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June 30, 2011

The '80s Horror Month at FMWL Wrap-Up Post

Man, it seems like just yesterday I started FMWL's '80s Horror Month...and it's already ending.  I've got mixed feelings about this.  Part of me feels like there's sooooo much out there I didn't get to cover (Truth be told, there is - I'm far from an expert on the decade's offerings), but part of me is incredibly grateful to have it over. 

Allow me to explain that last part.   I must admit, I had slightly devious intentions when I started '80s Horror Month.  In fact, I decided to do '80s Horror Month because I had an idea for a post brewing near the end of May, and I wanted to convince myself that this idea that was circling my mind was wrong.  This idea, in no uncertain terms, was the idea that I wanted to write a post about why I think that '80s Horror is Overrated.

I was in a mood, I guess.  But when I slowed myself down and really thought about it, I realized that it simply wouldn't be right to make such a post.  First of all, calling anything overrated is a silly and childish statement that implies that the writer understands others' opinions AND can judge their worth.  And I don't want that at FMWL.  Second, and most importantly, I couldn't possibly say such a thing about the decade as a whole.  There are far too many things I love about the decade; the statement just wouldn't be true.

So, let's break it down a bit.  Here's a list of what and who, in my mind, are the winners and losers of '80s Horror Month:
WINNER: Fright Night - Checking in at #2 on the list of my Top 31 '80s Horrors, I kind of expected a backlash against the film being ranked so high.  Alas, the half dozen or so commenters who commented all had good things to say of it.  I'm glad, because it might be my favorite thing that is both horror and extraordinarily '80s.
LOSER: A Nightmare on Elm Street - In retrospect (yes, a whole month worth of retrospection later), I'm kinda feeling silly for not putting Wes Craven's original shocker on the list.  I hate the tacked on ending so much, but there's a lot of great things going on in it.  At least I put Dream Warrirors, which offers better Fishburne, breasts, and Dokken, on the list....right?
Also a winner...Jameson Parker's mustache.
WINNER: John Carpenter - It's no big surprise, considering he's my favorite living director, but Carpenter placed three films in the Top 10 of the countdown. I regret nothing, even as I recognize that I must be Prince of Darkness' biggest fan.
LOSER: George A. Romero - He's an icon, but after Creepshow his horror output took a steep dive in my book.  Perhaps his style was better suited to the pre-slasher era, or perhaps he was always just a little too cynical for the masses.  Whatever the reason, Day of the Dead has never wowed me...and I'm not sure if I'd say he's made a good horror film since.
I love this neighborhood!
WINNER: Tommy Jarvis - I had already planned to speak briefly of my love for what I call the Tommy Jarvis Trilogy (Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter through Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI) in a post on sequels. But, Enbrethiliel (of Shredded Cheddar) took over while I was on vacation and closed the case. She made my point official - Tommy Jarvis is the best thing about the Friday the 13th movies. (Well, except maybe Banana Girl...)
LOSER: Jason Voorhees - Jason, I'm gonna let you in on a little secret. I like you. I like you a lot. You've got an iconic look, you're intimidating, and you're inventive. I understand the appeal of you being you. My sister got me a bobblehead of you with movable arms as a surprise addition to my birthday gift, and I was like fist-pumping psyched.  It's just that....well, I don't know how to tell you this, but....your movies....they aren't very good. Sometimes I have fun with them, but they're not substantial.  Except for the Tommy Jarvis trilogy, I can't tell them apart. So....sorry you didn't make the Top 31 list.  Wanna hug it out?
