A killer knight, a big bug, a sexy psycho, and even a gay stalker in my latest marathon of films from the 1980s. Let’s get right into them.
PANIC BEATS (1983)
Director/writer/actor Paul Naschy pumped out Euro horror flicks for decades. Here he stars as a man who brings his sick wife to convalesce in his family’s home.
Right from the start things go wrong, putting the wife’s health at further risk. She gets mugged, she finds a snake in her bed, she sees body parts in her food. And all along, other members of the family talk about the curse of a descendant—a violent man who rises from the grave once a year in knight armor and seeks revenge on family members.
Naturally, despite his wife’s psychotic meltdowns, the husband has to go away for a short period of time, which is when things get even worse for her. Is the knight all in her head or is there really a supernatural presence after her?
If you can’t see the truth from the very start of the film, you’re definitely a horror movie amateur. Yet as routine as this film is, I do like how everyone in the family is terrorized by the end.
INSECT! (aka: Blue Monkey) (1987)
Even better, horror king Steve Railsback is awesome as the detective on site when all hell breaks loose.
I won’t deny the film takes a looooong time to get going. A man is brought to the hospital after being bitten by something in his garden. When a nasty worm thing crawls from his mouth, doctors plan to study it.
Don’t ask me why the hell sick children are allowed to just run rampant around the hospital, but sick little shits fuck around in the lab (yes, children can somehow get in the lab) and cause the worm thing to morph into a giant praying mantis.
The giant killer bug and the awesome 80s horror lighting are everything. Total classic, despite the ridiculous alternate title Blue Monkey.
THE PHONE CALL (1989)
Yay! A gay thriller from the ultimate era of thrillers that gets a spot on the homo horror movies page.
It’s easy to dismiss The Phone Call as a) a complete rip-off of Fatal Attraction, and b) just another movie that paints gays as sex perverts out to destroy perfect heterosexual life, tear apart families, and target children.
Overlooking the fact that the gay guy just got out of jail, takes a job at a gay phone sex line, and then stalks a white collar straight man, I think this film is actually a metaphor for being a gay, closeted, married man.
The entire focus is on a dirty secret the main straight man is keeping. He calls a sex line (obviously his straight life isn’t so perfect), and when he discovers the major mo mistake he made, he ends the call by hurling anti-gay slurs. The crazy gay guy just trying to do his job tracks the straight guy down and makes a big gay dramatic scene that causes the straight man’s career to spin into turmoil.
And that’s when the audience gets a heterosexual safe zone break, with the straight man running home to his wife to embrace her and reassert his orientation.
Then the gay man paints a revelatory message on the straight guy’s fence, so the straight guy hunts him down, beats him, chokes him on a bed…and then apologizes to him. Right after that, the straight man cleans off the gay again by making love to his wife.
When the gay guy shows up as a painter to fix the fence issue, the straight man still doesn’t confess to his wife, totally leaving their daughter in harm’s way as a result. At this point it would be a lot less shameful for a straight man to just admit he slipped up and called a gay sex line, yet straight pride prevents him from coming clean with the wife.
When things get really bad, the straight man finally tells the wife everything and they call the police, who are like, “you accidentally called this gay sex line, the guy stalked you, so you hired him to paint your fence???” It’s a classic example of how the police don’t take seriously any crime committed against someone they so much as presume is gay.
The movie is literally figuratively about how being gay could ruin a man’s life back then.
During the inevitable battle between gay and straight, the gay guy takes a verbal jab at the straight guy’s masculinity, and it all ends with a good old symbolic, phallic horror movie impalement and a close, intimate embrace between the two men.
MIND GAMES (1989)
After The Boys Next Door, Maxwell Caulfield once again played psycho in this typical thriller of the late 80s/early 90s era.
Predominantly predictable, this is about a family—husband, wife, son—that goes on a road trip in an RV. When the son meets young, handsome Caulfield in a park, he takes a shine to him, and pretty soon Caulfield is tagging along with them family against the mother’s wishes.
Oddly, the husband thinks the wife doesn’t love the son, yet she is constantly concerned for the boy’s safety while the father is always like, “Let him just go be alone in the woods with the strange man.”
That’s the one place in which this film differs from other psycho/stalker flicks of the time. It dares to go to icky, uncomfortable places with the relationship between Caulfield and the kid. Caulfield tells the family he’s studying abnormal psychology, so he uses that to woo and manipulate the boy into doing anything he wants. While it never crosses the line into pedophelia, there is a point at which Caulfield brags that he could turn the son homosexual if he wanted. Here’s where I should argue that it’s offensive to say kids can just be turned gay, but I’d be a hypocrite considering Caulfield turned me gay when he slipped on a leather jacket in Grease 2 seven years before this film…
Mind Games is painfully slow, the couple makes ridiculously bad decisions, and a rip-off of the Bruce Hornsby and The Range 1987 pop hit “The Way It Is” plays constantly. The only thing the film has going for it is Maxwell Caulfield in a Speedo.