At the end of the 1980s, stuntman/actor/director Bob Bralver, whose lengthy career includes appearing on Star Trek, directing episodes of Knight Rider, and doing stunts for Diagnosis Murder, made a couple of horror movies loaded with 80s pop culture appeal! So let’s take a look at Rush Week and Midnight Ride.
RUSH WEEK (1989)
Combining college sexploitation party fun, a light mystery thriller, and a good old masked killer, Rush Week is a sinfully overlooked 80s slasher. It. On top of all that, it’s kind of gay (not surprising since it’s about frat boys) and has some familiar faces, including fricking Gregg Allman in a cameo as a meditating hippie professor. WTF?
Although the focus is on two rival fraternities, our killer is only after college babes with boobs. Go figure. Is the killer the burly bear cafeteria cook who runs a side business photographing naked college girls? The main girl (who looks like Rose McGowan) is the school reporter, and she’s determined to find out as she cozies up to our main frat boy, who appears to have stepped out of an a-ha video.
There are three frat parties. One party has a horror-themed peepshow, and a The Hills Have Eyes II poster is hanging on a wall. All three parties feature performances by new wave and punk bands.
One of the bands playing at the horror-themed party is none other than The Dickies, best known for their theme song to the horror flick Killer Klowns from Outer Space.
The new wave soundtrack also includes tracks from Devo, Surf Punks, and The Dead Milkmen.
Cute guys and male nudity abound. A kid wearing a mask and jockstrap pops out of a body bag during a biology class and wiggles his butt.
The beary chef is about to shower when he discovers the reporter in his tub and chases her out of the house in his undies.
At one of the frat parties, a guy gets pants and without missing a beat, nonchalantly continues dancing in his undies while all the other guys cheer.
Which leads me to the gay stuff. Pledges are brought into a party in drag and paddles are waved (sadly, they’re not used). Pretending to be the first all-gay frat, guys walk around holding hands, including real-life conservative weirdo Dominick Brascia from Friday the 13th: Jason Lives (my blog about the homoerotic 80s horror movies he directed here).
When the camera rolls on a fraternity “welcome” video, it turns out the frat boys have played a prank and swapped out the film with gay fisting porn, complete with chaps, cowboy hats, a target on the bottom’s butt, and a big tub of elbow grease.
Of course, the movie would be nothing without its awesome killer – a robed, masked figure wielding a battle-axe. Girls are stalked, girls are axed. Surprisingly, its always cutaway axing—no blood or gore! At least, not until near the end.
The middle of the film drags a bit as the reporter plays Nancy Drew and gets romantic with her new man, but she ends up in a kick ass chase scene with the killer, complete with body reveals, a battle of the battle-axes, a killer that keeps getting back up, and heads flying!
After that…it’s back to the frat party for a happy ending! Classic.
MIDNIGHT RIDE (1990)
Midnight Ride feels like a messy knockoff of The Hitcher, and the only thing that really saves it is the awesome psycho performance by Mark Hamill. That’s right, Luke Skywalker turns to the dark side, and it wouldn’t be the first time. He’d play a lunatic killer a few years later in Body Bags.
While there’s a high body count, it’s no surprise that this film is more of a car chase action film. That’s because it stars American Ninja hottie Michael Dudikoff. Ironically, Bob Bralver went on to direct the fifth installment of that franchise in 1993—without Dudikoff. I guess Midnight Ride was Dudikoff’s attempt to avoid being typecast, because he plays a rather bumbling cop who can’t even overpower Mark Hamill. WTF?
Wasting no time, the film begins with Dudikoff’s wife telling him she’s leaving him. She drives off to go stay with a friend…and ends up giving Hamill a ride. Wait, what? Before long, Hamill is killing people, terrorizing the wife, and targeting Dudikoff, who has hopped in a car to chase after her. They seem to be in the middle of nowhere, so the number of times the wife gets away from Hamill while he’s off killing another person yet still ends up back in her car with him is incomprehensible to me.
Also hard to swallow is what a pathetic excuse for a cop Dudikoff is. Within minutes of first encountering Hamill, he’s strapped down to the front hood of a taxi and taken on a joyride. I’m sure it’s a joyride for Hamill, too. After all, right outside the windshield is the glorious sight of Dudikoff’s crotch. Not so much fun for Dudikoff, who squeals like a girl. What happened to our American ninja?
Car chases galore, roadblocks, and shootouts break up the monotony of the wife’s inability to get away from a killer and Dudikoff’s inability to stop a killer. Meanwhile, there are some familiar faces, including a brief appearance by the main girl from Rush Week, Lezlie Dean of Freddy’s Dead and 976-EVIL as a victim, and veteran actor Robert Mitchum of the original Cape Fear as the doctor who may be able to stop Hamill’s rampage—at a hospital, where the final chase and battle between Hamill and Dudikoff plays out.
Watch this one to see Mark Hamill’s performance and to see Dudikoff spread-eagle. Otherwise, just watch The Hitcher.