Film Review: The Fog (1980)

Release Date: February 1st, 1980
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Music by: John Carpenter
Cast: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins, John Houseman, Janet Leigh, Hal Holbrook, Nancy Loomis, Charles Cyphers

Debra Hill Productions, AVCO Embassy Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

“I don’t know what happened to Antonio Bay tonight. Something came out of the fog and tried to destroy us. In one moment, it vanished. But if this has been anything but a nightmare, and if we don’t wake up to find ourselves safe in our beds, it could come again. To the ships at sea who can hear my voice, look across the water, into the darkness. Look for the fog.” – Stevie Wayne

I was never a huge fan of The Fog but for some reason, I like this film a lot more now. I did enjoy it when I was younger but it wasn’t something I felt the need to revisit as often as the typical slasher films of the day. This has slasher elements to it but it certainly is not a clone of HalloweenFriday the 13th or anything else similar.

This is a quintessential John Carpenter flick. It also stars just about all of his top dogs except Kurt Russell and Donald Pleasence. You do have Adrienne Barbeau, in what is my favorite role of hers, as well as Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins and Carpenter regulars Charles Cyphers and Nancy Loomis. The cast also boasts Hal Holbrook, who starred with Barbeau two years later in Creepshow. We also get to see Janet Leigh, Curtis’ real mother who is most remembered for Psycho.

The threat in this film is a mysterious fog that rolls into a small coastal California town. The fog carries some swashbuckling zombies that want their gold back. The nautical zombies don’t actually swashbuckle, instead they use their blades like a slasher would.

Barbeau plays a single mother who owns a lighthouse where she broadcasts over the radio. From atop the town, she can see the fog rolling in and tries to give the town a play-by-play on what is happening but ultimately, the ghosts come to haunt her as well.

I like this film a lot and I think it is underrated, even if it did get a crappy remake in 2005.

Unfortunately, the swashbuckling ghost zombies aren’t the most unsettling thing about the picture. Something about the Tom Atkins and Jamie Lee Curtis hookup was just bothersome to me. I like both actors but when this was made Curtis was 21 while Atkins was 44. As a 38 year-old man, I can’t even talk to a 25 year-old girl and find anything in common with her, just sayin’.

The Fog is a solid movie. It also has one of the best scores that John Carpenter has ever produced. It uses its fog and lighting effects perfectly and the monsters are damn cool.

Film Review: Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

Release Date: October 13th, 1989
Directed by: Dominique Othenin-Girard
Written by: Michael Jacobs, Dominique Othenin-Girard, Shem Bitterman
Based on: characters by John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Music by: Alan Howarth
Cast: Donald Pleasence, Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell, Beau Starr, Wendy Kaplan, Tamara Glynn

Magnum Pictures, Klasky Csupo, Trancas International, Galaxy Releasing, 97 Minutes

Review:

“No, of course you don’t forget. How could you? You never looked into his face, did you? You never saw his eyes. You never saw that- that nothing, no expression, blank. My memory goes back twelve years to the night I offered… I’m gonna show you- show you something. Look. [lifts up his burned hand] Look at this, look at that. I prayed that he would burn in Hell, but in my heart I knew that Hell would not have him.” – Dr. Loomis

After the success of Halloween 4, the fifth installment was quickly pushed out. It follows the events of the fourth film but picks up a year later.

While not quite as good as 4Halloween 5 still captures the same tone and utilizes the strengths of the returning cast members.

I always really liked the opening sequence of this one. It shows how Michael Myers survives the ending of the fourth film, after being blasted to bits and falling down a mine shaft. This film even puts an extra cherry on top by having the town mob throw some dynamite down the well, which wasn’t seen in the finale of the fourth film.

This is also the first film to show Michael maybe express some empathy when he is about to murder his young niece and she asks to see his face and a tear is revealed. It can possibly be assumed that he isn’t really in control of himself, which is something that will be answered in the next film. However, this also sort of cheapens the long held idea that Michael is nothing other than evil personified.

Danielle Harris really ups the ante in this one and cemented herself as a scream queen and not just some one-off screamy kid in a sole slasher film. Donald Pleasence also returns and is at his best. He even gets some good shots in on Michael, after he’s been beaten, battered and slashed by the monster.

