Women losing their minds…and heads…in the early 80s

Ladies of the 80s sure did have their sanity tested, especially when they starred in the last movies left on the video store shelves on a Friday night. For instance, you might get stuck with these three films if you were one of those assholes who showed up just as I was trying to close up shop so I could get my ass to the club before they played all the good stuff by Erasure, Depeche, and New Order.

MADHOUSE (1981)

madhouse cover

Director Ovidio Assonitis (Piranha II: The Spawning, Beyond the Door) jumps into the early 80s slasher craze by following the formula quite faithfully, although this film lacks a core group of characters with which we can connect before they get slashed.

The intro is classic disconnected 80s: A creepy version of “Rock-a-Bye Baby” plays, the screen is black, and then a single light in the center moves in on a young girl in a rocking chair…getting her face bashed in with a rock!

madhouse intro face

The movie is about a young teacher who goes to the loony bin to visit her twin sister. The twin has a disease that fucked up her face, but we don’t get to see it. However, we hear her snarl some nasty things about how she plans to ruin her twin’s upcoming birthday and ruin her life.

You’re not going to believe it. The psycho sister escapes and starts terrorizing the teacher twin at her apartment complex. In one of the weirdest twists in a slasher I’ve ever scene, psycho sister has a cruel past involving a dog, so a good number of the kills in this movie involve random people being mauled by a Rottweiler.

madhouse dog head

Sure the dog head looks fake, but there’s plenty of blood. And the film has a noticeable Argento feel at times, particularly my favorite scene, involving a friend who stays over the teacher twin’s place and goes on a hunt for a cat…before being hunted by the dog and the killer.

madhouse maintenance kill

BUT…there’s a twist! It’s more complicated than just the psycho sister killer! And all is revealed in a classic birthday party gathering of corpse guests! There are two moments that might make you say, “What the hell was the name of that one 80s slasher I saw on VHS back in the day with the part…?” First, the fricking dog gets a drill through the head, and second, the twin sister goes to town on the killer’s back with an axe.

madhouse back attack

DON’T LOOK IN THE ATTIC (1982)

 dont look in the attic cover

I imagine this one, also known as House of the Damned, got slapped with this title to fit into the “Don’t…” horror title craze of the VHS era. And like most of the “Don’t…” movies, it sucks.

The opening scene takes place in 1955 and has a trio of people in a sort of chain reaction knife-stabbing circle jerk. The last one standing runs out of the house and gets grabbed by a hand that reaches up from the ground. Potential…?

dont look in attic knife

Cut to modern times. Two brothers and their cousin are about to inherit a house…provided they always live there together and never sell it. Despite a séance, ghostly voices, and messages in steamy mirrors that warn her to stay the fuck away, the cousin goes in on it.

dont look in attic mirror
Answer quick! Someone’s calling you and they’re about to dry up!

Sure, this has the atmosphere and horribly melodramatic music of early 80s Euro horror, but it’s all bad dubbing and no action. Don’t Look in the Attic is boring (someone should have looked in the attic). The only scene that looks slightly chilling shows a woman’s face going through a windshield when she’s hit by a car.

dont look in attic windshield

Other than that, the cousin and brothers spend the whole damn movie talking and fighting before the cousin finally learns what sinister plan was in store for her at the end. If you’re looking for ghosts, ghouls, gruesome murders, or anything else you’d expect from early 80s Euro horror (or that this movie promised at the beginning), forget it.

DARK SANITY (aka: Strait Jacket) (1982)

dark sanity cover

Aldo Ray, who spent the end of his career making bad 80s horror like Bloody Movie, Night Shadow, and Shock ‘Em Dead (yay!), started with this awesome disaster.

The trippy beheading intro featuring a woman going insane in a hospital is made even more bizarre by the fact that the music sounds like some awful sappy orchestral shit from a 1960s film—and it’s the soundtrack to this entire movie.

Next, we meet a couple moving into a new home. The wife is a recovering alcoholic who has psychic visions of beheadings the second she walks through the door.

dark sanity gardener

She has some encounters with her new neighbors and the creepy gardener, quickly loses her grip from all her headless visions, and ends up in a bar, where Aldo Ray approaches her. He tells her he was the detective on a case of murders in her house, that she and her husband look just like the victims, and that the killer was never caught.

dark sanity aldo

It wasn’t until now, writing this blog, that I realized that no one even dies in this film. This whole damn thing is about this chick trying to work with the ex-detective to figure out what really went on in her house in the past, pretty much driving her husband to drink in the process.

dark sanity head

There are some twists involving her psychic visions and the detective, but the highlight of this disaster is when the “killer” suddenly barges in at the end of the movie, takes a badly executed swing with an axe, and in doing so, spins right out a window.

dark sanity killer

Dark Sanity isn’t on DVD, and while I pride myself on trying to own every horror film that came out in the 80s, this scene is the only reason I would own this one.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES.

I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.

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One Response to Women losing their minds…and heads…in the early 80s

  1. joshuaskye says:

    Oh, I must see them!!!! – lol

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