My latest selection of six flix to cover includes five I scored on Blu-ray, and a final one that could definitely use an official release on disc—and they’re all lesser-known movies you may have stumbled upon on HBO or on the video store shelves back in the 80s.
SCREAM FOR HELP (1984)
Before its recent Blu-ray release, I hadn’t seen this movie in decades—like, literally since it was on cable in the 80s. Dang, I’m old. Anyway, this is basically The Stepfather three years before that movie existed and twice as edgy. It is so damn quirky and unwilling to be typical that I kind of love it—except for the awful melodramatic score, which sounds like bad music from a Charlie’s Angels episode in the 1970s.
Our main girl is seventeen and believes her stepfather is trying to kill her mother. She watches his every move, and every time there’s an “accident” that leads to harm or death, it seems to be right after he was lurking in the area. She follows him several times and catches him banging another woman. She tells every adult she can, but no one believes her.
The best thing about this movie is that none of the characters give a fuck. The main girl boldly confronts her stepfather about everything she catches him doing. She brazenly invites her newly deceased best friend’s boyfriend in to fuck her.
She runs around with cherry blood on her hand when her stepfather catches them in the act.
The stepfather arrogantly cops to every attempt at murder, including deactivating a trap meant for his stepdaughter when she fails to trip it before he comes home. When he can no longer deny the truth to his wife, he brags about how he wanted to kill her because he couldn’t stand fucking her. And when it’s time to do something about them, he coldly and violently throws them down a set of stairs to lock them in the basement…until he needs help from the main girl, at which point he goes to ask her to do him a favor. WTF?
Highlights include a suspense sequence when the main girl sneaks into the home of the woman her stepfather is banging, a home invasion cat and mouse game during the final act, and a cheesetastic “they always come back” scene at the end.
This movie is just 80s whacked and I can’t get enough of it.
THE KINDRED (1987)
Stephen Carpenter directed three films in the 80s—The Dorm That Dripped Blood, The Power, and this one—before coming back in the 2000s for one more horror film: Soul Survivors. In my opinion, The Kindred may just be his masterpiece. It is a gory sci-fi/horror creature feature from start to finish and is as 80s as it gets.
A scientist’s mom is dying in the hospital and tells him to put an end to her experiments. She also manages to drop one more bomb before croaking—he has a brother he didn’t know about.
So he travels to the family home with some assistants, including DiMucci, who did it for our country five years before this movie in Grease 2, plus a few recognizable horror vets of the 80s.
After a not so cool scene in which tentacles come up from the floor and grab a dog, the tentacles shift focus to embedding into the skin of the scientists one by one.
With its practical effects, this movie makes a damn good argument against CGI.
It’s also a good reminder that all horror needs to stick with you is a simple plot and kick ass effects.
Sort of like a cross between Dead & Buried and Phantasm, this is pure 80s direct-to-video weirdness. I’m kind of glad I missed it back then, because it gave me a chance to feel like I was immersed in the decade once again with something new. I’m actually shocked Graverobbers made it to Blu-ray before many better known films.
The generic late 80s pop sprinkled throughout that sounds like bad Miami Vice TV show music adds just enough reminder of where this movie lands on the horror timeline. So does the rest of the movie for that matter. It opens with a woman having a gory nightmare while drenched in red horror light.
She works at a diner, where she agrees right on the spot to marry a weird dude that walks in and proposes to her. Clearly there’s some sort of supernatural magic at play (which is never explained), because this dude looks like a psycho killer funeral director.
Turns out he’s a psycho killer funeral director. He takes her to his funeral home, where all the locals are waiting for the wedding to start. She’s warned never to open a specific door.
She soon discovers the whole town is nuts, and the men turn dead bodies into zombies and fuck them because there’s no way to get AIDS from them. Ah…the 80s.
I kid you not when I say approximately the last half hour is a chase scene, both on foot and on wheels, with the main girl being chased by corpses riding motorcycles. Ah…the 80s.
