Film Review: The Initiation (1984)

Release Date: December 7th, 1984
Directed by: Larry Stewart, Peter Crane (uncredited/fired)
Written by: Charles Pratt Jr.
Music by: Gabriel Black, Lance Ong
Cast: Daphne Zuniga, Vera Miles, Clu Gulager, James Read, Marilyn Kagan, Hunter Tylo

Georgian Bay Productions, Initiation Associates, New World Pictures, 97 Minutes

Review:

“Well, the nightmare ends with this stranger coming in and fighting with my father. And the strange man ends up catching on fire and burning to death. It’s always the same; the last image is of his whole body engulfed in flames.” – Kelly Fairchild, “That’s beautiful. You’ve got all the classic symbols there; mom, dad, fire, strange men…” – Peter

The Initiation was better film in my memory than it was revisiting it for the first time in a couple of decades. It’s one of those great midnight movies I loved watching as a kid in the ’80s and I sort of had a thing for Daphne Zuniga when I first saw her in Spaceballs, a few years after this came out.

The coolest thing about this movie is the setting in the second half. While this is really a typical slasher with some mystery and a twist, the plot is pretty pedestrian and the twist isn’t shocking in the least. Still, the finale is kind of neat and pretty fun.

The setting is supposed to be inside of a large department store but the script was written and the filmmakers couldn’t find a suitable department store in the Dallas area to shoot. So they actually shot this in the massive and tomb-like Dallas Market Center. It doesn’t look anything like a department store but it houses hundreds of showrooms for anything and everything you could possibly throw money away on. It’s also fifteen stories tall and looks like the interior of a modern pyramid hollowed out and adorned with all the flags in the world. The corridors look more like a corporate office building with windows full of consumer goods. It really is a strange and unique setting and I’ve always wanted to see this place in person. Sadly, it’s not open to the public.

The film’s plot surrounds a sorority. The pledges are forced to sneak into a department store after hours to steal a security guard’s uniform. Kelly’s (Zuniga) father has keys to the store so she takes them and plans on just stealing a uniform from the inventory of spare ones. The queen bitch of the sorority has her own plans and sneaks in with some frat bros to scare the pledges on their mission. Of course, there is a slasher on the loose and people get murdered.

I liked that Zuniga’s parents were played by veterans Vera Miles and Clu Gulager, as it added a sense of legitimacy to this canned slasher picture. Vera Miles did some strange movies in the ’80s and Gulager would do just about anything thrown his way, which is why I’ve always loved and respected the guy.

As an ’80s slasher picture, I’d say this is a hair bit above average but it isn’t anything special once you take away the unique location. It has a lot in common with The Dorm That Dripped Blood, which also had Zuniga in it. But college based slasher pictures were a dime a dozen circa 1984. In fact, it feels like there was probably a new slasher movie every week in the mid ’80s, as I never seem like I’ve run out of ones to watch and still discover new ones all the time. But it was the peak of the genre and this film was just capitalizing off of the trend.

I still really like The Initiation but it isn’t a film that I want to revisit too often, unless I’m having a marathon or trying to pair up a few movies for a get-together.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Chopping MallThe Dorm That Dripped BloodFinal ExamThe MutilatorGraduation DayThe Prowler and Night School.

Film Review: Savage Streets (1984)

Release Date: August 31st, 1984 (West Germany)
Directed by: Danny Steinmann
Written by: Danny Steinmann, Norman Yonemoto
Music by: John D’Andrea, Michael Lloyd
Cast: Linda Blair, Linnea Quigley, Robert Dryer, John Vernon

Ginso Investment Corp., Motion Picture Marketing, 93 Minutes, 80 Minutes (cut version)

Review:

“Go fuck an iceberg!” – Principal Underwood

Savage Streets is a film that stars both Linda Blair and Linnea Quigley and it isn’t a horror film. Sure, some horrible things happen and characters are faced with dread and terror but this is more like a “women in prison” movie mixed with an urban violence film.

It’s sort of strange that it has that “women in prison” vibe, as it takes place primarily in a high school and the urban environment around it but there are too many similarities to ignore, the biggest of which is a big brawl in the gym showers. There are nude bodies and fisticuffs like the greatest of “women in prison” pictures.

The story sees this group of rough high school girls go up against this gang of male punk rock assholes. Well, one of the guys is in the gang very reluctantly and he always has reservations about all the horrible stuff the other gang members force him to do. One of which is raping a deaf girl in the school bathroom, the other is when he is present for a pregnant teen getting thrown off of a bridge just before her wedding night. Yeah, this is a hard and gritty film that is more grindhouse than Sixteen Candles.

