TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BLUE MONKEY (1987)

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BLUE MONKEY (1987)

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Giant insect thriller is definitely Alien inspired as it has an elderly man being admitted to a hospital after receiving a prick on the hand from an exotic plant owned by his neighbor. The bacterial infection spreads to others and soon the old coot is coughing up a slimy larvae that has the hospital staff baffled. Meanwhile the outbreak gets the hospital sealed off for quarantine and some pesky kids from the pediatric ward feed the larvae some growth hormones…still with me, folks? The insect-like creature grows to human size and hooks up with another critter to mate…all with patients and doctors alike trapped inside the hospital with it. Now it’s up to a pretty doctor (Gwynyth Walsh) and a hard nosed detective (Steve Railsback) to stop this critter before it multiplies.

Aside from the 80s nostalgia this is a dull Alien retread where this big bug goes around cocooning hospital staff and patients so it’s mate can feed them to her young…and maybe I blinked and missed it, but how the giant bug happened upon an equally giant female is a bit of a mystery…to me anyway. In my defense the movie had trouble holding my attention. The flick gets it’s odd name from a comment made by one of the children and certainly is confusing to anyone actually hoping for a blue anthropoid as their main bad guy. This rip-off, more wisely called Insect in other parts of the globe, is credited to writers George Goldsmith and Chris Koseluk who’s unimaginative script is directed very by-the-numbers by William Fruet, who also directed the low key but more effective Funeral Home. There is little suspense and most of the action comes in the last act. There is some OK gore and the creature FX are delightfully plastic looking, but at least creature actor Ivan E. Roth is given top billing in the end credits. Most of the time FX actors are usually a footnote somewhere, so give the filmmakers credit for that. The rest of the acting, including that of veteran John Vernon, is strictly pedestrian so why not give the creature guy top credit, anyway.

Obviously, I wasn’t impressed when I first watched this many years ago as not much registered on this revisit. The film is very dull and even the rubbery make-up and monster FX couldn’t add much charm to this Ridley Scott rip-off. There is a touch of 80s nostalgia, but otherwise this was kind of a snooze-fest despite generous helpings of monster action in the second half. Probably would have been a lot more fun if the critters actually were blue monkeys!

-MonsterZero NJ

2 larvae.

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SCALPS (1983)

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SCALPS (1983)

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Scalps tells the gory and grim tale of a group of students on an archeological dig in the middle of the desert, who are warned by local Native American, Billy Ironwing (George Randall) to stay away from the area known as the Black Trees. The group ignore the old man and that’s exactly where they start to excavate. An unearthed medallion releases the spirit of long dead Native American sorcerer Black Claw and now he possesses one of their number and begins to kill the other members of the party, taking their scalps as gruesome trophies.

This is an awful movie written and directed by schlockmeister Fred Olen Ray, who made a career out of amateurish flicks like this. Not to say that there isn’t some entertainment in it’s badness, but it is a borderline incompetent flick at times. The acting by it’s main cast of relative unknowns is awful and the tone starts out almost comic in early scenes with an archeology professor (first Superman actor Kirk Alyn) and then shifts to more serious once we get to the desert…then back to comic again for the finale. The make-up effects are delightfully awful with a muppet-like lion creature laughably appearing at times and the rubbery transformation of possessed student Randy (Richard Hench) into Black Claw. The abundant gore however is not as bad, so at least we get some fairly effect gory deaths and scalpings to keep our interest when we are not laughing at the terrible dialog and performances.

For the most part this is a terrible movie, but as we know there can be some entertainment to be had out of terrible. There was some decent and prolific gore and certainly has heavy doses of 80s nostalgia, especially with it’s heavy electronic score by Drew Neuman and Eric Rasmussen. It has cameos from the first man to play Superman, Kirk Alyn and even the legendary Forrest J. Ackerman, who created the equally legendary Famous Monsters Of Filmland magazine. Oh, well…what kind of movie do you expect produced by someone credited as The Eel?

