The weirdness of the 80s in four films

There’s so little left for me to cover from the 1980s, yet I keep scraping the bottom of the seemingly endless barrel from the golden age of video tapes. So let’s get into the four I’ve watched recently, two on Blu, two on Prime.

DEATH SHIP (1980)

This odd little supernatural flick from 1980 is such a convoluted mess it’s almost as fun as the Euro horror of the time.

George Kennedy and Richard Crenna run a huge ship that crashes and sinks. They and a small group of survivors on a lifeboat row up to a huge black ship that has no one aboard.

They move right into the rooms and get cozy, even watching old films on a projector they find…which seems to make one lady’s face turn zombie.

Meanwhile, the ship has a mind of its own and begins killing people on deck with chains and hooks and spilling blood from shower heads. It also possesses George Kennedy, and he kills people on the sly.

The film is actually rather boring beyond the scene in which one guy loses his mind after finding a torture dungeon of corpses and seeing a film clip of Hitler. Yes, it’s a Nazi themed ghost movie, but it does a mostly terrible job making that point gel with the insanity going on. I guess we’re to assume Nazi spirits are haunting the vessel.

There’s also a great death scene right at the end, but I won’t spoil it.

HELLHOLE (1985)

More a dark exploitation flick than straight up horror, Hellhole isn’t a particularly good movie, but it’s totally awesome for 80s whores.

Judy Landers (the Landers sister that wasn’t in A Chorus Line) sees a guy in leather choke her mother to death with his red silk scarf. Sure he was gay, I was amazed when he later takes a mud bath with two women.

Anyway, after a tragic “accident”, Landers is put in a mental institution and remembers nothing. But leather man thinks she does, so he gets a job as an orderly hoping to get from her what he was trying to get from her mother.

Speaking of guys in leather, a guy from Cruising plays an undercover cop working at the institution. Maniac Cop is a guard. The guy who battled giant rats in The Food of the Gods is a doctor. And b-queen Mary Woronov does what she does best—plays an evil doctor with lesbian tendencies that preys and experiments on the female patients in her all-girl institution.

Her liquid lobotomies put them into a zombie-like state, so they’re all kept locked up in an extra building on the facility called “Hellhole” that has a boiler room straight out of Elm Street. Of course the whole movie is about Landers and everyone else eventually ending up in Hellhole and the lobotomized women getting free. If only it were as good as its 80s atmosphere.

WHITE OF THE EYE (1987)

This film reminds me of Far From Home, another mystery thriller desert movie that came out a few years later.

The two—count them, two—kill scenes in this near 2-hour movie are quite original and weird, like something right out of the Argento playbook.

One comes right at the beginning of the film, and the other an hour in.

Other than that, this film makes you feel like you live in the slow moving world of a desert community where there’s nothing to do but watch the sand blowing. It’s soooooo boring despite its attempts to be avante-garde.

David Keith and Cathy Moriarty are a couple. They have sex, they talk, he becomes the prime suspect in a murder mystery. And we just sit there waiting for something, anything to happen. In the last half hour, Cathy and her daughter become trapped in her house by the killer, leading to a cat and mouse chase to an abandoned building in the desert.

1970s funk hit “You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate is a running theme throughout the film, if that works as an incentive to watch.

TOUCH OF DEATH (1988)

It feels like Fulci was going for a Herschell Gordon Lewis throwback with this gorefest, in which all the female characters are disposable for the sake of a bloodbath.

It’s a pointless cycle—a crazy guy dates women who are mocked for laughs in each scene as he becomes grossed out by their flaws (one has facial hair, one likes to sing opera while being slapped around, etc.). His reactions are the best part of the film.

Then he kills them in a gruesomely graphic way—although much of the gore is over-the-top fake. It’s also implied he eats them.

In between, he watches the news to learn how close the authorities are to identifying him as the killer.

That’s it. That’s the movie. Yawn.

 

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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