Film Review: Evilspeak (1981)

Also known as: Evilspeaks (alternative title)
Release Date: August 22nd, 1981 (Japan)
Directed by: Eric Weston
Written by: Eric Weston, Joseph Garofalo
Music by: Roger Kellaway
Cast: Clint Howard, R. G. Armstrong, Joseph Cortese, Claude Earl Jones, Haywood Nelson, Don Stark, Charles Tyner, Richard Moll

Leisure Investment Company, Coronet Films, Moreno Films, Warner Bros., 97 Minutes, 92 Minutes (R-rated cut)

Review:

“I command you, Prince of Evil, heed my call. Give life to the instruments of my retribution.” – Stanley Coopersmith

Evilspeak is a cool movie that capitalized on two things that had people worried in the early ’80s: the “Satanic panic” the media and parents groups were raging about, as well as the emergence of personal computers and what such a jump in technology could mean for the common folk.

This also stars a very young Clint Howard, playing a teen in a military school that decides to use his computer to summon the devil in an effort to conquer his bullies.

It’s also neat seeing the bully being played by a young Don Stark, who is probably most famous for being the doofus neighbor to Red Foreman on That ’70s Show.

The movie also features legendary, badass character actor R.G. Armstrong, as well as Richard Moll, before he’d go on to greater heights as Bull on the ’80s sitcom Night Court. There’s also Lenny Montana, a former professional wrestler that was most known for playing Luca Brasi in The Godfather and another sitcom star, Haywood Nelson, who was already known for his role as Dwayne on What’s Happening!! and later, What’s Happening Now!!

Man, I dig the hell out of this movie. It’s not just because I love the cast, it’s because this is just a time capsule into a really cool era for horror cinema. Also, it’s not a slasher flick or haunted house movie. Frankly, it’s pretty unique, at least for its time.

Granted, it’s concept would be ripped off and reimagined in several other films but this is the first film I know of where a personal computer was used to create a black mass and call forth the Devil.

Clint Howard really shines here because even if he succumbs to evil and a fucked up revenge plot, you still sympathize with him, as he just has this sort of soft, sad, endearing quality as this character, Stanley. His life sucks, it’s tough as hell and his bully is a real piece of shit. That being said, what the bully does to Stanley’s puppy is unforgivable and as a viewer, you want Stanley to literally raise hell.

I thought that the special effects in this were also pretty great. The big finale was well shot and employed some cool techniques, as a levitating, demonically possessed Stanley unleashes his newfound power on the assholes who tormented him.

Beyond that, I also thought the locations, sets and general visual tone were perfect. The film’s score wasn’t too bad either.

Evilspeak is one of those early ’80s horror movies that seems like it’s mostly forgotten today. However, it’s concept has lived on in countless other things throughout pop culture.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other “Satanic panic” movies of the ’80s, as well as Brainscan, The Gate II: Trespassers, Lawnmower Man and 976-EVIL.

Film Review: Dead & Buried (1981)

Also known as: Look Alive (alternative title)
Release Date: May 29th, 1981 (special screening)
Directed by: Gary Sherman
Written by: Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon, Alex Stern, Jeff Millar
Music by: Joe Renzetti
Cast: James Farentino, Melody Anderson, Jack Albertson, Dennis Redfield, Nancy Locke, Robert Englund, Lisa Blount, Bill Quinn, Michael Currie, Barry Corbin

Aspen Productions, Barclays Mercantile Industrial Finance, 94 Minutes

Review:

“You can try to kill me, Dan. But you can’t. You can only make me dead.” – Dobbs

This is a movie I’ve never seen but the old VHS box art used to intrigue me when I was a kid because it was hard to tell what the film was even about.

Looking at the poster art, the perspective is strange and I kind of thought it was about undead giants in the desert at night.

By the way, that’s be a solid idea for a horror film or at the very least, minor villains in a sword and sorcery story.

Anyway, the film is a about a small coastal New England town where the townsfolk act as a killer mob that loves taking photographs of their victims before and as they murder them.

I don’t want to say too much more about the plot, as it could ruin the big reveal, which I thought was pretty damn intriguing.

The film is really atmospheric and it feels very confining, as the dread within the town closes in on the core characters with each passing murder. It’s also slow paced but there are enough kills in here to keep the regular horror fan engaged and satisfied.

