Entries in 1988 (4)

Friday
Feb012013

What's In A Number? 555 (1988) Review

Oh boy, more SOV “goodness.” I will say 555 had some balls concerning its marketing campaign. The title, while bland, is somewhat intriguing just because it may be the only horror movie title consisting only of numbers. Then there’s the decision to put the tape in a pink VHS box, which has to be one of the bravest (or stupidest) decisions in all of marketing. Also, that great tagline: 'Viewing may cause damage to your brain cells!" And, the main draw of the movie, that fantastic decapitation they slapped right on the cover. How could anyone resist?

555 (1988) Review

In a coastal town, someone dressed like a sixties hippie is killing off anyone he finds having sex. A hard-nosed detective and his partner are put on the case, but consistently find dead-ends no matter where they turn and keep running into a tough female reporter who wants to help them figure out who’s killing everyone. They eventually find out that every five years, during the fifth month, for five days, this wacko comes out in different cities and continues his murderous rampage. Can they catch him before he goes into hiding for another five years?

Like most SOV movies, 555 isn’t very good. But, it’s better than most of its kind. And, once again, the movie’s biggest weakness and greatest strength is really just its incompetence. Yet again, it seems like everybody put their all into the making the film despite the obvious limitations, and it’s really not too painful to watch unlike others from the same year (Cannibal Campout). In fact, there are some really good things to be said for 555, as well as the typical amount if negative things, but when all is said and done, this really isn’t that memorable.

While this is pretty much your average police procedural/slasher movie, 555 contains some interesting ideas that distinguishes it from similar fare. The look of the killer is original, despite looking incredibly cheap (dig the fake hair and shirt), and his habit of engaging in a little necrophilia after a murder isn’t something commonly found in slashers from this time. The body count for this one isn’t too high either (9, I believe), but I felt the spacing between them was good and it wasn't just 45-minutes of dead air followed by seven murders in five minutes. There’s definitely a good amount of blood, and the effects are alright considering the movie’s budget. And, I might add, the decapitation does not disappoint. In fact, it’s probably my favorite death from any SOV slasher so far.

Sadly, 555 falls prey to many of the bad things plaguing others of its kind. There is a good amount of bloody bodies, but a lot of the movies is focused on the police investigating the murders. Thankfully, these parts aren’t too boring thanks to the lead detective who’s impossible to take seriously. He acts like he's the toughest cop in the city and has a really short temper, and goes off for no reason a lot. It’s a lot like watching David Campbell’s character from Killer Workout, only with less entertaining insults. He also looks like what would happen if Paul Scheer and Michael Ironside got stuck in a teleportation pod together and morphed into a single entity. The tough-as-nails female reporter was also fun, but I wouldn’t say she was “easy on the eyes,” which makes the scene where she seduces a red herring really uncomfortable! Some typical so-bad-it’s-funny moments occur when the killer pulls a knife out of a victim followed by the squeak of Styrofoam, a reverse-motion neck slice, the detective's office that's obviously a set, and a killer whose identity I managed to guess in the first four minutes of the movie (a new record for me!). 

555 really isn’t that good; thankfully, it’s not really that bad either. I would say this is definitely one of the best SOV horrors floating around (really think about that before watching). There really isn’t a whole lot to say about it because this is pretty standard stuff. It starts the way you expect it to, and ends the way you expect it to. Indie releasing company Massacre Video put out what looks to be a really good DVD of the movie containing liner notes, interviews, an image gallery, trailers, and reversible art. It can be purchased on the Massacre Video website (www.massacrevideo.com). If SOV horror is your game, this is one you should definitely pick up. It’s a crappy movie, but it’s a crappy movie with a cool killer, over-the-top characters, terrible acting, a lot of heart, and a nifty decapitation.

The Verdict: While it can be a tedious affair, this movie sits near the top of the SOV horror mountain, so that’s got to count for something. I give 555 the appropriate rating of…

Score: 5/10

Saturday
Dec152012

The Slopes Are Slick...With Blood! ICED (1988) Review

Well, winter is finally upon us, and you know what that means: chestnuts roasting on an open fire, the lighting of the Christmas tree, caroling, and most important of all, horror movies! Winter is a criminally underused setting for horror movies, and when done right, can have very effective results. The blinding whiteness of the snow can create a very isolated atmosphere, and can also lead to some great imagery with the whole red-blood-on-white-snow gag. Unfortunately, there are few horror movies that make good use of the possibilities present with setting a scare flick in the winter. But the question present is, can an obscurity like Iced do right where several other have failed?