The worst part of the film? A fricking voiceover at the end describing what became of each character after the movie ends. I didn’t even understand what had become of them when the movie ended.
GIRLFRIEND FROM HELL (1989)
The most glaring issue with Girlfriend From Hell is that she’s a fucking bore. It’s the boyfriend who really brings the party.
A typical goofball occult comedy ripe for viewing on cable dozens of times back in the eighties, this little film has a great pop wave theme song and explodes with the best that bad eighties fashion had to offer as the decade came to a close. How I wish it never had.
Anyway, a shy guy and a shy girl are set up on a blind date at a birthday party their friends are throwing. But the party gets crashed by a she-devil on the run from her ex-boyfriend, a nerdy devil hunter with a ray gun. Ah…the 80s.
Just when the shy couple kisses, the she-devil enters the shy girl’s body in a streak of neon like Kira rolling by on her skates in Xanadu.
This transforms the shy girl into a rocker vixen in red leather.
If only she were as tantalizing as she looks. I don’t know. Maybe they just got the wrong actress or the wrong writers to write the character, because she is dull no matter how hard she tries to be an evil bitch. The worst she can conjure up is getting a lobster to come back to life on a dinner plate and having the shy boy beat up some bad boys in an alley.
The film only picks up when her devil hunting geek boyfriend joins up with the main girls to help bring their boyfriends back to life after the she-devil fucks them to death.
This devil-hunting dude is a hoot and he’s always horny and hitting on the girls. He has a ball at a strip club…almost more than one ball when one of the girls uses his magical tool to catapult them to a gay bar when he’s not paying attention.
It’s when he finally battles it out with the she-devil that she seems a little more lively, mostly because they got a good stunt person to get tossed all over the place in tight red leather.
This is such a low-brow home invasion flick, but the cast makes it a perfect 80s time capsule piece.
Rapist brothers bust out of jail, and one of them is the Brody brother from Jaws 3 that isn’t Dennis Quaid. They go on a killing spree, taking down those involved with putting them in prison. They’re heading for…
…the home of Kyle Richards, whose father is a district attorney. She goes out with some friends, and her date is the cute alien from V that knocked up a human.
The sleaze that impregnates Jennifer Jason Leigh in Fast Times works at a diner, and Peter Brady is the sheriff.
Kyle goes home to find the escaped convicts have busted in, and after a chase scene it’s the usual home invasion torment and torture.
Eventually her friends show up so there will be a better body count.
The only high point of this tame thriller is that Kyle is the hero, as she should be in the next Halloween film if they plan to redeem the new trilogy at all.
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS (1989)
This one slipped by me in the 80s, so I’m not sure when the name change occurred, but it was intended to be titled The Hunchback of UCLA. That would have been perfect if this spoof on the Victor Hugo classic had kept the “monster” in the shadows a little longer and perhaps been more of a sex comedy. It’s disappointingly PG, so there are no sexual hijinks—not even the hunchback peeping the girls’ locker room or beating off while spying on a pillow fight.
Instead, almost as quickly as we learn that everyone believes there’s a monster living in the clock tower on the college campus, he swoops down and saves a female student and her boyfriend when some dude starts a fight with them down below.
The hunchback is brought to trial for violent behavior, and Jessica Harper and Tom Skerritt play doctors on opposite sides of the argument as to whether he’s a man or a monster.
The hunchback ends up living in his tower with the main guy, played by none other than Corey Parker, the boyfriend from Scream for Help.
The main guy and main girl help the hunchback adjust to life in society, which should provide fodder for plenty of funny scenes, but it’s all surprisingly tame, from a basketball game to a mall trip. There’s even a blip on the radar moment when the main guy and hunchback are caught hugging by a bunch of other guys in the shower room. Rather impressive that there’s no blatant homophobia tossed in here.
The funniest part for me was when the hunchback expresses his curiosity about romance to his therapist, played by Cindy Williams. I guess it kind of makes sense that the seasoned comedic actress would pull off the comic highlight of the movie.