Film Review: Munchies (1987)

Release Date: March, 1987
Directed by: Bettina Hirsch
Written by: Lance Smith
Music by: Ernest Troost
Cast: Harvey Korman, Charlie Stratton, Nadine Van der Velde, Robert Picardo, Wendy Schaal, Paul Bartel, Frank Welker (voice)

New Concorde, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Head for the hills… Mamma!” – Munchie

Out of all the Gremlins ripoffs not titled Critters, this one was my favorite, as a kid. However, it faded into obscurity quickly, in spite of its sequels, and it wasn’t a movie I could revisit until recently, as it popped up on Shout! Factory’s streaming service.

Unbeknownst to me in 1987, this is a Roger Corman production. So I guess I was a fan of the guy’s work even before I was aware of him.

Now this is a crude, cheap and absurd ’80s picture. It’s definitely schlock but it’s entertaining schlock that still, for some reason, hits the right notes for me. And I wouldn’t necessarily call it nostalgia, as it’s been so long since I’ve seen it that I didn’t remember anything about the plot or the characters.

But I do like the characters, especially the acting work of Harvey Korman who played the dimwitted scientist Simon Watterman but more importantly, also played his rich, scumbag brother Cecil. The Cecil character was an ’80s southern yuppie caricature that was so bizarre and unique that he is the most interesting thing in the movie. While Korman has lots of comedy experience working in multiple Mel Brooks movies, as well as being on The Carol Burnett Show, he commits to the bit so spectacularly that I was absolutely buying what he was selling in this dumb, illogical film.

The rest of the characters were fairly normal but I did like Cecil’s stoner stepson.

As far as the special effects go, they’re nothing to write home about but this is better than the worst of the worst when it comes to other Gremlins wannabes. Although, these cheap puppets can’t hold a candle to the monsters from Critters or Ghoulies.

I fully understand that the vast majority of the human race would hate this movie. But for those who love ’80s schlock, crude humor and just want mindless entertainment, you’ll probably find something worthwhile in this flick.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: its sequels, as well as other extremely low budget Gremlins ripoffs.

Film Review: Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)

Also known as: Death Wish IV (working title)
Release Date: November 6th, 1987
Directed by: J. Lee Thompson
Written by: Gail Morgan Hickman
Based on: characters by Brian Garfield
Music by: John Bisharat, Paul McCallum, Valentine McCallum
Cast: Charles Bronson, Kay Lenz, John P. Ryan, Perry Lopez, Soon-Tek Oh, George Dickerson, Dana Barron, Danny Trejo, Tim Russ, Hector Mercado

The Cannon Group, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Who the fuck are you?” – Rapist, “Death!” – Paul Kersey

As I said in early Death Wish reviews, the film series starts to fall off after the third movie. However, this installment was actually better than what I remembered. Maybe that’s because I hadn’t seen this one in a really long time and because I am a Cannon Films junkie that just needs unapologetic, high octane, violent, ’80s action pumped into my veins on a regular basis.

That being said, Charles Bronson still brings his fucking A game in this one.

Now the plot is kind of a disjointed mess with a swerve as to who the real villain is and while I like that in the noir films of the ’40s and ’50s, it isn’t done in a very clever way. It’s also kind of predictable and you see it coming once the guy who is presented as the big bad is killed with about a half hour to spare.

But all that means is that you get a final showdown between Charles f’n Bronson and John P. Ryan, another man’s man and old school action film badass. In fact, Ryan has a fate that is very similar to the baddie of Death Wish 3.

Now out of the first four films, this one is the weakest. I definitely remember the fifth being the worst, despite boasting the talents of Michael Parks, as its villain. But this was still a satisfying movie that gives you just about everything you want in a Death Wish or Cannon Films motion picture. But nothing could have followed the last twenty minutes of the third film, which is the best balls out action sequence of the 1980s and maybe of all-time.

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown still shines though. Plus, not only does it feature Bronson and Ryan but it also gives us a young Danny Trejo, Tim Russ before he was Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager, Soon-Tek Oh as a dirty cop and Hector Mercado as a drug dealing shithead.

Sure, the film could have been better with a more fluid narrative but do you really care that much about that stuff when watching a Chuck Bronson murder festival? I don’t. I just want to see the scum of the Earth meet violent ends. In Death Wish 4, like its predecessors, that’s exactly what you get.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Death Wish movies and the Dirty Harry film series.