ICED (1988) Review

Jeff and Cory have a problem: they’re both in love with Trina. So when they and some friends are at a ski lodge on vacation, the two decide to settle it by having a ski race. Cory wins, and winds up with Trina. Filled with jealousy and alcohol, Jeff hits the slopes again late that night, falls off a cliff, and dies. Four years later, all the friends there that night are invited up to an isolated ski chalet in the mountains. They get there and engage in activities like skiing, boozing, and snorting coke. However, someone wearing Jeff’s old ski suit begins to pick them off one by one in various ski-related ways. Is it Jeff, back from the dead, or is it someone else?

I’ve seen some slasher movies take some heat from critics, but man does Iced get a beating from reviews! Not like those reviews don’t have any basis (more on that later), but it seems like anyone who’s anyone hates this movie! And because of that, I, of course, liked it. This is definitely not a good movie at all, and it does have some major flaws, but overall, it’s a delightful slice of cheese kept frozen. For such an obscurity, Iced does have some familiar faces in the cast. There’s Debra DeLiso (Slumber Party Massacre), Lisa Loring (Wednesday Addams from the original Addams Family), Elizabeth Gorcey (Footloose), and Joseph Alan Johnson (Slumber Party Massacre, Berserker, who also wrote the movie). Director Jeff Kwitny also directed the hilarious killer locomotive movie from 1989 Amok Train, so major props for that.

Despite there being a fifty-minute time in between kills where nothing happens, there are some fun things packed in. There’s an ample amount of nudity (most of which is, oddly enough, provided by Loring), and when paired with the cheap film quality, Iced can sometimes feel like a bottom-of-the-barrel porno. However, the majority of this dead air is filled with antics that wouldn’t be out of place in a soap opera. The guys and gals reminisce about the past and whine about how their lives turned out, and the sheer corniness of it all is very entertaining. There are also the atrociously good fashions (mullets everywhere! A Rockadiles shirt!), bizarre dream sequences, and almost complete lack of skiing. But while this is all well and good, this best parts of Iced are the beginning 10-15 minutes and the final half-hour where the slasher goods really kick in full force. The beginning features an incredible ski race with the most knuckle-biting synthesizer music you’ll ever hear. The final half-hour moves at a fast pace, features some great snow-themed deaths, and actually has some really good music!

But the reason this movie is definitely not for everyone is simply due to how much Iced meanders. As much as the soap-operatic parts can be entertaining, they due begin to get grating after a while and come close to completely dragging the movie down. After seeing how great the final half-hour of this movie managed to be, it does make me curious as to why Kwitny didn’t extend that last part over the course of the entire movie, which would give it a much more favorable reputation than it does now. Then again, the bland scenes leading up to it do give the climax more of an impact. The acting in this movie was, for the most part, terrible. Most of the actors never convey any emotion, especially Joseph Alan Johnson (ironic, considering he wrote the movie and did a helluva lot better in Slumber Party Massacre), but that only adds to the fun (although Ron Kologie was actually pretty good as Carl the coke addict). Also, for a snowbound movie, a lot of it is spent in the cabin where everyone is staying, so the atmosphere of the snow is almost lost upon it.


In all honesty, Iced is a horrendous pile of garbage scraped off the ass-end of the electrifyin’ eighties. However, it’s an enjoyable pile of garbage scraped off the ass-end of the electrifyin’ eighties. The laughable “acting,” the ridiculous synthesizer score, the obvious identity of the murderer, gaping plot holes, some pretty cool (niche) deaths, a sweet-looking killer disguise, a great final half-hour, a hysterically stupid “twist ending,” and a final girl who spends the quintessential “final chase” with no pants on! The only original part about it is the cool POV shots filmed through orange ski goggles. Unsurprisingly, Iced has never made it to DVD, and I think VHS is where it rightfully belongs. I mean, can you imagine Iced on Blu-Ray? Criterion better start working on that…Anyway, I’m probably rating it higher than I should, but I have to take into accountant that warm feeling I get in my stomach every time I think about watching Iced every winter. It makes solid use of its snowbound atmosphere, even if I wish more had been done with it. Oh well, there’s always Shredder...

The Verdict: Iced is an odd mix of killer slasher tastiness and somewhat boring melodrama. The first ten and last thirty minutes are spectacular, but the real question on whether to recommend this or not is simply, “Can you handle the stuff in between?” Slasher fans, check it out for kicks. Everyone else, GTFO.