If you are into unapologetic, hardcore, ’80s action mayhem, then this is a film for you. Linda Blair may deliver some cringe worthy lines but it’s the ’80s and almost all the dialogue in real life was cringe worthy in that decade.

This isn’t a memorable film, even for grindhouse standards. But it does hit its mark in the right way and it is a good time killer on a Sunday afternoon or on a night where you are binge watching a bunch of similar films from this era.

It’s low budget and almost feels like it was directed by an Italian horror master transplanted to Los Angeles for this shoot. The whole sequence where Linda Blair fights the punk gang in their hideout feels like something Lucio Fulci or Lamberto Bava would do.

Savage Streets is worth your time if you are into low brow, ultraviolent, ’80s pictures with a good amount of boobage.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Other ’80s high school urban violence movies: Class of 1984Class of Nuke ‘Em High, etc.

Film Review: Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues (1984)

Also known as: The Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek, Part II (original title)
Release Date: February 13th, 1984 (Laurel, Mississippi premiere)
Directed by: Charles B. Pierce
Written by: Charles B. Pierce
Music by: Frank McKelvey, Lori McKelvey
Cast: Charles B. Pierce, Cindy Butler, Chuck Pierce Jr., Serene Hedin, Jimmy Clem, James Faubus Griffith

Howco International Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

“These river bottoms are truly a sight to behold.” – Professor Brian C. ‘Doc’ Lockart

The first Boggy Creek movie is a boring snoozefest. This one, however, makes the original seem as exciting as a rollercoaster ride through a Transformer’s body. Okay, maybe not that exciting but you get the point.

This motion picture isn’t worth the celluloid that it was burned onto. It is a terrible, abysmal picture that serves no purpose other than to try and recreate the magic of the first movie that came out a dozen years before it.

To be frank, there was no magic the first time. That first film was a movie trying to pass itself off as a documentary and it did have some popularity, for some godawful reason, but it wasn’t a good movie in any way.

This at least doesn’t try to play the “documentary” card. It’s a straight up fictional movie but it is confusing as to what it’s trying to be. It’s like family friendly horror where there isn’t much horror. It’s just a guy in a Sasquatch suit that looks as convincing as the gorilla from Trading Places. There is also a baby Sasquatch in this but I won’t spoil the movie, the movie does that well on its own.

This was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and for good reason. It deserved to be riffed. It’s actually the perfect movie for the MST3K treatment and provided a lot of bad material to make that episode of the classic comedy show one of its best from its tenth season.

I’ll make no bones about it, this is going into the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 2 Stool: Sausage-shaped but lumpy.”

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: The Legend of Boggy CreekThe Legacy of Boggy Creek and Cry Wilderness. They’re all bad movies though.

Film Review: Bachelor Party (1984)

Release Date: June 29th, 1984
Directed by: Neal Israel
Written by: Neal Israel, Pat Proft, Bob Israel
Music by: Robert Folk
Cast: Tom Hanks, Adrian Zmed, William Tepper, Tawny Kitaen, Michael Dudikoff, George Grizzard, Barbara Stuart, Robert Prescott

20th Century Fox, 105 Minutes

Review:

“I wish I had someone I could really respect. Hey, look at the cans on that bimbo!” – O’Neill

’80s Tom Hanks was a hell of a lot of fun. Sure, he’s still probably a very fun guy but since the ’80s, he’s been more of a dramatic actor. In fact, he’s become one of the top actors of the last few decades. But going back and revisiting his old school comedy films is always a good experience.

Bachelor Party is really just a big party movie for adults. Unlike mainstream high school movies like the John Hughes stuff, this was a comedy with a much harder edge, boobies, drugs, hookers and a donkey that likes to party hard. This is a pretty absurd film but it worked for the time and it is still really enjoyable nearly thirty-five years later.

Tom Hanks is set to marry Tawny Kitaen, who was the apple of every Whitesnake fan’s eye. However, before the marriage, Hanks needs to have a massive and crazy bachelor party with his buddies. What we get is one of the most insane parties ever put to celluloid.

His entire crew of friends are all unique and enjoyable. Well, except they all pretty much have a one track mind and that’s to party. Well, there is the nutty suicidal friend that just spends his time trying to kill himself. And then there is the jealous ex-boyfriend of Tawny Kitaen, played by Robert Prescott, who does everything he can to try and ruin the party. Of course, this always backfires on him in hilarious ways.

I’ll be honest, this is a stupid f’n movie but I like stupid f’n movies as long as they are fun and make me laugh. Nowadays, this might feel like an old, offensive, sexist relic. But the people who worry about shit like that don’t have a lot of fun in their own lives. This is stupid, harmless, asinine fun in the same vein as MeatballsPorky’sRevenge of the NerdsPrivate SchoolThe Last American Virgin, etc.

