I went deep diving for my 80s fix with four in a variety of subgenres. So let’s get right to them.
THE LAST SHARK (1981)
Falling between Jaws 2 and Jaws 3, The Last Shark put in the effort to make a mechanical shark…at least half a shark. All shots of the fake shark are the same; the opened-mouthed head rising out of the water like something off the original Jaws poster. As limited in function as the shark is, this is a fairly fun and silly rip-off.
It stars the gorgeous leading man from Beneath the Planet of the Apes (left).
After a wind surfer disappears (the first kill), the leading man helps his daughter and her friends search for the guy, at which point he concludes there may be a shark in the waters.
Predictable scenes abound, from divers getting attacked to couples going out for evening swims. And when a wind surfing competition isn’t canceled (shocker), all hell breaks loose. There’s even a helicopter scene that—it kills me to say it—blows the helicopter scene from Jaws 2 out of the water.
Stay tuned for my upcoming 90s blog that covers a movie that was literally structured around scenes from this film and marketed as a new film…
BLOOD LINK (1982)
Not gory or scary, this psychological thriller reminds me of Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers…with a touch of De Palma’s Sisters as well. Quirky 80s horror king Michael Moriarty playing a dual role as Siamese twins is reason enough to watch, even if the pacing is slow.
When good twin begins having visions of killing people, he decides to hunt down estranged bad twin…
It’s not until fifty minutes in that the brothers finally meet and things actually start happening. Moriarty plays bad twin wonderfully with subtle flamboyance.
Basically, bad twin swaps himself out for good twin in order to continue killing while good twin gets pinned for the crimes. A series of murders comes in the last half hour, but it’s nothing shocking or memorable.
The real haunting part of this film is what takes place right as we approach the final frame.
THE HOUSE OF USHER (1989)
Considering movies named after Poe tales are rarely adaptations by any stretch of the imagination, I won’t even address the issue here.
This is simply a woman held against her will movie. The lead actress from The Howling IV travels with her man to his uncle’s mansion. Before they can get there, they crash their car while avoiding ghost children on the road—ghost children that appear several times throughout the film but add nothing to it.
This movie is a mess. Following the accident, the leading lady wakes up inside the mansion. She’s told her man is at the hospital. Oliver Reed is the uncle, who has many rules and regulations she must follow, and his servants are nuts.
The main girl explores the gothic mansion at night and discovers the body of her man. Reed says they’ll have a funeral for him, but signs point to the possibility that he’s not dead. She also comes upon Reed’s brother, played by Donald Pleasence.
He wants her help in escaping the mad house, but she can’t even get away herself, because Reed and his mad doctor have plans for her.
It’s not much in the way of a horror film, with the only freaky part being when a starving rat is used to deprive a man of his manhood…
DARK TOWER (1989)
This film is oddly similar to the killer elevator flick The Lift. Michael Moriarty (he really was a horror king in the 80s) plays a clairvoyant investigator on the case when a window washer takes a huge dive from a newly constructed building.
The love interest from An American Werewolf in London stars as the building’s architect, and she seems to be haunted by a presence outside her office window…the window the washer was cleaning when he plunged to his death.
Moriarty has visions of her being killed. A security guard is killed. A shooter comes in and blows away a bunch of people. Moriarty calls in a parapsychologist who has a long conversation with the ghost. Kevin McCarthy (the actor, not the douche congressman) joins the investigative team near the end for no apparent reason.
It’s soooooo boring.
Only the final scene, in which American Werewolf woman is chased by a corpse, delivers any kind of worthwhile horror. Even Moriarty doesn’t seem to have the motivation to deliver his usual unusual performance.