Entries in 1982 (3)

Saturday
Mar162013

Cold Bodies & Hot Pizza: THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1982) Review

So I’ve been on a bit of a Slumber Party Massacre kick as I work my way thr ough this fantastic series, and I figured I’d share the love with some reviews. The first one is yet another horror flick released in the fantastic year of 1982. I’ve carried on about how much I love that year before, so I won’t. However, I will say that this is one of the staples of the year.

THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE

(1982) Review

Trish (Michelle Michaels) is a high school girl who’s decided to throw a good old-fashioned slumber party for her basketball team. Unfortunately for them, this has coincided with a homicidal, portable-drill wielding mental patient escaping. Well, the two events eventually cross paths, and it’s up to the girls to bring him down before the blood flows even more.

Watching The Slumber Party Massacre again, I’m beginning to realize that this film really has some issues. First, some background. This was initially written as a horror satire by feminist lesbian author Rita Mae Brown. Legendary producer Roger Corman stripped the script of most of its comedic elements, and Amy Holden Jones directed it. So here we have a 1982 slasher movie directed by a woman, written by a woman, and produced by Roger Corman. If you don’t think the result will be interesting just based on that, you obviously haven’t seen enough slasher movies (which is also sad). That sounds awesome! Even if the two writing and directing do a dismal job, at least Corman will be there to spice things up and make it bearable. It also features a cast of (for the most part) unknown actors and actresses, with the exceptions being Debra DeLiso and Joseph Alan Jonson (who both appeared in one of my guilty pleasures, Iced). Enough of that; now let’s see why this movie was followed by two sequels and a series of spin-offs.

As much as Corman tried to prevent it, some moments of comedy do peek through. Not a lot, but a few lines like when one girl says, “He’s so cold” about a deceased pizza man and one girl responds with “Is the pizza?” and proceeds to gorge herself. Most of the movie is pretty straightforward, but little moments like these just make it that more lovable. But this is not a comedy. In all honesty, The Slumber Party Massacre has some of the most nail-biting sequences in any slasher I’ve seen. I’ve seen it multiple times, and the chase in the locker room has me holding my breath every time. A finale that does get quite intense is also a heavy bonus. The obligatory gore is here in spades, even if all the murders are more or less the same thing (the only real question is “where is he going to put the drill this time?”), aside from a painful-looking stabbing. Corman made damn sure the boob quotient was filled with a long shower scene being the tip of the iceberg, so hats off to him. On a side note, one of the fun things about The Slumber Party Massacre is seeing standard slasher conventions critics were deeming “sexist” flipped on their ear. For example, while many opposed to the slasher boom were complaining about how violently women died, the girls’ deaths are mostly quick, while the boys are the ones that really get dispatched gruesomely. The sexual overtones are heavy too (they make the whole "the drill is his penis" symbol quite clear).

Unfortunately, SPM really just couldn’t keep it together in the scenes between the locker room chase and when the girls realize they’re in danger at the party. It’s filled with almost every false scare in the book (Oh God that meat cleaver’s getting closer…oh good, it’s just the friendly neighbor out hunting for snails!), and not always with successful results. The writing is pretty bland and the acting isn’t what I’d consider “enlightening” for this chunk of the film. It goes on like this (despite a pretty good murder) for a while, until they open the door and discover the pizza guy’s eyes have been drilled out (but they still got the pizza, thank the lord). Then there’s the characters of Valerie, the chick who lives across the street but is on the outs with these girls because she’s a better b-ball player, and her little sister Courtney. They basically bicker about boys and Courtney wants to be beautiful like Val. Then Courtney scares Val twice. In the same way. Don’t reach for those cyanide capsules! It does get better.

Yeah, I really dig The Slumber Party Massacre. The title will have you thinking it’s your run-of-the-mill slice ‘n’ dice extravaganza, and it is. However, it does successfully prey on those expectations by occasionally throwing in a delightful curveball with the other great shenanigans. A serviceable amount of bloodshed, lots of nudity, some fun writing, great suspense, and one creepy, creepy killer (I forgot to mention this mask-less maniac, but he is creepy). The terrifying organ-synthesizer score is a huge help too. Shout! Factory released a Slumber Party Massacre collection a short while ago, and the presentation for the first film is great. The picture is very nice, the audio commentary is informative, and the trailer is really fun in that early-eighties trailer kind of way. There’s a really good documentary on all three movies as well. I always consider dropping the score down one grade, but the really good stuff here shines through the bad.

The Verdict: The Slumber Party Massacre is a rad, vintage ’82 girls-get-naked-girls-get-dead flick with heart. If stereotypical slashers is your thing, or even if you want it to be your thing, this is pretty much mandatory.

