Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

October of Horror #22: Street Trash (1987)

Posted by Trixter on October 28, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

Homeless people start melting when drinking “Viper”, toxic hooch discovered after being locked away for 60 years.

Opinion

This film is all over the place.  It goes from black comedy, to body horror, to action film, to Vietnam veteran drama, to the plight of the homeless, to gore/splatter pic, to gangster humor, to… it’s just all over the place.  I keep writing sentences about it and then erasing them because I honestly can’t understand what the fuck I just watched.

I’ll defer to “RevRuin” from IMDB, who in 2001 summarized the film better than I seem to be doing right now:

One day someone said, “I’d like to make a movie featuring a bottle of hooch that makes people melt into multi-colored ooze. I think I’ll also add “sub-plots” about insane homeless vets, murder, necrophilia, gang-rape, castration, and police brutality. Oh, and it’s a COMEDY.”

Anyone who blasts the movie probably had no idea what they were getting into. Yeah, the story – if you want to call it that – is flimsy at best, but the film is punctuated by some inventive effects, some nice camera work, and a hysterical mostly-improvised Doorman character played by James Lorinz.

Summed up, if you like your movies dispicable, reprehensible, obnoxious, offensive, crude, and downright nasty, pick this one up.

That’s about right.  It’s downright odd how it switches subjects and tone every 5-10 minutes.

Recommendation

I guess if 30% of more of the above appealed to you in some way, watch it, I guess?  50%, maybe?

Actually, there is one good reason to watch it:  Tony Darrow.  Darrow was a lounge singer until, at age 50, he was cast in this picture as a gangster, which he was familiar with having grown up around gangsters his whole life.  He did an ok job, but what is surprising is that Martin Scorsese somehow saw Street Trash and cast Tony in Goodfellas, which then led to a number of gangster characters until he found himself in The Sopranos where he played “Larry Barese” for the entire show’s run.  If you’re a Tony Darrow fan, you’ll enjoy him in this picture improvising some funny scenes with James Lorinz.

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October of Horror #21: The Wraith (1986)

Posted by Trixter on October 28, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

Members of a car gang are challenged to races by an anonymous newcomer with a car nobody has ever seen before — and when they race for their lives, the newcomer always wins.

Opinion

I had never heard of this film until a few years ago, when some co-workers and I talked about cheesy teen action films from the 1980s (especially the silly BMX films like BMX Bandits and Rad), and someone mentioned The Wraith.  When I learned it starred a young Sherilyn Fenn, Charlie Sheen, a ton of 80’s music, and a Dodge M4S with a serious paint job — and believe me, all four of those are equally the stars of the film — I had to check it out.  Amazingly, I found a 1080p print of the film and set out to watch it.  As I watched it, I felt like I had picked the wrong picture for October Of Horror, but was surprised by how much I wanted to see it through to the end.

So what makes this barely classifiable as horror?  (Spoiler alert!)  The plot involves the ghost of someone killed by the car gang coming back to take revenge on the gang.  Kids are killed by a car with supernatural powers.  “But wait,” you say, “Wasn’t that the plot of The Car 9 years earlier?”  Yes, but that movie — strange as it was — was a true horror film where the car is the physical embodiment of a demon and it kills a lot of people for seemingly no reason (which is the best kind of reason to kill people in a horror film).  The Wraith is more of an 80’s revenge picture for teens.

Recommendation

If you like any of the following:

  • Clint Howard playing the role of a nerd completely seriously (and well)
  • An 80’s soundtrack featuring Ozzy Osbourne, Stan Bush, Robert Palmer, Bonnie Tyler, and Billy Idol
  • A futuristic-style car creating ludicrously gigantic explosions

…then The Wraith is worth your time.  If not, skip it.

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October of Horror #20: Meet The Hollowheads (1989)

Posted by Trixter on October 27, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

Witness a day in the life of the Hollowhead family, which takes place in a reality very similar to our own — if our lives relied on strange creatures and pipes filled with goo.

Opinion

I was attracted to The Hollowheads when I learned it was Anne Ramsey’s (The Goonies, Throw Momma From The Train) last film.  I looked further and saw it also starred a young Juliette Lewis, and with very strange creatures and setting thrown in, I felt it was worth my time.

After watching it, I guess I have to say it’s not for everyone.  It’s also not horror — I suppose it technically qualifies as a black comedy mixed with fantasy, maybe?  It’s hard to classify.  It plays like a gross, dark version of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse where every talking piece of furniture was replaced with a hose spouting goop or a frog-like creature that gets chopped up for a snack.

Frustratingly, there are hints of a good film in there, especially when the boys venture outside to go to the pumping plant.  You get glimpses of an entire interesting world that wasn’t fleshed out due to budget and time constraints.

