’s going to off some random girl at the stroke of midnight for each timezone in the country.  He’s also supposed to be using a voice scrambler, but its clear that this was one of those corners the director decided to cut, because he’s obviously just changing his voice a little.  Anyways, the maniac is running around, using different disguises and seducing a woman every hour so he can kill her and record her screams to later torment Blaze over the phone.

This movie is plodding and boring, not unlike the New Year’s Eve I spent playing Monopoly with my parents.  The kill scenes are all pretty much the same, except for one time when the killer asphyxiates a woman with a bag of weed.

weed
Far more effective than any D.A.R.E. ad 

By this point we know that most 80′s horror movies are not Citizen Kane, but the one thing that is inexcusable for me is when the killer has a crummy motive.  That should be the first thing the writers come up with, right?  Come up with a story, THEN make it take place on New Year’s Eve, not the other way around.  In this case the bad guy reveals that he needs to kill a bunch of women because Blaze is a bad parent.  And if that isn’t convincing enough, there is an off-handed reference to him having spent some time in the looney bin, thus revealing that any plot loop can be closed with a history of mental illness.

lighter
Ah yes…it all makes sense now

Overall: 4

There is no sugar-coating it: this movie sucks in every conceivable way.  They couldn’t even get the tagline to make any sense: “Don’t dare make any New Year’s resolutions – unless you plan to live!”  Thanks for that witticism, Dr. Obvious.  I doubt there are many resolutions being made by people who fully intend on dying within the next year.  By the end of the film, even the movie itself seems very aware of how bad it has become.  The killer, out of nowhere, is now wearing a Stan Laurel mask and quoting Shakespeare – it was not unlike watching someone condemned to die being led to the gallows, trying desperately to plead his case one last time before finally fizzling out of life.  My New Year’s resolution?  Never to watch anything this bad again.

laurel
Yeah right.  Also, I’m going to work out more. psh

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

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About:

The holidays can bring about a bit of stress for some people.  They bring a hell of a lot of stress for Billy, who saw his parents brutally murdered by a guy in a Santa suit when he was a kid.  That, coupled with years of abuse in an orphanage, and it was only a matter of time before this nut cracked.  Now he’s donning the red suit and beard and has taken it upon himself to separate the naughty from the nice.

Review:

So this kid Billy has been dealt quite the shitty hand – it’s really no surprise he grows up to become an axe murderer.  The movie begins in 1971 and his family is driving up on Christmas Eve to visit his comatose grandpa in the old folks’ home.  When no one else is around gramps finally comes back to life long enough to tell Billy that Santa is real and he’s out to punish naughty boys like himself.

gramps
Thanks for reminding us why we threw you in here in the first place, gramps

That alone would be a little traumatizing.  However it gets much worse when on the drive home their car is flagged down by a psycho in a Santa suit who shoots the dad and slits the mom’s throat.

parents death
This has been the shittiest trip to grandpa’s ever!

Fast forward to 1974: Billy is sporting a sweet mullet and living in a Catholic orphanage.  One day he’s walking down the hall from his room and finds two teenagers scrumping it down – just two random kids getting busy in an orphanage.  No, of course it’s not explained – look, there’s a horror story that needs to be told here and the writers don’t have time for silly things like details.  Anyways, Mother Superior explains to Billy that what he saw is naughty and that naughty people are punished.  Also, Billy was naughty for seeing it so he’s punished too.

drawing
And a serial killer is born

Fast forward once again to the present.  Billy has blossomed into a strong and handsome young man, working as a stock boy in a toy store.  It doesn’t take a genius to see where this is headed.  Come December the store is packed with all things Christmas and Billy starts getting those same queasy feelings.  Seems like it’d be simple enough to explain that your parents were killed by Santa and ask the boss for the week off.  Instead the guy who is supposed to be dressed up as Santa broke his ankle so Billy has to fill in.

axe
Guess how that ends up?

Why does no one in this town have anything better to do on Christmas Eve than engage in debauchery?  As soon as business hours end, his coworkers start getting hammered in the store and raping each other in the back room.  Unfortunately for them and everyone else in town Billy just became the judge of naughty and nice, and he’s doing a lot worse to the naughty than stuffing coal down their stockings.

Overall: 7

It’s got to be pretty hard to find a way to harmonize the Christmas and horror movie genres, but Silent Night, Deadly Night pulls it off.  The series of events leading up to Billy’s psychotic breakthrough are pretty creepy as well as convincing.  No argument here that seeing your parents slashed up by a mall Santa and then growing up in a strict Catholic orphanage would result in a one-way ticket to crazy town.  The killings are pretty sweet, including strangulation by Christmas lights and a particularly gruesome scene involving a mounted deer head.  If you’re looking for a movie the whole family can enjoy this holiday season then break out the egg nog, fruit cake, and barf bags, and settle into Silent Night, Deadly Night.

Bloody Birthday (1981)

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About

Three kids are born in the same hospital at the exact moment of a solar eclipse.  Ten years later they go on a killing spree, without motive or remorse.  A suspicious pair of siblings are the only ones to suspect that the children are responsible for the string of recent deaths.

Review

What in the hell did I just watch?  This is the second worst movie I’ve reviewed on here so far.  The fact that there is any plot at all, however lame and soporific, keeps it a notch above the Hellgate benchmark.  However, critics don’t seem to hate it nearly as much, so view it at your own risk.