WINNER: The Initiation - Speaking of slasher films, I got a chance to revisit this one while I was on vacation and being antisocial.  I never wrote about it, because I was on vacation, but I'm kinda convinced this is one of the better slasher films out there. It's got a lot of stuff I dig, including:
  • Clu Gulager and Vera Miles as adult leads.
  • Daphne Zuniga, who's a total babe.
  • That doofus from Remington Steele who was always jealous of Pierce Brosnan and tried to get in Stephanie Zimbalist's pants.
  • Sorority house hijinks, complete with initiation games (Like, duh...did you read the title?)
  • A final act that's set in this crazy shopping center/giant tower.
  • A weird "I was raped once, now I want to have sex while a killer's on the loose" moment.
So yeah, The Initiation.  Deserves some love.  Check it out.
LOSER:  Happy Birthday to Me - One of my favorite slasher films on a personal level, and yet I'm pretty sure I didn't mention it all month.  I have a relatively good excuse, though. Last June 9th, I used it as Midnight Movie of the Week.  This Jun 9th, the MMOTW pick was Bloody Birthday.  Hmmmm, what is it about that day?
That's not the way to get a-head in life!
WINNER: 1987 - In a bit of a surprise to me, 1987 dominated my list of favorite '80s horrors.  How much domination, you ask? Well, of the 31 films that made the list, a whopping EIGHT were released in 1987.  In comparison, the two closest years (1982 & 1983) each put four films on the list.  Like I said.....DOMINATED.
LOSER: 1981 - A lot of people call 1981 one of the greatest years of horror ever.  But I only ended up with three films from that year on the list.  Sure, two of the three ended up in the list's top four....but I kinda expected more. 
WINNERS: The Guest Bloggers - Though I spent most of the month on that list I keep talking about, the highlight of the month for me was having five fine folks jump in and help FMWL out while I was on vacation.  They are (in no particular order) Syrin of My Own Little Corner, Dod of The WGON Helicopter, Marvin the Macabre of The Montana Mancave Massacre, the aforementioned E of Shredded Cheddar, and Andreas of Pussy Goes Grrr.  And they are also all awesome.  In fact, I'd say they saved '80s Horror Month, and I owe them a large debt of gratitude.
LOSERS: People Who Don't Like Lists - I know, I got carried away.  I mentioned that I was kind of excited that this month was ending...because I'm ready to write some reviews again.  I got way too lost in lists this month.  Sorry.
WINNERS: The Midnight Movies of the Week - The MMOTW list has always been my baby at FMWL, and I gotta say I loved the additions I got to make to it due to '80s Horror Month.  Dead Calm was a triumphant revisit, Bloody Birthday is high class sleaze, and The Hidden was as much fun as I've always thought it was.  Adding in F13 Part VI, which has its charms...I'd say '80s horror month provided some great choices.
I could probably go on all night, but the most important thing I realize as I look back at '80s Horror Month - and '80s Horror in general - is that it's really freakin' exciting that so much '80s goodness has survived to be analyzed - even if it's analyzed poorly - more than 20 years later.  There are ups and downs, but the fact of the matter remains that most of the decade's offerings are a sort of horror comfort food.  Even if they're not my favorites, films like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th helped shape where the horror genre was going, and I'm convinced that I kind of have to give them my respect. 