Score: 7/10

Wednesday
Nov142012

Overweight 18th-Century Zombies Resurrect The Missing Link: CURSE OF THE BLUE LIGHTS (1988) Review

Magnum Entertainment and I don’t exactly have a very good relationship. Magnum was a home video company in the eighties, and it seems (to me at least) that they went out of their way to release the worst of the worst of eighties horror movies. Sure, they did release classics like Bad Taste, Nail Gun Massacre, Suspiria, Zombie, and a few more, but with films like Goodnight, God Bless, The Night after Halloween, and With Friends Like These stinking up their catalogue, who can disagree? Now we have another ultra-low-budget movie that few people have heard of that was released by Magnum called Curse of the Blue Lights. And, me being the buffoon that I am, I decided to give it a spin. Sheetar help me.

CURSE OF THE BLUE LIGHTS (1988)

Review

A group of teens in a small Colorado town head up to Blue Lights, the local make-out place, one night to engage in typical hormonal activities. However, their lovemaking is interrupted when they see two mysterious blue lights floating in the distance. Being the idiots that they are, they decide to investigate and find what they think is a large statue of a bizarre creature buried near the riverbank, as well as an ancient medallion. The teens take the medallion, and when they attempt to show the local police the statue, it has disappeared! It turns out an undead monster named Loath and his two minions are planning to resurrect the Muldoon Man, the long-lost missing link, using the medallion. In order to prevent the destruction of humanity at the hands of this malevolent creature, the young adults must battle Loath’s army of zombies and prevent the Muldoon Man from taking the world!

Well, that certainly sounds original, doesn’t it? Well, it actually took me awhile to figure out what movie Curse of the Blue Lights molds itself after: Phantasm! Sure, the specifics are different, but both movies feature young adults discovering something strange going on at the local cemetery, and in the end they must fight the leader and his evil undead minions. There’s also a scene here where the teens go visit a witch that’s reminiscent of when Mike went to visit a psychic in Phantasm. Other than those a few minor instances (Loath does say “Boy” at one point), the two are very different, and I was surprised how original the plot of Curse of the Blue Lights was.

Well, what do you know…Magnum did right with this one. Yeah, it’s as low-budget as you’d expect, but this is one of those instances where the miniscule budget adds to the charm of the film rather than detract from it (for the most part). I really do get the feeling that the filmmakers put their heart and soul into this project, and while it may not have sizable production values, good acting, or any sort of scares, I still enjoy it for what it is. All the actors were pretty bad and under-acted to the extreme, with the exception of the actress who played the witch, who was the complete opposite, as she had one of the worst cases of overacting I have ever seen. Then again, maybe it just seemed like that when compared to the other actors. Then there’s the actor who played one of Loath’s minions, whose dialogue delivery sounded like Ben Stiller’s in Tropic Thunder when he went “full-retard.” The characters are likable enough, but due to rather bland dialogue, really aren’t very interesting or memorable.

Maybe the strongest part about Curse of the Blue Lights, and its most prominent advertising point, is the gore and make-up effects. They were done by Mark Sisson (who did some of the effects for A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master that same year) and they do look pretty good for a low-budget cheesefest. Part of the ritual to resurrect the Muldoon Man is dissolving some people, so we get to see dead bodies slowly dissolve, and it’s great. When we do see the Muldoon Man in all his glory, he basically looks just like a rubber monster from any campy Corman monster movie you’ve ever seen. It’s a terrible effect, but massively enjoyable.

Of course, the film does have its so-bad-it’s-good charms. The acting contributes heavily to the hilarity at hand here, as well as the line delivery and how Loath and his minions always speak with a lisp due to the fake teeth they have to wear. Then there’s the climactic sword battle between Loath and one of the teens, which is easily the worst sword battle anyone has ever seen. They both move very slowly to make sure they hit their marks, and it’s all set to this ridiculous synthesizer score that sounds like a low-budget family movie reject score. Yes, I know; it’s brilliant.

Alright, Magnum, I still haven’t forgiven you for the pain I endured watching some of your titles, but at least you delivered with this movie. Unfortunately, I realized afterwards that there are two versions of Curse of the Blue Lights; a cut version and an uncut version. I haven’t seen that cut (yet), but this would explain a lot of the really awkward edits in the movie and while the gore present is great, the film did seem a little dry. Anyway, it’s a fun film no matter what version you have. I wouldn’t exactly say it’s for everyone, but fans of corny late-eighties monster movies should get a kick out of it (I know I did). It’s got really good gore, cool monsters (not as cool as in, say, Spookies or Neon Maniacs, but still neat), stereotypical (and very, very stupid) characters, a cheap synthesizer score (that actually works for the movie, in my opinion), some good camerawork (the opening scarecrow attack was surprisingly well shot), and the essential so-bad-it’s-good moments. It does get dull in some scenes where the dialogue seems to take over, but that’s a minor complaint.

