Deadly Blessing (1981)
In the 80s, before the dude with the fedora and finger knives, Wes Craven brought us an evil group of Amish in Deadly Blessing. So, there’s this chick and her husband having sex in their home in the middle of nowhere. After they’re done, he sees someone out in the barn, goes to investigate, and is creamed by a tractor.
Trying to pick up the pieces of her husband…I mean, life, the young widow asks her friends Sharon Stone and Patty Simcox of Rydell High to stay with her. Meanwhile, she’s having troubles with her crazy religious neighbors, including Ernest Borgnine, Michael Berryman of Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes, pre-Knots Landing Lisa Hartman, and Dorothy’s lesbian friend Jean from The Golden Girls. They harass the young widow, call her an incubus, and spy on her when she’s naked.
Deadly Blessing is a quite a slow burner. Sharon Stone has some run-ins with big spiders. There’s awesome, Omen-esque music. Ernest Borgnine beats some boys to bring them closer to God. Playing at the local theater is Wes Craven’s made-for-TV movie Summer of Fear, written by Lois Duncan of I Know What You Did Last Summer fame and starring Linda Blair. And Lisa Hartman shows her tits!
Through this plodding mess, there are some truly good horror scenes. Patty Simcox hooks up with an Amish kid and immediately leads him into the old deathtrap of parking at night to make out. The young widow gets attacked by a snake in the tub in a scene that would simply swap out the snake for finger gloves a few years later.
But the best scene is definitely when Sharon Stone gets trapped in a barn. It’s dark, creepy, suspenseful, atmospheric, and has an awesome jump scare. And finally, the deliciously cheesy demonic ending is AMAZING.
The Nest (1988)
Another plodding mess! 80s movies rule. It’s amazing how often the plot like the one in The Nest has been recycled, just swapping out the monstrous threat. There’s a small community. There’s a handsome sheriff. A chick with whom he used to be involved comes back to town. And there’s a sinister presence doing horrible things around town.
For a movie about killer bugs, The Nest takes its sweet time getting to the gore, focusing heavily on the interpersonal relationships of the characters instead. But when the bugs finally hit the fan, it is a serious splatterfest! There are bugs everywhere you don’t want them to be: packaged meat, blenders, toilets, on cake, coming out of eyes.
There are also these sacks in a cave that look wickedly like scrotums. There’s plenty of gore, bug gross outs, and hybrid nasty things that don’t even look like bugs. And of course, someone has to sort of turn into a giant bug. Yeah. It’s just another bug squirmfest.
I, Madman (1989)
I, Madman is my favorite of these three. It actually has a vibe that is very Candyman. Plus it has Jenny Wright from St. Elmo’s Fire, Near Dark, and Out of Bounds, as well as the cute goofy dude from Just One of the Guys, April Fool’s Day, and Modern Girls. So awesomely 80s.
Jenny works in a used bookstore and voraciously reads horror novels. She’s reading one about this ugly dude who looks like Nosferatu and is in love with a chick who turns down his advances. So he decides to improve his looks by hacking off the features of pretty people and putting them on himself (why doesn’t he just score himself a bigger wiener?).
Jenny soon realizes this dude is coming to life in the real world and going after all the people in her acting class! Her Just One of the Guys boyfriend is a detective and doesn’t know what to think of her crazy theories.
Despite being a cheesy late 80s mess, I, Madman has some pretty dang good chase scenes and atmospheric kills—and when the killer scalps a redheaded chick and starts to wear her hair, he looks fricking creepy. Plus, there’s a pussy scare. No 80s movie would be complete without a cat jumping into frame.
As the film comes to a close, something amazing happens—this demon that looks like a full-size version of one of those critters from The Gate jumps off the written page to fight the killer.