Film Review: Runaway (1984)

Release Date: December 14th, 1984
Directed by: Michael Crichton
Written by: Michael Crichton
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Tom Selleck, Cynthia Rhodes, Gene Simmons, Kirstie Alley, Stan Shaw, G. W. Bailey, Joey Cramer, Chris Mulkey

Delphi III Productions, TriStar Pictures, 99 Minutes

Review:

“You screwed up good, Ramsay. We got two dead officers, do you understand me mister? Two. Dead. Cops! We got two wounded – one of them your own partner – and we got two dead guinea punks! And no one knows why or what the hell its all about!” – Chief of Police

This was one of those movies that used to be on HBO or Showtime all the time when I was a kid. I probably saw it a dozen times back then but it’s eluded me ever since and sort of fell down pop culture’s memory hole.

Watching it now was kind of cool, as it wasn’t as cheesy as I thought it would be and even if there is a bit of hokiness in the movie, it’s still pretty serious and a much better than decent sci-fi thriller.

While there aren’t cyborgs or dystopian metropolises glowing from infinite neon lights, Runaway still has a really strong cyberpunk vibe to it. I think this is due to the amount of robots in the film, the wacky inventions like AI-controlled bullets and the general visual aesthetic of the picture.

Tom Selleck is damn solid in this and it makes me wish he was in more action and crime films. He plays a complex cop character that specializes in community service calls dealing with malfunctioning robots. Sometimes the jobs are easy and straightforward but other times, they’re deadly dangerous. What makes him complex is that he’s a tough guy but he also has a severe fear of heights. Plus, he’s a single dad, raising a son and still emotionally recovering from the death of his wife while also wooing the two ladies in the movie: his partner and a woman that’s in way over her head with the story’s villain.

Speaking of which, the baddie in this is Gene Simmons from KISS. While I can’t say that his acting is good, he still has a presence and really hams it up in a great way. When he finally gets what’s coming to him, it’s a damn satisfying momenty.

The cast is rounded out by Selleck’s female partner played by Cynthia Rhodes, the corporate damsel in distress played by Kirtstie Alley, Joey Cramer of Flight of the Navigator fame playing Selleck’s son and the always entertaining G. W. Bailey as the cantankerous Chief of Police.

It’s also worth mentioning that this was written and directed by Michael Crichton before he became a much more prolific writer when Steven Spielberg made a little film franchise out of his novel Jurassic Park.

Overall, this is still a really entertaining picture that has a pretty basic but interesting tech crime story. It certainly feels like it’s straight out of the ’80s and while the special effects may appear dated by today’s standard, I appreciate the work that went into this. The robots all look pretty cool and function well. 

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other sci-fi or cyberpunk films of the ’80s and early ’90s.

Film Review: Trick or Treat (1986)

Also known as: Heavy Metal do Horror (Brazil), Muerte a 33 R.P.M. (Spain), Ragman (Germany)
Release Date: October 24th, 1986
Directed by: Charles Martin Smith
Written by: Joel Soisson, Michael S. Murphey, Rhet Topham, Glen Morgan (uncredited), James Wong (uncredited)
Music by: Fastway, Christopher Young
Cast: Marc Price, Doug Savant, Lisa Orgolini, Tony Fields, Gene Simmons, Ozzy Osbourne

De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, 98 Minutes

Review:

“Demonic beasts. Whatever happened to the good old simple love song? “I love you.” Nowadays they have to write some sickness. It’s just absolutely sick and bizarre and I’m going to do my upmost best to try and stop it now.” – Rev. Aaron Gilstom

I used to own this on DVD but somehow in the last decade or two, it got lost. I’ve never seen it streaming anywhere and I didn’t like it enough to want to buy it again, unless I found it in a dollar bin somewhere. But, as of right now, it is streaming on YouTube. It’ll probably get pulled down but it’s there, at the moment.

Trick or Treat was a fun film to revisit all these years later and I’ve only seen it twice before this: once when I bought it around 2001 and then way before that in the late ’80s when I rented it from my local video store while friends and I had one of our many horror marathons.

The film stars Skippy from Family Ties as basically a heavy metal version of Skippy. His real name is Marc Price and he’s done some other movies too but he will always be Skippy to me. It also stars Doug Savant as the high school bully. He’s probably most known for being Matt, the gay dude on the original Melrose Place and for having a long stint on Desperate Housewives. He also played a serial killer in a fairly bad film called Paint It Black, where he murdered people, covered them in clay and turned them into art like Dick Miller in A Bucket of Blood.

