Review: Phantom of the Opera (1989)

Directed by: Dwight H. Little
Category: Horror

I figured since I had just seen Brian De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise and not being all that impressed, I'd take the opportunity to revisit an old 80's take on the Phantom storyline; something I'd been wanting to do for a while now. I really don't remember much about this, other than it starred Robert Englund in the title role of the Phantom, and that it was directed by Dwight H. Little, who directed my favorite Steven Seagal flick with Marked for Death, but who also did Halloween 4, which I really wasn't a big fan of. He is also responsible for directing Brandon Lee's Rapid Fire, which again I always felt should have been better than it was. So right off the bat this could be either good or bad, depending on which Dwight H. Little we get.

If I were to be completely honest, while this version had a few things going for it, I didn't really feel it was all that great. I don't know. I'm just getting the feeling that Little just doesn't handle the horror genre very well. In fact, I'm realizing that while I hold Marked for Death in the highest regard in terms of martial arts action cinema, it very well might have been a fluke, because nothing he's done since has left any kind of lasting impression on me. Phantom of the Opera is no different. While Robert Englund was inspired casting, he almost seems too hammy for the role. His line delivery, though unintentional I'm sure, is so theatrical that the only way to describe it is hammy. Maybe that's what he was going for, but it's just too much at times and you wonder how much, if any, of it was on purpose.

Englund has a very particular look to him, and so when the scenes involve him applying prosthetics and makeup to look more like a normal man, he comes off looking more like an old lady, which is kind of funny. I know I can't be the only one who thought that while watching this. So rather than having him look more like a normal man amongst the crowd, he looks oddly distracting. So in retrospect, I guess I feel the makeup department missed the ball on that one. Where they could have done some pretty amazing things with practical makeup in this latest Opera iteration, they went with more of a subdued look, which I'm sure threw a lot of people off considering this was supposed to be a full-on horror take on the material.

Produced by Menahem Golan (total surprise to me), of Cannon Films fame, after the collapse of Cannon Films in 1988 and under his new banner 21st Century Films, PotO is a somewhat low-budget affair, but you'd never know it. I've read that people found the sets to look cheap, but I would have to disagree. While not grande by any stretch of the imagination, the film overall looked pretty good. Director Dwight H. Little seemed to be able to grab as much as he could from the sets and production design, making the most of what little there was to work with in terms of sets and budget.

Robert Englund made this the same year he made A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 5, the worst of the Freddy films, and a year after his directorial debut with 976-Evil. So creatively speaking, Englund was on a high streak and quite the busy man. He wasn't bad in this, but strangely miscast. Strange in the sense that you'd think he was the most obvious and ideal choice, but it just somehow doesn't work. The role doesn't fit for his specific brand of acting.

A lot of my gripes could have been easily overlooked with just a few changes. For a horror movie, it's really skimping in the gore department. I know it was severely cut down prior to release by the MPAA, but still. It's a horror film. We need gore. In terms of style, I thought director Little really excelled in some of the more exciting sequences both visually and structure-wise. As odd as it is to say about a horror film, I wish it had some more action to liven the thing up. The few fight sequences and whatnot were far more entertaining than the humdrum slow build that the rest of the film had to offer. Since we didn't have a lot to get excited over in terms of horror, gore and makeup, some cool action sequences would have been something.

Not a great 80's horror film, but not a terrible one either. The film shifts time periods a few times, and I have to admit, I found the sequences that took place in modern day New York circa 1989 far more entertaining than the rest of the film. Maybe they should have stuck with that time period.


Review: Murder Weapon

Directed by: David DeCateau
Category: Horror

I first became aware of this obscure little Low-Budget film when a horror fan, filmmaker, and collector posted a very enthusiastic video review of this on Facebook. His enthusiasm for this film sold me right from the start, and I had been on the hunt for it off and on ever since over the past year or so. But somewhere in that time I had forgotten the title, which made it even more difficult. It's almost too common a title, and it's one that could certainly fit in a number of different genre's, so my efforts were pretty much dead in the water so to speak. After months of digging and searching, I finally discovered the title, and subsequently, the tape itself on the VHS market, but it was always incomplete. You see, it's only ever been released on VHS and Laserdisc. I could never come across a VHS with a cover; it was always just the tape or the a cut box up for grabs on eBay for a hefty sum. The only Laserdisc I found went for $25, not the type of sum I'm willing to spend on a film I wasn't even sure was going to be good.