Also, this film is the first to show Michael’s tattoo, which would be significant to the plot of the sixth film. It also introduces a mysterious character, at the end, that assists in Michael’s escape from the police station. This also sets up the sixth film. Really, this is the first film that felt like it was actually planning to move forward, even if the sixth installment didn’t come for another six years.

If you like Halloween 4, there really isn’t a reason to dislike Halloween 5. It’s more of the same and might not be as good but it makes up for its small drop in quality with some new and interesting plot developments.

Film Review: 976-EVIL (1988)

Release Date: December 9th, 1988 (UK)
Directed by: Robert Englund
Written by: Rhet Topham, Brian Helgeland
Music by: Thomas Chase, Steve Rucker
Cast: Stephen Geoffreys, Jim Metzler, Maria Rubell, Pat O’Bryan, Sandy Dennis

CineTel Films, Horrorscope Productions, New Line Cinema, 92 Minutes (theatrical), 105 Minutes (VHS)

Review:

“[possessed Hoax produces two ripped-out hearts] Would it be possible… to enter the game with a pair of hearts?” – Hoax

976-EVIL probably has a bad rap. It’s not a good movie, per se, but it gets more negative attention than it deserves. It is underappreciated, in my opinion, even if it is far from perfect. Plus, it was directed by Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund.

The film stars Stephen Geoffreys, most famous for playing “Evil Ed” in Fright Night. He is just as strange in this picture but even with that strangeness, he is likable and charismatic. In this, we get to see him break down from a nerdy kid into a demon possessed badass with some really good lines and cool moments.

The film isn’t boring but it also isn’t too exciting. It feels like a rehash of a lot of things 80s horror fans had already seen with better execution. Tapping into the hotline craze of the 80s was a cool touch, though. It became a story where the supernatural was reliant on technology to spread itself into the world, similar to what we would see years later with the Japanese film Ringu and its American remake The Ring. Not to mention all the films since then that tap into people getting possessed or killed by supernatural evil working through websites or social media platforms.

976-EVIL isn’t a complete waste but it isn’t a must see movie either. It works on a day when you’ve exhausted every 80s horror film you can think of and find this sitting on a streaming site. It is a good way to kill 90 minutes and Stephen Geoffreys gives a memorable performance.

Also, the big finale in the house where “Hell froze over” is well done. I always liked this part of the film and it stands out as a memorable horror finale from this era.

Film Review: The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Release Date: August 16th, 1985
Directed by: Dan O’Bannon
Written by: John Russo, Rudy Ricci, Russell Streiner, Dan O’Bannon
Music by: Matt Clifford, Francis Haines
Cast: Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Thom Mathews, Miguel A. Núñez Jr., Linnea Quigley

Hemdale Film Corporation, A Greenberg Brothers Partnership, Orion Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

“Listen, there’s a bunch of people from the cemetery who are stark, staring, mad, and they’ll kill you and eat you if they catch you. It’s like a disease. It’s like rabies, only faster, a lot faster. That’s why you’ve got to come and get us out of here now… right now!” – Burt Wilson

There are very few movies as awesome as The Return of the Living Dead. It is, hands down, the greatest zombie comedy ever put to celluloid… sorry, Shaun of the Dead. It is also balls to the wall insane from beginning to end while being full of punk teens, great older actors and the best zombie hoard in the history of motion pictures.

Like Dawn of the Dead, which was George A. Romero’s sequel to Night of the Living Dead, this film is also a sequel (in a way), as John A. Russo was the other half of the creative duo that gave birth to that original film back in 1968.

The Return of the Living Dead is an alternate continuity to Romero’s Living Dead universe, though. In fact, the original film is mentioned in this picture, as it is a movie that exists within this alternate timeline. However, the movie is referenced and casually dismissed as a Hollywood version of the “real story”. This film continues off of that original story, which is established in a conversation between two of the characters very early on.

The reason for the split continuities, is that Romero and Russo had creative differences over the property. Romero even went as far as to send Russo a cease and desist order over this film, which effected the marketing but ultimately, didn’t stop the film from being released and spawning its own sequels.

Romero purists will probably hate me for saying this but this is my favorite Living Dead film. It is also my favorite zombie picture. I wouldn’t say that it is the greatest, as far as overall artistry is concerned, but it is the one that I watch the most and have the largest amount of appreciation for. The film is just fucking cool and that is really an understatement.