-MonsterZero NJ

2 rubbery, vengeful Native American spirits.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE GATE (1987)

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THE GATE (1987)

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The Gate is a fun 1980s horror flick that was geared more towards kids, but still kept enough of an edge within it’s PG-13 rating. It tells the story of nerdy young Glen (Blade’s Stephen Dorff) who discovers that when a storm blows his treehouse over, it’s left a deep pit in his backyard. When his parents go away, big sister Al (Christa Denton) is left to babysit and while she throws a sleepover party for her friends, Glen and pal Terry (Louis Tripp) discover that the hole in the yard is actually a gateway to Hell when they accidentally unleash a demonic presence into the teen filled house.

This is an enjoyable little flick with it’s cheesy 80s effects, including some stop-motion animated demon minions and their massive leader. Under the direction of filmmaker Tibor Takács from a script by Micahel Nankin, it could have been a little more energetic and benefited from a faster pace, but still has heart and a bit of a dark side which saves it from being an outright kid’s movie. Takács directs a bit too by-the-numbers for it to be a real blast, but the second half really ignites as creatures, zombies and whirling vortexes lay siege to Glen’s home as he tires to figure a way to close the portal and send it’s occupants back where they came from. Being kids, they use everything from Heavy Metal music to verses from the Bible to get results until it’s Spielbergian final solution. The SPFX are very dated, thought that does add some charm, and there is a very 80s electronic score by Michael Hoenig and J. Peter Robinson to add to the overall 80s nostalgia the flick now has.  The cast of child actors all do well in their parts and give their characters some life beyond the stereotypical suburban kid peronas that they are written as. Some like Dorff and Kelly Rowan, who plays one of Al’s friends, went on to continue acting as adults, while other’s careers faded out after another role or two.

This flick has a cult following and is considered by some a cult classic, especially memorable for Randall Cook’s (The Thing’s legendary deleted stop motion sequence) little demonic minions that were brought to life by stop-motion animation and rubber suits on large scale sets. It is fun, though director Tibor Takács could have given it a bit more energy and urgency. The pace could have been a bit quicker, too, but it is still entertaining and has a lot of charming, cheesy SPFX effects to put a smile on our face if three suburban kids battling rubbery demons isn’t enough.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 rubbery minions.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE FOREST (1982)

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THE FOREST (1982)

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Loopy 1982 slasher finds two men, Charlie (John Batis) and Steve (Dean Russell), challenging their ladies, Teddy (Ann Wilkinson) and Steve’s wife Sharon (Tomi Barrett), to a little camping excursion in the California woods. Teddy and Sharon head up to the mountains with the men deciding to follow them up early, not convinced the gals can handle themselves. As per our opening scene, though, the cannibalistic John (Gary Kent) is hiding out in those same woods after murdering his unfaithful wife (Jeanette Kelly) years before. Now the young ladies are in grave danger as the hungry hunter has his sights set on dinner…oh, and did I mention that the woods are also haunted by the spirits of John’s dead wife and kids (Corky Pigeon and Becki Burke)?

This is a terrible movie, sometimes in a good way, but even that wears out it’s welcome long before it ends. Written and directed by Don Jones, this flick meanders along as the homeless John tracks and lamely kills his prey. At the same time John’s dead children visit his intended victims and there are some laughably awful scenes of our two couples, especially Sharon, conversing with the echo-voiced offspring of the demented cannibal. Their mother even appears to the campers randomly looking for her children that she abused in life. Even more amusing is that none of the four campers find it odd they are confronted with ghosts and engage in conversations with the spirits as if it was something they do often. WTF? Equally laughable is that Steve and Charlie even spend a night in John’s lair and nothing about a man living in a cave six hours hike from civilization sets off any alarms, it’s only until John admits killing his wife…then they get a little nervous. Also, how did John carry his chair and candelabra six hours hike into the woods to decorate his cave? Even without the eccentric goofiness of the script, this is a slow paced flick that is edited very badly and even the kills are lamely executed. Sometimes the flick gives the feeling of being somebody’s home movie they made with friends on a weekend and maybe it was. The acting and dialog are awful and it’s no surprise this flick is an 80s obscurity…though the look and feel is more 70s.

