Digging into the bowels of 80s slashers, I’ve gathered together a handful to cover so let’s get right to it!
THE FOREST (1982)
The Forest isn’t your ordinary backwoods cannibal movie. It’s a hot mess!
You feel right at Friday the 13th home when killer POV follows a couple hiking through the woods at the beginning of the movie. Creepy music accompanies the pursuit. And the knife kill is the perfect payoff.
Then we meet our two main camping couples. Once in the woods, they must deal with ghost children who speak with a spooky echo that makes it hard to understand what they’re saying, an old dude in a baseball cap who talks about being hungry all the time and has some odd meat on a fire rotisserie in his cave, and a ghost woman looking for her children.
Honestly, the ghost woman is the creepiest element of this movie. There are only two kills and nothing much in the way of gore. And the cannibal storyline is heavily played down. The Forest is about as exciting as the oddly overhyped Just Before Dawn, which I blog about here.
GIRLS NITE OUT (1982)
Girls Nite Out makes lovers of 80s slashers feel right at home. It takes place on a college campus during a scavenger hunt. It has dark eerie settings, a backstory about a kid who went crazy in the woods nearby, plenty of likable teenagers, and a killer wearing a bear mascot costume with razor fingers who likes to call his female victims sluts and whores in a scary voice. And what the film lacks in gore it makes up for in dead body reveals.
Other highlights include an opening scene in the boys locker room with plenty of shirtless action, a costume party (with an oddly present Confederate flag on a wall), and a soundtrack loaded with 60s hits, including “Summer in the City,” “Do You Believe in Magic,” “Hanky Panky,” and Yummy Yummy Yummy,” which best describes the kid who usually wears the mascot costume. Clearly I’m not the only one who thinks so….
The cast also features some familiar faces. There’s the chick who played Betty in the Revenge of the Nerds franchise. The guy who played Kate’s plumber boyfriend Ted on Kate & Allie. Hal Holbrook who lost his mind the same year in Creepshow. And horror queen Rutanya Alda, who rescues the movie after a major slowdown of police interrogations with her performance during the creepy shocker finale. Meanwhile, a lot of this movie looks less like “girls nite out” and more like “boys coming out nite.”
STRIPPED TO KILL (1987)
Stripped to Kill is a video store gem. More Flashdance than slashdance, it’s loaded with 80s hair, 80s fashion, and full-length stripper dance routines to unknown 80s tracks in neon lighting. It’s like one long music video.
It also has BJ & the Bear himself, Greg Evigan (so fricking hot) and Kay Lenz (The Initiation of Sarah, House) as detectives investigating the murders at the strip club. Re-watching the movie, it totally struck me that Kay Lenz is like the poor man’s Shelley Hack…which is odd, considering Shelley Hack is like the poor man’s Kay Lenz. Go figure.
Naturally, Kay has to go undercover at the strip club, working for Mr. fricking Roper. Poor Norman Fell made the biggest mistake of his life agreeing to that horrible Three’s Company spinoff.
Aside from the endless T&A and a lesbian stripper sex scene if you’re into that sort of thing, watch Stripped to Kill for Greg and Kay. They’re adorable together. Plus, you get a couple of kills along the way. And Kay gets a fun final girl chase scene at the end.
**AND NOW FOR SOME QUEER SPOILERS**
While Stripped to Kill is all about dancing women (and is sort of like a remake of Herschell Gordon Lewis’s The Gore Gore Girls), it also has some curious LGBT and gender bending themes.
First, we see Greg Evigan holding a magazine called “Leather Heat” with a leather bear on the cover. And we get a little disappointed when he says he’s going to use it to bribe the coroner. And we think that if the coroner has any taste in men, it would be much easier if Greg used himself as the bargaining tool….
Later, Greg says to Kay, “I think if I woulda seen one more tit I woulda thrown up.” And we snicker.
And finally, we watch one particular mysterious stripper closely because we’ve seen Psycho, Homicidal, and Dressed to Kill. And then it clicks immediately and spoils the entire twist for us when we see her “brother.” And we suddenly see that lesbian stripper scene in a different light. And we wonder in the final scene when the brother walks out of the room with his little guido lip whiskers, and a minute later his glamorous sister enters to attack Kay…how the fuck did he/she shave so fast?
But best of all, we revel at how she puts the drama into the queen as she chases Kay while putting on a fabulous drag show.
STRIPPED TO KILL II: LIVE GIRLS (1989)
Stripped to Kill II: Live Girls clings on to the last remnants of 80s awesomeness, giving us extremes of everything, from the music, to the lighting, to the fashions. It brings a tear of nostalgia to my eye.
The horribly cheesy acting and likable gaggle of stripper friends also add to the charm of this one. And to give it a little more of a horror edge than the first, our main stripper girl is having elaborate, wickedly dark and macabre stripper dance dreams that totally match up with the throat slashing of each of her friends.
Naturally there’s a detective on the case who starts falling for our main stripper. He also has a sarcastic secretary who brings a touch of humor to the film. And despite it being a low-budget, direct-to-video sequel to another b-movie, Stripped to Kill II delivers a little something different in the final twist.