From TV to video, witches to psycho killers, I look at four flicks you may have missed in the 80s.
THE PIT (1981)
The Pit has a nice sleazy feel to it. A weird kid has no friends in school so he spends his time visiting creatures that live in a pit in the woods. He also makes sure to feed the creatures regularly—by luring his enemies to the pit!
This awesomely weird movie opens with a pointlessly out of place scene that plays again later in its proper sequence. We meet the socially stunted boy, who pastes pictures of his teacher’s head on naked bodies in a nudie book (which doesn’t stop her from flashing him later on). He is looked after by a “specially trained” babysitter and gets perverted with her as well. But she seems to be the only woman who draws the line with him…after she gives him a sponge bath and he claims his mother bathes him a lot. WTF?
He also talks to his Teddy bear, which talks back. Is it all in his mind? It would appear not, because at one point, the babysitter sees the bear and when she walks out of the room, its head turns on its own. There’s absolutely no logic to this living Teddy bear unless the unexplained creatures in the pit are somehow controlling it and the film just forgot to mention that….
Eventually, the boy throws down a rope to let the critters out of the hole and they run around killing random people. I kind of wish this part of the film had been longer. The creatures look pretty cool and the ending is devilishly satisfying.
As for the weird young boy, he grew up to be a fine looking chap.
MIDNIGHT OFFERINGS (1981)
It’s The Waltons vs. Little House on the Prairie in a battle of the witches! This TV movie definitely feels like a product of its time in that the cast is more exciting than the movie. Melissa Sue Anderson really flipped the finger to her Little House pureness, playing a bad witch here, the same year she starred in slasher Happy Birthday to Me. Her rival, the good witch, is Mary Beth McDonough of The Waltons, who popped her horror cherry with this flick and the slasher Mortuary.
In this silly film, the witches are fighting over adorable Patrick Cassidy (by far the hottest of the brothers), who looks fantastic in his obscenely short 80s shorts. In the 80s, Patrick also went on to appear in my favorite witch spoof film Love at Stake, as well as the gay film Longtime Companion. In the 90s, he appeared as studly/stupid hairdresser Mr. Anthony on that horrible episode of The Nanny that was clearly meant to become a spinoff show for he and Tracy Nelson.
Also on board are Cathyrn Damon of Soap and Gordon Jump of WKRP in Cincinnati as the evil witch’s parents, plus, fricking Marion Ross of Happy Days as a witch mentor to the good witch! And while Friday the 13th Part 3 final girl Dana Kimmell is in the movie, she has a disappointingly small role.
As the good witch and the hottest Cassidy try to figure out a way to stop the evil witch while romancing each other, we get some black cat and black bird familiars, some Satanic rituals, a telekinesis battle in the shop class, and finally, a good old witch burning. It’s a pretty tame-lame TV movie. However, if you saw it as a teen in the 80s, it’s a classic!
SWEET SIXTEEN (1983)
Get your full dose of Dana Kimmell here! Sweet Sixteen is an overlooked 80s slasher. Dana is the daughter of the sheriff, played by Bo Hopkins (shocker). Her brother is the cutie who played an asshole in The Last American Virgin and a much bigger asshole in The Accused. These siblings are pretty upstanding kids here, instead of rebelling against their law-enforcing daddy.
The real teen trouble comes courtesy of character Melissa! Melissa even gets her own theme song—a track that would make Air Supply jealous. Melissa is new in town, and she appears to be a slut. However, I’m convinced she’s a man-hating lesbian. She’s distant and cold to men, or “tough,” as Dana describes her. She also makes a habit out of admiring her nearly naked body in the mirror. Then there’s the fact that every time she plans a date with a guy, he’s murdered!
But is Melissa the killer or is it the work of an evil Indian burial ground? Sweet Sixteen is a slasher with a message, as it deals with prejudice against Native-Americans. During a bar brawl, some asshole white dude calls an Indian a “red N-word.” Asshole. But he’s not as much of an asshole as that twat Melissa, who blames the Indians every time one of her dates is murdered! Yet her parents are still throwing her man and Indian hating slut ass a sweet sixteen party!
Dana Kimmell is awesome, the kills are pretty classic 80s gory, there’s plenty of grainy darkness, and we get Killer POV. But Bo Hopkins is busy starting a romance with his investigative partner (yawn) and the final twist is much more complicated than it needed to be.
BAY COVEN (1987)
Finally, it’s back to made-for-TV witchcraft! Pamela Sue Martin (aka: Nancy Drew), and Tim Matheson are about to find themselves stranded on an island with tons of TV show stars for a Rosemary’s Baby/Let’s Scare Jessica to Death/ The Stepford Wives/The Sentinel hybrid flick.
A couple, played by Jeff Conaway of Taxi and Susan Ruttan of L.A. Law, convinces the city couple to buy a home on a quiet island. And they buy it from June fricking Cleaver. Seriously. Barbara Billingsley is the previous owner…who now lives in a cottage right behind the house and comes in and out of their house whenever she wants.
Pretty soon, Nancy Drew gets unnerved by isolated life on the island. An old man sits in a window across the way staring at her all the time. There are creepy kids who roam the woods and say sinister things to her while staring blankly.
There’s a big underground room with a satanic worship altar. And their good friend Woody Harrelson comes to visit and realizes that no one has been buried in the local cemetery for 300 years.
Unfortunately, even though Nancy Drew wants to leave the island immediately (immediately being way too long after they find the Satanic worship room), her hubby is starting to really cozy up to the weird locals. You’ve seen it all before, believe me.