They sure couldn’t make a movie these days about college kids running around campus shooting each other openly with fake guns. But we’ll always have the 80s movies T.A.G.: The Assassination Game and Gotcha!
T.A.G.: The Assassination Game (1982)
Before she faced off against the governator, Linda Hamilton faced off against the cute dude from the Re-Animator movies.
T.A.G.: The Assassination Game is basically a slasher with a gun instead of a knife. It does two things I usually hate in a horror film; it uses a gun as the weapon and it lets us cozy up to the killer. But I love this movie! It’s a perfect homage to Raymond Chandler novels and Bogart movies (they’re both specifically referenced).
It opens with an awesome old school chase: killer POV, approaching feet, shadows…and a suction cup dart gun kill! That’s right. It’s just a game…at first.
The rules are simple. College kids get an envelope telling them who they must assassinate next. So the kids run around college stalking, dodging, ducking, and hiding from each other. Linda Hamilton is one of the main players. When she ducks into the dorm room of school reporter Robert Carradine to save her ass from an ass-assin, he becomes intrigued and asks if he can follow her around to write a story about the game.
But the game turns deadly when the best player starts to use real bullets!!! As in a traditional slasher, victims are stalked and picked off. There’s a body reveal scene. And there’s an amazing final chase in a dark, shadowy campus building. Bruce Abbott is amazing as the psychotic killer and has one of the best last lines ever.
As with many early 80s horror slashers, there’s a big dance scene with a punk rock band. In this case, Rubber City Rebels.
In the battle of the killer toy gun movies, T.A.G.: The Assassination Game wins in every way but the soundtrack. All it has is Rubber City Rebels. Gotcha! has Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Hubert Kah, Nik Kershaw, Joan Jett, Bronski Beat, and the amazing title song by Thereza Bazar.
Gotcha! starts like a total rip off of T.A.G. A dude is walking around campus all paranoid and is suddenly being chased by a guy with a gun. The assassin is Anthony Edwards! But the bullet of choice this time is paint.
That’s pretty much all you get of the gun game on campus. Suddenly, Anthony is flying off to France with his buddy, played by hottie Jsu Garcia, who I prefer to think of as Rod (because that was his name in A Nightmare on Elm Street, of course). Anthony meets Linda Fiorentino from Visionquest. She likes him because he’s a virgin. She also slips something into has knapsack.
After a lot of romance between them, it turns into a classic 80s Russia/German paranoia film. Anthony and Linda are chased by spies, get separated, and now he has to get back to America. My favorite scene is when Anthony hitches with a punk band and goes undercover in total glam. I guess Gotcha! could be considered a teen action flick. It’s not really much of a comedy, but it’s definitely a classic from my teen years.
Only at the end of the movie does the action return to the college campus with real guns instead of toys. But Gotcha! just doesn’t have the bang of T.A.G.: The Assassination Game.