But then something amazing happened. An eBay seller was offering a lot of 6 VHS tapes with a starting bid of $1. None of the names were in the title of the listing, just basically saying it was a lot of 6 random films for sale. I immediately saw the Murder Weapon cover in the picture, as well as another low-budget revenge flick I'd been after, and jumped on it. I put my $1 bid, and 5 days later, was shocked to learn that I won the lot! For a $1! A week later I received the package and was further shocked to see that all the tapes were in near mint condition. I mean, it just doesn't get any better than that folks. Stoked is putting it lightly. So was Murder Weapon worth all the effort?

Weeeell......yes and no. This is easily one of the weirdest movies I've ever seen. Nothing turns out the way you expect it to, with so much of this film in general being so uneven on practically every level; the production, the acting, the tone, the story - it's hard to even know what to actually call it. While the cover leads you to believe that it's some sort of action thriller, it's in fact not. If I were to call it anything, I'd call it a slasher film that takes place entirely in a house. Of course, you'd never guess that simply by judging from the title and cover. But it is indeed a slasher. Yet it doesn't look or feel like any one specific type of film so often that it's utterly confusing. I remember looking over at my girlfriend in disbelief and we kept asking each other "What kind of film is this supposed to be?". For the longest time, we couldn't tell. At times it looked and felt like a Made-for-TV Lifetime movie, and others it felt like a low-budget sex romp. Then it would be a straight-up slasher film, but then things would take a turn for the bizarre and you're again left asking the same question.

When two mental patients return home, they decide to invite their past boyfriends for a night of fun. Only they have something else in mind, and the boyfriends last hope may be each other.

Directed by David DeCoteau, under the alias Ellen Cabot, Murder Weapon is a "must see" if you're in the mood for something odd and terrible, yet highly entertaining. With 118 films to his credit as director, you'd think this was his very first film because nothing about this production lends any credit to the fact that he'd ever made anything before; every single frame and every second of film feels completely amateurish. It's as if he'd never directed a film before. Hell, I've seen better camera work, cutaways and editing on a PBS program. He shoots nearly the entire film using extreme closeups, and rarely does he ever deviate from the camera setup he established at the beginning of the sequence. Not only that, the editing is atrocious and hilarious at the same time. You just have to see it to believe it.
The 2 tapes from the VHS lot that caught my eye
Linnea Quigley, who also serves as producer, has never been more unsexy and terrible. Sure, she's naked an awful lot, but good gawd is she lousy in this. Even her sex scene is laughable and kinda hilarious. Has she never had sex before? You'll seriously be asking yourself that very question after watching this. I don't know if it's just the film's terrible script, but her line delivery was so gawd-awful that I cringed every single time she opened her mouth. Maybe she was doing it on purpose, but either way, she was horrible. In fact, every single actor in here was awful, with the only exception being Lyle Waggoner, from The Love Boat, The Carol Burnett Show and Wonder Woman. He was good, natural, and how he ended up in this piece of trash, I'll never know. I kind of felt sorry for him. While his presence in here is minimal, he seems so out of place compared to all the other non-actors who struggle to deliver their lines or even come off as natural.

It may seem like I'm complaining, but in reality, its's all these things that make this film so great. Murder Weapon really is one fucked up piece of WTF? Trash. It's terrible from every angle, and that's what makes it so damn entertaining. It's constantly shifting tones and just when you think you've got it figured out, it does a complete 180 and you're left blindsided out of nowhere, especially when the kills come into play. These kills are the meat of Murder Weapon, and it's a shame more people don't know this. Every time someone gets knocked off, it's in such a gruesome and over-the-top way that you're left shocked and somewhat dazed. How the hell did a movie this shitty accomplish realistic and gory as hell death scenes this intense? I don't know, but they did, and it makes up for most of what Murder Weapon ends up lacking.