This also co-stars Michael Dudikoff, the American Ninja himself. Sadly, he doesn’t kill any evil ninjas in this movie.

Lastly, who doesn’t want to watch a donkey eat several dozen pills and do lines of cocaine?

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other ’80s Tom Hanks comedies: SplashVolunteersDragnet, etc. Also, any ’80s party movie.

Film Review: Razorback (1984)

Also known as: Razorback: Destructor (Argentina)
Release Date: April 19th, 1984 (Australia)
Directed by: Russell Mulcahy
Written by: Everett De Roche
Based on: Razorback by Peter Brennan
Music by: Iva Davies
Cast: Gregory Harrison

Greater Union Film Distributors, Warner Bros., Umbrella Entertainment, 95 Minutes

Review:

“There’s something about blasting the shit out of a razorback that brightens up my whole day.” – Jake Cullen

Razorback is like the Australian Jaws. Well, it is nowhere near as good as Jaws and it also takes place on land but there is just something frightening about a giant human eating boar. Plus, the Australian Outback is pretty intimidating on its own without having to worry about a killer pig the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.

The film has a bit of an original Mad Max vibe to it but that’s more about the atmosphere and geography than anything else. It’s dusty, barren and has some shady Outback Australians running around doing shady stuff.

Razorback also has a bit of an artistic element when the hero is walking back to civilization through the desert and starts hallucinating. This is the coolest sequence in the entire film and it feels like a nod to Salvador Dalí, in its surrealist and bizarre style where vivid colors and strange animals take over the desert landscape.

The rest of the film is interesting enough to keep you engaged but it is still fairly slow at points. I liked the good guy characters and didn’t want to see harm come to them, so that’s a bonus for this being a horror movie where people would typically just be fresh meat for the monster.

The monster itself is mostly in the shadows. They don’t reveal the beast a lot, similar to what they did in the original Jaws, as it keeps things more suspenseful, makes you use your imagination and most importantly, hides the aesthetic imperfections of the creature’s model. The scenes where you do see the big ass boar are pretty well crafted. The editing isn’t superb but he does look terrifying when cut into the action.

Speaking of the editing, in general it is pretty shoddy. It’s not so bad that it takes you out of the picture but it is noticeable at times. I think with some shots and cuts they were trying to make this more artistic and creative but usually it missed the mark.

Razorback is a decent film with some primal scares but it’s mostly forgettable in the massive ocean that is natural horror featuring killer animals. Not to say that it isn’t unique, it is. It just doesn’t offer up anything all that captivating that would want to make you go back and watch this a second time.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Long Weekend and Road Games.

Film Review: Paris, Texas (1984)

Also known as: Motel Chronicles (working title)
Release Date: May 19th, 1984 (Cannes)
Directed by: Wim Wenders
Written by: L. M. Kit Carson, Sam Shepard
Music by: Ry Cooder
Cast: Harry Dean Stanton, Nastassja Kinski, Dean Stockwell, Aurore Clement, Hunter Carson

Road Movies, Filmproduktion GmbH, Argos Films S.A., 20th Century Fox, 147 Minutes

Review:

“I wanted to see him so bad that I didn’t even dare imagine him anymore.” – Jane Henderson

I haven’t seen much of Wim Wenders work but going into this, I had his film The American Friend on my mind, being that I had just revisited it the night before. This was also partially penned by Sam Shepard and stars underappreciated character actors Harry Dean Stanton and Dean Stockwell, as well as Klaus Kinski’s daughter, the very talented and beautiful Nastassja Kinski.

At its core, this is a story about redemption and about owning your problems and doing what needs to be done to set things straight. This film is dark yet it is very sweet. It deals with some serious issues from the characters’ pasts but pulls itself out of that muck, throws itself forward, pulls you through a lot of emotion and sadness but ultimately arrives at a satisfying and mostly happy ending.

This is an extraordinary and uncommon film. It almost works as a romance story in reverse. In fact, I guess this could be called an anti-romance. It shows you that even if two people really love each other but the damage is irreparable, they can still come together, non-romantically, to do what’s right for all parties involved.

As great as the legendary Harry Dean Stanton was, I don’t know if he ever put in a better performance than he did here. He was perfection, a real actor of the highest caliber and most of the time he didn’t have to say anything, his emotion and his words were conveyed on his face. In fact, he spends the first third of the movie completely mute. When he finally does start talking, it’s soft and very short. But once we get to the big scene where he has to finally open up and right his wrongs, he does so in such a genuine and beautiful way that you are drawn into his words and transported into his memories. Stanton’s performance in this movie is one of the best acting performances I have ever seen, period.

