Hellraiser (1987)

hellrai

A man who’s made a deal with the devil gets buyer’s remorse and escapes from hell. Now he’s depending on his ex-lover to bring him human snacks to regain his strength and skip town before his demonic tormentors find out he’s gone.

This is another movie that’s supposed to be a classic. Everyone knows this movie. It’s the one with the guy in the black dress with nails hammered into his face. Yea, that guy’s scary! SPOILER: he only has like 5 minutes of screen time. So that’s a bummer because the scrubs who fill the voids between pinhead appearances aren’t nearly as cool.

The movie begins with a man who solves a mystical Rubik’s cube he bought in China Town. Except instead of earning the awe and respect of his peers, he gets ripped apart by fish hooks in sadomasochist hell. Somehow the guy escapes the “cenobites” – the demons who poke and prod him in the underworld – and holds up beneath the floor boards in the attic of his flop house. Also he’s no longer a person, but a withered tomato husk. More on that later.

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For future reference. 

The guy’s half brother and his wife move in to the house, where they find the dead guy’s flesh light in the attic. “Ew, gross!” says the half brother. “Ooh la la,” thinks his wife, as she conjures up memories of the secret affair she had with her brother in law. To say this guy has been cuckolded would be quite the understatement. Not only does his wife have the hots for his his brother, but she bangs every barfly in town while not giving her actual husband so much as an Eskimo kiss. Because his life isn’t quite sad enough he also has to endure constant passes being made at both his wife and daughter by just about everyone, including the moving crew and his own dinner guests.

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also…he dies

So this guy lets the moving men drink his beer after working up a thirst hitting on his wife and daughter. Then they need his help moving a fucking mattress up the stairs because in addition to being assholes they are also the worst moving men in the world. While pushing it through a doorway the guy shreds his hand on a loose nail. The blood splish splashes through the floorboards onto his his brother-in-hiding begin. Bitching stop motion effects capture his unholy transformation from beef jerky to man:

According to horror movie logic, a few drops of blood can turn a dusty cobweb into a fully functioning muscular skeletal system, but it requires eviscerating two additional whole humans just to add taste buds thereafter. Eventually he’s all set except for the dermis, which his half brother unhappily provides. Now he’s ready to hit the town!

hellraiser_torn apart
Mothers, lock up your daughters

Well, not quite. Remember that niece of his? Well she solved the puzzle box too! But she’s got a bargaining chip to save her from a play date in the stock yards of hell: him. Apparently Cerberus was taking a nap the day he escaped because the cenobites were none the wiser to his absence. Understandably sheepish, the demons agree to keep her north of Hades provided she leads them to her uncle.

uZBig2W
Of course you can trust us!

There is a horror movie theorem that states that the haunt in a house isn’t leaving unless it takes the house with them. Seriously, how many movies involve a house being blown to shit when whatever source that pervades it is expelled? Hellraiser fits squarely into this category. Rafters are inexplicably crashing down, the walls are blowing up, and everything is catching on fire. And amidst the confusion the niece figures out she can zap these horny creeps back to their sex dungeons by fiddling around with the puzzle box and pointing it at them. Good thing all these explosions are distracting us, otherwise that might not make a whole lot of sense!

Overall:

malort
I
t will tear your soul apart!

Malort is the stuff of legend, and it tastes like putrid death. And yes, you can count me among those who imbibe from time to time. Truly, the lines between pleasure and pain are never as blurred as in a bottle of Malort.

 

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Eaten Alive (1977)

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About:

Judd is a crazy old man who owns a run down motel in rural Texas.  His hobbies include babbling incoherently to himself, murdering his guests without cause, and finding new and inventive ways to keep his pet Nile crocodile fed.  Probably a step up from a Motel 8, but not quite the Ritz.

Review:

Eaten Alive, not to be confused with this similarly named mess, also goes by the alternate titles Death Trap, Starlight Slaughter, and Le Crocodile de la Mort.  This is Tobe Hooper’s first film after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the similarities are pretty evident, so much so that he even cast the same damsel in distress for the two films in Marylin Burns.  It’s pretty incredible that she agreed to work with Hooper on their second go-round since it has been documented that she went through physical and emotional hell filming the former.

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A small price to pay for the promotion of one’s art 

The look and feel of Eaten Alive is very Hooper-esque: the scenes are dusty and dirty, and a lot of detail is put into things like sweat and grime on the actors (although it’s probable that was achieved naturally).  Also the sound track sounds like someone stomping on a Moog synthesizer while banging pots and pans together.  The entire film definitely had that same bizarre, unnerving undertone we all know so well from TCM.

The movie starts out with, guess who? – Robert Englund, playing the town miscreant Buck, in a whore house trying to convince some young and innocent hooker to let him play the back nine.  His quest for backdoor action is actually a recurring theme in the film.

A pretty terrifying proposition

It’s unclear what the relationship between Buck and Judd is, but a couple times in the film Buck rolls up to the motel just to start shit with the old man, who stomps up and down and yells something about being owed money.  Judd is certainly an odd bird, and at risk of beating the TCM comparison into the ground, acts almost exactly like the hitchhiker from the former.  This seems to be a staple of these early Hooper movies – the inclusion of some crazy character who is very edgy, talking to himself, and hopping up and down with gleeful curiosity at the sight of gruesome death.  It’s actually quite brilliant, I think, as method of revealing the uniquely demented and equally horrifying characteristics of someone who, if you saw walking around outside, would definitely cross the street to avoid.  The late Neville Brand, playing Judd, delivers an especially convincing performance as this troubled hermit who is clearly living in a world of his own, his grasp on reality hanging by a thread.

judd
But boy does he wear that mop top well

As you might have guessed, at some point weary travelers set up shop in the motel looking a place to rest, only to receive the exact opposite of that.  A large portion of the movie is dedicated to Judd chasing around half naked girls with a scythe, and tumbling down his own flight of stairs.  I really couldn’t tell you why he’s so intent on killing his paying customers, but he seems to be pretty freaked out and offended by hot women in his presence.

scythe
It’s just his special way of showing affection

Unfortunately the movie continues like this without much rhyme or reason.  After half way through a father and his daughter rent a room while looking for a family member who had run away from home, incidentally the same girl Judd sliced up and fed to the croc earlier that day.  This would have made for a good overarching plot line, but it was introduced so late that it didn’t have much impact on creating an actual story.  It’s disappointing that more time wasn’t spent into developing an actual story for this movie, because it certainly had the look and feel of a classic.

Along with well-known B actors Burns and Englund, the cast also includes William Finley from The Phantom of the Paradise, and Carolyn Jones, who played Morticia in the original Addams Family television series.

Overall: 5

fire

The is the kind of back yard fire you have to constantly feed with cardboard just to keep from going out completely; the kind you had such high hopes for only to die out too soon, leaving you disappointed and stinking like smoke

Again, Eaten Alive doesn’t really have much of a plot to it.  Like TCM, it seems to exist just to showcase some gore and scary scenes, without really trying to tell much of a story.  That worked out just fine for TCM, but Eaten Alive is neither shocking nor gory enough to get by on that dubious merit alone.  I liked it well enough, but it seems that, like its antagonist, the film is a few cards short of a full deck.

 

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.

clooney
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.

bodies
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.

simpsons
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.

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.

kids
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.

arrow
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.

judy
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.

bulge
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.