Overall, the only reason to watch this is to see the goofball plot unfold for yourself. I did find some of it amusing, though cannibalistic homeless men and their apparition-like family did wear out it’s welcome rather quickly. The dialog and acting are awful, the editing barely coherent at times and even the kills are lamely choreographed and amount to some fake blood thrown around. Hard to believe that Don Jones made five other movies besides this one. Only if you’re really curious.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 spectral ghost children…and it only gets THAT cause I found some of this dreck amusing.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE ZERO BOYS (1986)

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THE ZERO BOYS (1986)

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Aside from starring 80s B-movie babe Kelli Maroney, having the score composed by future mega-composer Hans Zimmer and Frank Darabont as an assistant art director, there is little or nothing remarkable about this flick. Three paintball enthusiasts who fancy themselves survivalists and call themselves The Zero Boys, take their girls into the woods for a camping trip and wind up spending the night at a secluded cabin, that does not belong to them. The actual owners turn out to be sadistic, murderous rednecks and decide to make the group pay for the intrusion. But the Zero Boys are armed and ready and when rednecks attack, this means war!…sort of.

Flick is written, produced and directed by Greek filmmaker Nico Mastorakis and is a tedious and dull movie with very little of the action that the premise would suggest should be in abundance. The story unfolds very slowly with a lot of uninteresting dialog with the rednecks only making brief appearances here and there until they kidnap one of the girlfriends, later on in the flick. It’s only in the last few minutes where we finally get a confrontation and that’s over quickly with minimal body count…not counting various miscellaneous corpses that seem to pop up here and there to illustrate the good ole boys have been doing this for a while. The acting from the cast of mostly unknowns is wooden and bland across the board, with only Maroney showing a little spark getting to play a bad girl this time instead of the more wholesome types she played in Chopping Mall and Night Of The Comet. As for the villains, they are seen in shadow most of the time and are stereotypical creepy rednecks. They lack much threat and even their leader (Joe Estevez billed as Joe Phelan) is dressed like a suburban dad complete with sweater and collared shirt. Not very scary for a homicidal redneck. Director Matorakis provides little or no tension, suspense or even fun and stages everything very by-the-numbers. His script gets borderline silly at times and only moderately delivers on the throw-down that the story sets up.

Despite seeming to have a bit of a following, this is a really lame and dull movie even for slightly under 90 minutes. The premise would suggest a lot of action, yet there is very little till the last 10-15 minutes and even that is very by-the-numbers and over quickly. The Zero Boys themselves are a dull group and only Kelli Maroney gives her feisty Jaime a little life and is the only recognizable cast member. Worst of all, it even lacked the 80s charm that can sometimes make stuff at least a little fun. Only if you are an 80s movie completist.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 bullets.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: MONSTER DOG (1984)

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MONSTER DOG (1984)

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This is a delightfully awful Italian horror movie most notable for starring rock legend Alice Cooper as it’s leading man. Cooper (dubbed by another actor for some reason) plays Vincent Roberts, known to the world as rock star Vincent Raven, who returns to his ancestral home to shoot a music video. The area is being plagued by a pack of wild dogs, that have caused a few deaths and the locals feel that somehow Vincent and his family are involved. Is this just the overactive minds of superstitious locals, or is there lycanthropy running in the veins of rock star Vincent Raven? Soon the old house is besieged by both crazed canines and vengeful locals. Will Vincent, girlfriend Sandra (Victoria Vera) and their friends survive the night?

Written and directed by Claudio Fragasso (under the pseudonym of Clyde Anderson), this is a hysterically bad flick. It’s cheesy in every way from the ridiculously fake rubber Monster Dog prop, to the terrible music videos, to the fact that star Cooper is dubbed by another actor. The acting is quite wooden, though it’s hard to tell with the bad dubbing just where the fault lies. At least the dialog is delightfully as awful as most everything else. Leading lady Victoria Vera is appropriate eye candy as Raven’s girlfriend/video director, as is co-star Pepa Sarsa, so there is that. The flick delivers some gore and violence and it is amusing to see Cooper running around with a shotgun in a blue leather outfit and loads of make-up and guy-liner. The old house it’s filmed in is atmospheric and spooky and it’s sad this amusing misfire doesn’t provide something more solid to make use of the Spanish settings. This is a fun movie for all the wrong reasons in true ‘so bad it’s good’ style and certainly notable for it’s rock star lead. It would be totally forgettable without Cooper, dubbed or not, though why Cooper got involved in this to begin with, is possibly more the question…that and why the poster refers to him as “Lou” when his character is named Vincent.