So this trio of ten year olds just decide to start greasing everyone they know, and thats pretty much the whole movie.  Only about halfway through are we offered up a weak ass motive for their kill-fest when this bozo girl who apparently has been tracking the entire town’s horoscopes reveals that the solar eclipse at the time of their birth blocked out Saturn, which caused them to be born without a conscience.

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Good for nothin’ no conscience-havin’ pricks

It’s never revealed why they waited a couple of days before their tenth birthdays to go apeshit, but I’m assuming there’s an astrological explanation for that as well.  The title of the movie indicates, obviously, that this is a birthday movie.  Sounds fun!  However the movie takes place over a few days and, yes, there is a short birthday scene, but the fact that it is these kids’ birthday has no significance on the plot.  That really bummed me out.  I was hoping for someone to choke and die on a piece of cake or get stabbed with one of those pointy birthday hats.  No such luck.

solar system
Who needs birthday parties when you can hang with your sister and play with a kick-ass model of the solar system?

This trio of imps consists of an albino-looking doofus who doesn’t say anything and seems like he was only included as part of a last-minute rewrite, a prissy and primped little biatch, and a bespectacled poindexter prancing around like a badass in a Steve McQueen Baracuta jacket (definitely on my birthday wish list) who seems to be the leader of the group.  This dork is a particularly stinking asshole, and a creepy little pervert to boot.

Gotta respect the cool of that jacket though

Usually there is some kind of mystery over who the killer is in these types of movies, but we find out in the first 15 minutes that its these little gremlins doing all the damage.  On top of that these are just some normal-ish looking twerps, thus, there is nothing scary about this movie.  There’s no frightening guy with a burned up face and knives for fingers, nor is there any shock scares of someone being chased by the unknown.  Nope, it’s just three little kids beating up on adults in broad daylight.  Because there is nothing left to the imagination the plot plateaus almost immediately.  Consistent intervals of gratuitous boobs was the only thing that kept me from dozing off.

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Come on…make with the boobs already

Even the killings are boring. Maybe the whole creepy kid angle would’ve worked if they cannibalized their victims or something, but aside from an arrow here or there their preferred method of killing is a shoot and run.  And that’s just not going to cut it for someone who’s high tolerance for horror demands some seriously sick shit!

Overall: 3

The worst kind of horror movie is a boring one.  It was hard to get into this from the get go, and instead of ever being scared, I only ended up getting mad that no one was beating the shit out of Curtis.

Sleepaway Camp (1983)

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About:

Most preteens are pretty awkward to begin with, but when Angela returns to the campground where her dad and brother died 5 years earlier, she has an especially hard time stepping out of her comfort zone.  As if that weren’t enough, a series of gruesome accidents befalling her fellow campers have some wondering if there is a killer amongst them!

Review:

Let’s start with the end and work backwards: the ending, without giving away any spoilers, is incredible and solidifies its spot among some of the genre’s best.  “Twist” doesn’t really do it justice; terrifying, confusing, gut-wrenching, and completely unexpected, it is widely considered one of the most shocking horror movie endings of all time.  The killings in this movie are also creative and unusual, and filmed using some pretty top-notch special effects.  The best death scenes include a giant pot of boiling water, a precariously placed curling iron, and a weaponized bee hive.

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Bees: nature’s thumb tacs

The camp is run by a stogie-smoking dried up old prune who looks and sounds like a real-life Moe Szyslak.  The campers are mostly represented by a group of young awkward teens and a rival sect of much taller and developed older teens.  The guys in both groups are fighting over a mean hot girl, which is hard to take seriously because she’s not hot.  I know that sounds terrible, but picture Iggy Pop’s head with a horse tail sprouting from the back of it.

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Wearing t-shirts with her name on them sure isn’t helping 

It’s your average tale of young love lost until kids and counselors start dropping like flies.  Nothing kills a summer romance like untimely death.

It’s becoming harder and harder to believe that the men’s short shorts scene of the 70’s and 80’s was ever really a thing.  The guys in this movie are pushing that nefarious hemline to an absolutely absurd height, and I can’t tell if it’s a joke making fun of that whole fad or a genuine anachronism of the times.  Nary is there a scene that doesn’t include a ridiculously intrusive bulge just begging to pop out of those paper-thin Umbros.  On that note the homoeroticism in this movie is impossible to ignore.  Not only is there a scandalous homosexual relationship portrayed in the film, but those cool older guys I mentioned?  They’re looking for any and all opportunities to go into Lady Gaga backup dancer mode with each other.  This includes but is not limited to a midnight swim in tighty wighties (bulges aplenty) and a rooftop waterballoon fight that for some reason must be carried out without pants.

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Don’t act like you’re not impressed

There are also no boobs in this movie – a cardinal sin of the summer camp subgenre, and a slap in the face to the horror movie community as a whole.  Adding insult to injury is the substitution of boobs with dong.  Now, hanging dong in a movie is unacceptable[1] in most cases, but given the specific context of this particular scene, it is downright traumatizing.

Overall: 7

Because the wild ending was the last part I saw, I thought this movie was really good.  Then I watched it again and remembered everything before the end was actually pretty dumb.  Clearly the writers came up with the kick-ass ending first, and it’s really too bad they diluted everything preceding it with stupid dialogue and poor character development.  I still think the ending saves it though, making it a must-see flick.  And, in spite of its shortcomings, this movie touches upon some heavy topics that are unusual to the genre, including homosexuality, the modern familial structure, and prescribed gender roles.  Oh, and don’t forget the bees!


[1] The only exception I can think of is Michael Fassbender in Shame; you’ve just got to tip your hat to that one and try not to let it ruin your self-esteem.