Initially, Russo wrote a Return of the Living Dead novel and shopped it around Hollywood to be adapted. At one point, Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 1 & 2Poltergeist, The Funhouse) was slated to direct the film but that fell through. Ultimately, what we got was this, which is better than what the Hooper film probably would have been.

In this film, we quickly learn that zombies don’t die by destroying their brains. The zombies can be dismembered, have their heads knocked off and still keep coming. They’re essentially impossible to kill. At one point, they cremate a pile of animated zombie parts. However, the smoke from the crematorium goes up into the clouds, which rain onto the graveyard, reanimating the dead. There really isn’t an effective way to kill the zombies, which makes the threat in this film, infinitely worse. Not to mention the fact that they move with speed and want to eat human brains.

I know that they don’t give out Oscars for pictures like these but James Karen put on a performance that was legendary. He was a hilarious and useless doofus that accidentally set the zombie threat free. All he did from that point forward was freak out and whine but he did it with such believable gusto that it is impossible not to be captivated by his absurd character and to love the scenes that he’s in.

We also get Miguel A. Núñez Jr. in my favorite role that he ever played. He’s a punk rocker that kind of acts like a damsel in distress but it works. Linnea Quigley also shows up, gets butt naked and dances on a tomb because this is the kind of stuff she was best known for. It is also her most memorable role, in my opinion. Don Calfa, probably best known as the killer in Weekend At Bernie’s is the guy who works at the crematorium and he’s also fantastic in this. Clu Gulager is perfect as the no nonsense older alpha male lead; Thom Mathews, one of the Tommy Jarvises in the Friday the 13th film series, pulls his weight too.

This film, for what it is, is absolutely perfect, which is why I have to give it the highest score possible. I used to love watching this when it rotated in and out of Joe Bob Briggs’ MonsterVision on TNT back in the 90s but nothing beats watching the unedited non-television version. How else are you going to see the beautiful gore and Ms. Quigley’s glorious breasties? Her bum is quite exceptional too, for the record.

The Return of the Living Dead could make a case for being the coolest movie of all-time. It probably isn’t for everyone but for kids who grew up watching horror in the 80s, this thing is a friggin’ masterpiece.

Plus, it features music from The Cramps, who were the most perfect band to feature in this film. It was tailor made for their tunes.

Film Review: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Release Date: October 21st, 1988
Directed by: Dwight H. Little
Written by: Alan B. McElroy, Danny Lipsius, Larry Rattner, Benjamin Ruffner, John Carpenter, Debra Hill, Dennis Etchison
Based on: characters by John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Music by: Alan Howarth
Cast: Donald Pleasence, Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell, Michael Pataki

Trancas International, Galaxy Releasing, 88 Minutes

Review:

“Six bodies, Sheriff! That’s what I’ve seen between here and Ridgemont! A filling station in flames! I’m telling you Michael Myers is here, in this town! He’s here to kill that little girl and anybody who gets in his way!” – Dr. Loomis

After Halloween III confused audiences for being a film completely unrelated to the Michael Myers story, the franchise returned to its big moneymaker for Halloween 4. Michael Myers was back! Dr. Sam Loomis was back! Laurie Strode was not back, however.

To keep the story alive without the presence of Jamie Lee Curtis, the plot moves ahead ten years, bringing it up to 1988, the year it was actually released.

In 1988, Laurie is nowhere to be found but her young daughter similarly lives with a foster family. While she knows the dark family secret and knows who her mother is, she and her new family have to contend with the return of Michael Myers, her killer uncle.

Halloween 4 is a pretty standard slasher movie. The slasher shows up, bodies get stabbed and the young heroine has to try and survive the night. This one has a nice twist at the end, however.

It was great seeing Donald Pleasence return to the role of Dr. Loomis. He was still a madman but he wasn’t as batshit crazy as he was in Halloween II.

I like the tone of this picture and Danielle Harris was absolutely dynamite as the young and terrified Jamie Lloyd, the daughter of Laurie Strode. In fact, I like the duology of Halloween 4 and 5 almost as much as I like the duology that was parts 1 and 2. The people behind these two films did a pretty decent job, overall.

