It’s a lost 80s horror bonanza, with five flicks that never came my way in the days of cable and video rentals, but have found a home in my media library four decades later. I’m absolutely giddy over it…but that doesn’t mean they’re all good movies…
THE BLACK ROOM (1982)
This feels more like a sleazy acid trip flick from 1972 than it does a horror movie from 1982. Honestly, if I had seen it back in the day I wouldn’t have added it to my extensive collection of 80s horror flicks. Oh, who am I kidding? I probably would have bought it purely out of nostalgia anyway.
It starts off with nudity, a kill, and a burial, so it did grab my attention. Next we meet a sexually active couple that is going through a dry spell because having kids ruins lives (in this case one of the kids is played by young Linnea Quigley).
The husband rents a sex room from a weird brother and sister and starts bringing random women there for sex.
Little does he know that the siblings abduct these women and “feed” off them through blood transfusions.
Are they unconventional vampires or just crazy? We’ll never know. But considering they’re filling themselves with the blood of sexually promiscuous people in 1982, they are seriously at risk of contracting HIV before anyone even knows what it is.
This movie is sexually weird (yay!), but don’t expect a body count. There is, however, one scene ripped right out of the true story of Jeffrey Dahmer, when a victim got away but ignorant witnesses just let the killer take the victim back inside.
Goose from Grease 2 even gets involved in all the sexual shenanigans, but it’s eventually just the husband and wife vs. the “vampires”, and it’s a pretty underwhelming final fight.
FATAL GAMES (1984)
A lost indie slasher of the eighties is always a treat, and while this is generally a cheap, lower tier offering, it deserves a controversial place in queer horror history as it seems to get inspiration from movies like De Palma’s Dressed to Kill and Sleepaway Camp.
In terms of 80s slash trash, this one delivers, starting off with an awesome attempt at progressive rock music during the gym montage opener. Athletes are representing their school at a nationals competition. Keep an eye out for Glen’s dad from Elm Street as the principal.
We are soon being treated to what made 80s horror great—lots of gratuitous T&A, in this case both male and female as we move from one locker room to another.
There’s also an interesting angle here—the star athletes are apparently being fed some sort of “medication”, and there’s reference to the coaches wanting to tame one girl’s hormones for fear her development will affect her performance. Considering where this film is headed, this is an unexpectedly timely element of an otherwise thin plot.
Our killer wears a hoodie jumpsuit and uses a very phallic javelin as a weapon. As a result, most of the kills are the same, but they’re all dark and shadowy, drenched in 80s horror blue, and accompanied by ridiculously melodramatic horror music that is such overkill it starts to wear thin.
However, there are plenty of chase scenes and some fantastic moments to be had. The first appearance of the killer is epic and makes for a perfect movie poster. There’s an underwater kill in a pool that brings to mind Jaws POV.
The body reveal scene near the end is original and absolutely priceless. The identity of the killer is sort of predictable, but the scandalous killer motivation will have queer horror groups battling it out for years to come.
Also of note is that there’s a lesbian couple and what amounts to one of the best pieces of IMDb trivia ever.
Apparently when everyone went away for Christmas break during shooting, one of the girls playing a lesbian became Born Again and refused to kiss another girl on the lips when she returned, so it became a forehead kiss instead. Leave it to a Christian to not only ruin a horror movie, but not just drop out completely and instead only draw the line at a lesbian kiss in a movie loaded with nudity, sex, violent kills, a predatory massage scene, and a twist that paints queers in a bad light.
OFF BALANCE (aka: Phantom of Death) (1987)
The director of Cannibal Holocaust brings us a bizarre movie about a pianist who is suffering from an accelerated aging disease that also makes him a psycho killer—who reminded me of Mr. Hyde.
I had never seen this one before I bought the Blu-ray, but I’ve noticed it being compared to giallos online quite a bit.
It has 80s Euro horror sensibilities for sure, but it’s essentially one of those portrait of a serial killer movies.
There’s no mystery here for the audience; we know who the killer is. The only one trying to uncover the killer’s identity is Donald Pleasence, who plays the detective on the case.
Overall, the film is kind of boring despite some classic gory Euro horror kills.
Most intriguing is that due to the killer rapidly aging, Pleasence keeps getting conflicting clues, from eye witness accounts of the killer’s appearance and age to voice analysis of calls the killer makes to Pleasence. What a great way for a killer to foil an investigation, even if he has no choice in the matter.
RAT MAN (1988)
Rat Man is about a lab-made rat/monkey hybrid that gets loose and starts terrorizing models on an island.
For starters, expect plenty of photo shoot montages and several sets of titties, because this was the 80s, and that’s how horror rolled back then.
Pretty quickly, the photographer and models shooting on a beach find bodies. That’s right. Not once, but twice they find bodies stuck in the rocks along the shore.
Doesn’t stop them from delivering more photo shoot montages.
In a very Argento-esque moment, one model walking alone at night is chased by a stalker, sneaks into a random house, and ends up turning a game of cat and mouse into a game of mouse and rat.
The film does go the investigative route after that, with one woman who comes to identify the body playing detective to learn the truth of what happened to the model. The photographer ends up doing the same exact thing.
Although the film is slow for a while, it picks up and pays off when the rat man comes out to play in the final act, saving the film. There’s even an ending that could have led to a sequel called Rat Man on a Plane.
SPIDER LABYRINTH (1988)
In Spider Labyrinth, a sexy American researcher goes to Budapest to meet with a professor who was working on a secret project.
The professor turns out to be really bizarre and paranoid, and before long it appears he had reason to be, because he’s found hanging from a spider web in his home.
Is this a giant killer spider movie? No, but spiders do play a part with really bad, stop motion effects that look even worse in 4k. The spider theme is mostly a metaphor for a mystery surrounding meshing religions that worship the same divine figure. It’s an intriguing and confusing concept…another sign of 80s Italian horror.
The hot researcher spends a lot of time running around town trying to investigate the case he’s been ensnared in, locals stare at him in a creepy fashion, cat, spider, and black ball themes keep coming up, and there’s a freaky, drooling witchy woman running around killing people.
It’s a rather slow experience for a while, the highlight of which is a classic Italian horror sequence—a woman is chased and killed while running through a maze of white sheets. Very Argento.
The final act is the money shot. I didn’t totally understand what the hell was going on, but the visual horror rocks. There’s an actual underground labyrinth and a freaky and gory sacrifice scene involving a baby and a giant spider that is so incredibly 80s Euro horror. It made me glad I blind bought this release. As if there was ever a question that I would pass up on buying a horror flick released in the 80s.