Apart from the ambiance, I think the most effective thing about the movie is Stan Winston’s special effects. This was still early in the legend’s career but he used some superb practical effects that have held up tremendously well. The shock moment of the burnt man screaming back to life was amazing and as a practical effects fanboy, I just nodded and smirked.

Dead & Buried was a nice surprise for me. I didn’t know what to expect but it was a slow burn with a pretty good, batshit crazy payoff.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: horror movies about killer families or strange small towns.

Film Review: The Pit (1981)

Also known as: Teddy (alternative title)
Release Date: October 23rd, 1981
Directed by: Lew Lehman
Written by: Ian A. Stuart
Music by: Victor Davies
Cast: Sammy Snyders, Jeannie Elias, Sonja Smits

Amulet Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Abergail’s missing and so is Mrs. Oliphant, aren’t they? And Freddy and Christina… They don’t eat chocolate bars. You know what they eat?” – Jamie Benjamin

As cool, bizarre and completely ape shit as this movie is, I can’t believe I had never heard of it until this year. After stumbling upon the trailer, I had to track it down and watch it, immediately.

After seeing this, I have to wonder if those Ted movies ripped it off. They’re very different films, mind you, but both deal with a talking teddy bear. In this film, however, the bear talks to a kid and it’s more like mental voice projection than just straight up having a conversation.

Also, this is horror and the teddy bear coerces the kid to feed people to these trolls that live in a hole in the ground out in the woods. Yes, there is both a psychic talking teddy bear and a pit in the ground full of man-eating trolls. Why settle on one strange monster threat when you can have two strange monster threats?

Additionally, the kid in this is great. He plays creepy and weird really well but he’s also strangely likable and amusing. He’s also sexually frustrated, going through the early stages of puberty and I think that most males can relate to him. But honestly, he’s just a goof and everyone else in the movie, especially other kids, just continually fuck with him.

I though that the other core actors in this were good, which was impressive, as this still mostly unknown Canadian horror flick put together a competent, entertaining cast.

This is a surreal and wonderful film. It does move slow at times but it still keeps your attention because it’s so unique and original that it’s impossible not to be ensnared by it and glued to it.

Now that I know of its existence, I’m pretty sure this will be something I revisit every few years for the rest of my life.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other fantasy horror of the era but this is so bonkers and original that it’s really hard to pair.

Film Review: The House by the Cemetery (1981)

Also known as: Zombie Hell House (alternative title)
Release Date: August 14th, 1981 (Italy)
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Written by: Dardano Sacchetti, Giorgio Mariuzzo, Lucio Fulci, Elisa Livia Briganti
Music by: Walter Rizzati, Alessandro Blonksteiner
Cast: Katherine MacColl, Paolo Malco, Ania Pieroni, Giovanni Frezza, Silvia Collatina, Dagmar Lassander, Lucio Fulci (uncredited)

Fulvia Film, Medusa Distribuzione, 86 Minutes

Review:

“Ann? Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true?” – Bob Boyle

This is one of the few Lucio Fulci horror films from this era that I hadn’t seen until now. That being said, this was pretty much what I expected, however, the movie’s monster was fucking cool and the last ten minutes or so of this exceeded my expectations and enhanced the overall experience I had with this film.

It’s honestly a fairly cookie cutter haunted house flick where a family moves into a new home with some scary secrets. For one, there’s a tomb hidden under the house. There were also some bizarre killings.

Being that this is Italian horror, though, the plot is kind of all over the place and nonsensical. It’s hard to really know what the hell is actually happening but at least most of it is pretty cool.

The dubbing, especially for the kid, is really bad but it also makes the movie enjoyable in a sort of goofy way. I also thought it was funny that this little tyke’s name was simply Bob.

Anyway, crazy shit happens, the family doesn’t move, weird dialogue is exchanged in nearly every scene and we get a cool finale with a legitimately creepy monster.

