Some films of the 80s just completely defy conventional genres. So why not slap a trio of them together in one blog?
THE LIFT (1983)
Nothing like Euro 80s horror with all the voices dubbed into English. This Dutch film is about a killer elevator! Not even the 80s synth soundtrack and combination of shadows and red lighting can make this one scary, even if it looks and sounds like an awesome horror flick. Damn, I miss the stupid fun of VHS horror.
There’s this elevator that just starts killing people. First it tries to suffocate a bunch of rowdy party people. Some blind dude falls down its shaft. A cleaning man is hanged. A security guard’s head gets stuck in the doors.
The elevator even tries to lure in a little girl while she’s out in the hall waiting for her mother to finish fucking some guy. When the little girl screams because the elevator has mangled her doll, her mom comes running out and smacks her across the face. Fucking awesome. 80s Euro horror ruled.
In the meantime, a maintenance man called in after the first incident is investigating that elevator. Yes, the elevator becomes his main suspect. Even a reporter teams up with him to uncover the truth—which causes the maintenance man’s wife to think he’s having an affair.
The absurd relationship drama plus the ridiculous plot result in a pretty boring film with great horror atmosphere but not much more. Even the maintenance man’s final confrontation with the elevator goes on way too long and lacks any real thrills. But the laughable futuristic sci-fi theory of why this elevator is killing people is 80s cheesy perfect.
As an added bonus, lets look at director Dick Maas’s 2001 remake of The Lift.
Not only did he remake his own film nearly 20 years later, but he made it 15 minutes longer. NOOOOOOOOO. And it comes in two titles: Down or The Shaft. It so should have been called Down the Shaft.
Unlike the original, the remake features an awesome cast of English-speaking actors, including Ron Perlman, Michael Ironside, plus James Marshall of Twin Peaks and Naomi Watts as the two leads.
What to say? It’s a torturous 15minutes longer, and most of the kills are the same. Fucked up and so not cool is the scene of the blind guy falling down the shaft…and bringing his service dog with him. Yet not surprisingly, I’m disappointed that the mother doesn’t smack her little girl in the face in this one.
What makes this redo even less appealing than the original is the lack of never explainable 80s neon lights and the lack of an 80s synth score – although we do get Aerosmith’s “Love in an Elevator” as a theme song. The movie is kind of as tongue-in-cheek as that song choice. There’s something quite hokey about it, including the performances…and the final kiss between the two leads. Ugh. Always with the romance angle.
TWO scenes stand out in the remake. When the elevator is filled with passengers at one point, it zooms upward while letting its floor drop out.
So much fun watching people cling on for dear life before sliding down the shaft. Another scene has a skater sucked into the elevator down in the parking garage then brought all the way up to the higher floors so the elevator can literally spit him out a window to his death.
DEADLY FRIEND (1986)
I personally think the thorn in Wes Craven’s side is actually a lovable 80s horror flick, even though that’s not what he wanted. Seems he was trying to make a dark sci-fi love story, but once the producers found out who he actually was, they made him put a whole lot of horror scenes into Deadly Friend.
You can tell Craven was trying to make a mainstream 80s PG film. A new kid moves into town with his single mother and develops a crush on the girl next door (played by original Buffy Kristy Swanson), who lives with her abusive father.
The new kid is a science wiz and has an amazing robot named BB. BB sees the world through an old school pixelated computer lens and is like a guard dog/pet, even grabbing a local bully by the crotch to stop him from beating up the new kid.
A good portion of Deadly Friend totally feels like an 80s Steven Spielberg film starring the Short Circuit robot, with just a few cheap scares, such as a really bloody nightmare Kristy has. But the creepiest threats are the two baddies on the block—her drunken, abusive father and a mean old lady that lives across the street, played by Anne Ramsey.
The shift to horror film comes—appropriately—on Halloween night. When a prank on Ramsey goes wrong, BB ends up a heap of wires and circuits. Soon after, a horrible “accident” at home leaves Kristy brain dead. Light bulb! The new kid decides to implant BB’s chip in Kristy’s brain! After all, doesn’t every horny teenage boy want a robotic girlfriend that will…grab the crotch of the boy who bullies him?
Before long, Kristy, now looking like a blue-faced zombie from Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, walks around like C-3PO doing na noo na noo fingers. She begins killing the nasty people we want to see dead anyway, making this like a weird robot revenge slasher(?). For a brief period, the movie gets violent and awesomely gory. While Ramsey’s head explosion is the most loved moment for most fans, even better is the delighted smirk on Kristy’s face as she watches the headless body bouncing off furniture.
Another highlight is a laughably cool moment when Kristy simply launches herself out a window to take down one of her victims. Also, much criticism has been aimed at the final scene of Kristy’s skin suddenly being torn open to reveal she has become a robot underneath. Supposedly, one of the bigwigs forced Craven to finish the film with this “shocker” moment. While it might make no sense, for those of us that grew up on 80s horror, it is completely logical and way rad. The simple fact that Craven was forced to add several “nightmare” sequences into the film makes it very easy to assume that this ending could also have been a nightmare from which we never see a character wake. Really, who is Craven to criticize this ending considering the awesomely absurd ending he tagged onto A Nightmare on Elm Street?
And finally, there’s the deliciously evil sounding “BB” theme song that plays during the closing credits.
SURF NAZIS MUST DIE (1987)
The best part of Surf Nazis Must Die is the absolutely 80s feel. The ominous synth score is like something John Carpenter would do, and the film takes the decade’s typical “the future will be anarchy and it will look like the coolest trends of the 80s” approach.
The Surf Nazis is a new wave/punk gang that is terrorizing a community, particularly people on the beach. While one of the gang members looks like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, most of them look really 80s gay (if you overlook the swastikas). In fact, characters regularly make comments about the gang’s leader being gay—even saying it to the woman he’s planning to marry. Yet, she never contradicts them. How can she blame him for being sort of gay when his fellow Surf Nazis look like this?
Anyway, for a good portion of the film, not much happens. There are a whole lot of slo-mo scenes of surfing. There’s some focus on an oil well, as well as an old folks home. Since this is coming from Troma and has a weird title and plot, you’d expect silly exploitation, but the film lacks sex, gore, violence, or humor. It takes itself oddly serious most of the time. Oh! Look who’s back….
Finally, a black dude jogging on the beach stops a Surf Nazi from stealing an old lady’s purse. Next thing you know, his mother is at his funeral, letting us know that the Surf Nazis killed him. WTF? No death scene or anything? Surprisingly, while bragging about the kill, the Surf Nazis only drop the “n” word once.
Surf Nazis Must Die could have turned into an awesome revenge flick. The dead guy’s mother, who lives in the old folks home, goes all vigilante—for a hot second. Then we are subjected to tons more slo-mo surfing and badly executed fight scenes between the Surf Nazis and other dudes on the beach.
Eventually the mother comes back on the scene and does give us some of the badass revenge fun we’d hoped for as she hunts down the Surf Nazis. Sure, she’s cool as hell, but the kills are ridiculously lame and there’s virtually no gore.
It’s a tragedy that a Troma film from the 1980s missed every opportunity to be a fantastic piece of trash cinema.