The film also has two very notable cameos, so notable that the cameos were used to sell the movie to audiences. The cameos are by Gene Simmons of KISS, who plays a radio DJ, and Ozzy Osbourne, who plays a reverend wanting to destroy the evil that is rock and roll.

The plot follows Heavy Metal Skippy, a fairly normal kid apart from listening to devil worship music. He is bullied by the jocks like every other loser from an ’80s teen movie. When he comes across the last and only copy of a vinyl record recorded by his dead hero, he plays it backwards. It doesn’t open up a gate to Hell in his backyard but it does resurrect his rock and roll hero, who is basically a lightning powered rock star fueled by Satanic evil and pretty much down to kill everyone and everything. The way Skippy finally defeats him is absolutely ridiculous but at least the demon Satan rocker murdered the crap out of that douchey bully Doug Savant.

Trick or Treat isn’t a film that boasts good writing, good acting or even good special effects. It’s passable though, simply because it is so insane that it just works and is an entertaining watch.

It probably doesn’t deserve to be as good as it is, as its technical merit leaves a lot to be desired and it is littered with questionable editing choices but it is something I would probably watch more often than I have, if I still had my DVD copy of it.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Rocktober Blood, Black Roses, Brainscan and Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare.

Film Review: Detroit Rock City (1999)

Release Date: August 13th, 1999
Directed by: Adam Rifkin
Written by: Carl V. Dupre
Music by: J. Peter Robinson
Cast: Edward Furlong, Giuseppe Andrews, James DeBello, Sam Huntington, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, Natasha Lyonne, Lin Shaye, Melanie Lynskey, Shannon Tweed, Joe Flaherty, Ron Jeremy

Base-12 Productions, Takoma Entertainment Group, New Line Cinema, 94 Minutes

Review:

“God forbid one day you have a son like you, Jeremiah. A boy who lies through his teeth, buys demonic records, and smokes the dope!” – Mrs. Bruce

A lot of people a generation older than me usually get miffed when I tell them that I don’t like KISS. They have a song or two I can tolerate but I’ve just never been a fan of the Coca-Cola of rock and roll and I really just don’t get it. But I was born after KISS and can’t really understand what it was like to be there, in the moment, when they took over the airwaves in the early 1970s and had their likeness all over every product imaginable like Chewbacca and E.T. That being said, I don’t hate KISS and some of them are pretty amusing guys when I see them in interviews. Plus, Gene Simmons was a marketing genius: the Don Draper of rock and roll.

I did enjoy this film though, regardless of how I personally feel about KISS’ music and cartoon nature.

I’ve always liked Edward Furlong, even if he’s been a thorn in Hollywood’s side due to his issues when he was younger. However, just watch American History X or Animal Factory if you don’t think the kid can act, he can. This is one picture where Furlong just seems to be having a lot of fun and enjoying the material. He’s also the glue that holds this thing together.

You also have Giuseppe Andrews, an actor that I have always felt should be working more than he does. He’s a fantastic talent and has had a wide range of characters. But like Furlong, he got to sink his teeth into something fun and straightforward with this movie and he does a good job with it.

Sam Huntington and James DeBello round out the group of friends and both carry their own, as well. You also have a lot of great actors in minor roles: Natasha Lyonne, Lin Shaye, Melanie Lynskey, Shannon Tweed, Joe Flaherty and Ron Jeremy. And of course KISS is in the movie.

The story follows four friends and band mates, as they travel to Detroit to see KISS. However, they don’t have tickets and each friend goes on their own adventure in an effort to secure tickets with less than two hours to spare. The film essentially breaks out into four separate adventures that weave back together by the end. I actually really liked the narrative structure and it was well handled, well edited and flowed nicely.

Detroit Rock City is not a teen sex comedy classic but it is as good as some of the films that many consider to be classics of the genre. Had it starred someone like James Van Der Beek or Freddie Prinze Jr. it would have probably gotten more recognition, at the time. However, it stars the kid John Connor from the Terminator franchise before he fell off the map, two guys from Cabin Fever and Superman Returns‘ Jimmy Olsen. That’s not a knock against any of these guys but three out of the four hadn’t quite gotten bigger opportunities before this.

This is definitely a movie worth checking out if you like mostly mindless fun, especially from the teen sex comedy drama. Plus, it is less derivative than most of the films in the genre.

Rating: 7.5/10