I won’t deny I had fun with this flick. It is entertainingly bad in every way and has rock legend Alice Cooper as a shotgun carrying werewolf suspect. It’s cheesy, it’s awful and yet somehow, very watchable for exactly those reasons. Good movie?…definitely not. Fun movie?…to a degree, yes.

-MonsterZero NJ

As a movie, it rates 2 Coopers…add another Cooper for cheesy, entertainment value!

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CULT CLASSIC CUTIES: SUZANNA LOVE as LACEY in THE BOOGEYMAN!

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Cult Classic Cuties are characters from some of our favorite cult classics and midnight movies who captured our hearts and/or actresses who got our attention, but sadly never returned to these type of flicks, or whose sexy stars shined only briefly not quite achieving scream queen status. And this installment’s cutie is…

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SUZANNA LOVE as LACEY in THE BOOGEYMAN (1980)!

The Boogeyman is a supernaturally themed 1980 slasher that has developed a cult following over the years. The film has young Lacey witnessing the murder of her mother’s abusive boyfriend by the target of that abuse, her brother Willy. Twenty years later, an adult Lacey (Suzanna Love) is still haunted by the killing, but has tried to move on and now has a husband and child of her own. She still takes care of her brother (Nicholas Love), who lives with her family and hasn’t spoken a word since that night. Unfortunately, events trigger the return of the vengeful spirit of the abusive man, who starts to terrorize the girl-next-door MILF and begins a nightmare of murder and possession for this Cult Classic Cutie.
Suzanna Love basically had a short film career between 1979 and 1985 before disappearing from acting. Her horror film resume consists of four low budget flicks, only two of those, The Boogeyman and The Devonsville Terror gained any notoriety and were both directed by her then husband, Ulli Lommel. Her down-to-earth beauty made her a perfect girl-next-door type heroine and Love was not afraid to perform in some daring scenes for her husband, such as Boogeyman’s sexually tinged nightmare sequence. Lacey is dressed in skimpy undergarments, glistening with sweat and bound and gagged on a bed at the knife wielding mercy of what appears to be her own brother. While she is in dire peril, there is an eroticism to the scene which, makes it intriguing and disturbing. Was Lommel trying to imply something about Lacey in her nightmare?…or was he just trying to show off his wife’s hot body? As the issue is never pursued in the film, we may never know. She did look quite beguiling despite her perilous predicament.

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(click on the poster for a full review)

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The sweet girl-next-door

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What is Boogeyman’s nightmare sequence trying to tell us? Lacey obviously isn’t saying.

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MILF Lacey in one of the film’s few quiet moments.

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That’s one way of showing off those abs.

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A woman possessed…literally! We’d still date her.

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Lacey and The Boogeyman reunited in 1983 for a sub-par sequel Revenge Of The Boogeyman (aka Boogeyman 2) involving Lacey traveling to L.A. to meet with filmmakers interested in her story. Obviously the vengeful specter begins to kill again, as Lacey reveals she has a remaining piece of the mirror still in her possession.
As for Suzanna Love, she may have only briefly passed through the horror genre, but one of those flicks is a cult classic and her pretty, girl-next-door appeal got her noticed…as did her not being afraid to push the boundaries a bit with Boogeyman’s infamous and disturbingly sexual, bondage nightmare sequence. She also gets to play possessed in the film’s fun over-the-top climax, so her adorable Lacey is girl-next-door babe, sexy bound damsel and possessed MILF all in the same movie! That earns her the title of Cult Classic Cutie!

Be sure to check out our Cult Classic Cuties (click right here on the link) section to see more crush worthy ladies from cult films and midnight movies!