All in all, this isn’t a must see but if you like Fulci’s work, it’s worth checking out. Plus, the ending makes up for the weaker aspects of the film.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Lucio Fulci movies of the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Film Review: Student Bodies (1981)

Release Date: August 7th, 1981
Directed by: Mickey Rose, Michael Ritchie (uncredited)
Written by: Mickey Rose
Music by: Gene Hobson
Cast: Kristen Riter, Matt Goldsby, Cullen Chambers, Richard Belzer (as Richard Brando), Mimi Weddell, Sara Eckhardt, “The Stick” Patrick Boone Varnell

Allen Smithee Classic Films, Universal Southwest Cinema, Paramount Pictures, 86 Minutes

Review:

“13 1/2 Murders + 1423 Laughs = Student Bodies” – tagline

I half expected this movie to be so stupid and dull that it was going to be a real chore to sit through its 86 minute running time.

I was surprised by it, though, and I thought that the humor was really good, even if it was pretty stupid. It’s just that enjoyable stupid that comes with a playful goofiness where you can see the actors loving the film’s insanity, which transcends the picture itself and rubs off on the viewer.

It’s also a bit impressive that this parodied the slasher genre so well but it came out in 1981, which was really early in the genre’s cycle.

This is full of some pretty entertaining gags and it’s also full of actors that no one will recognize but should appreciate, as they all hammed it up with gusto and kept this movie rolling at a thunderous pace.

Every scene just has funny, bizarre shit in it. A lot of it doesn’t make sense and the humor does border more on the side of absurdism. The dude passing out hot dogs at the football game had me in hysterics and the janitor was f’n brilliant every time he came onscreen.

There isn’t much to say about this, honestly. The plot is thinner than a supermodel that got runover by a steamroller and it’s so absurd, anyway, that none of it matters. You just need to know that there’s a killer taking out horny teens and none of the clues really add up to anything once the killer is revealed.

Student Bodies is just dumb fun but if you hate really zany, bizarre humor, you’ll probably hate this as well. For me, it was my unique cup of tea.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s slasher films, as well as good horror comedies.

Film Review: Heavy Metal (1981)

Also known as: Universo en fantasía (original Spanish language title)
Release Date: July 29th, 1981 (premiere)
Directed by: Gerald Potterton
Written by: Daniel Goldberg
Based on: original art and stories by Richard Corben, Angus McKie, Dan O’Bannon, Thomas Warkentin, Bernie Wrightson
Music by: Elmer Bernstein, various
Cast: Rodger Bumpass, Jackie Burroughs, John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Don Francks, Martin Lavut, Marilyn Lightstone, Eugene Levy, Alice Playten, Harold Ramis, Susan Roman, Richard Romanus, August Schellenberg, John Vernon, Zal Yanovsky

Canadian Film Development Corporation, Guardian Trust Company, Columbia Pictures, 86 Minutes, 90 Minutes (premiere cut)

Review:

“A shadow shall fall over the universe, and evil will grow in its path, and death will come from the skies.” – Narrator

Fuck, this movie is so damn cool!

However, it does lack in the “heavy metal” department, as far as the music goes. That’s not to say the music is bad, this is just a lot less heavy than the title implies. Still, this developed a really strong cult following and for very good reason.

I love the rock and pop tunes in this, though. I mean, where else can you see a sword and sorcery story with sci-fi elements playout to a Devo song? Nowhere!

This entire movie is an animated anthology. The various segments were inspired by some of the stories and art that appeared in the pages of the Heavy Metal comic magazine. This is also a very adult cartoon, as it features nudity, sex and violence. There really isn’t anything here for kids but I saw it as a kid and it blew my mind. The ’80s were a different era, though. Kids today can’t watch Gremlins without needing the light on till they turn thirty.

Anyway, this was produced by Ivan Reitman and it featured a lot of his regular actors in voice roles. It’s kind of neat watching this for the first time in years and hearing John Candy, Harold Ramis, Eugene Levy and Joe Flaherty. It almost needed Bill Murray in there to round it out but it was still pretty dope hearing these comedic legends voices pop up in something like this.

That being said, this is just a really unique experience and it still conjures up a sort of magical feeling when watching it.

Despite the action and violence, the film has a calming, chill vibe to it and I think that has a lot to do with its visual style, tone and the superb use of music to season the already flavorful meal.

Heavy Metal is a weirdly comforting movie that reminds me of a time when filmmakers were still daring and experimental and with that, often times gave us movies that were really interesting, wonderfully eccentric, bizarre and special.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, as well as other late ’70s and ’80s adult animated films.