Unfortunately, this film suffers from a severe number of problems. Some can be overlooked because they're quite entertaining, but others make the experience so difficult to sit through. For example, the film is a short hour and 15 minutes, even though the tape says 90 minutes. I kept an eye on the timer, and it was not 90 minutes. But the problem we found was that so much of the film drags on and on with boring dialogue that has nothing to do with anything, other than to fill up space in an already short run-time. None of this is more obvious than in the entire first half of the film. But it's made all the more unbearable by Linnea Quigley and Karen Russell's terrible acting, and these are the two that are given long stretches of dialogue that add nothing to the table. As tedious as these long stretches of uninspired ramblings seemed to go, Murder Weapon could easily have benefited from at least 30 minutes cut to help things run more smoothly, but then that would make it a helluva lot shorter than it already is. Honestly, that wouldn't be such a bad thing.

If you love bad entertaining films, I suggest seeking out Murder Weapon. While it doesn't quite reach the level of Bad Movie Night material that would work well with a large crowd, it's definitely worth a watch if it's just a few of you, the type that enjoy this kind of sub-genre of terrible filmmaking at it's worst. It's worth a watch if just for the kills alone if you're a fan of gore and sleaze. If I had any way of making some changes, I would love to have seen much more gore and more kills, and a LOT of the dialogue severely cut down because it's boring, tedious and literally goes nowhere. Even the many dream sequences seem to stop everything dead in it's tracks just when things start moving along. But you can tell they had little to work with, especially in the very first 10 minutes when we're treated to a woman applying lotion to her body while sunbathing by the pool. A full 10 minutes of watching her apply, and reapply, and reapply (sometimes recycling the same exact footage) lotion when you just saw her finish and put the bottle down. Yet the very next scene is showing her applying it all over again like she hadn't yet done it! Gotta love it.


Badass Cinema Presents: Final Score

As I put some finishing touches on a few reviews, I thought I'd share this little flyer I whipped up for this weeks Badass Cinema screening at my place for a bunch of friends. Man, I am super stoked for this one and I hope it lives up to the hype.

Here's the description I included with the flyer:
"Tueday! 9 PM! We will be screening the MEGA RARE Insane 80's Action Masterpiece Final Score! From legendary Indonesian action director Arizal, and starring Chris Mitchum, supposedly this is the cream of the crop of foreign action at it's most shocking and insane. A no-holds-barred tale of revenge with some of the craziest stunts, action and violence reportedly ever filmed. This was only ever released one time on VHS in Japan, and that's it, making it one of the most highly sought after films on the market. Join us and share the experience of watching some BADASS! "
*Reminder: This is not Bad Movie Night. This is....BADASS CINEMA NIGHT!


Review: Back in Action

Directed by: Steve DiMarco
Category: Action

Believe me when I tell you that there's nothing that I love more than a really good and well made low-budget action film. Mind you, I love a lot of everything - I confess. Give me a good sci-fi, an old school kung-fu, an 80's horror, or even a silly comedy and I'm happy. But my first love is and will always be action, and in this day and age where we're hard-pressed for a decent well made non-CGI action film, well when a good one comes along......it's a pretty big deal to me.

When an ex-Green Beret cab driver (Billy Blanks) crosses paths with a tough cop (Roddy Piper) who's job is on the line, he reluctantly teams up with him to rescue his sister, who's run off with a member of the mob and in danger.

I've been aware of this film for quite some time, but for one reason or another I was never able to get my hands on one cheaply. Having never been released officially on DVD, the only other format options for me were VHS and Laserdisc, which is just fine with me since I actually prefer those formats over DVD any day of the week. But I could never find it on VHS cheap. When it comes to Low-Budget DTV flicks, I have a strict limit I set upon myself on how much I'll spend on a "blind-buy". This never fell below it, so I never bought it. The Laserdisc is even harder to come by, and never under $20. But I lucked out recently on a trade I made with a fellow VHS collector on Instagram, and finally Back in Action was physically in my hands. Was it worth the wait?