The '80s were a great and powerful force, my friends.  I may not be entirely sad to see them go - there are other things on FMWL's horizon that demand my attention - but I hate to watch them leave. Be well, '80s Horror.  Wherever you go, remember that you've got a friend at FMWL.
Just don't trust Samantha Phillips!

June 29, 2011

The Mike's 31 Favorite 1980s Horror Films: No. 5 - 1.

Well, the day is here.  What was once the entire field of '80s horrors films was narrowed down to 31, then the first 26 films on the list were revealed, then five omissions were sadly unveiled....and then, there were five.
No more words....let's see my five favorite '80s horror films...NOW.

Previously on The Mike's 31 Favorite 1980s Horror Films....
#31-#26     #25-#21     #20-#16     #15-#11     #10-#6

5. Gremlins
(1984, Dir. by Joe Dante.)
I've had this argument before, as it seems most consider Gremlins to be a great '80s film but not a great horror film.  I refuse to acknowledge their argument.  It's a film about little monsters terrorizing a town that brings the fears of the 1950s into the '80s and does so in a fantastic manner.  It's got monster splatter, it's got a town terrorized, it's got inventive kills, and it's even got one of the best monologues on human horror that's ever been put on film.  It is a horror film...and it's a great one.

4. An American Werewolf in London
(1981, Dir. by John Landis.)
OK, there's a slight theme developing here in my top 10.  It seems that I love a) throwbacks to the monsters gone by, and b) a bit of humor with my horror.  Oh, and c) would have been Jenny Agutter and d) would be the overuse of songs with "moon" in the title.  But there's no arguing against Landis' shocking horror comedy, which has only gotten better with age.  I mean, who didn't want to be David Naughton when they grew up? I KNOW I DID.  And the makeup effects were so good that they invented an Oscar for them.  I know I bring that up every time I talk about this movie, but it's like the LeBron doesn't have six championships argument - it's the only one I need.

3. The Evil Dead
(1981, Dir. by Sam Raimi.)
Despite the way we all think about Bruce Campbell now, we need to remember that this one does not, I repeat NOT, fall into that "humor with my horror" category.  Though we look back at the film and smile, there's really nothing that funny about The Evil Dead, the film that made us realize that trees could rape and bodily fluids didn't have to be liquidy and red.  It's kind of like Hellraiser in the sense that it's an endurance test...but it's also really fun and kind of timeless.  Whenever I need gore, this is the place I start.

2. Fright Night
(1985, Dir. by Tom Holland.)
If you think I'm overcompensating on this one because an awful looking remake is on its way, you're dead wrong.  In fact, the last time I made this list in December of '09 - thank God none of you actually read the site back then! - I had it as my favorite of the decade.  I've had a soft spot for Fright Night for a long, long time, and I can still vividly remember watching that crazy scene with the impaled Evil Ed when I was a very young Mike.  It's one of the horror movies that has definitely shaped my life, and it'll always be one of my favorite horror films and one of my favorite films in general.

1. The Thing
(1982, Dir. by John Carpenter.)
Maannnnnnnnnn....I didn't want to let you be number one, The Thing.  You win EVERYTHING.  But....I guess you are just that good.

Gosh, what else is there to say about you, The Thing.  Everyone loves you.  You've proven to be timeless thanks to your atmospheric setting, due to your ambiguous and haunting ending, due to your jaw dropping special effects, and - of course - due to Kurt Russell's beard.  You literally have everything a horror movie should have, and I'm not sure if there's a way I could have voted against you....even if you aren't very '80s.  I mean, would it have killed you to throw in a ballad or two?

I kid, I kid.  But I don't kid about The Thing....because it's the winner of the number one spot again.  Let us grow beards and rejoice in its name!

June 28, 2011

Midnight Movie of the Week #78 - Dawning

This definitely won't be your usual Midnight Movie of the Week post.  Instead, this will be a post that I keep relatively short and sweet, because I want it to serve as my final statement - a graduation toast, if you will - regarding Dawning, a film that I've watched grow over the past 16 months.

