In this look at 90s horror, I take on a little of everything—killer baboon, The Warrens before The Conjuring, killer lizards, serial killer tutor, and computer time travel.
Shakma is a perfect 80s to 90s transition movie. It has only one problem; it runs way too long! It’s an hour and forty minutes and so much of the time is weak filler.
However, the cast is awesome. We have Roddy McDowall as a professor experimenting with baboons in a big tower building…along with his med students. There’s Christopher Atkins, who most may say is “the guy from Blue Lagoon.” But to me, he’ll always be the guy from The Pirate Movie. Then there’s Amanda Wyss, better known as Tina in A Nightmare on Elm Street. There are a couple of other cute male students and the sister of one of them is Ari Meyers, who played daughter Emma on Kate & Allie.
But the real star is the baboon. Yes, they used a real baboon, and it’s terrifying. See, Roddy and crew were testing an anti-anxiety drug. Turns out the drug has the opposite effect. So as the group settles in for a night playing a live action fantasy game, little do they know that Shakma is on the loose!
For the longest time there are only occasional kills and I feared a jump scare involving a skeleton model was going to be the most terrifying part of the film. Not to mention, the characters, all med students, do the stupidest things! For instance, when Amanda Wyss reaches the lone black guy to warn him not to go to the fifth floor, she never says, “Shakma’s gone crazy and he’s up there!” WTF? As a result, the poor black guy suffers the worst death (which means, the fricking best death scene).
Turns out the smartest character in the movie is Kate & Allie girl…until she ends up doing something really stupid. The final half hour or so has some wickedly intense scenes, leading up to Christopher Atkins stealing the show when he has a standoff against the monkey. I just wish they had hacked like twenty-five minutes off the beginning of the film.
THE HAUNTED (1991)
Two decades before The Conjuring, The Warrens Corporation appeared in the TV movie The Haunted, based on a true story…and the non-fiction book The Haunted by Robert Curran…which I totally have.
It’s the 1970s when Sally Kirkland, her husband (Dale from The Walking Dead), and their kids move into a new house. The trouble begins with an Elm Street 2 moment—an unplugged toaster bakes bread and bursts into flames. Sally hears voices in the basement. There’s moving black plasma. She’s convinced there are ghosts.
And you’re not going to believe this. Her husband thinks she’s crazy. That is until the laugh-out-loud moment when they apparently feel weird shit going on in their bed and Dale starts yelling at his mattress to STOP! STOP! They try to get a priest to help but he says the Christian equivalent of fuck no, so they call in the Warrens.
The Warrens try to exorcise the house and that shit fails. So Dale gets raped by a witch ghost as smoke machines and neon lights bring on the MTV music video effects. Sally gets levitated out of bed and flung all over the place (amazing 90s special effects). Then the family decides to go camping. But the black plasma follows them. Finally, a priest does his godly duty and comes to exorcise the place.
The biggest flaw in the film Aberration is that it takes too long to establish that it’s a cheeky horror film, so by the time the humor hits, it’s a bit jarring. But if you’re good at adapting, there’s no way you won’t appreciate this gory, funny creature feature.
Pamela Gidley (The Little Vampire, Highway to Hell, Cherry 2000, Disturbed) comes to a cabin in the woods with her cat—which immediately has its guard up about the place. Then her weird old neighbor comes to warn her that she should leave while she can.
As weird shit starts happening and what at first seems like a mice problem turns into slimy green “droppings” around her place, she teams up with a cute nature researcher (Simon Bossell, who was also in the slasher film Cut). Together, they come face-to-face with the real problem: LIZARDS! Big hissing, spitting rubber lizards that are laying eggs all over the house! Awesome!
Fun, fun fun. It’s like a higher quality SyFy movie before SyFy movies existed.
The movie opens on a murder scene in a house and it feels like a home video shot in your hometown. Then the opening credits start, unfamiliar heavy metal blares, and it feels like a movie made by an aspiring filmmaker who got his awesome friends in a band to provide the music.
Bloodletting is about a chick who hunts down a serial killer and convinces him to teach her how to kill. They talk, talk, talk, bicker, bicker, bicker, fall in love, and once in a while, kill people. There’s an exploding baby. There’s a lot of gay and lesbian talk and a lot of mentions of punk and alternative bands. A guy gets his dick chewed off. There are several references to Quenton Tarantino and it’s clear that he and movies like Natural Born Killers were the inspiration for this low-budget dark comedy action exploitation horror flick.
Oh yes. The movie is totally late 1990s affected. Painfully so. There’s one really good actor who’s also really hot and plays the chick’s boyfriend…who they kill. I can’t imagine why he wasn’t made the lead male serial killer of the film. Then it would have had something going for it because aspects of the film are quite clever and self-aware. Sadly, the actor, Randy Rupp, only made a handful of low-budget indies and passed several years back.
Interestingly, the director went on to write a load of the homoerotic horror films by David DeCoteau! Which makes Bloodletting his best work….
THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR (1999)
It’s a virtual reality time travel movie! The Thirteenth Floor stars Craig Bierko, who was hot for a hot minute. OMG. Remember hot minutes? Probably more than you remember Craig Bierko…unless you’ve seen Scary Movie 4. Then you had an “I know that guy from some other movie” moment.
Anyway, some old scientist’s company has created a computer-made alternate world. The scientist is killed. He leaves a letter in the computer for Craig. Dennis Haysbert (the Allstate guy) comes on the scene as a detective. The scientist’s daughter comes on the scene (Gretchen Mol of Boardwalk Empire).
With the help of Vincent D’Onofrio (The Cell, Chained, Jurassic World), Craig heads into the alternate reality to find the letter and to find out what really happened. Seriously, this is some Back to the Future in a computer shit. It’s also a period piece. The 1930s. And everyone in the present day plays a different role back then. I just saw this on an episode of Black-ish recently!
The highlight of the film is the inclusion of two chase scenes—both involving Craig being pursued by the same person in both realities. And because this movie is all about not trusting anyone in any reality, there are numerous “what’s real and what isn’t” twists at the end. You’re left feeling totally faked out by this fictional movie about fictional realities.