Recommendation

It’s interesting, but it’s not horror.  But if you like learning the deep inside details of how films are made from proposal to celluloid, read The Edgewise Guide to Filmmmaking which is a production diary of Meet The Hollowheads from one of the writers, Lisa Morton.  It gives a glimpse into the film they were shooting for, and how it turned into the film we got.

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October of Horror #19: Bordello of Blood (1996)

Posted by Trixter on October 24, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

A private investigator stumbles into a plot by vampires to lure victims to their deaths by posing as a brothel.

Opinion

Going into this, I had unreasonably high expectations:  It’s a horror comedy, starring Dennis Miller (whose political beliefs I disagree with, but have always found funny), Erika Eleniak, and some actors in ironic reversal roles, such as Corey Feldman (who plays the opposite of a Lost Boys vampire hunter) and Chris Sarandon (who plays an evangelical preacher instead of a Fright Night vampire).

With my expectations set so high, it took a long time for them to wear down, and they never got down to any level of disappointment.  I’ll say it:  I had a fun time watching it and I’m glad I did.  There’s nothing truly special in it, but it had a certain charm, as it doesn’t take itself seriously at all.

BUT:

What I enjoyed way, way more was the featurette Tainted Blood: The Making of Bordello of Blood.  Holy crap — The process of making the film was just as interesting as the actual film!  Stars who were divas and assholes, extremely questionable producer choices, pleas for help from a relief special effects team, and more.  And throughout it all, Corey Feldman weaves a thread of trying to reach out to other actors to make the set a fun place, only to get denied at every turn.  It’s a miracle the film turned out as well as it did.

Recommendation

If you like comedy and naked women in your horror, you could do a lot worse.

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October of Horror #18: The Borrower (1991)

Posted by Trixter on October 23, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

An alien convict sentenced to life imprisonment on Earth finds that his human body isn’t functioning properly, and needs additional heads to survive.

Opinion

Back when video rental stores were a thing, I remember seeing this on the shelf, but never getting around to renting it.  It seemed like an sci-fi horror film that I could sink my teeth into:  Head stealing! Aliens! Rae Dawn Chong!  Antonio “Huggy Bear” Fargas!  Directed by the director of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer!

The end result of all this is a giant mess that defies explanation.  I should have known something was up when I learned it was filmed in 1988 and sat on the shelf for 3 years before finally getting a video release.  Let’s go over a few things:

  • There are multiple seemingly-inexplicable cuts to a couple watching the Garbage Pail Kids movie in bed.  (This one actually has an explanation: The original distributor of the film also financed the Garbage Pail Kids movie, and probably insisted putting clips into The Borrower.)
  • There is a nearly 1-minute-long sequence where we watch the alien (sporting a stolen head) and Antonio Vargas getting lunch in a lunchline, saying very little and not attempting physical humor.
  • The Alien’s body is white.  Vargas is black.  When the alien steals Vargas’ head, they made no attempt to apply white makeup to Vargas below the torn neckline, or exposed skin.  The alien just simply turns black.  They keep forgetting this minor detail with every new head the alien possesses.  This is a distractingly gigantic oversight.
  • There is a secondary plot about a serial rapist completely unrelated to the main alien plot.  That character is much more horrifying than the actual monster is supposed to be.  When your secondary, minor plot is more interesting than most of the film, you should assume you’ve majorly screwed up as a writer/filmmaker/editor/producer (whoever was responsible).

How a laserdisc of this exists is beyond comprehension.

Recommendation

DO NOT WATCH.

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October of Horror #17: The Thing (1982)

Posted by Trixter on October 21, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

Researchers at an isolated arctic outpost slowly come to discover that not everyone in their group is who they say they are.

Opinion

Confession time:  I’d seen The Thing before — I love it, I own it on Blu-ray.  So, this particular entry in my October of Horror experiment is technically cheating, as I wrote earlier I would only watch films I’d never seen.  But, Melissa hadn’t seen it in decades, and Sam loves it, so we decided to watch it together tonight.

Like Halloween, The Thing is a nearly perfect slow burn.  In 90 minutes you’re treated to  confusion, accusations, adrenaline, trying to solve a mystery against time, science-fiction, shock, disgust, dread, and horror.

You may be shocked to learn it didn’t do well at the box office.  Well, E.T. had been released the week before, and Poltergeist the week after… might have had something to do with it (sarcasm).

Recommendation

Required viewing.  And then watch it again with the commentary with John Carpenter and Kurt Russell, as it’s both informative and, at times, hilarious.  And then watch it a third time, because you form new theories about who was an impostor and at what times every time you watch it.  Who was the first to get assimilated? When was Blair taken over?  Was Blair an alien the whole time?  The IMDB Q&A section for The Thing is one of the longest on the entire site.