Film Review: Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)

Also known as: Prom Night 2 (shortened title), The Haunting of Hamilton High (Germany)
Release Date: May 11th, 1987 (Cannes)
Directed by: Bruce Pittman
Written by: Ron Oliver
Music by: Paul Zaza
Cast: Michael Ironside, Wendy Lyon, Justin Louis, Lisa Schrage, Richard Monette

Simcom Limited, Allarcom Limited, British Columbia Television, Norstar Releasing, Alliance Atlantis, The Samuel Goldwyn Company, 97 Minutes

Review:

“It’s not who you come with, it’s who takes you home.” – Mary Lou Maloney

Surprisingly, I had never seen this movie before. But thanks to it being featured on The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs, I finally got to check it out. I also had no idea that this wasn’t an actual sequel to the first film and was it’s own thing that only took the Prom Night title after it was filmed. I guess that was to market it better.

Originally titled The Haunting of Hamilton High, this cheap Canadian horror film stands out well on its own and maybe would’ve had more of a cult following had it stuck to that original title. And even though its premise borrows quite heavily from Carrie, it’s different enough to not just be a simple ripoff of that film.

Also, like Carrie, the girl with the magical powers that ruins the prom is an innocent victim. However, she is played up here as evil because I guess sluts are bad. But before she died, she was simply horny and cheating on her boyfriend. Now her boyfriend burns her alive but it was an accident. But the adult version of him, played by Michael Ironside, is pretty much a target when Mary Lou comes back from the dead 30 years later.

So with magic and the undead involved, this isn’t a straight up slasher like its predecessor in name only. This is one of those supernatural slashers, where the evil presence possesses other people and also uses a sort of telekinetic power. Or she just attacks as an invisible ghost, it’s hard to say which one it is for sure when she murders the pregnant teen by hanging her. But later on, she does telekinetically explode neon signs, which impale a girl.

While this is not a great movie, it doesn’t need to be. It does its job, it entertains and it leaves horny teenagers in its wake. What more do you want with an ’80s horror picture? Sure, it could have gored it up a bit more but it’s not completely lacking in that regard.

Also, Michael Ironside is a fucking bawse!

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Carrie and all its sequels/reboots, as well as the other Prom Night movies even if they are unrelated.

Film Review: Blood Harvest (1987)

Also known as: The Marvelous Mervo (video title), Nightmare (alternate title)
Release Date: 1987 (limited)
Directed by: Bill Rebane
Written by: Frank Kinnikin, Ben Benson, Emil Joseph, Chris Vaalar, William Arthur
Music by: George Daugherty
Cast: Tiny Tim, Itonia Salchek, Lori Minneti, Peter Krause

Shooting Ranch, 90 Minutes

Review:

“A cocktail of vengeance and lust…” – tagline

This was a run of the mill, no budget, slasher film shot in one boring location that isn’t very interesting. Also, this picture is almost completely forgettable. However, there is one thing that makes this a memorable and dare I say it, a notable film. That would be the casting of Tiny Tim as a weirdo fiftysomething that dresses like a clown and just walks into people’s homes uninvited.

Still, this is a pretty awful film that will not resonate in any way with most people. But it is still a neat thing to check out for those of us that like bottom of the barrel horror schlock and cinematic oddities.

Tiny Tim doesn’t make or break the movie but his performance is certainly one to behold. He acts alone in most scenes, as he isn’t good at exchanging lines with other actors. So I guess I have to give the director some props in protecting Tiny Tim and for playing off of his bizarre strengths, which include singy song line delivery, soliloquies and just standing around being a creeper. And I don’t say that to sound insulting to Tiny Tim but he has a strange presence and personality, which is why he works in the role the way it was written and presented.

The rest of the cast is forgettable, although the two ladies in this were pretty hot and Itonia Salchek seemed to be allergic to clothing, which is a condition that I try to be very aware and accepting of.

There is a twist to this too, as you pretty much assume that Tiny Tim is going to be the slasher in this film. I mean, it seems pretty obvious but he’s just a red herring. But also, I guess it’s not a twist, as it becomes real obvious who the killer is way before the reveal happens. I don’t think that this was intentional but shoddy filmmaking, editing and performance give it away prematurely.

