It’s a trio of lesser-known films from the best horror decade ever–although you wouldn’t know that by watching these three movies.
FRANKENSTEIN ISLAND (1981)
I cannot process that this film was made in 1981 and not 1961, beginning with the hokey opening music and following through with the cheesy overall tone. There is a smorgasbord of so much silliness going on here that it’s hard to believe it could be so boring.
These guys in hot air balloons crash land on a tropical island. They meet some Amazonian babes in fur bikinis (who turn out to be aliens) as well as some pirates.
They are brought to meet Cameron Mitchell, who is locked in a cage and treated with injections to keep him tame—which seem to cause him to quote Edgar Allan Poe on a regular basis.
They meet Sheila Frankenstein, but that’s her married name. She is actually a Van Helsing. However, Dr. Frankenstein is still somehow around in the form of John Carradine as a hologram. This movie can’t even keep its classic horror literature straight.
Sheila has been doing lab work to keep some 200-year-old relative alive and needs the help of the men…and perhaps more. She has already created a load of zombified men that wear goggles due to sensitivity to light.
That’s just the setup. Then this movie goes on and on and on as Sheila F. tries to put her plans into place. Eventually, for reasons I don’t understand, the Frankenstein monster appears as well, and there’s a huge brawl in the lab involving like the entire cast—including the dog the men in the balloons brought with them.
As a GenXer who has made it his goal to have every horror movie from the 80s in his collection, I can safely say I will be making an exception with this film.
Stepping away from his streak of gory early 80s horror, Lucio Fulci perhaps marks another turning point in his filmography with Murder-Rock, which is like a giallo with Flashdance splash. It takes place at a dance school, where students begin getting killed off soon after it is announced that talent agents are coming to visit.
Right from the start we are treated to 80s dance music videos with women in leotards, leg warmers, and head bands. One girl even gets a wet solo dance number. Is it live, is it Memorex, or is it Jennifer Beals’ stand-in?
Hell, after the first murder, the dance teacher even goes for the Fame speech…with a dead friend twist. The dialogue might as well have been, “Fame costs, and here is where you start paying…in blood.”
As for the death scenes, it’s just a little prick and you’ll hardly feel it. Literally. Every kill is the same. The unseen killer chloroforms the female victim, whips out her boobs, and then slowly sticks a hairpin into her heart.
Adding to the fun is a tough detective who likes to slap around the guys he interrogates.
I guess the killer reveal has somewhat of a classic giallo element to it, but overall this feels like a pale imitation of Italian horror classics…and one that’s desperately trying to cash in on the American dance movie craze of the era. I won’t deny it’s that cheesiness that saves it for me!
HIGH DESERT KILL (1989)
This is one weird made-for-TV movie that also happens to be a good addition to the sausage fest scares page.
It opens with a possibility of a mystical Native American angle, but the intro scene ends up totally forgotten once we get to the meat of the movie.
A year after the loss of their friend, Luke of General Hospital Luke and Laura fame and Marc Singer bring a young hottie (nephew of their dead friend) on a yearly hunting trip with them.
They meet up with veteran actor Chuck Connors, who tells them the wilderness is mysteriously void of all wildlife.
Then things get really weird. The guys meet a couple of camping babes, they all seem to get entranced after a visitation by a paranormal force (signified by a negative effect applied to the film), they have a made-for-TV version of a lustful orgy around the campfire, people disappear, the dead friend makes appearances, animals are found slaughtered, the men turn on each other, there’s a sort of Stonehenge rock formation that seems to be the heart of the problem…
I really have no idea what this movie is about, but it definitely has a creepy vibe, and surprisingly the young dude gets shirtless a lot, but Marc Singer doesn’t.
The only horror money shot is a brief appearance of some sort of weird green alien life form near the end of the film.