Score: 8/10

But don't take it from me; look at this satisfied customer:

Friday
Mar012013

Carrie's Imaginative Brother: THE SENDER (1982) Review

Most horror fans praise 1981 as being the greatest year for the genre (or at least in the eighties), but I would say that 1982 is easily the best year for this type of film. In this year, we got a wide variety of types of horror to choose from. The slasher boom was in full swing, horror maestros like Stephen King, George Romero, John Carpenter, and more were at play, and there was a huge variety to pick from. One film I hadn't heard of until recently (surprising, considering you'll be hard-pressed to find a negative review of it) is a supernatural/psychological horror thriller called The Sender. With some intriguing art and a sure-fire plot dealing with dreams, I’m surprised I had never heard of this and most people still don’t.

THE SENDER (1982) Review 

A man (Zeljko Ivanek) wakes up near a road, walks to a public lake, and attempts to drown himself by stuffing rocks in his shirt and wading out. The man is sent to a mental hospital and given the tag John Doe #83. Dr. Gail Farmer (Kathryn Harrold) is chosen to take care of him and discover who he is and why he attempted to kill himself, but soon finds herself in over her head when strange going-ons begin to occur whenever he falls asleep. A mysterious woman (Shirley Knight) shows up claiming to be his mother and wants him back in her care as faucets pour blood and John Doe is seen outside the hospital when he is still locked up. Farmer begins digging deeper into his psyche and discovers the horrifying reason behind what’s happening.

When I look back on The Sender, I realize that it really shouldn’t work at all. The plot easily makes for an intriguing story, but it really shouldn’t be as scary as it is. It’s not traumatically scary, but I would be lying if I said that there weren’t parts that jolted me, or at least creeped me out. Ironically, The Sender really works because of the direction. Ironic, because this is directed by Roger Christian, who also directed the infamous Battlefield Earth. Don’t worry; this movie is light years away from that in every conceivable way. It’s one of those movies that really shouldn’t work, but does due to the talent involved. This was Zeljko Ivanek’s first starring role and he’s one of the reasons this movie’s so great. Harrold is good as Farmer (nothing terribly interesting about he role, though) and Knight puts up a good fight with Ivanek for best screen presence as John’s mother. The actors playing the other mental patients are solid and it’s nice to see that the mental patients have some distinct characteristics (one’s a shell-shocked ‘Nam vet, another thinks he’s Jesus, etc.; I didn’t say they were original).

Even though The Sender is loaded with this great acting and some great camerawork, what really holds it together is the score. There are some striking images in the movie, but like Carpenter’s Halloween, what really makes them stand out and almost makes them disturbing (certainly unnerving) is the score. It opens and ends with this beautiful piece, but the music does a complete tonal shift when John attempts to drown himself and during the electroshock scene (maybe the best part of the movie).  There’s just something unsettling about nearly every scene in this movie, and I can’t put my finger on a reason. Part of the reason The Sender is scary is that we never truly know the extent of John’s powers. We see his dreams projected into reality, but even at the end, it’s never fully explained whether these illusions can cause any serous damage, even when the line between dream and reality blur. Ivanek does do a great job of acting like a frightened child inside of a man’s body without overdoing it. Knight also manages to come off as really creepy without doing much, especially near the end. There aren’t too many other good things to say without ruining the movie, because there are some surprises to be found.

The problem with The Sender is that it can be very slow, especially the first half. It builds tension and intrigue well, but it can be a chore upon repeat viewings. There’s a scene in Farmer’s apartment that goes on a little bit longer than it should have, and most of the religious themes went nowhere. Horror fans may also be let down by how the movie is really more of a supernatural psychological thriller with some horror elements. The lack of information represents a catch-22 in that it builds on scares, but it also leaves the viewer feeling confused by the end. They also could have done so much more with the whole “dreams becoming a reality” concept, but they stuck with the basics like cockroaches in the fridge, rats in the bedroom, blood pouring from faucets, etc. Yeah, it goes with the subtle nature of the movie, but who wouldn’t have liked to see a werewolf or a zombie or a dinosaur tear up the hospital? The "twist" ending was also letdown after everything that had happened before it.

For its obscurity, The Sender is a surprisingly solid little watch. It’s got that vintage ’82 feel and definitely gets bonus points for doing something original. Of course, it’s a big help that it has good camerawork, a great score, solid acting, well-built suspense, and a few gory moments to spice things up here and there. Those who have seen it can attest for its good qualities, and thankfully, it is available on DVD from Legend Films. Nothing really to talk about there but a crisp transfer and no bonus material. Ah well; The Sender will have its time in the sun someday, preferably on Blu. Yeah, it’s got some big flaws, but the product as a whole stands the test of time and is one ripe for a fresh audience.