You bet your ass it was! Back in Action represents the best of what Low-Budget DTV action has to offer. The brilliant casting of Rowdy Roddy Piper and Billy Blanks are only matched by the insane onslaught of neverending fist fights, shootouts, and one-liners. Director Steve DiMarco infuses so much high energy action that I'm shocked to learn that he's not a  full-time action director. As with most of these DTV action directors, they seem to fall into television territory quite easily for some strange reason. Looking at his filmography, it seems he's only slightly dabbled in this genre from time to time while mainly directing episodes of pretty much anything and everything in every genre on tv. Kind of sad really, as he handles the action sequences really well. I'm sure it sounds a little silly to bring up, but you'd be surprised how a good lowbrow film can be hampered by an inexperienced or just plain awful director who doesn't know what he's doing, or films the thing like he doesn't have a care in the world in terms of style. More precisely, nothing but handheld camerawork. I hate that shit. It's lazy, uninteresting and can totally ruin a film for me. But here, thankfully DiMarco doesn't go that route, instead giving the film well shot set pieces that only add to it's already killer vibe.

Never a dull moment, inspired casting, nonstop action and a charm not easily found in these types of films make for a really fun time. It doesn't quite reach the level of awesome that Hologram Man was able to achieve, but it's not far behind. The chemistry between Piper and Blanks is undeniable, and the driving force behind this particular film. I've learned that they also costarred in another DTV flick called Tough & Deadly, which word of mouth suggests is a less successful film than this one is. I guess in this case, lightning doesn't strike twice. But hey, at least we have the badass Back in Action.


Review: Evilspeak

Directed by: Eric Weston
Category: Horror

This was a film that I generally had no interest in seeing for some reason. Amazing cover art for sure, but I guess I didn't know enough about it at the time to ever make the effort. But that cover art would always pop up on my radar throughout the years, Hell, I even had it on my blog homepage for years just because it's freaking awesome. Little did I know that was actually none other than Clint Howard on the cover. You coulda fooled me! Then Scream Factory released this baby on Blu ray recently and after tons of positive word of mouth, I jumped on the bandwagon. And I'm glad I did, because Evilspeak is a great little slice of 80's horror heaven.

Stanley (Clint Howard) is an outsider in a military school. With only one person he can call a friend, he seems to be ruthlessly taunted on a daily basis. What's more, it seems even the coach, dean and priest don't seem to care, sometimes even getting in on the action. Stanley discovers a hidden dungeon in the school that nobody seemed to be aware of. Inside he finds ancient scriptures used to conjure up an ancient demon. Together with the power of a computer circa 1981 (quite hilarious), Stanley has revenge on his mind. 

Evilspeak has a lot of positive things going for it, most of all the fact that it just screams the 1980's. But it's also got a lot of charm, something that's very hard to come by in really any film from any decade. They're either good, or they're not. But Evilspeak surprisingly falls right in the middle where it's fun and entertaining, yet is also a true blue horror film made on an obviously limited budget. But it was the 80's, so regardless, it just looks cool and nostalgic. I'm not going to say this was a perfect film, because it's not - far from it. But it's a fun one and if you love horror films - especially older ones - this will be right up your alley.

Make no mistake, Clint Howard sells the shit out of it. Honestly, if it wasn't him in the lead, I doubt it would have been as successful as it ultimately is. While there's nothing special or spectacular about Evilspeak, it's execution is commendable. Shot surprisingly well, unnecessary nudity, amusing aesthetic, spot-on casting, and an ending that makes the films generally slow-burn approach well worth the wait. That ending is what makes the film my friends, and believe me when I tell you that it's just awesome.

While not a film that I can find myself repeatedly, Evilspeak carries the goods for a good time. Gather some friends, pop those bottle caps and throw this on; it'll be a good time for all. One thing's for sure; it has one of the coolest movie posters of all time.


