If it seems odd that I’m lumping 1989’s Parents starring Randy Quaid with 1990’s Fear starring Ally Sheedy, consider it even stranger that these two are featured together on a double feature DVD. And that’s the only reason I’m discussing these two “horror films” in one post.
Let’s go chronologically. It’s 1989. The 80s horror genre is quickly losing its steam, and while slashers have become cliché, they’re still better than many of the attempts to break away from the subgenre in the late 80s and early 90s. For instance, Parents. What the HELL is this movie? It’s kind of like Leave it to Beaver…with a cleaver.
This is a rather trippy film. It’s the prim and proper 1950s, a couple moves to a new town, and their preadolescent boy seems to think they are cannibals. He refuses to eat meat when his parents serve it for dinner. They are always cooking nasty, bloody stuff on the stovetop. His father works in a mortuary with dead bodies. The boy isn’t allowed in the basement. But is his cannibal-spiracy all in his imagination? This film might actually be a metaphor for merging manhood and the desire to identify as different than your parents.
The boy sneaks around the house at night—part terrified, part curious—trying to spy on his parents doing nasty stuff, at which point everything becomes a stylish black and white nightmare as the parents have sex…with a hint of cannibalism thrown in. Is this movie actually about a young boy’s fear of his budding sexuality? For instance, when he’s hiding in the pantry spying on his mother cooking, he imagines these big nasty sausages wrapping around him and trying to choke him to death. Is he afraid he might be having desires for wiener? Or is he just a closeted (pantried?) vegetarian?
Or are the parents really psychotic and a danger to their innocent son? The boy seems afraid of them and what he believes they are doing…but then in class, he describes very matter-of-factly to fellow students how to skin and cook a cat. Maybe his parents are cannibals who have already begun to teach him the finer cannibal culinary techniques but he’s beginning to show resistance to the lifestyle?
Things get very violent suddenly at the end of the film—and you’re left REALLY confused. The “epilogue” with the boy’s grandparents leaves this film wickedly open ended. What an odd movie. Can’t say I like it, but can’t say I hate it. But I will say I wouldn’t exactly turn to it when I’m looking for a scary horror film. This one challenges the brain too much. And the blaring, hokey soundtrack that gives the film a black comedy edge is fricking annoying.
WarGames. Oxford Blues. The Breakfast Club. St. Elmo’ s Fire. Blue City. Maid To Order. So many awesome 80s movies lead to…Ally Sheedy starring in The Fear. I have to assume this 1990 film went directly to video. This is pretty much a really bad remake of the 1978 film The Eyes of Laura Mars with Faye Dunaway. Actually, since the ending is different, it could have worked more as a sequel: The Eyes of Ally Sheedy. And I don’t care if you’ve seen this film or not. I’m totally spoiling it.
Ally sees dead people…right before they die. She’s a psychic who suddenly gains a powerful psychic connection to one killer in particular. Ally actually SEES what the killer is seeing as he kills his victims! And he can telepathically talk to Ally in his perverted voice as he’s hacking up his victims and making Ally watch.
After watching The Fear, I felt like watching Short Circuit to remind myself of the powerhouse actress Ally is, even capable of acting opposite a robot. She spends most of this film staring off into space like she’s blind or having a serious acid trip, making hilarious faces of terror, and crying and screaming in melodramatic horror. She is often clinging to her manager Lauren Hutton (Ally does the talk show rounds) as she “eyewitnesses” the killer’s crimes, with Lauren acting like a mother who is just trying to talk her child through a shot at the doctor’s office. Watch the gory murder and mommy will get you an ice cream pop!
And of course, there’s a love interest. And it happens to be Jackie’s husband Fred from Roseanne! Fred begins to fall for Ally, so he joins her in her efforts to try to hunt down this murderer who is mind fucking her. Eventually, the killer begins to read Fred’s mind as well (he’s thinking, “God I hope this movie doesn’t blow my chances of getting that part on Roseanne!”), which leads them all to a carnival! And what better place to finally confront the murderer than in the mirror maze! But why are Ally and the killer the ONLY two people in the maze? And now that the killer’s face has finally been revealed—in dozens of mirrors—why is he just some random boring dude who looks like he could play the fat sloppy sidekick in any college comedy? And why did the director think it would be a good idea to start doing slow motion shots of Ally’s hilarious facial expressions?
But it gets better. The killer is now trying to run away from Ally, and leaps from a window onto a Ferris wheel car. Ally waits for the car to do a full circle—and leaps on the car with him! They struggle. People below look on in horror. And then comes the absolute best part of the film. As the killer goes falling to his death (could it end any other way?), it’s the classic camera perspective from above as he flails downward…but instead of the ground coming towards him, you see all the people below diving out of the way at the last second to avoid getting hit by his body! Best…fall…scene…EVER.
At least after The Fear, Ally redeemed herself by acting with a dog in the 1993 film Man’s Best Friend. And Randy Quaid—well, he went on to prove that he wasn’t really acting when he was being a freak in Parents. And to think. These two films were only the BEGINNING of the kinds horror films we had to endure until Scream brought back the slasher genre in 1996.