I also have to mention Nastassja Kinski’s performance, as she played opposite of Stanton in the film’s most pivotal moment. She held her own and helped to enhance Stanton’s performance by her reaction to his words and her response.

Dean Stockwell did a fine job in the first two-thirds of the film as Stanton’s brother but more in the role of being the eyes and ears of the audience, as he didn’t understand what the heck was going on with his brother and he wanted answers to the mystery of his brother’s four-year disappearance.

The look of this film is incredible and it boasts the cinematography of Wenders’ regular cinematographer, Robby Müller. The films uses that bright, electric, neon green that Müller is synonymous for, especially when used in contrast to dark backgrounds with accents of red and sometimes other colors subtly dropped in. The look here is very similar to Wender’s and Müller’s The American Friend, as well as another 1984 film Müller worked on, which also starred Harry Dean Stanton, Repo Man.

Paris, Texas is a really emotional film and I don’t know how anyone could watch it and leave the experience untouched. Very few films have the ability to actually touch the soul and transform the viewer or to give them at least a new perspective on things. This film, at least for me, opened my eyes to some things and really sort of changed how I have viewed some of my own life experiences. Wenders, through the profound performance of Stanton, was able to create something here that speaks directly to the human core. It’s soothing in it’s sadness and it’s loving finale. And ultimately, it drums up hope where there isn’t any.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Wim Wenders’ The American Friend for their visual similarities. I also like watching this with Repo Man, as they share their star and cinematographer. Plus, 1984 was just Harry Dean Stanton’s year.

Film Review: Repo Man (1984)

Release Date: February, 1984 (Berlin Film Festival)
Directed by: Alex Cox
Written by: Alex Cox
Music by: Tito Larriva, Steven Hufsteter, Iggy Pop (theme)
Cast: Harry Dean Stanton, Emilio Estevez, Tracey Walter, Olivia Barash, Sy Richardson, Susan Barnes, Fox Harris, Miguel Sandoval, Vonetta McGee, Helen Martin, The Circle Jerks

Edge City, Universal Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Some weird fuckin’ shit, eh, Bud?” – Otto

I don’t know what it is about this movie that makes it so f’n cool but it is unequivocally, one of the coolest movies ever made.

I mean, it has Harry Dean Stanton in it, who is one of the coolest actors that ever lived. It also has Emilio Estevez entering the height of his career during his years in the Brat Pack. It’s also a unique film that when looking at it within the context of the time it came out, had to have been a real artistic curveball. Frankly, I can see where many films that came out after this got some of their inspiration or just outright thievery.

It feels like it could be a David Lynch picture but it makes more sense and doesn’t get lost in its weirdness like many of Lynch’s pictures do. It also isn’t relying on its surreal dreamlike quality to propel the picture forward. It has a pretty easy to follow story where the strange bits just enhance the experience and don’t distract from the narrative.

Emilio Estevez put in a good performance as a punk rock kid fired from his menial job only to stumble into the repo man profession. His mentor is played by Stanton and the two immediately have a great chemistry that makes you care about their developing friendship. 1984 was a great year for Stanton between this and Paris, Texas.

The film also has small roles for Tracey Walter, who is a damn fine character actor that always brings something special to every role, and Vonetta McGee, best known for her roles in blaxploitation films in the 1970s.

Repo Man is a sort of punk rock fairy tale that feels like it is in a post-apocalyptic dystopian future but it really just takes place in what was modern Los Angeles in 1984. It’s a surrealist, absurdist fantasy that sees a bunch of strange people chasing after an old Chevy Malibu that has some really bizarre cargo in its trunk. The car changes hands a lot and and as the story progresses Estevez’s Otto gets in deeper and deeper where he is fending off his old punk rock gang and a government agency led by a woman with a metal hand.

If you were able to take punk rock and a science fiction B-movie, add in some comedy and smash them together, you’d get this film but even then, this is much better than the sum of its parts. This is a film that many have tried to knock off and failed and at first glance, Repo Man might be a turn off due to the shoddy nature of most of its imitators. But this is the real deal original and this is the reason why a legion of young filmmakers started making similar works in tone and style.

In truth, this is a hard film to describe and even to review. It’s unique and I don’t say that lightly. But it’s a beautiful picture in how it’s orchestrated, acted and directed. The cinematography and lighting are pretty stellar too and certain scenes almost remind me of some of Wim Wenders’ work from that same era. That makes sense though, as the cinematographer was Robby Müller, who worked with Wenders a lot and his work on The American Friend and Paris, Texas have a similar color palate to this picture.

If you’ve never seen Repo Man, you’ve done yourself a disservice. It’s cool, badass and colorful in all the right ways. Plus, it kicks off with a theme song by Iggy Pop.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Any early David Lynch films, as well as Sid and Nancy or any other Alex Cox movie.