Rather than double dip and replace every single 80s horror movie I have on DVD with Blu-rays, I focus on collecting 80s horror flicks that never even made it to DVD or went out of print before I could snag a copy. It’s amazing that companies like Retromedia and Shout! Factory are digging up these movies that were pretty much ignored in the DVD days and now bringing them to Blu-ray. Here are three that hit the market in just one week!
SCALPS (1983) (Retromedia)
One of the earlier films by b-movie director Fred Olen Ray, Scalps is just weird and sloppy enough to be from the 1980s. It may be one of the worst attempts at a backwoods slasher, but if you saw it back then as a young teen, it would have messed you up pretty good.
A group of college students goes into the mountains to dig around an old Indian burial ground. Even though the road trip has a Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe and the location is very The Hills Have Eyes, the movie just doesn’t offer any terror. In that way, I’d say it’s very similar to a movie that gets way more love than I’ll ever understand: Just Before Dawn. The students spend most of the movie doing nothing but talking! The only “horror” for a majority of the film is random overlays of gnarly, demonic Indian faces.
Eventually, a cute blond dude looks into the campfire and becomes possessed. He sensually licks blood off his hot bod, and we get to see his butt when he attempts to sexually assault his girl. What I’m saying is, even though he eventually ends up with a nasty Indian monster face, he looks great when offensively appropriating the garb of Native-Americans.
The kills finally come, and they are kind of cool. A cute bearded guy gets clobbered in slow motion, a chick gets riddled with arrows during a chase scene, and another chick is victim to a gruesome scalping. Yeah…there’s like one scalping in Scalps.
There’s also a full beheading and a predictable ending reminiscent of Trilogy of Terror—which means, it’s an awesome ending. Despite all its flaws, I’d still rather watch this one over Just Before Dawn.
JACK’S BACK (1988) (Shout! Factory)
It’s a movie about someone mimicking the murders of Jack the Ripper on the 100th anniversary of his reign of terror. Rather than go the obvious 80s slasher route, Jack’s Back focuses on James Spader (another obvious 80s route) and his apparent psychic dream revealing the copycat’s identity.
Seriously, there are only two kills in Jack’s Back. The first opens the movie and pretty much happens off-screen, and the second completely happens off-screen. We only see the body after. Everything else is just talk by detectives about the new ripper’s killing spree. What I’m saying is, they should have gone the slasher route. Or at least given us some juicy kills.
James teams up with Fame alum Cynthia Gibb to catch the killer. Honestly, not much happens. It’s not very suspenseful, and the mystery isn’t all that compelling. This could be because the best part of the film is the first 20 minutes or so, which is when we get the biggest twist! It’s really clever, too, but the remainder of the film doesn’t back it up, and there are way too many dropped or unexplained plot points. Also, you can pretty much predict the generic outcome. But my biggest disappointment is that actor Bobby Hosea, who plays a co-worker of James and Cynthia, is only in one scene. He’s dreamy!
SONNY BOY (1989) (Shout! Factory)
Sonny Boy has Brad Dourif, David Carradine in drag, and the creepy landscaper from Pieces as Carradine’s husband. Together, they all raise an abducted baby to be a feral killer. Too bad this movie isn’t a horror film.
Forget the creepy artwork and tagline. This shit is boring, even though Sonny Boy’s dick “father” tortures him constantly. It’s all done to a terrible melodramatic score like something from a 1970s drama, with Sonny Boy softly narrating. The tone is bizarrely whimsical, despite the fact that they cut out his tongue, hitch him to the back of a truck by a chain and drag him, and pretty much toast him like a human marshmallow at a bonfire. I guess the goal is to get us to feel bad for this kid. So much so that when he grows up and becomes a “killer,” we don’t even get to see much evidence of him being vicious at all.
On the bright side, DAMN. Sonny Boy is one hot abused hillbilly boy. Movie should have been called Pretty Boy. Eventually a lynch mob on bikes comes for him and things start looking like Mad Max. This one is for 80s completists only.