If you've read FMWL before, you've probably heard me mention Dawning a time or two.  Perhaps you read my review of the film (which, I must say, hasn't aged well.  I was young, OK people!).  Perhaps you saw the list of my favorite genre films of 2010, which gave the film much love.  Or perhaps you just saw one of the several other times I mentioned Gregg Holtgrewe's indie horror gem.
You might thing I don't have anything left to say about the film, and you'd be partially right.  But I didn't use up all my words dedicated to the movie here at FMWL.  In fact, thanks to a generous offer from Mr. Holtgrewe, I was lucky enough to offer some of my words to an audio commentary that's on the now released DVD of Dawning.  It is with great pride that I now let you all know that that DVD - featuring said commentary that also contains the great voices of James at Planet of Terror, Mike at All Things Horror, and Chris of The Conduit Speaks - is available for your purchase, rental, and perusal.
But I wouldn't bestow FMWL's highest honor on the film just because I made the DVD, would I? Of course not.  To me, Dawning represents a glimmer of hope in the modern horror scene.  A hope that reminds me that thought provoking films with little gore and less breasts can one day make us pause in fear again.  We've lost that in the modern age of horror, where self promoters like Adam Green and Eli Roth rule the roost.  Granted, self-promoters have long been a key part of horror cinema, but the best horror films don't pander to their audience and don't go for the comfortable thrill that audiences will buy.  Holtgrewe is one of those filmmakers, and Dawning is one of those movies.
I know, I know.  It's hyperbole.  Maybe it is ridiculous for me to acclaim that Dawning - this little flick that few have seen and less have loved - is "one of the best".  And Dawning definitely won't be for everyone, as has been evidenced by the early mixed response from the public.  But I feel comfortable saying that I believe in Dawning - and I hope you'll take the plunge based on the chance that you might believe in it too.
Dawning is currently available to own through online outlets (such as Amazon (on DVD and Blu-Ray) or Best Buy or  It is not available on Netflix yet, unfortunately, but saving the film to your queue could help change that any day now.  I also found a DVD copy at our local Family Video, so you may be lucky enough to find a copy there.  (Oh, and if you rent or buy the film and post a pic of it or your order confirmation on the flick's Facebook page, you could win some posters or t-shirts or autographs, too!) If you're willing to seek it out, I wish you the best.  If nothing else, I hope you'll give it a try and come back to share your thoughts here.  Dawning is out it's up to you to keep it alive.
I am not a critic...but I play one on DVD.

June 27, 2011

Demon Seed

(1977, Dir. by Donald Cammell.)

Oh, Demon Seed.  You're one of those movies that makes me wonder just how crazy movie makers can get. did you happen?  Where did you come from?  You just baffle me.

Oh, sorry readers, I suppose I should talk to you all about Demon Seed.  Ummmm...Demon Seed is a movie about a computer raping and impregnating Julie Christie.  There, I said it.  OK, I'll put it more tastefully.  Demon Seed is a movie about a computer raping and impregnating Oscar winning actress Julie Christie. 

I'm serious.  Look at the poster.  See?  It really exists.

Now that we've established the fact that Demon Seed exists - really people, it does! - I can start telling you why I kind of fell in love with Demon Seed yesterday.  Like you, I initially saw Demon Seed for what it was - a computer rape movie - back when it came out on DVD in 2005.  I got the flick from Netflix, told my roommate I had a movie about a computer raping a woman, and we spent the next 94 minutes laughing.  It was a great time - but I didn't really watch the movie or think about the movie.  I just wanted to laugh at it, so I did.

But like any movie that's worth its weight in laserdiscs, Demon Seed stuck in my mind.  It wasn't in the front of my mind, but it was in there.  Every once in a while I'd be doing something mundane, and suddenly the memory of a movie in which a house controlled by a computer made a baby with Julie Christie would bring me excitement.  I might have forgot the details - but I knew the most important part, and that was what mattered to me.  So it was destined that Demon Seed and I would reunite, which brings us up to now. 

Demon Seed may star Christie and Creepshow's Fritz Weaver and Gerrit freakin' Graham (of Phantom of the Paradise and C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. fame!), but really it's the story of Proteus.  Proteus is the computer that Weaver's scientist invents, which is designed to think independently and have all the knowledge that humans possess.  It's kind of like that computer that teaches Leeloo everything in The Fifth Element - except that it talks.  And is evil.  And is obsessed with understanding humans.  And wants to become a human.

Proteus was created in a secret lab in some giant facility, but Weaver - a dedicated man of science, mind you - simply had to have a terminal installed in his home.  And he put it in control of the house, too.  Because clearly, nothing could go wrong when the computer is given control, right?  I mean, computers are always going to listen to us, right?

Demon Seed, of course, owes a lot of Proteus' personality to 2001: A Space Odyssey and HAL, and there are certainly a few "I'm afraid I can't let you do that" moments peppered throughout the film.  But while that computer was based entirely on reason, Proteus takes on a mind of his own and kind of gets philosophical at times.  For example, Proteus likes to look at the stars, and he can create strange laser shows that are meant to represent sex.  Despite Proteus' understanding of their evils - at one point he declines to follow an ocean mining directive because he knows it will kill innumerable sea creatures - he still has this craving to understand humanity....and he knows that the only way to do that is to become human.