Scream Greats Vol 1: Tom Savini Japan VHS

I've spent so much time collecting, trading and acquiring VHS tapes this past year that I've completely neglected posting the sleeves on here like I used to. In all honesty, I'd completely forgotten that it used to be something I would always do. But I took a very long break from collecting for a few years and only recently began again, and then it hit me that I hadn't posted any covers in forever. So hopefully here's the first of many to come, if I don't get lazy about it. 

I had completely come across this tape randomly on a whim. I didn't even know it was available in Japan, and when I was casually browsing online one day it popped up while I wasn't looking for anything in particular and my heart nearly stopped. You see, I have owned this specific documentary ever since it first hit VHS. My brother and I wore the shit out of it and through the decades, I've always held onto my copy. I've slowly began collecting different versions of this film throughout the years on different formats, but never knew it was ever released in Japan until now. I grabbed it without thinking twice about the price. It NEEDED to be in my collection, and let me say, it's just gorgeous in person.


Review: Phantom of the Paradise

Directed by: Brian De Palma
Category: Horror/Musical

Purely based off of this particular film's huge cult following, I was a little more than excited to finally get a chance to check this out. It pretty much all started when Scream Factory released a very impressive blu ray recently, and the enthusiasm and strong word of mouth have been boiling up to a fever pitch level of excitement. After weeks of debating on doing a "blind buy", I just went ahead and bit the bullet and bought the damn thing on blu ray and screened it for a bunch of friends for movie night recently. One of the things I was most excited about, other than the fact that it was a mid 70's rock n' roll horror musical hybrid directed by Brian De Palma, was that it was a first time watch for all of us. So you can imagine our enthusiasm was pretty high.

I'm sorry to report that for us, Phantom of the Paradise was a severe letdown and nowhere near the level of crazy, fun or awesome that we were expecting. Among it's many issues, we found it to be quite amateurish. I am aware that this was at the beginning of De Palma's feature film career, but I was still shocked at how un-De Palma it all looked and felt. Sometimes that can be a good thing, but in this case, it wasn't. Though he does implore the famous Split-Screen technique he later becomes known for, so there's that.

One of the biggest things that surprised me, and all of us for that matter, was how all the songs in here were generally not very good. For me personally, I was expecting a film full of rock songs, when in reality, rock is but a tiny segment of the film as a whole. The overall concept of the stage production goes through various stages and genre's, until they can figure out what style ends up working best for the musical. So it is not in fact a rock horror musical like I had hoped. And in any case, the songs all seemed quite dull and uninspired. None of them rhyme, and none of them are catchy. There is however, a small segment when the film resembles what we all went in expecting, a full-on rock horror musical, and it was awesome, if only for a brief moment.

Ultimately this left us all a bit confused and let down. It's a crazy film for sure, but I am finding it hard to understand the cult status. I honestly didn't find it to be very good, or entertaining for that matter. Neither of us did. But......to each their own.


Review: Hologram Man

VHS cover courtesy of VHSCollector.com

Directed by: Richard Pepin
Category: Action

One day while trolling on Instagram, a fellow collector I follow posted a picture of this VHS. The cover looked lame and cheesy to say the least, and everything about it screamed low-budget trash. I mean, even the name is silly. I was hooked. I asked the guy what he thought about it and he said that I would pretty much love it because it's nonstop action. I was sold.

Hologram Man is the reason I love this shit. I honestly can't remember the last time I was this entertained by a low-budget action flick. Literally from it's opening frame to the very last, Hologram Man is filled with so much insane over-the-top nonstop action that for the casual moviegoer, it might very well be nauseating. But not for lovers of this kind of shit like us. No sir. Hologram Man maintains a momentum that in all honesty, is really hard to beat. It's a full-throttle action ride from beginning to end, and it kinda blew me away for a number of reasons.