The Verdict: The Sender really isn’t a horror film more than it’s an unnerving thriller, but it’s a really good unnerving thriller. Give it a spin when you’re in the mood for a creepy slow burn.

Score: 7/10

Wednesday
Jul112012

Can Your Mind Handle It? BOARDINGHOUSE (1982) Review

In the year of 1985, a movie by the name of Blood Cult was released, with its entire advertising campaign claiming it was the “first shot-on-video horror movie made directly for the home video market.” This statement couldn’t be any more false. First of all the first SOV horror movie made for the home video market was a 1983 ultra low-budget surreal horror movie called Sledgehammer, and that wasn’t even the first SOV movie! The first SOV was actually released in some theaters, and was released in 1982. That movie is a little glimpse of sheer insanity entitled…

 

Boardinghouse (1982) Review

The film opens with a painfully outdated computer text crawl (complete with beeping noises) explaining how the Hoffmans, leading experts on telekinesis, were killed in their house and their child was sent to a mental hospital. Several years later, Jim buys the house and turns it into a boardinghouse for “unattached, beautiful women 18 and over.” However, someone or something begins to pick off the girls in increasingly horrific ways. Is the house possessed? Or is it Jim, using his powers of telekinesis for evil? Or is it his new girlfriend, who his also telekinetic and angry about all the girls throwing themselves at Jim? Or is it something else entirely?

Hoo boy…where do I even begin with this one? This is easily one the most insane, nonsensical, poorly written, poorly made slasher movies I have EVER seen. This literally looks exactly like a home movie, from the amateur acting to the usage of every effect available on the camera they used to capture this insanity on film (or cheap video, rather). John Wintergate, the director/writer, also stars as Jim, but I knew that was director before I even looked it up online. Know how? Why else would John Wintergate put in dialogue for the women like, “Oh…you’re soo sexy!” as they caress Jim’s chest in the hot tub? Yeah…I also figured out he wrote it as well!

While the effects are terrible, the gore in this movie is great. There are plenty of intestines and eyeballs being popped out, people getting stabbed, brains being melted, hands being obliterated by garbage disposals, etc. There’s plenty of nudity as well (at times it does feel like a cheap porno that you find in a small cardboard box while you clean out your neighbor’s garage). No suspense, only two or three interesting/memorable characters, yada yada yada LET’S GET TO THE GOOD STUFF!!!

Alright…now let’s talk about what makes Boardinghouse memorable. Well, to begin with, the film employs gimmick that I imagine is parodying the old William Castle films: Horror-Vision! Basically, this tells you that if you have a weak heart or are “easily frightened by shocking gore,” cover your eyes and ears when an image of a black glove appears on screen or when a cheap synthesizer noise is played. Of course, this gimmick is hardly used in the movie (it is used a few times, but is dropped later on in the movie).

The whole telekinesis angle is done to hilarious effect (apparently, you trigger telekinetic powers by inhaling and exhaling as loud as possible), especially when it culminates with a big “telekinesis battle” in the end. And it’s awesome in the stupidest way possible. There’s also a random dream sequence where a girl is chased around by an evil force and gets assaulted by really fake looking skeletons! One girl’s face turns into a pig and she coughs up a mouse. Wintergate’s character sits on a desk in tighty-whities and makes hilarious faces as he exercises his telekinetic abilities. There’s also a cheaper-than-cheap video effect of a ghost, a live band, and a scene where the creepy gardener goes up to one girl (who’s in the hot tub topless) with a chainsaw, she stands up, begins staring at him and gnashing her teeth, and the gardener walks away in fright. Genius*.

This may or may not sound as hilarious as it actually is, but once you actually see it and combine it with the SOV look, you get the best unintentional comedy of 1982. It’s VERY hard to believe this nonsense was released to theaters, but it was. I can’t explain the strange power Boardinghouse has, but for some strange reason, my eyes never moved from the screen and my mind went into a sort of dreamlike state, where I had no perception on time, rationality, or just the outside world in general. It’s that kind of movie. For several, long years, Boardinghouse reveled in obscurity and acted as a “mystery” tape of sorts. Where did this movie come from? What was this director thinking? That is, until Code Red put this out on DVD, complete with commentary and interviews with Wintergate himself! Unfortunately, that DVD is now OOP and fetching collector’s prices, and I do not have a copy, unfortunately, so the origins and making of this movie still remain a mystery to me. And you know what? I’d prefer to keep it that way.

The Verdict: Boardinghouse is a surreal and oh-so-poorly-made SOV flick whose nonsensical moments add up to a seriously demented good time.

Score: 6/10

 

*Think I’ve spoiled everything Boardinghouse has to offer? Dead wrong, my friend.