Thus, he sets his sights on Christie's Susan, his creator's estranged wife, who lives and works out of the home that Proteus was installed in.  Since Proteus has total control of the domicile he has a lot of power over Susan.  He can control the phones and security cameras, he can lock all doors and windows, and - in one of the film's better moments - he can even control the heating system under the kitchen floor.  The perilous events that occur to Susan are certainly cringe inducing, particularly once Proteus gets her in the lab in the basement - where our friendly scientist has conveniently created a motorized wheelchair with a robot arm. 

Goddamnit scientists!  Don't you understand what you're doing when you create all these self-aware machines and robots that are capable of inserting things in orifices!  You're not making anything better, you're getting Oscar winning actresses raped!

All kidding aside, I'm obviously fond of Demon Seed.  It's utterly ridiculous, sure, but it kind of feels like it's Soylent Green's hot cousin.  It's not one of those seedy (sorry, that was a poor word choice) '70s flicks that goes for shock, it's one of those studio-produced flicks that pretends it means something.  Hell, who knows...maybe it does mean something?  Maybe it's a commentary on our need to take the work out of everything in our daily life.  Maybe it saw into the future and knew that someday we'd be sitting here typing away at keyboards, putting all our faith in the machine that was paying our bills and delivering our mail and renting our movies and buying our music.  Maybe Demon Seed knew something we don't know.

Or maybe not.  But it seems like it's more something than nothing these days.  Christie's performance shows that she believed in it, Weaver's crazed and bearded performance shows that he believed in it, and Graham...well, if you've seen Gerrit Graham in anything you know that he'll buy in to any role.  It's well put together, it's got some creepy imagery, and it at least makes you think.  I keep repeating how much I love ridiculous films that take their plot far too seriously on this blog - but I really love when a ridiculous film takes its plot way too seriously.  Good show, Demon Seed.  You'll always have a home at FMWL.

June 26, 2011

Midnight Top 5 - The '80s Horror Month "Didn't Quite Make My 31 Favorites List" Edition

Yeah, yeah, I know.  Lists, lists, lists.  All month long it's been lists.  But you think you could cover all the awesome horror films of the '80s individually in just one month? I DIDN'T THINK SO.

If you don't know by now, the king of those lists has been my countdown of my 31 favorite horror films of the '80s, which should end Wednesday when I reveal the Top 5 of said list.  But I would be doing a disservice to a few films if I didn't mention them this month....even though they didn't quite make the list.  So, let's take a look at the five(ish) films below, many of which may inspire you to want to assassinate me once you realize that I have less fun with them than I do with Waxwork or The Entity.

As I always say - I REGRET NOTHING!  (Just don't ALL start hating me, OK? I need like one or two readers left, please.)

The Believers
(1987, Dir. by John Schlesinger.)
OK, this one probably won't inspire too much sadness in all y'all, but I simply had to bring it up because I occasionally feel like I'm one of the film's only fans left.  If you don't know The Believers (and if you don't get it confused with Believers), it stars Martin Sheen as a New York City dude who gets caught up with a strange voodoo cult.  It's one of those '80s movies that takes its stuff really seriously - probably the influence of established director Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy, Marathon Man) - and features a slew of recognizable faces (Jimmy Smits, Harris Yulin, Robert Loggia), but it also features some first rate creepiness thanks to an incredibly imposing head voodoo dude and a suspenseful final act.  If you can survive the first scene (which is a classic "I know this is supposed to be sad but it's kinda funny" moment), you may find it to be one of the decade's more thought provoking horrors.