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DOLLS (1987)

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DOLLS (1987)

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Dolls is the third picture directed by Stuart (Re-Animator) Gordon to be produced by Brian Yuzna for release by Charles Band’s Empire Pictures. It tells the story of seven year-old Judy (Carrie Lorraine) who is on vacation in the English countryside with her father, David (Ian Patrick Williams) and her shrew of a step-mother, Rosemary (Carolyn Purdy Gordon). A storm strands them and three other people (Bunty Bailey, Cassie Stuart and Stephen Lee) at an old mansion inhabited by a charming old couple, Gabriel (Guy Rolfe who played Andre Toulon in Band’s Puppet Master series) and Hilary (Hilary Mason) Hartwicke. Gabriel is a toy maker and the house is filled with old dolls he’s made. At night Judy thinks she sees one of the young women dragged off by “little people”. Her parents don’t believe her, but kind-hearted Ralph (Lee) does and the two soon find out, to their horror, that the Hartwicke’s dolls are frighteningly alive and quite homicidal when you piss them off.

Written by Ed Naha (Honey, I Shrunk The Kids) and directed by Gordon, this is an amusing 80s horror flick, though a step down from Re-Animator and The Beyond. What makes the film a little uneven is that Gordon can’t seem to decide whether he wants to make it a dark fairytale or an outright horror film. There are some very violent moments with some graphic gore, then there are sequences that are more darkly whimsical. It’s not totally off-putting, but doesn’t help the overall film that there are tonal shifts. Sometimes it seems this is a spooky tale for kids in the spirit of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series, that would premiere five years later, but then there are some very vicious and violent moments. The Hartwicke’s seem like well-meaning folk with some strange powers, yet their dolls do commit some very nasty and cruel acts. So, are these dolls to be viewed as good, as they only harm those with ill-intent, or are they something we should be afraid of, as they can be very violent. It makes things a bit uneven and when we get an explanation, we’re still not sure the kindly old couple are to be completely trusted. There are some spooky moments and the gore and prosthetics are well done, as is some stop-motion animation from the late, great David Allen. It’s an OK horror thriller that could have been something better had it picked a tone and stuck with it. In it’s favor, the 80s nostalgia does help a lot when viewed today.

Little Carrie Lorraine stands out cast-wise. She’s a cute kid and she gives Judy a sense of wonder and she is also very courageous when forced by her jerk of a dad to investigate the mansion’s creepy goings-on with Ralph. The rest of the cast are a bit bland. Stephen Lee is OK as Ralph and gives him sort of a big kid quality. Williams and Gordon are fairly stiff and unlikable as Judy’s selfish father and his bitch of a new wife…though they’re supposed to be unlikable. Rolfe and Mason are adequate as the charming yet slightly spooky old couple and Bailey and Stuart are stereotypical teen delinquents. Aside from Lorraine and some of John Carl Buechler and David Allen’s doll creations, no one else in the cast really stands out to make an impression.

Overall, this is an OK and somewhat amusing horror flick that can’t really decide what it want’s to be. Is it a dark fantasy or outright horror?…that depends on which sequence we’re watching. Gordon does create some spooky scenes and there is some atmosphere, but the tonal indecision doesn’t help keep any steady tension. Aside from our young lead, the cast aren’t overly impressive, though the FX in the portrayal of the dolls and the havoc they create, is pretty decent for a low budget 80s flick. It’s a decent night’s watch from a filmmaker that sadly never hit the same stride he accomplished with Re-Animator, which even today still remains his best flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Mr. Punch’s.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: MADMAN (1982)

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MADMAN (1982)

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Madman is a lesser known 80s slasher that has enough moments to make it worth a watch. Story has a group of counselors and their charges at a remote deep woods retreat for gifted children. At the opening campfire scene, we hear the story of Madman Mars (Paul Ehlers), a giant mountain man farmer who went mad one night and slaughtered his entire family. The townsfolk took him into the woods and hung him from a tree, but his body disappeared never to be found. His supposed abandoned house is near the camp and when one doubting counselor, Ritchie (Jimmy Steele) mocks the tale and throws a rock through one of the house’s windows…well you know what comes next. Soon counselors are meeting their doom in gruesome ways and they start to wonder if there isn’t some truth to the campfire tale of Madman Mars!