Anyway, I didn’t find this film to be a waste of time but most people will most assuredly disagree with me on that.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: other lost gems that were featured on The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs. Check the tag in the post header for more.

Film Review: Street Trash (1987)

Also known as: Horror in Bowery Street (Italy), Trash (Mexico), Violencia en Manhattan (Spain)
Release Date: January, 1987 (Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival)
Directed by: J. Michael Muro
Written by: Roy Frumkes
Music by: Rick Ulfik
Cast: Mike Lackey, R. L. Ryan, Vic Noto, Tony Darrow

Street Trash Venture, 91 Minutes, 90 Minutes (cut), 101 Minutes (unrated)

Review:

“Fuck you. Gimme a bottle of booze, here’s my dollar, suck my dick!” – Fred

If you’ve ever wanted to see a movie with shrill, unlikable people, human beings melting into a fluorescent glop and a game of keep away football with a severed penis for the ball, then this is your movie!

If none of that appeals to you, then you’ll probably want to steer clear of this gross out bizarre bonanza.

Street Trash is a movie that focuses on street trash. The title is accurate, as the film goes on to show us the lives of disgusting, filthy people without any moral compass or likable qualities. But that also makes it hard to watch as there is no true protagonist.

I guess there are antagonists and that’s just about every person in the film. But that’s another problem. Nothing is clearly defined in a way that gives this motion picture any sort of structure. The story is an absolute mess, the script itself is deplorable and after seeing this movie, I still don’t know what the hell I watched.

However, there’s something weirdly endearing about the movie. As a big fan of practical effects, there is a lot in this movie that I dig in that regard. If you can get past the gross shit, some of what they pull off here is damn impressive.

Additionally, this movie has some incredibly stellar steadicam work. I mean like top notch shit. I guess that’s why the director, J. Michael Muro went on to be the stedicam operator for James Cameron on The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, True Lies and Titanic. He also worked on Dances With WolvesOpen Range and a slew of other movies. But no matter how far up the Hollywood ladder he climbs, he always has to look down and see Street Trash. But we all started out as primordial goo, I guess.

I also love the scene in this movie where the hobo starts stealing food at the grocery store. It’s just a weird sequence crammed into the middle of the movie but it’s comedy gold and it was achieved by people with no acting or filmmaking experience, whatsoever.

It’s also worth noting that Tony Darrow started his acting career in this movie. He’d go on to have a pretty memorable role in Goodfellas. He also does a weird spoken word song over the end credits.

All in all, despite the few positives, this is a hard movie to get through in one sitting. It’s a loud, colorful clusterfuck. But it has stupendous technical wizardry and a few good funny bits that keep it from sinking too deep.

In fact, this is probably the most Troma film that wasn’t made by Troma.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: Basket Case, The Stuff, Ghoulies, The Video Dead and Neon Maniacs.

Film Review: Howling III: The Marsupials (1987)

Also known as: Howling III (original title), Wolfmen (Germany)
Release Date: May 15th, 1987 (Cannes)
Directed by: Philippe Mora
Written by: Gary Brandner, Philippe Mora
Based on: The Howling III: Echoes by Gary Brandner
Music by: Allan Zavod
Cast: Barry Otto, Imogen Annesley, Leigh Biolos, Ralph Cotterill

Bancannia Holdings Pty. Ltd., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 98 Minutes

Review:

“You know this movie’s about pop culture? In the 60s, Andy Warhol showed us how Pop could be high art. That everything is high art. That’s what this is all about. For example, in your first scene you’ll be gang raped by four monsters.” – Jack Citron

I remember seeing one of the later Howling sequels when I was a kid. I think it was part IV or V. I also remember it being absolute shit. While part II is also crap, it is very endearing, has Christopher Lee in it, Sybil Danning’s breasts and also boasts great music from Babel.

So I have never seen this one but I’ve been intrigued by it for years, because it features werewolves that are marsupials. I don’t know why that would intrigue me but it sounded so batshit crazy that it might work in some way.

It doesn’t work. In fact, this is a movie that hurt my head and I felt like I was in physical and mental pain trying to get to the end.

The werewolves here are Australian and unlike our American (or European) werewolves, they are descended from extinct marsupial thylacines a.k.a. Tasmanian tigers. So they have stomach pouches for their babies, as well as tiger striped asses. Seriously, I’m not making this up.

