The indie movie companies keep digging up the obscurities and bringing them to high def, so let’s see what has been brought back from the 90s in recent months.
FATAL EXAM (1990)
This one has that totally 80s shot-on-video look…because it was actually shot in 1985, and the dude who directed it went on to co-write Bad Grandmas with Florence Henderson and Pam Grier!
2 hours is an inexcusable length for such a messy movie, but in between the excessive filler, there’s some fun to be had here.
A parapsychology teacher invites his students to a secluded haunted house with a dark history…a family was killed there by someone wielding an ancient weapon.
As soon as they got to the house, I was getting total Dead Dudes in the House vibes. This film is in no way as good as that classic, but the atmosphere is very similar.
They discuss the murders, explore the house, set up a tape recorder and cameras to capture ghostly action, find a dollhouse, find a portrait of the killer, deal with blinking lights, etc.
The closest thing to a sex scene in the whole movie…and I’ll take it.
It’s pretty typical stuff and it all drags on longer than it needs to, but the horror music is pretty darn good for a low budget film.
It’s when they finally find a hole in the basement that the horror really kicks in. There are some bloody murders, someone running around dressed like the grim reaper, and a cheap looking cult dungeon. Unfortunately, it begins to feel more and more amateur as the film progresses.
My absolute favorite part (aside from the guys in tight mid-80s clothes) is this one dude who sees a head in a coffee table while everyone is sleeping, and makes that his argument for getting out of the house for the rest of the film. “There’s a head in the coffee table!” Too funny.
ALL-AMERICAN MURDER (1991)
I cannot believe that Potsie from Happy Days directed an early 90s trash thriller starring Christopher Walken, yet here we are. And trash it is, until the final half hour. However, it is sooooo early 90s video rental, which makes it high on nostalgia feels.
The kid from 80s teen flick 18 Again! and the short-lived Ferris Bueller series stars as a college kid with a rich dad, troubling reputation, and a pet snake, because it’s an early 90s movie, so why not?
What I don’t get is why all the montage songs in this early 90s movie sound like Christopher Cross songs right out of 1980.
At first it feels like a bad late 80s teen romance. He starts at a new college, courts a girl he likes…but then she dies in a gruesome way and he becomes the main suspect!
Christopher Walken is the detective, introduced in a silly hostage standoff scene to show us how unconventional he is. Then he mostly just has meetings with the kid, who ends up doing all the investigative work trying to prove he didn’t do it.
This shit is boooooring.
Finally, an hour in, there’s a creepy scene when the kid enters what looks like the lair of a killer, complete with some jump scares. Soon after, people finally start getting killed off, and some of the deaths are nice and gruesome. If only the whole film had been that way.
I don’t even know where to start with this movie, so I guess I’ll go right for the positive—it was actually shot in the late 80s. So…yay.
It’s only 76 minutes long, the main cop is hot in a gay 80s way, and we are thrust right into a totally bizarre and gory nightmare sequence. Then again, the whole movie seems like a bizarr-o dream.
He and a ranger hang out looking at nude pix of women as they worry about people going missing in their town.
There’s a totem pole that’s supposedly the Indian gateway to hell, zombie Native Americans, a totally queer lodge owner….and stop motion claymation monsters!
The claymation is so bad, and quite honestly, if they had rethought all that and removed those segments of the film, this could have been a rather creepy low budget indie.
The final act even has the guys fighting it out with a giant stop motion chicken. Sigh.
All the goofy claymation monster weirdness aside, as the movie wanders aimlessly, there’s a scene with the freaky queer lodge owner that should have had a whole separate movie built around it, because that movie would have become a cult classic on the level of Tourist Trap.
LAST GASP (1995)
The title of this silly erotic slasher thriller exemplifies exactly what it is—a last gasp at direct-to-video rental nostalgia. It’s sure to bring memories flooding back of Friday nights browsing the dusty shelves at the video store up the block and coming home with a bag of movies in hard plastic cases and a box of microwave popcorn then gathering around the VCR for the evening. And if you actually saw this film back then, you’ll probably remember more about that first part of the night you watched it than the actually movie.
T2 Robert Patrick stars as a real estate man who kills a bunch of Mexican tribal members after they leave some dead bodies at the construction site of a new hotel he’s building. Of course there’s a curse, so he’s possessed by the spirit of one of them.
Meanwhile, a woman is investigating her missing husband, who worked for Patrick. There’s even a bad 90s love song montage of her having sex with her pretty boy.
Before long, Patrick is running around in a loincloth and face paint hacking away at people’s Achilles heels as tribal drums beat in the background.
It’s really an absurd movie with a weak plot, but it all leads to a cat and mouse chase between tribal Robert Patrick and the leading lady. If you’ve seen the famous Zuni doll installment of Trilogy of Terror, you know exactly how this one is going to end.
Patrick getting a sex scene is the highlight, and keep an eye out for mean old Mrs. Claxton from The Golden Girls.