Film Review: Night of the Demons (1988)

Release Date: October 14th, 1988
Directed by: Kevin S. Tenney
Written by: Joe Augustyn
Music by: Dennis Michael Tenney
Cast: William Gallo, Hal Havins, Amelia Kinkade, Cathy Podewell, Linnea Quigley

Paragon Arts International, Republic Pictures, International Film Marketing, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 87 Minutes

Review:

“Eat a bowl of fuck! I am here to PARTY!” – Stooge

I’ve never been a huge fan of this 80s horror picture. While it does have its fans and it went on to have sequels and a remake, it just never hit the mark for me.

Night of the Demons feels like someone wanted to make their own version of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead mixed with Lamberto Bava’s Demons with an added in teen sex comedy element. That’s not a bad mixture, really, but the film feels cheap and like a retread without much of anything new to offer.

Plus, the demons look so repulsive and off putting that it is almost a distraction. At least Bava’s Demons had amazing style and was more creative with its visual repulsiveness.

The makeup is pretty good, considering the quality of the rest of this film’s special effects. However, the demon dragon skeleton thing looks like a character from The Muppets, even if it is supposed to be the embodiment of pure evil. It’s an awful monster that looks as if it were constructed by some kid that didn’t know how to assemble one of those wooden dinosaur bone puzzles. Also, everything else looks just as amateurish.

The cinematography, the shots, the lighting – it’s all bad.

The acting doesn’t get any better than the rest of the film’s faults and really, you don’t care for a single person in this mess of a film.

The only really cool thing with the picture was the main girl dressing up like Alice from Alice In Wonderland. It helped to give the film an otherworldly vibe and the girl felt like a real fish out of water except it was Alice in Hell instead of Wonderland.

I also liked the use of Bauhaus’ “Stigmata Martyr” when Angela was transforming into a demon with her strange dance.

Also, Linnea Quigley is in this so boobies are guaranteed. But she’s the biggest star, which goes to show the quality of talent in front of the camera.

Night of the Demons is a forgettable film, other than it pushing the bar with its repulsiveness.

Film Review: Fright Night (1985)

Release Date: August 2nd, 1985
Directed by: Tom Holland
Written by: Tom Holland
Music by: Brad Fiedel
Cast: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Stephen Geoffreys, Roddy McDowall

Vistar Films, Columbia Pictures, 106 Minutes

Review:

“Hello, Edward. You don’t have to be afraid of me. I know what it’s like being different. Only they won’t pick on you anymore… or beat you up. I’ll see to that. All you have to do is take my hand. Go on, Edward. Take my hand!” – Jerry Dandridge

This was one of those movies I discovered at the video store, as a kid in the 80s. Once I found it, I rented it almost monthly for a year or two. That was, until the crappy sequel came out and sucked the wind out of this film’s sails. It could have been a stellar franchise but it wasn’t. However, this picture is still a classic and always will be, in my opinion. Frankly, they should have just left the movie alone and never made a sequel or that reboot.

Chris Sarandon makes a pretty good vampire. While he is technically the star of the picture, this really is a good small ensemble piece, though.

William Ragsdale really gets the most screen time. This was before he had that cool Fox sitcom Herman’s Head and this was his most famous role outside of that show. His girlfriend is played by Amanda Bearse, who would also go on to be in a major Fox sitcom shortly after, Married… with Children.

The cast was rounded out by veteran Roddy McDowall, who is superb in this, and Stephen Geoffreys, whose character “Evil Ed” gave birth to two of the most overused catchphrases in the 1980s: “You’re so cool, Brewster!” and “To what do I owe this dubious pleasure?”

The film is an 80s teen horror romp. It exists in a similar vein to movies like Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad, albeit more violent and less child friendly than the latter.

The special effects are pretty good but this was when practical effects were at an all-time high and the effects maestros of the 80s were on a different level, especially in regards to their ingenuity and creativity. The wolf effects, at the end, as well as the final battle between the heroes and the vampire were great. There’s a reason why I love movies like this, the aforementioned and An American Werewolf In London. Even at their most absurd, they still have a sense of realism because what you see is there in the physical world on set.

Fright Night is one of the top horror films of the 80s that isn’t connected to a famous slasher. It sort of revitalized the fantasy horror genre at a time when Jason Voorhees was chopping through everything in sight.