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October of Horror #16: Halloween (1978)

Posted by Trixter on October 21, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

A psychotic killer escapes from a mental health facility and decides to go back home.

Opinion

Believe it or not, I’d never seen the original Halloween — I’d seen bits and pieces of it on TV, or maybe watched the beginning and then got distracted, or what have you.  Melissa and I are going to watch the 2018 sequel next week, so it was a logical choice to watch the original.

Holy crap, it’s good.  It’s better than good.  It was so good that it established just about every modern horror trope still in use today:  Slow reveals of the killer right behind you, the killer there and then not there, killer point-of-view shots, and probably a dozen more I’m forgetting.  Jamie Lee Curtis turns in a natural performance which is exactly what is needed for the film.  The pacing is slow, deliberate, and perfect — I was never bored.

Recommendation

Required viewing.

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October of Horror #15: Slaughterhouse Rock (1988)

Posted by Trixter on October 20, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

A teen boy is having extremely vivid nightmares about a demonic presence haunting an abandoned prison.  But when his nightmares start manifesting into reality, he and his friends head to the prison to confront the demon.

Opinion

This sounded like an absolute dream project for me:  Recently scanned into Blu-ray, it had cheezy 80’s horror, 100% practical effects, soundtrack by Devo, and a guest appearance by Toni Basil.  I’ll bet the producers thought so as well:  The screenplay combined elements of music, comedy, boobs, horror, and lots of gore.  For a project filmed in 1985, it seemed impossible to fail.

Well, I don’t know what went wrong with Slaughterhouse Rock, but it doesn’t work.  One major issue is that it was filmed at the very tail end of Devo’s and Basil’s pop career, so when it eventually got released nearly three years later, their involvement must have seemed odd or desperate.

What’s really frustrating about the movie is that it isn’t anybody’s specific fault:  The cinematography is very good, the actors all deliver exactly what is asked of them, Toni Basil improvises a dance sequence that is at her usual high level of quality… and yet it just falls flat.  You don’t care about anything that’s going on, you’re not invested.  And despite my admiration of Devo, I just couldn’t get into the soundtrack.

The end credits sequence has a Devo track with Basil singing lyrics, and it’s the best music of the film — too little, too late.

Recommendation

Everything you could want to know about Slaughterhouse Rock can be gleaned from YouTube in about 2 minutes.  Not worth your valuable time.

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October of Horror #14: The Beyond (1981)

Posted by Trixter on October 18, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

A woman inherits a Louisiana hotel only to find it is built on top of the one of the seven portals to Hell — and the door has been unwittingly opened.

Opinion

One of the things that bother me about Chinese and Italian films from before 1990 is that 95% of them are all dubbed.  They felt it was more cost-effective to not worry at all about location audio, and just do all of the dialog and foley in the studio afterwards.  This is very jarring to me, and makes it very hard to suspend disbelief.  The Beyond is an Italian film, and even though the two leads are English and speak English, they are also dubbed.  It is unsettling.

Your next thought might be “that would make for an unsettling horror film, then?”  Unfortunately, it doesn’t come to that.  The opening of the film is great, and sucks you in, but it goes downhill from there.  Italian films of the late 70s to early 80s have wonderful imagery, but for their more fantastical offerings, they fall short on story.  The story isn’t explained enough, and you can get by on practical horror effects only for so long.  The movie plays like someone who saw Night of the Living Dead, The Shining, and The Devil’s Rain and tried to make a movie combining all three.  It doesn’t work.

The effects themselves range from very good to laughable.  Blood thinner than water doesn’t help.

Recommendation

Skip it, and watch The Devil’s Rain instead.

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October of Horror #13: Killer! (1989)

Posted by Trixter on October 13, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

A psychopath works his way across the midwest killing nearly everyone he meets.  He claims he cannot be killed — if so, can he be stopped?

Opinion

Robert Rodriguez’s film El Mariachi is widely regarded as one of the most engaging and polished films ever made on a microbudget.  What is commonly overlooked is Tony Elwood’s Killer!, made three years earlier, on the same low budget.   While the story is nothing amazing — crazy person goes crazy and kills people — it is handled in about as professional a manner as possible for a total budget of $8500.  The film stock alone must have cost that much, so no idea how they got the film made, but they did, and it looks great for what it is.

Of course, nothing is perfect; there are night scenes where you can hear the film camera, the generator, or both in the background.  Some blood exits wounds at bizarre angles.  Not everyone can act.  But for $8500, it’s damn impressive.

Recommendation

It’s not for everyone, but if you want to see a psychopath dispatching everyone from his parents to a car mechanic, using guns, knives, fire, a crowbar, etc. then you could do a lot worse.

Posted in Entertainment | Tagged: | 1 Comment »