Why were Friday nights awesome in the 80s? You’d rent three movies and get the fourth free at the video store, pop loads of buttery popcorn, and then watch crappy midnight movies until four in the morning. Movies like….
FEAR NO EVIL (1981)
Carrie meets The Omen meets…Night of the Living Dead? Thanks to too many cooks in the kitchen (producers, director, etc.), Fear No Evil is 80s disaster perfection.
There’s a bloody baptism.
A bunch of teenagers listens to loads of awesome early 80s new wave tracks by Patti Smith, The Rezillos, Ramones, Talking Heads, The Boomtown Rats, The B-52’s, Richard Hell, and the Sex Pistols.
A weird teen possessed by the devil has no problem shaming the school bully—making out with him in the locker room showers and turning his chest into big woman boobs.
A high school girl has Dracula-like dreams of the possessed teen coming to her bedroom at night for sex.
There’s death by basketball.
The possessed teen sacrifices a dog in a ritual (you’re so not getting a pass on that one, Mr. Devil).
There’s a religious play being performed on a beach complete with the crucifixion of Jesus.
A demon summons an army of zombies from the walls of stone catacombs.
A big crucifix shoots laser rays and turns the catacombs into the Magic Kingdom, complete with fireworks.
WTF did I just watch? And why didn’t I watch it again instead of watching the next film?
Two teens parked near a haunted house are scared out of their wits by some pranksters with Halloween props. A head explodes in a microwave. Dude gets chopped in half by a window. A guy gets pulled into a lake. A priest is killed by a flying buzz saw blade. A maintenance man is hung in an elevator. And somewhere in between all that, a family we barely get to know moves into the haunted house.
Little Billy Jayne/Jacoby of Bloody Birthday and Cujo (and Blanche’s grandson on The Golden Girls) is the son in the home. But being a child doesn’t make him immune to the evil witch who was drowned in the lake out back centuries ago. She’s apparently lurking around the house still, but unfortunately, every victim in this movie is simply dragged off by a gnarly black hand.
Also roaming around the house is a mysterious little girl in white, a detective, and a reverend, played by hot Kenny of Knot’s Landing. Kenny should have stayed married to Ginger on Knot’s for fifteen years instead of leaving the show for stuff like this.
The only time we see the witch is in flashbacks as Kenny researches Salem, 1692. She looked creepy back then, she probably would have looked ten times creepier in 1982. But alas. She’s shy.
THE DARK POWER (1985)
A bunch of college girls moves into a house built over an Indian burial ground. Why does this slasher not get more love?
Considering it has 1940s and 50s western film star Lash LaRue as a whip-cracking sheriff, The Dark Power never takes itself serious, although it does spend too much time trying to explain its backstory by following the research of a reporter after the death of a local Native American.
Who cares? Four evil Indians were buried under the house ages ago and now they’ve crawled from the ground to kill scantily clad chicks. We get it! But we don’t get to the good stuff until fifty minutes into the movie.
Before there’s plenty of 80s nonsense, including college girl shenanigans, boobs, pervy boys, a Michael Jackson “Thriller” reference, and totally 80s posters on the walls, including The Pretenders and Elvira!
We also get a really awkward element about racism. Two of the girls invite a black chick to stay in the house and a third girl is not pleased. Loads of racial slurs and comments fly, including the N word. But fuck the white bitch. The black chick is one of the final girls and she kicks ass.
The four gnarly looking Indian zombies are creepy and Three Stooges slapstick all at once. They deliver comic moments, some serious gore (the face peeling scene rules), and even an awesome jump scare.
And then comes the whip battle. Need I say more?
Retribution fits snuggly into the weird late 80s supernatural slasher genre. A nice guy named George attempts suicide by jumping off a building on Halloween night. It makes for a perfect 80s intro, with pulsing synth music and scary masks randomly popping up in front of the camera. Things get even better when a zombie face drenched in neon green is superimposed over George’s body lying in the street.
George survives and simply has to walk with a cane. Well that, and every time he sleeps he appears to violently kill someone through supernatural means while his eyes glow green and he speaks with a demonic voice.
Considering the film is from the viewpoint of the “killer,” it’s not particularly scary, but it sure is gory. And for reasons I can’t imagine, Code Red released the movie on DVD and included the slightly gorier cuts of the deaths as deleted scenes instead of simply including the unrated cut of the film. Really odd when you consider that the deleted footage looks just as cleaned up as the full movie.
Aside from the fun supernatural kills, this is one odd movie. You really like George. And you really like his prostitute friend Angel. No. Not that 1980s prostitute named Angel. This is a different one and she’s played by adorable Suzanne Snyder, who looks great in gaudy 80s neon whore fashions and wildly teased and colored hair. Suzanne has been in numerous 80s flicks, including Weird Science, Night of the Creeps, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, and Return of the Living Dead II.
In fact, the entire cast of the film will give you a major case of “recognize the face” because they’re all familiar faces from movies and TV shows of the 1970s and 1980s. So while the movie is a little too long (nearly two hours) and more focused on George the character, his relationship with Angel, and his psychiatrist’s dedication to him than it is on horror, you’ll definitely feel a sense of 80s nostalgia if you’re a Gen-Xer.
And, like me, you might be wondering, Where the hell did that person that gets possessed at the end of the movie come from?