The Friday the 13th Series
(1980-1988, Dir. by Several Dudes.)
If you've read FMWL regularly, you've probably heard me whine about the Friday the 13th films.  Despite the fact that two of them have been Midnight Movie of the Week picks already and despite the fact that I'll gladly watch any of them (except maybe Part 8 and Jason Goes to Hell) almost any time, I simply have never embraced them like most horror fans do.  Are they fun? Sure.  Are they good movies? That's debatable.  Would they go with me on the horror movie ark? Well, maybe parts 4-6 would....but they'd have a lot of competition.

I'm just not a slasher guy.  So sue me. (Don't actually sue me, please. That'd be mean.)

Killer Klowns from Outer Space
(1988, Dir. by Stephen Chiodo.)

This was a really tough one to leave out.  Basically, I got down to the last few movies to make the list and I was like "Y'know, I got The Blob on the list....and I got Clownhouse on the list.....Can't I just combine them to make Killer Klowns from Outer Space?  Are they the blue and the yellow to KKfOS' green?  Maybe...

But, I do dearly love Killer Klowns from Outer Space, despite all the controversy it caused in FMWL's March Midnight Madness Tournament, because it's one of the most fun horror comedies of the era.  It just didn't quite make it over the crowded field into my list.  And that makes me sad.

A Nightmare on Elm Street
(1984, Dir. by Wes Craven.)

I'd imagine it's safe to say that this is the omission that is most going to chafe people's bums.  While I could simply apologize to all the Freddy-holics out there, I'm going to do something else here.  I'm going to argue my point.

There's no denying that the original Nightmare reaches some of the more amazing heights that any horror film of that decade achieves.  We've got an iconic killer who is menacing, we've got a survivor girl that might even trump the great Laurie Strode, and we've got some great visuals, sound effects, and music courtesy of Craven and crew.  But here's the thing - THAT ENDING IS FREAKING TERRIBLE.

I'm assuming studio bosses, test audiences, and assorted other general morons freaked out pretty mightily when our heroine simply turns her back on the diabolical villain and he evaporates into thin air.  BUT THAT WAS THE LOGICAL CONCLUSION TO THAT FILM. In fact, it was not only logical, it was empowering. It stood for something. It looked every horror fan who's ever bravely watched a bit of onscreen terror in the face and said "Hey, good for you guys.  You're stronger now because you can face your fears and then walk away from them."  Nancy Thompson's final act of that film represented one of my favorite things about horror - the idea that the strong CAN face down their fears and walk away with no fear left in their mind.

But noooooooooooooooooooooo.  Either the studio or Craven (who has proved to be an idiot at times, so maybe it's all his fault) decided we needed that final scene which combines a) one last dose of Ronee Blakely's horrible acting, b) a stupid car gag that negates Nancy's actions throughout the final act, and c) what appears to be a blow up doll being awkwardly pulled through a window.  Because clearly THOSE things will send the audience home happy. Right. 

Ugh.  I freaking hate you, ending of A Nightmare on Elm Street.  You make it impossible for me to love an otherwise fantastic horror film.

The Return of the Living Dead
(1985, Dir. by Dan O'Bannon.)
Clu Gulager and Thom Mathews and Linnea Quigley are all awesome.  I agree that the "Send more paramedics." thing is one of the coolest things ever.  But I've just never really loved it.  I would say that I'm just a Romero guy, but I don't really dig Day of the Dead I don't know what my problem is.  But I know that I considered The Return of the Living Dead for the list...and then I looked at everything else I wanted to put on the list - including The Entity, I know - and I just decided that The Return of the Living Dead was gonna sit this one out.  Doesn't mean I don't dig it, I swear. y'all doin?  Y'all mad at me?  Well, I promise I'll do the best I can to redeem myself when the Top 5 is unveiled this week!  In the meantime, I'm sure I'll pay for the heartbreak I've given!