I had just finished watching another low-budget DTV actioner called Back in Action (review coming soon) starring Roddy Piper and Billy Blanks. While that one was a well made and a fun little action film that did not disappoint, the only thing that it did not have was any "wow" factor. It was full of action; fist fights, shootouts and the like, but nothing really that makes it stand out from the crowd, other than the fact that it was never dull. Quite the contrary. Back in Action was thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end. But Hologram Man takes that to an entirely new level because it's so absurd, insanely cheesy, and kinda schlocky from time to time. In other words, it's fucking awesome. Not only that, it's shot really well. If I were to compare this to anything, my first thought would be Albert Pyun's Nemesis. And that's quite a comparison to live up to my friends, because as we all know. the first Nemesis is just all kinds of awesome. I would have to say that it's arguably the highlight of Pyun's action film career. The sequels.........let's just forget about them for a moment.

Without getting deep into a synopsis, Hologram Man is essentially Virtuosity, Nemesis and Demolition Man all mixed together. Sound cool right? And it is. I had a constant smile on my face the entire time because it was ridiculous, fun, insane, and altogether a nonstop thrill-ride. Seriously, what more could you ask for in a low-budget action flick?

Of course, Hologram Man probably took a lot of it's style and substance from Nemesis since this came out 3 years after. The same can be said about a lot of the plot details from Demolition Man, as that film came out 2 years before this one did. But while this shares a lot of similarities to Virtuosity, that film came out the same year as this one did, so maybe we can just chalk that up to coincidence?

I'll be honest, the gimmicky effects work is pretty awful, but that's part of it's charm. It's pre-CGI quality stuff going on in here, so it's about as ancient as it could possibly get. But while the effects work is amateurish to say the least, it somehow all works in a B Movie kind of way. But what sells everything is the badass stuntwork, of which there are plenty. Explosions galore which almost outrival the insane amount of explosions in I Come in Peace AKA Dark Angel, killer stuntwork, and a seemingly endless barrage of gun battles and car chases easily make this a standout among the flock. Just try to ignore the silly and hilarious VHS cover art and font.

One of the first things I did was look up director Richard Pepin, who I am unfamiliar with. The guy shot the hell out of this thing and I was excited to see what else he may have been involved in. It appears while he's primarily a producer with over 100 films to his credit, he dabbles in directing from time to time and always in the low-budget action genre. It's a safe bet that I will probably track down a good number of his films to see if they're any bit as entertaining as this one.

I should also mention that one of the many things that constantly surprised me about this one was the insane cast. It seems "everyone" is in this. And when I say everyone, I mean pretty much every character actor you can think of from the 80's and 90's. It's nuts!

How to watch it:
Currently, you can see it on YouTube, but I don't know how good the quality is on that download. I rented it on Amazon for $3, and it gave me a whole week to stream it. That digital streaming version was in excellent quality; no blurriness, pixelation issues or anything like that. My only gripe would be that it was in full frame, and I'd love to see it in widescreen. You can pick up the VHS for anywhere from $10 - $20, depending on the seller of course. There's also a bare bones full frame DVD out there for next to nothing, but if you're going to go that route, I'd just recommend streaming it from Amazon or grabbing the VHS. It's worth a purchase if you love this kind of stuff.


Review: Clown

Directed by: Jon Watts
Category: Horror

As I sit here fighting the urge to fall asleep because I stayed up way too late last night, my desire to share some thoughts on this film were much stronger. We all know the story of Clown right? What started off as a fake trailer by a very talented newcomer, quickly became a feature film once Eli Roth came across it and was wowed enough to give the guy the chance to make a feature length film based on that little trailer that blew him away. The result is Clown, one of the most original horror films to come out in quite some time, as well as being one of the strongest debut's for a director I've come across in ages.

Clown has been on my radar for a while now, with strong word of mouth building up to practically a boiling point. Somehow people were able to see it everywhere else "except" the U.S., and all of them were positive. A few weeks ago I started seeing a ton of pictures on Facebook from people buying the Blu ray from outside of the U.S., and sharing their newly arrived mail. I was jealous, because still to this day, their is no word of a theatrical or Blu ray release here stateside. And honestly, whoever is behind this is seriously losing out on some big money because if we can't wait to see it when everyone else in the world can, most people will find a way online. That's just how it is. That's the world we live in today.