Film Review: Porky’s (1981)

Release Date: November 13th, 1981 (Columbia, SC)
Directed by: Bob Clark
Written by: Bob Clark
Music by: Paul Zaza, Carl Zittrer
Cast: Dan Monahan, Mark Herrier, Wyatt Knight, Roger Wilson, Cyril O’Reilly, Tony Ganios, Kaki Hunter, Kim Cattrall, Nancy Parsons, Scott Colomby, Boyd Gaines, Doug McGrath, Susan Clark, Art Hindle, Wayne Maunder, Alex Karras, Chuck Mitchell

Astral Bellevue Pathé, Melvin Simon Productions, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Look’s like I’m gonna make a man out of you yet, boy.” – Mr. Cavanaugh, “A man? If being a man means being what you are, I’d rather be queer.” – Tim

Somehow, this low budget Canadian teen sex comedy became the fifth highest grossing movie of 1982. With that surprising success came two mediocre sequels and a slew of other teen sex comedy movies that tried to replicate the Porky’s formula with poor-to-moderate success.

Porky’s is a strange film for me in that I don’t hold it in as high regard as some people but I also feel personally connected to it, as my father lived close to the high school and other iconic spots in the film series. And even though this takes place in the ’50s, I had been to these same places in the ’80s and not much was different.

I like the movie but it’s not something I revisit very often, as there are other teen comedies I prefer much more than this. Sure, this one takes the cake in raunchiness and it just dives right into the subject of teen sex but those things don’t make it a good movie. What works most of all is that you generally like the core characters and over the course of three films, they actually come to mean something to the viewer.

Still, this really is lowest common denominator, gross out, perverted humor. I’m not really saying that’s bad but the jokes and gags are predictable and there’s just an overabundance of it at every turn.

Additionally, this movie could never be made today, as everything… and I mean everything is offensive in the 2020s. Comedy is deader than my dog Chipper, who was hit by a car in 1984. See, most people may be thinking, “WTF, dude! That’s not funny! That’s fucked up!” And I’d just point and go, “See what I mean?!” Truthfully, Chipper wasn’t hit by a car, she was ran over by a lawnmower but I didn’t want my example to be too over the top.

Anyway, Porky’s is still fun if you’re not a sour cunt looking for things to cancel under every rock. It’s most definitely a product of its time and I can get why people that were born after it came out might not enjoy it and may find it off putting but every generation after mine is primarily comprised of pansies and tattle tales. 

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequels, as well as other screwball ’80s teen sex comedies.

Film Review: Stripes (1981)

Also known as: Cheech and Chong Join the Army (original script title)
Release Date: June 26th, 1981
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Written by: Dan Goldberg, Harold Ramis, Len Blum
Music by: Elmer Bernstein
Cast: Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates, P. J. Soles, Sean Young, John Candy, John Larroquette, John Diehl, Judge Reinhold, Joe Flaherty, Dave Thomas, Bill Paxton

Columbia Pictures, 106 Minutes, 122 Minutes (extended cut)

Review:

“Who’s your friend? Who’s your buddy? I am, aren’t I? You’re crazy about me, aren’t you?” – John Winger

This is considered one of the all-time great Bill Murray comedies. While I do like it, it was never really at the top of my list. I’m not quite sure why, as it also features Harold Ramis, John Candy, John Larriquette, Judge Reinhold, Joe Flaherty and Dave Thomas: all comedy legends I love.

Stripes is funny and amusing but from a narrative standpoint, it always felt kind of sloppy and pointless. Sure, these new recruit losers (mainly Murray and Ramis) do rise to the occasion and become heroes for a day, however, things in this movie just sort of happen without much purpose.

I get it, though, this is sort of just a goofy, mindless comedy. However, I guess I hold these guys and director Ivan Reitman to a higher standard because they’ve made much better films.

Without Bill Murray and someone as great as Ramis to play off of in nearly every scene, this would be reduced down to just a run of the mill screwball comedy like Meatballs or Porky’s.

I also know that Reitman probably didn’t have much of a budget to work with but this picture looks more like a television movie than a cinematic one. However, the film’s success did pave the way for the Ghostbusters movies, which are, to this day, my favorite comedy films of all-time.

Stripes is a movie that I still watch about twice a decade, as I can put it on and not think. But ultimately, it’s just never been as beloved by me as it seems to be by many others.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other Bill Murray films of the ’80s, as well as comedy pictures directed by Ivan Reitman and John Landis.