Written and directed by Joe Giannone, this slasher has an almost surreal/dark fantasy atmosphere with James Lemmo’s spooky cinematography and the hulking Mars who, with his long white beard and rubbery grey skin, looks like a fantasy film ogre in overalls. There isn’t too much in terms of suspense or tension, but there are some very gruesome kills and director Giannone does keep an unsettling mood about the flick. Mars is a formidable enough stalker/killer and he’s given an almost supernatural quality as he quietly moves throughout the forest taking his victims back to his abandoned home only to return to the camp for more. Film is far from perfect. The dialog and acting are pretty poor and despite the plot involving children, they rarely factor into the story till the end. There is a really silly scene where two counselors frolic in a hot tub to an incredibly laughable love song and the subplot of Ritchie continually hanging out inside Mars’ house while the killer goes back and forth with the bodies of his victims, is just really odd. Why not leave? Even when he is able to leave the house, he goes back inside. WTF? The gore FX are well rendered and there is a typical 80s electronic score by Stephen Horelick to enhance the atmosphere. Not a great movie, but one with some good kills and some spooky atmosphere and the pacing is typically moderate for slashers of the early 80s.

The cast are all unknowns, except for one interesting member as our lead girl Betsy. Betsy is played by Dawn of the Dead’s Gaylen Ross though, for some reason, she’s billed as Alex Dubin. She makes for a good heroine, this time not playing fourth banana to three men and gets to be a little sexier with her long braided hair and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nudity. Her character disappears for a bit during the middle of the film, but returns to try to get the kids to safety and battle Mars in it’s last act. Surprising that Ross never did more final girl work, especially with the notoriety she gained in Dawn. She does a decent job here. Also very curious why she chose to use an alias for this film. Paul Ehlers is effective as Mars and gives him some menace though he’s no Freddy or Jason. The rest of the cast are fairly wooden, but do make for good enough Madman Mars fodder.

Personally, I kind of like this movie. It has it’s shortcomings, the dialog and acting are pretty weak and there are some silly sequences. It is atmospheric though, the cinematography is spooky and there are some good gory kills. There is an odd, almost surreal element to the film that actually makes it feel more like the campfire tale it’s supposed to be. A flawed, but still somewhat entertaining movie.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 axes.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: GRADUATION DAY (1981)

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GRADUATION DAY (1981)

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Graduation Day is a ho-hum 80s slasher that sees a high school track team being targeted by a killer as graduation approaches. The film opens with pretty track star Laura (Ruth Ann Llorens) winning a big race, but collapsing dead immediately after crossing the finish line. People blame her coach (Christopher George) for pushing her too hard. As her Navy Ensign sister Anne (Patch Mackenzie) returns home for Laura’s graduation, more members of the Midvale High School track team start to fall dead, this time by someone’s murderous hand. Is it a vengeful sister? Is it a deranged coach?…or does someone else have a reason to see the track team meet a fate far worse than Laura?

Film is directed by Herb Freed and co-written by he and David Baughn (who also co-produced with Freed) along with Anne Marisse. This is a very slow paced and dull flick with very flat direction and little suspense or tension. The killings are also very basic and routine, nothing special, nor especially gory. There really isn’t much going on here story-wise as we slowly try to figure out who the killer is and why the track team is their target. It is a little offbeat and weird that the killer often wears a sweatsuit and times the killings with a stopwatch, but once we get the reveal it does make a little more sense…a little. While on the subject of that, Graduation Day’s reveal actually works somewhat, as the character is simply someone you’ve kind of forgotten about, yet they do make sense, to a degree. There is a little creepiness at the end once we meet our villain, but it is too little too late. The final confrontation has some fun to it, but basically for the wrong reasons as it gets a bit over-the-top and silly.

The cast are also fairly bland as well, with only vets Christopher George and Micahel (Halloween 4) Pataki giving their thinly written roles a little life. The teen (some look like they’re in their thirties) leads are fairly dull with legendary scream queen Linnea Quigley once again showing up to show off her boobs before meeting her fate. Keep an eye out for a young Vanna White as a student, as well.

Overall, this is a dull and forgettable slasher that does have a bit of a following and did make back close to ten times it’s small budget at the box office. There is little suspense or tension, the kills are routine and with nothing interesting gore wise, but it is very 80s so there is that. The ending gets enjoyable goofy and there is a ridiculously long music video-ish segment featuring a band called Felony that brings giggles because it seems like it will never end. Not a total waste of time, but nothing special and I don’t see what it’s followers find so…worth following.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 knives.

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