Kent (Andy Powers), a real estate agent, has a problem. His son's birthday party is any minute and the clown originally hired has cancelled, leaving the parents in a serious bind. The father notices a chest hiding in one of his homes he's currently renovating. When he opens it, he finds a fantastic looking vintage clown suit. He dons the costume and surprises his son as the clown saving the day. But there's a problem. He can't seem to take the costume off. Worse yet, the wig and makeup won't come off either. The costume and makeup seem to be bonding with his body, and before long, both his physical and mental state begin changing.

Clown was such a nice surprise. Everything about this film screams "quality". Best of all, nothing is played for laughs. This is serious horror and its' pretty goddamned great. What I noticed right off the bat is that while it seems that director Jon Watts had never made a full-on horror film before, he does a bang-up job offering up some nice tension, slow build up, and stellar performances from his cast. Another thing I found interesting is that while it wasn't as full-on gory as I was hoping for, the gore that is present is done rather well, and in any case, you don't miss any of it because the film as a whole is so good, you don't need the excessive gore to sell anything.

That is one helluva setup for a film, and through it all, Clown is quite creepy. And for someone who doesn't generally find clowns in general creepy as most others do, I found the whole mythology of clowns in this film quite creepy indeed, and entirely effective. I doubt anyone will look at them the same way again after seeing this.

In a nutshell:
From a practical point of view, there's really nothing about Clown that's spectacular. Yet, it's streamlined approach in nearly every department makes this a standout among the over-saturated new horror films of the last few years. To put it simply, it's effective and pretty damn good.


80's Slasher: April Fools Day

Directed by: Fred Walton
Category: Horror

While there are a handful of new reviews I need to catch up on as I sat on my ass and watched movies all weekend as I tried to recover from a 4 week flu, I figured since today is April Fool's Day, I should finally get around to doing one on this little 80's gem that I only recently discovered for the first time. 

I remember coming across this VHS many, many times back in the day of VHS, which honestly feels like many moons ago. But for one reason or another, I never took the time to watch it. I think that I just assumed it would be another low-budget cheese-fest, which it is anything but. No sir. What I pleasantly discovered was that April Fool's Day is a solidly made 80's horror slasher of the best kind. What surprised me more than anything is how well it's made. Director Fred Walton, whom I'm unfamiliar with, does an outstanding job on the tone and most importantly, the visuals. You won't find a single handheld shot in this thing, which was typical of low-budget slasher's back in the day. Needless to say, I was thoroughly impressed. 

The story revolves around a girl who invites her classmates to a weekend get-together at her father's lake house for a weekend of fun and leisure. As soon as her classmates land on the island, things immediately start taking a turn for the worse, and they find themselves trapped on an island with no chance of escape, with a host who seems like she's got a few screws loose herself. 

I think a lot of people will find this film surprising for a number of reasons, most importantly the impressive cast. It kills! And guess what? They're actually likable. When I threw this on I remember I kept yelling "She's in this?!", and "He's in this too?!". A really great ensemble cast is important, and the casting department did a bang-up job on this one. If you love horror, you'll know these kids. 

What I love about 80's ensemble horror casting is that back then, it was so believable. These days, horror films are filled with people that don't look like normal human beings. They're too skinny. The women all have fake breasts. They look like they all just came out of a teen soap opera. They all look 15 years older than the parts they're supposed to play. But in the 80's, it was a totally different story. The stars of some of our favorite slashers looked like real people, with a good majority of them being fairly unattractive. It may sound like nitpicking, but it's a sad fact in the horror genre these days. While I certainly don't mind unnecessary nudity in my horror, when it's a bunch of skinny chicks with hideously fake boobs, then it's a huge turnoff. But I digress....

All in all, April Fool's Day is an extremely solid slasher. Well executed, acted, and entertaining throughout with a likable cast and plenty of style to burn. Last time I checked it was playing on Netflix in widescreen. Definitely worth a watch for some old-school horror if you're in the mood.