June 23, 2011

Midnight Movie of the Week #77 - The Hidden

If I were listing the very coolest horror movies of the 1980s, The Hidden would be near the top of the list. From the opening scene and the neon green opening credits, every minute of The Hidden screams "HEY YOU GUYS, I'M FROM THE '80s YOU GUYS!" at the audience.  Some might say that that makes the movie dated, I think that makes the movie AWESOME.
Michael Nouri and Kyle McLachlan star as the kind of mismatched duo you'd expect from an '80s cop film like Lethal Weapon (which was released about 7 months earlier in 1987), but there's a catch.  Nouri plays a hard-boiled homicide detective with a wife and daughter, McLachlan plays a young FBI agent who has few connections and a nice Porsche....and he also happens to be an alien hiding inside a human body who is tracking a similar alien who is moving across L.A. and committing crime in the bodies of random Los Angelenos.
Those random victims/killers change in size, shape, gender, age and even species (at one point the killer inhabits a dog) throughout the film, which allows Jack Sholder's film to present some talented character actors giving unique performances.  As the film opens, we get veteran "nice guy" Chris Mulkey (First Blood, The Fan) robbing a bank with a shot gun before starting a high speed chase in a sports car.  He's followed up by William Boyett (Forbidden Planet, When a Stranger Calls) as a fellow with a bad heart whose gassy performance would foreshadow Vincent D'Onofrio in Men In Black a decade later.  And let us not forget '80s babe Claudia Christian (Maniac Cop 2, The Substitute 3), playing an exotic dancer who becomes a fatal femme for much of the film's second act, who steals her few scenes and delivers some of the film's most ominous exposition in a rooftop shootout scene.  Also joining the fray are genre favorites Ed O'Ross (Full Metal Jacket, Red Heat) and Clu Gulager (The Return of the Living Dead, Nightmare on Elm Street 2).  And if that's not enough....DANNY TREJO shows up for three seconds!
 Now, your head might have exploded due to that cast - and if it hasn't due to their names, it will when you see them on screen - but I must also point out that The Hidden is one of the slickest, most action packed monster films of the decade.  With an '80s hard rock soundtrack and plenty of car chases in shiny sports cars - mixed with plenty of shootouts and a few explosions, The Hidden plays like something Stallone would have starred in.  In fact, one could almost call it Tango & Cash with Aliens, except that it of course has nothing to compare to the prison escape scene from T&C, which is clearly the best scene in any film EVER MADE.  EVER!

The slow side of The Hidden comes from McLachlan's deadpan performance as the emotionless alien hero.  While Nouri moves from one level of frustration to another while dealing with the senseless violence around him, McLachlan manages to keep a straight face and a stiff posture, even as bullets fly around him.  That's been his schitck in plenty of other films and TV shows too, but the lessons he probably learned working with David Lynch the previous year seem to have helped him with this role.  He never wavered in Blue Velvet's chaos, and that probably left him more prepared to never waver in this high octane cheesefest.
But the most important thing to know about The Hidden is that it hits me with an adrenaline rush every time, and when my mind's caught up in the whirlwind of alien in man suit and man versus alien in multiple man and woman and dog suits....well, it gets a little out of control.  In fact, I'd say The Hidden is cinematic caffeine.  It's not a refined Coca-Cola or Pepsi, it's like the Jolt Cola of '80s action/sci-fi/horror, and it gets my blood pumping.

So, I'm just gonna slow it down and tell you all to go find The Hidden if you haven't seen it yet.  If you're up for some machoness with a ton of '80s cheese and some weird alien hijinks, you can't really beat it.  Well, maybe you can - it is a little one-note and the special effects are incredibly dated - but if you're like me you might be so hopped up on it that you won't even notice.
Oh last note.  The final one of the weirdest in '80s history.  It's not necessarily a downer, but it's incredibly awkward and I just never know what to think of it.  It's kind of like the crash after the film's 90 minute sugar rush, because it has these weird ethical and psychological and developmental subtexts that leave us thinking "Wait, is that OK?  What does that mean?"  Yet...I'm kind of happy it's there, because it suddenly makes me think the film's deep...kind of like the tacked on ending of Face/Off...only not necessarily happy. 

Y'know what, just watch the movie.  It'll speak for itself.  Plus, THERE'S DANNY TREJO!