Anyway, a werewolf girl escapes into normal Sydney society, falls in love, gets preggers and then a strobelight at a party makes here wolf out. The dumb guy that loves her, follows her back into the Outback to have a werewolf family in the wilderness. A government agency gets involved, experiments on werewolves and shit hits the fan.

There is one really cool and really bizarre scene where a ballerina doing a spin starts wolfing out and then eats a male ballerina on stage in front of people. Also, the werewolf nuns are equal parts freaky and stupid.

Howling III is far from a decent movie. It’s really damn bad with bad camerawork, shrill sound and lowest common denominator practical effects.

This made me not want to watch the other sequels but I still probably will because I torture myself just to review all of the terrible cinematic shit on God’s green Earth.

Rating: 3.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Howling sequels.

Film Review: RoboCop (1987)

Also known as: Robocop: The Future of Law Enforcement (script title)
Release Date: July 17th, 1987
Directed by: Paul Verhoeven, Monte Hellman (uncredited second-unit director)
Written by: Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner
Music by: Basil Poledouris
Cast: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O’Herlihy, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer, Ray Wise, Robert DoQui, Felton Perry

Orion Pictures, 102 Minutes

Review:

“Dead or alive, you’re coming with me!” – RoboCop

I put off reviewing RoboCop for a long time on this site because it’s one of my all-time favorite movies and I wanted to save it for a rainy day. Well, the day wasn’t rainy but I was suffering from my almost annual mini cold that all the snowbirds bring down to Florida every January.

It is hard for me to talk about this film and not get overly excited about it, which certainly gives me a strong bias towards it and also taps into nostalgia and the possibility that I can’t be as objective, as I don’t care about a single flaw in the movie. But there really aren’t many, to be honest, and this was absolutely one of the best action movies of the ’80s and really, it’s better than almost every action movie now, 32 years later.

This is a film that just has the right kind of magic. It is lightning in a bottle and even though I like the first sequel, that film doesn’t come close to what director Paul Verhoeven did here. Plus, the script by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner was absolutely superb. But the one thing that really brings everything together is the stupendous score by Basil Poledouris. His work on the Conan films and its themes were wonderful. Poledouris worked his musical magic again and gave RoboCop one of the best themes of all-time and the score is pretty incredible, overall. They just don’t quite make movie music this good anymore and without it, I don’t know if the movie has the same sort of energy and spirit.

All of those elements I just mentioned, created a film where the tone was perfect for the story that they needed to tell. And all of these solid pieces coming together so well still doesn’t account for how great the cast was. I mean, RoboCop truly is a perfect storm of badass sci-fi action.

Peter Weller is RoboCop and it will always be the role he is most remembered for but he has such a long and rich career of amazing performances that it isn’t hard to understand how he was so good in this and how he gave a robotic character a real sense of humanity. You feel his emotion, his pain and it is impossible to not root for Alex Murphy a.k.a. RoboCop.

The villains in this were so damn good though. They were kind of terrifying to me, as a kid, but the impact of who and what they are is still strong and it isn’t lost in a film where there is some of that famous ’80s movie cheese. The bad guys are well written with strong dialogue but they were also well cast between Kurtwood Smith, who steals the show, Ronny Cox, Ray Wise and even Miguel Ferrer, who isn’t specifically a villain but he is a reckless yuppie piece of shit.

I love Dan O’Herlihy in just about everything I’ve seen him in. He was creepy as hell as the villain in Halloween III and on the flip side of the coin, he was absolutely lovable as Grig, the alien co-pilot in The Last Starfighter. This is my favorite role he’s ever played, however. He was great as the old man running OCP, the corporation that pretty much owns all of Detroit. I also love that he continued to play the role after this film.

RoboCop birthed a franchise. While no other movie in the series has lived up to this one, which is a really tall order, it still spawned comic books, video games, a cartoon, action figures, sequels, a live action TV show, TV movies and a remake nearly three decades later. In fact, there is another RoboCop film in development now.

Many ’80s films don’t age well and while this is very much an ’80s motion picture, it doesn’t feel dated in quite the same way as other similar films from the time. RoboCop doesn’t have a dull moment and none of it slows down, it’s just balls out action and super violence of the highest caliber. Even critics love it and this is the type of thing that critics loathe.

If you’ve never seen this film, you’ve done yourself a disservice.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the RoboCop sequels and the first two Terminator movies.