Film Review: The Monster Club (1981)

Release Date: April 2nd, 1981 (UK)
Directed by: Roy Ward Baker
Written by: Edward Abraham, Valerie Abraham
Based on: the works of R. Chetwynd-Hayes
Music by: Douglas Gamley, various
Cast: Vincent Price, John Carradine, Donald Pleasence, Patrick Magee, Stuart Whitman, Britt Ekland, Richard Johnson, Barbara Kellerman, Simon Ward

Chips Productions, Sword & Sorcery, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Can we truly call this a monster club if we do not boast amongst our membership a single member of the human race?” – Eramus

This used to be one of my favorite anthology horror movies when I was a kid and while it wasn’t my first Vincent Price movie, it’s one that I had on VHS and would watch more than any person probably should have.

The film is really a mixed bag, as anthology horror movies tend to go, but most of the stuff contained within is good and amusing. Even if the disintegrating woman at the end of the first story scared the living shit out of me every time I saw it with young eyes. Frankly, it’s still effective and the best special effects shot in the entire film.

This is incredibly low budget but it also makes the best out of its limited resources and I actually like how bad the monster costumes are in the nightclub scenes, which are sprinkled throughout the film as the narrative bookends.

A lot of this film felt overly hokey and I’m not sure if they were specifically aiming for that but it worked and gave it a charm that it wouldn’t have had if it was more serious or had a budget that better hid its flaws. I love that the movie sort of wears its cheapness and absurdity on its sleeve.

My favorite parts of the movie are the bookend bits, mainly because I like the music, the performances and the banter between Vincent Price and John Carradine. I especially love the scene where Price goes on a diatribe about how The Monster Club needs to open up to humans, the best monster that ever lived.

As far as the actual short horror stories go, I like the first one the best. It was actually effective, emotionally and I liked the characters and the simple story. The vampire chapter was the worst one and it’s really just meh. The final story with the village of ghouls was decent and I liked Patrick Magee in it but it’s still far from great and watching it, you just want to get back to the Monster Club scenes.

Overall, I can’t say that this aged well but it will most definitely excite the nostalgia bug for those who loved the horror and music of this era.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’70s and ’80s horror anthologies.

Film Review: My Bloody Valentine (1981)

Release Date: February 11th, 1981
Directed by: George Mihalka
Written by: John Beaird, Stephen Miller
Music by: Paul Zaza
Cast: Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, Neil Affleck, Don Francks, Cynthia Dale, Alf Humphreys, Keith Knight, Patricia Hamilton

Canadian Film Development Corporation (CFDC), Famous Players, Secret Films, Paramount Pictures, 90 Minutes, 93 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“[reading a Valentine note] Roses are red, violets are blue, one is dead, and so are you.” – Mabel Osborne

This is a better slasher film than people give it credit for. I’ve heard it catch a lot of shit over the years but it has some sequences in it that are really good and the third act is cool and takes the slasher formula into a unique environment, as opposed to just the woods, a suburban neighborhood or a campus full of young people.

It obviously tried to tap into Halloween‘s success by taking place on another holiday but apart from that and it being a slasher flick, it’s still very much its own thing.

Most of the characters in this are actually likable and I thought it was a better cast than what we get with most films like it. I also liked that the cutest chick in the movie was with the mustachioed fat dude. But he had charisma and was usually the voice of reason within this group of twentysomethings.

The story takes place around a mining town and the slasher wears mining gear. The monster just has a cool look that I thought worked really well. Additionally, having the killer stalk his prey through the mines in the last third of the film was refreshing and neat.

Now the big reveal at the end wasn’t all that shocking but I really liked that the slasher survives and mocks the good people of the town, as he retreats into the darkness of the mine tunnels.

With that, this was left open for a sequel but unfortunately, we never got one. We would get a remake in 2009 but I’ve never actually watched it because it came out in an era where every ’80s horror flick was being remade with bad results. Maybe I’ll check it out and review it in the near future, though.

Anyway, this is a better than average slasher movie from the height of the era. It could’ve used more gore and brutality but it still plays well.

Also, the scene where the girl is stalked in the room with the miner uniforms dropping from the ceiling is one of my favorite slasher kill scenes of all-time. There’s something spooky, primal and terrifying about it that really makes it stand out.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other slasher films from the late ’70s and early ’80s.