June 22, 2011

The Mike's 31 Favorite 1980s Horror Films: No. 10 - 6

Excluding the other 21 movies I've listed so far, there are about 4,793 '80s horror films left. And I had to pick only 10 of 'em to fill this Top 10. was pretty easy to narrow down which films are my favorites of the decade.  But putting those films in order was a big chore.  Alas, submitted for your approval, here are numbers 10 - 6 in this countdown of goodness.

Previously on The Mike's 31 Favorite 1980s Horror Films....
#31-#26     #25-#21     #20-#16     #15-#11

10. The Fog
(1980, Dir. by John Carpenter.)
You probably saw this coming, considering I've used that image of the famed pirate ghosts as the header of every single list I've made this month.  The Fog has always been a movie I've liked, but it's also been one that has steadily risen from "Yeah, that's good." to "Oh man, you gotta see The Fog." to "Oh my gosh, I'm in mad love with The Fog!" over the years.  Just a couple of years ago I might not have listed Carpenter's second horror film this high, but it's kind of timeless.  Who knows where it'll rank in a few more years?

9. Prince of Darkness
(1987, Dir. by John Carpenter.)
I've always felt like I might be Prince of Darkness' biggest fan, and I'm quite OK with that.  Yeah, I know it's completely ridiculous and has Liquid Satan and stuff, but it still manages to a) make me think it's awesome and b) creep me the heck out. I'm not sure why, considering the fact I know this movie's like the silliest thing ever, it gets under my skin at times, but I'm betting it has something to do with Carpenter's awesome score, great sound effects, and willingness to completely sell out for his silly plot.  That darn Lisa Blount always gets to me!

8. Poltergeist
(1982, Dir. by Tobe Hooper.)
If you've ever watched a sports draft (OK, it's a stretch for most of you, but stay with me here), you'll often hear the talking heads talking about a player who might not have the most talent or the brightest future, but who is so sound and so well trained that he's a "safe pick" for the team that's choosing their future star.  When it comes to '80s horror films, Poltergeist kind of seems like the "safe pick" to me.  It's never been my favorite and I don't watch it as often as many other films on this list.  But whenever I do pick it up, it's exactly what I expect it to be and it never disappoints.  And that's the kind of movie you need every once in a while.

7. The Monster Squad
(1987, Dir. by Fred Dekker.)
Scary? Nope.  Filled with horror icons? Yep!  Charming and totally fun? Of course!

And, perhaps most importantly, The Monster Squad was probably the first '80s horror film I ever saw.  At the time, it did the amazing by helping little me get interested in the "classic monsters" of years gone by.  But, unbeknownst to me it also was one of the films that really introduced me to the cheesy goodness that can come from the right '80s horror film.  And in the long run, it's simply one of the most fun movies I know of.

6. The Shining 
(1980, Dir. by Stanley Kubrick.)
When I finally got this list narrowed down as far as I could - which was no easy task, there were six films that I was left with to consider atop the list.  Each of these six films was a strong contender for the number one spot on this list, starting with The Shining.  I doubt I really need to make much of an argument on the film's behalf, so let's spin it the other way....why didn't I rank The Shining higher on this list.

If I had to answer that question, I might say that the truth of the matter is that The Shining isn't really an '80s horror film to me.  Sure, it was released during the decade, but Kubrick's loose adaptation of the Stephen King novel was produced before the slasher craze took over horror cinema and seems more like a product of the '70s - which it technically was, since most of the filming took place in 1979.

Does it really matter what decade the movie came out in when I'm talking about my favorite horror movies? No.  In fact, if I were just listing favorite horror movies, this one might be above some films I will mention in the Top 5.  But if I'm listing the horror movies that are my favorites specifically in relation to this decade....then I guess The Shining gets the slight bump down the list.  Sorry Stanley and Jack, you're still awesome.

What say you all?  Are you shocked?  Are you surprised?  What do you expect will round out the Top 5?  Well, you'll find week.  Don't worry, we'll have plenty of '80s horror goodness before then to keep you rockin' in the free world!...just like these guys!