As more and more 1900s horror of my childhood (damn, I’m old) makes its digital disc debut on Blu-ray, I give my brief thoughts on four recent releases that come from the 80s. Are they worth a buy even for diehard 80s horror fans (I know, isn’t all 80s horror?).
THE BRAIN (1988)
Brought to us by horror director Ed Hunt, who made Bloody Birthday in 81 then this film in 88 before disappearing from the radar for almost 30 years, returning with Halloween Hell in 2014, The Brain is the epitome of 80s sci-fi/horror camp. It even takes place at Christmas, landing it on my holiday horror page.
The opening scene tells you just what kind of 80s goodness you’re going to get. Whacky David Gale of Re-Animator is a psycho scientist using television commercials to brainwash people, beginning with a girl in her bedroom who hallucinates everything from a bleeding Teddy bear to attacking tentacles. Best of all, we meet the BRAIN. It’s huge, and looks like a mashup of the Freddy snake from Elm Street 3 and the Fiend Without a Face.
David Gale is surprisingly underutilized here, but his madness permeates the life of a high school prankster who seems impervious to his brainwashing.
The main kid is soon being chased by the scientist’s axe-wielding assistant and the brain, which floats around gobbling people up in spurts of bloody fun. Meanwhile, those who are effectively brainwashed commit murders of their own.
It’s midnight movie fun from start to finish, complete with a car chase. And the icing on the cake for me is that the final moment of the film brings the holiday to an end with a Christmas tree sitting out at the curb. Realism in horror is everything.
This monkey cheesefest comes complete with hokey, campy, 80s synth style circus music, and it turns into a fun slasher with a monkey killer before all is said and done.
Young Elizabeth Shue is a college student who takes a job working at her college professor’s mansion, which is filled with super smart monkeys/apes. She creates a special bond with one called Link, but eventually Link becomes unhinged.
At first his behavior is protective of Shue, but eventually she pisses him off. And just when the movie seems like it’s running out of steam and has no clue what to do next to keep up the momentum, Shue’s boyfriend and all his buddy’s show up at the mansion to deliver a last minute body count.
While the movie tries to be serious and suspenseful, it’s mostly just a series of laughable situations, but it’s definitely entertaining enough if you stumble upon it on cable (which will probably never happen these days).
NIGHT BEAST (1982)
If you loved how goofy Rawhead Rex was but never saw Night Beast, you need to. It’s one I’m thrilled to add to my 80s horror collection.
The film wastes no time. Hunters see an explosion of light in the woods, they go to check it out, we get the full monster Monty, and then there’s a laser gun battle of Battlestar Galactica 1978 quality.
Super gory practical effects that usually look super fake add to the charm, the rubber monster rocks, and the poorly staged interactions between characters make this one a hoot.
I especially loved when a cop fixing the booboo on her partner’s leg serves unashamedly as foreplay to a sex scene.
Adding to the random character “development,” there’s a white trash dude who beats on his woman…and then gets brutally punished for it.
It’s amazing how easy it is to overlook such an inept “script” when there’s so much that is great about bad 80s horror movies in place.
TRAPPED ALIVE (1988)
This new array of 80s horror finally hitting Blu-ray ends as good as it began—and on the same holiday!
Trapped Alive is like Wrong Turn with all the 80s absurdity you could hope for.
Cameron Mitchell’s daughter leaves their Christmas party to go out with her BFF. The girls get stuck on a snowy road at night, three escaped convicts jump in their car, and it crashes through the ground into an old mine.
Before long, the group is locked inside a dungeon cell by a monstrous cannibal, who occasionally sends down his fricking crane game hook to snatch one of them up out of the cell to join him “for dinner”.
It might not be as gruesome as Wrong Turn, but Trapped Alive definitely has a great monster man, some vicious scenes…and a goofy final twist.