Once Freddy, Jason, and Michael raised the horror bar in the 80s, the original monsters kind of lost their fear factor…so they gnaw on our funny bones instead! But do these six flix still hold up?
TRANSYLVANIA 6-5000 (1985)
Director Rudy de Luca wrote several Mel Brooks movies, so you would think this comedy captured that vibe. And at first it does. Unfortunately it quickly falls apart into an unfunny mess, which is shocking considering the writer and the great comic cast. They simply don’t have good material to work with.
Norman Fell sends reporters Ed Begley Jr. and Jeff Goldblum to Transylvania to look for Frankenstein. Everyone there laughs at them…but it turns out there really is a Frankenstein…and a vampire…and a werewolf…
The cast includes the likes of Michael Richards, Carol Kane, and Geena Davis as a slutty vampire (it’s how she hooked Goldblum, I guess), but the movie goes absolutely nowhere.
Eventually, the townsfolk hunt down the Frankenstein monster, leading to the lame climax.
With all the good bad horror spoofs I watched over and over on cable in the 80s when I was a teen, this one simply doesn’t stand out as one of them.
TEEN WOLF (1985)
Revisiting this 80s classic, I determined the modern day TV show reboot is so much better.
Holy crap. Teen Wolf is such a dumb film right from the beginning when Michael J. Fox plucks a mutant hair in a totally nudity free locker room scene. Why even have a locker room scene in an 80s movie if there’s not even going to be some man butt?
Fox begins to show signs of being a wolf. He even, I don’t know…glams an old man at a liquor store with his animal eyes? That’s a new power for a werewolf (well, old now).
Eventually he feels forced to tell his friends he’s a werewolf, beginning with his best buddy Stiles, who says he won’t be able to handle it if Fox is about to reveal he’s a fag. Wow. We really have come a long way in thirty years, and so has Stiles, who loved the gays in the TV show.
Once Fox’s secret is out—which is when we get full Fox shtick—everyone at school begins to exploit his new identity, from his basketball coach to the director of the school play.
There are montages galore, including two “Surfin USA” montages while characters surf on top of a truck, a dance montage at a party, a “Stayin’ Alive” montage while Fox gets ready for his high school dance, a “Big Bad Wolf” dance track montage in the gym, and a cool 80s song montage during the final basketball game, when Fox tears off the shirt of the hot guy on the opposing team…
But none of that goodness can save this from being an unfunny film with a terribly thin plot.
TEEN WOLF TOO (1987)
The only thing I remembered about this movie, which I really haven’t seen since I first watched it at the video store back in the 80s, is that I was thrilled that “Send Me An Angel,” which had only gotten minor exposure on MTV a few years before, was featured in a montage.
Turns out the soundtrack, which also includes tracks by Oingo Boingo, is the best part.
Now I can see why Michael J. Fox didn’t want to do the sequel (let alone the first one). But his dad and one teammate from the first movie return, as does the character of Stiles, although he’s recast here.
Jason Bateman plays Fox’s cousin, who gets driven to college by his uncle (Fox’s dad), where he rooms with Stiles.
And…same plot, only this time he becomes a kick ass werewolf boxer.
The wolf also does a song and dance number to “Do You Love Me” by The Contours and Kim Darby and John Astin have minor roles.
MY BEST FRIEND IS A VAMPIRE (1987)
The soundtrack alone, including songs by Blondie, Oingo Boingo, and Timbuk 3, gives me the 80s nostalgia feels, and overall it’s a charming, lite teen comedy. The locker room sex dream opener that ends in castration by nun hooks you immediately.
Our main boy delivers groceries to a supposedly abandoned house where a beautiful woman greets him. She seduces him, she bites him, and pretty soon he gets an anti-Giles guide who teaches him how to survive as a vampire!
As he discovers all the side effects of vampirism (like his parents assuming he’s gay since he’s acting so shady), he tries to date the Molly Ringwald wannabe he likes in school (classic when he attempts to glam her).
The odd thing is, despite the film’s title, he doesn’t tell his buddy he’s a vamp until 55 minutes into the movie! It’s pretty late in the game considering the buddy’s kidnapping by vampire hunters becomes the focus of the entire final act, with the vampire and his new girl trying to save him.
There’s also a future star spotting—the girlfriend’s mother is Kathy Bates!
THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987)
The director of Night of the Creeps brings us a kids’ film that could be the Hocus Pocus of a just slightly younger generation if only it was set on Halloween! To this day I can’t imagine why it wasn’t, especially considering Dracula plots to take over the world by enlisting the help of the Wolf Man, The Mummy, Frankenstein, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Luckily, a group of young boys runs a monster club in their treehouse and are the only ones equipped with the knowledge to take on the classic movie monsters.
Naturally the film is adorable and so 1980s in its formula, with a cute dog, an annoying little sister who wants in on the action, a man in a creepy house who ends up becoming an ally, and a bunch of bullies as foils.
There are some notably frightening moments that might freak out little kids. There is also a good amount of cursing and the classic line “Wolf Man’s got nards!”, plus the boys are required to find a female virgin to help thwart Dracula’s plans. I totally just used the word thwart and it felt so good.
As for the soundtrack (they were everything in the 80s), an awesome monster fighting montage is set to a song called “Rock Until You Drop” by Michael Sembello of “Maniac” fame, and an awesomely 80s theme song that’s perfect for a Halloween playlist closes the film.
One final note—in this kid’s movie from 30 years ago, the bullies relentlessly call the monster club kids fags! It’s shocking to think now that the term would’ve been used so freely by kids in a movie for kids as a derogatory attack, even if it was a common slur outside of films in those days.
MY BOYFRIEND’S BACK (1993)
Moving into the 90s, the teen monster trend was nearing its end with My Boyfriend’s Back from the director of Parents.
A young man in love with a girl since he was a kid decides to ask her to the prom after she breaks up with her jock boyfriend, played by pre-Party of Five hottie Matthew Fox…whose buddy is Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Before he can ask her, he dies and comes back as a zombie.
She starts dating him, body parts begin falling off, he learns that he needs to eat people (from undead expert Cloris Leachman, who works her way into every movie), and then he has to try to avoid people in the community who want to kill him again.
Hey Ziggy, if you need a job, The Conners miss you.
It has its moments, but overall, My Boyfriend’s Back is not quite as charming or funny as other teen monster comedies of the period and only succeeds in making me nostalgic for the days when I worked at the video store.