The Verdict: Curse of the Blue Lights isn’t a good movie (at all), but it’s got lots of heart, it looked like the filmmakers were having fun, and at least it tries to do something original, and with some added-in gore and monsters, what more could you ask for?

Score: 8/10

Clips with a Hungarian dub. One of the funniest scenes in the movie occurs at about the 5:00 mark.

EDIT: A day after writing this, I have discovered that Curse of the Blue Lights is actually getting a DVD release in 2013 from the benevolent folks at Code Red DVD! Three cheers for them! For more information, click here:

http://codereddvdblog.blogspot.com/2012/11/code-red-dvd-for-2013.html

Monday
Oct222012

It Has Been Found: THE HACKERS (1988) Review

Ah, the late-eighties. The magical time period when any schmuck with a camera, a few foolish friends, some ketchup, and lots of beer could make their own horror movie using a home movie camera, then have it distributed by some bottom-of-the-barrel distributor. What a great time period. Of course, now I always feel obligated to track down these chunks of garbage and watch them, and a lot of them are really hard to find! Case in point: The Hackers. No, not that nineties movie about the computer hackers! This is pure late-eighties dumpster material. Well, I finally managed to pull it out of the shadows and watch it so you don’t have to. Is it any good, you ask? Do you even need an answer?

THE HACKERS (1988) Review

 

The movie opens with a hitchhiker walking along a back road, when a jeep passes by, then…CHOP! Off goes his thumb! Turns out the jeep belongs to the Hackers, and one of them just sliced off that poor hitchhikers thumb with a hunting knife (what an asshole!). The Hackers are a family consisting of an old man, A.J. Hacker, and his two sons, Arnie and Eldon, who make a living by doing odd jobs around town (and doing them poorly, at that), and if you don’t pay up, they live up to their name. The three get hired to do some repair work around a rich person’s house, who has left for the weekend and left his friend to housesit. The Hackers begin tormenting her, until she’s forced to fight back in a brutal struggle to survive.

 

The Hackers, like most SOV movies, is one odd duck. It started off promising enough, with a funny opening and a killer theme song (yes, this movie has a theme song, further proving my theory that no matter what the budget, any movie can afford its own title song), but it slowly begins to go downhill from there. Fast-paced killing dissolves into father-sons bonding time, speeches on how the family will survive, trips to the playground (yes), and the taunting of a random woman on a rope bridge that goes nowhere. Thankfully, there are some fun kills peppered throughout (one fellow who insults the two gets his throat cut open with a beer mug).

 

The movie spends so much time following the family going around doing what amounts to nothing that what I assume is the driving plot (them terrorizing the girl in the house) seems like an afterthought. This is also one of the weakest parts of the movie, because it’s also very dull. It attempts to create suspense, yet doesn’t accomplish it in the slightest. It all ends with a terrible “Was it all a dream?” ending that is sure to induce a lengthy groan from even the stupidest film-viewer.

 

The acting wasn’t very good (nor did I expect it to be), but I’ve seen much, much worse in other SOV movies (believe me). There really aren’t any characters to root for either, because the Hackers are antagonists, and the girl is rushed into the story so fast it’s impossible to see her as a likable character. The gore effects were much better than I expected, though. There are a few pretty good severed heads and other forms of machete mayhem on display, but nothing too gutsy.

 

The world of SOV movies is like a sack full of poisonous snakes, with a few friendly ones casually thrown in. Every time you stick your hand in, you’re probably going to get bitten. But once in a while, you’ll get a good one. The Hackers is better than some SOV movies I’ve seen (Cannibal Campout, I’m looking at you), but it’s definitely one of the poisonous snakes. It starts off well, and gradually gets less and less fun as it continues until it hits the rock bottom of tedium. Yeah, there’s enough gore, bad music, and other nonsense to keep one entertained through most of the journey, but it’s just not enough. The Hackers was one of the hardest VHS tapes to find (only 3,000 tapes were produced), but I did, and I remembered that sometimes, movies languish in obscurity for a reason. However, if you’re hellbent on seeing this (God knows why), Camelot Studios, the company that released in the first place, have made it available on DVD to order from their site, as well as a movie poster (!). For more information, click here: http://www.camelotstudios.net/webapp/GetPage?pid=204

The Verdict: The Hackers does exactly what you’d expect from a 1988 SOV movie; nothing more, nothing less. If you’re into that, it’s worth a look, but don’t get angry if you’re not thrilled with the outcome.

Score: 4/10

Watch the unbelievably stupid playground scene: