TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: RAW DEAL (1986)

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RAW DEAL (1986)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in this 1986 crime drama as disgraced FBI agent turned small town sheriff Mark Kaminski. His former boss, FBI chief Harry Shannon (Darren McGavin), offers Kaminski a chance for a reprieve, by helping him get vengeance when his FBI agent son Blair (Steve Holt) is murdered in a mob hit. In an operation conducted outside the agency, Kaminski infiltrates the Chicago crime family of mob boss Luigi Patrovita (Sam Wanamaker) as ambitious hood Joseph P. Brenner. Soon Kaminski/Brenner is chipping away at the organization from the inside, while getting close to beautiful mob moll Monique (Kathryn Harrold). His job won’t be easy, as he needs to convince Patrovita’s enforcer Rocca (Paul Shenar) that he is legit and Rocca’s sadistic henchmen Keller (Robert Davi), is not only highly suspicious of the new family member, but jealous of his budding relationship with Monique.

Raw Deal is one of Schwarzenegger’s lesser films, opening between larger hits like Commando and Predator. The film is directed by John Irvin from a script and story by four different people, despite a very simple ‘undercover in the mob’ plot. Irvin’s style is very workman-like and that suits this less bombastic Schwarzenegger vehicle, which is more crime drama than action flick. Maybe that is why it was a bit of a box office disappointment when first released, as Arnie doesn’t really crank up the body count till the last act. There are some gun fights and fisticuffs along the way, with Arnold delivering his usual one-liners after kicking butt. It is true to the 80s film style, even if toned down a bit, with Arnold effortlessly dodging bullets, yet mowing down his adversaries, until we need a bullet strike or two, so it doesn’t look too easy for the Austrian Oak. The action is well staged and the trio of Davi, Wanamaker and Shenar make suitable enough bad guys to Arnold’s noble hero, with Kathryn Harrold being very sexy and likable as the mob moll caught in the middle. If you think about the proceedings, though, as this isn’t an official FBI undercover assignment, Kaminski is actually being used as a straight-up assassin, by the vengeful Shannon. All the more amusing, that the film ties everything up in a neat bow by it’s conclusion when Kaminiski was basically carrying out vigilante justice and probably should have been arrested along with his former boss. But, hey…this was the 80s, however, and the action films then were far less concerned with reality, Miranda Rights, or legal consequences, when their heroes took out the bad guys. Either way, it is entertaining, but a very routine film for an action star at the top of his game and known for his more over-the-the top action flicks. 

Overall, the film underperformed in 1986, most likely because it was a dialed down flick when people expected more bang for the buck from it’s star. Arnold’s acting wasn’t quite honed enough to go the Goodfella’s route quite yet and it takes to the last act for him to really bring out the big guns…and even that is subdued compared to Commando’s one man army finale. It’s still an entertaining enough movie, just more of a routine action/crime thriller for Schwarzenegger, who rebounded at the box office the following year with the action classic Predator.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) bullets.

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: DRIVE (2011)

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DRIVE (2011)

Drive has a delightfully 80s vibe to it. It reminds one of Michael Mann’s neon drenched crime thriller Thief, but with the out of nowhere blood-soaked violence of David Lynch. Even Cliff Martinez’s sscore evokes Tangerine Dream, who created Thief’s haunting music, among many other film scores during that era. Like that James Caan headlined flick, Drive is also based on a book and involves a man on the wrong side of the law getting into trouble when trying to do good. Despite what appears to be obvious influences, director Nicolas Winding Refn has created his own work from Hossein Amini’s screenplay based on James Sallis’ book of the same name. Drive may evoke but, it never copies. The story finds a mysterious stunt driver, who moonlights as a getaway car driver, getting into trouble with local mobsters when trying to protect his pretty neighbor from the mistakes of her ex-con husband. It is a moody atmospheric piece with sudden jolts of intense action and bone crunching violence. It also has a top notch cast.

Ryan Gosling superbly plays the man known only as Driver with equal parts mystery, menace and heart. This is a bad dude when provoked, but you have no trouble believing he truly cares for Irene and her son.The supporting cast is also excellent with Carey Mulligan as the sweet young woman who seems to fall for the bad guy every time. Albert Brooks is intense and sleazy as a Jewish mobster, who can be quite vicious when he wants to be. Rounding out the cast is the awesome Ron Perlman as Brook’s crude and temperamental partner and Bryan Cranston as Driver’s mentor, a sad man who just can’t seem to avoid getting involved with the wrong people.

Drive is definitely a film that might befuddle the average movie goer, who were weened on Michael Bay and music videos. It uses it’s sumptuously filmed visual style to create a mood and it’s characters to convey emotions. There is no unnecessary exposition to explain how character’s feel, they show it and Refn let’s us, the viewer, experience it for ourselves without explaining it to us like children. When he needs to, he hits us with action and it serves a purpose to move the story along. When he jolts us with the gruesome violence, it’s an extension of a character’s emotional state. Bad and desperate people do bad and desperate things. Our anit-hero Driver seems to have an inner rage that’s never explained and his character is all the more richer for that added mysterious dark side. Drive is something today’s average movie going audience is rarely exposed to…something called cinema! Highly recommended for those who want more then just a movie.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) hammers!

 

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CULT CLASSIC CUTIES: SHAWNEE SMITH as MEG PENNY in THE BLOB (1988)!

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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. They’re femme fatales and final girls whose sexy stars shined only briefly, not quite achieving scream queen status. And this installment’s cutie is…

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SHAWNEE SMITH as MEG PENNY in THE BLOB (1988)!

Shawnee Smith as Meg Penny in The Blob (1988)!

I am going to admit that on this installment of Cult Classic Cuties I am cheating a bit. Actress and singer Shawnee Smith is no stranger to horror and after starring in Chuck Russell’s criminally underrated 1988 remake, she went on to be featured in a number of horror related projects, such as two Stephen King TV mini-series adaptations, a Wes Craven produced remake of Carnival of Souls, an episode of The X-Files and she was a reoccurring character in the Saw movies. Sure, that makes her a straight up Halloween Hottie, but her Megan is such a great character, in this fun 80s remake and now cult classic, that I am going to break my own rules to feature her in this installment!

(You can read my full review for The Blob by clicking the highlighted titles or on the poster below)

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As the film begins, Meg Penny is an average teenager, cheerleading at football games.

A dream date turns into a nightmare, as Megan first meets The Blob!

With no one believing her, she turns to local rebel Brian Flagg (Kevin Dillon) for help.

Megan risks all to get friends and loved ones to safety!

From cheerleader to warrior as Megan takes the fight to the gelatinous invader!

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So, I cheated here to feature this talented California born actress in the Cult Classic Cutie category, even though she has had a prolific TV and movie career and done a number of horror related projects. It’s just Chuck Russell’s remake is finally getting the respect and following it’s always deserved and Smith’s Megan is a strong part of what makes this cult classic work. So forgive my indulging myself and breaking format, but to me, Shawnee Smith and her cheerleader with an M-16 will always be a Cult Classic Cutie!

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

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980)

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BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980)

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Never one to pass up an opportunity to make a buck on a trend, Roger Corman put this space opera into production with the hopes of capturing a little of the Star Wars lightening in New World Pictures’ bottle. The story finds the inhabitants of the peaceful planet of Akir, under siege from Sador of the Malmori (John Saxon), a ruthless warlord who conquers worlds and uses spare body parts to keep himself young and tyrannical. Not able to defend themselves, village elder Zed (Jeff Corey) sends the rebellious young Shad (Richard Thomas) out to hire mercenaries to defend their planet against the invading army. Can Shad find warriors bad and brave enough to take on Sador and his planet-destroying Hammerhead starship?

As you can tell by the story description, this is more a take on Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai than a retread of George Lucas’ box office titan, though Star Wars rip-off it shamelessly still is. No more obvious than the planet name Akir, which is a tribute to the legendary Japanese director, whose story is being appropriated here. The fun script is by John Sayles (Piranha, The Howling) and it’s directed with a comic book flare by Jimmy T. Murakami, who previously had experience in animation. The film never makes a joke out of the proceedings, but is loaded with humor and plenty of innovative SPFX on a small budget, as designed by James (Terminator, Aliens, Avatar) Cameron. The action is fast and furious, there is a variety of ships to go along with the motley group of mercenaries and it’s all a good time as intended. Sure it’s only got about a fifth of Star Wars’ budget, but the film has loads of heart and the hard work and imagination of everyone that worked on it shows through. The FX can be cheesy and there are a few spots where things slow down a bit, but otherwise it is a cult classic in it’s own right and how can you not like a movie that has a spaceship with a set of boobs…only in a Roger Corman flick, folks!

The cast really make this work especially well. All the actors get the tone and none of them treat the material like a joke, yet still have a good time with their roles. Richard Thomas makes a noble hero as Shad. A young man willing to risk all to save his world and people. Darlanne Fluegel is pretty and resilient as Nanelia, who joins Shad on his quest and becomes his first love interest. John Saxon is simply on target with his portrayal of Sador. He gives him a sense of malice and villainy, yet is careful to never carry him too far into over-the-top territory, so he stays threatening. As our warriors, we have George Peppard as “Space Cowboy” a space trucker caught up in the fight, Robert Vaughn as Gelt, an outlaw on the run, Sybil Danning as the beautiful but arrogant warrior woman Saint-Exmin, Morgan Woodward as the reptilian Cayman, who has a personal grudge against Sador, as well as, a heat communicating duo called The Kelvin and a group of five clones, who act and think as one, called The Nestor. And let’s not forget Sador’s army of patchwork mutants, too. A colorful and diverse group of characters if there ever was.

A cult classic in itself, this is a fun low budget space epic with loads of heart. Sure, the sets are cheesy, as are some of the SPFX, the dialogue corny and the pacing a little erratic, but this movie is a lot of fun. The cast all get the material and give it their all. The imagination of James Cameron and his FX crew is up on screen and it has one of James Horner’s best scores. A Roger Corman cult classic that may have been inspired by George Lucas’ surprise blockbuster, but has earned an identity and place in B-movie history all it’s own.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) Sadors.

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: FRANKENHOOKER (1990)

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FRANKENHOOKER (1990)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Horror/comedy was released in 1990, but is very 80s. It’s the story of New Jersey resident Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz), who is a failed med student that now works for the power company. When his self-conscious girlfriend Elizabeth (Penthouse Pet Patty Mullen) is killed in a freak lawnmower accident, Jeffrey plans to put both his medical knowledge and high voltage know-how to use, to bring her back to life. On a quest for body parts, a series of unfortunate events finds Jeffrey decimating the entire stable of NYC pimp Zorro (Joseph Gonzalez) and using the body parts to build Elizabeth the perfect body. Jeffrey’s work, however, is far from perfect, as she is a patchwork of various limbs whose mind retains the memories of all the previous owners of those parts. His twitchy creation soon escapes and returns to NYC to start plying the world’s oldest profession…with hilariously lethal results.

Flick is produced by James (Exterminator, Shakedown) Glickenhaus and directed by Frank Henenlotter (the cult classic Basket Case) from his script with original Fangoria editor Bob Martin. It’s a sleazy grind-house style comedy that may be an acquired taste, but is a lot of fun, if it’s up your 42nd Street alley. There are cheesy gore FX, lots of pretty ladies and boobs and of course, plenty of homages to Frankenstein and other classic horror tales. It’s low budget and that adds to the charm and the NYC locations are delightfully sleazy. The film wouldn’t work as well as it does, though, if it weren’t for a hilarious performances by star Patty Mullen. She is simply a hoot as the twitchy Frankenhooker, who has no idea that her professional skills are now quite dangerous. James Lorinz lays it on a little thick as Jeffrey, but in a flick like this, over-the-top is certainly not out of place. The film’s not perfect. Not every joke is funny, some of the supporting cast’s acting is pretty bad and quite a few of the FX are a little too cheesy for their own good. The whole movie has an amateur vibe to it, despite being Henenlotter’s fourth film. Otherwise, it’s an amusing midnight movie and the type they don’t make anymore in these overly sensitive times.

A cult classic in itself, Frankenhooker can be fun if you like 42nd Street grind-house style flicks, which this is, through and through. It has it’s flaws. Henenlotter’s films always kept a very amateur style to them, which the filmmaker never grew out of, or chose not to. On the plus side, Mullen steals the film with a hilarious, yet sometimes poignant, portrayal as Jeffrey’s girlfriend/creation, who just wants to turn some tricks. A fun midnight movie for those who appreciate sleazy, cheesy amusements. Also stars Louise Lasser as Jeffrey’s mom and 80s-90s porn star Heather Hunter as one of Zorro’s girls, Chartreuse.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) twitchy Frankenhookers.

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: MAKING CONTACT (1985)

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MAKING CONTACT (1985)

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Making Contact is a West German supernatural chiller with severe Poltergeist envy. The story focuses on young Joey (Joshua Morell) who has just lost his father. Not only is Joey starting to show telekinetic abilities, but is starting to get messages from his deceased dad on his toy phone from beyond the grave. Joey’s abilities and dabbling in the paranormal, draw him to an underground maze and a ventriloquist dummy that is possessed by a demonic spirt. Of course, the boy brings it home and the supernatural hi-jinx begin.

Flick is directed by Independence Day director Roland Emmerich from his script with Hans J. Haller and Thomas Lechner. The three conjure up a story that is very much like Tobe Hooper/Steven Spielberg’s classic fright flick, including directly lifting quite a few scenes, such as flying Star Wars toys and a horde of paranormal investigators invading Joey’s home. It deviates from Poltergeist in the end with a climax set in the underground maze with Joey and his schoolmates battling the dummy, who uses their own fears against them. This evokes an appearance by Darth Vader himself, which also evokes the question as why the abundance of Star Wars imagery and merchandise (Joey’s room is full of it) didn’t evoke a lawsuit. The flick is slow moving, even at only 98 minutes, the FX are delightfully cheesy and the cast all extremely bland. You know somethings up when the best character in the movie is a toy robot named Charlie. The dialogue is equally blasé and the scenes of supernatural activity are very ho-hum, though there are a few entertaining moments and the dummy is quite creepy. Despite all the negative aspects, the film does amuse in an 80s curiosity kind of way and when it does do it’s own thing, those few touches are interesting enough.

This isn’t a great flick, but it does entertain with all the 80s nostalgia and the blatant recreation of scenes from Poltergeist that do invite chuckles. The dummy can be creepy and the few times it has original ideas they are interesting enough, such as the maze finale. The cast and dialogue are equal parts bland and wooden and the FX quite cheesy, but that does add some charm in an 80s nostalgia kinda way. Worth a look as a curiosity if nothing else.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) demonically possessed ventriloquist dummies for 80s nostalgia and cheese.

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE STUFF (1985)

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THE STUFF (1985)

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Horror comedy finds a new dessert taking the world by storm. The devastated ice cream industry hires industrial spy Mo Rutherford (Michael Moriarty) to find out what this mystery treat actually is. What Mo discovers is more horrifying than he could ever have imagined, as The Stuff is a living organism that bubbles up out of the ground and takes over anyone that eats it. Now Mo teams with Nicole, the pretty creator of The Stuff’s advertising campaign (Andrea Marcovicci), and disgruntled snack food icon Chocolate Chip Charlie (Garrett Morris) to try and put a stop to this hostile takeover from within.

As written and directed by the legendary Larry Cohen (Q: The Winged Serpent and the It’s Alive movies), flick is a satirical mash-up of The Blob, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Food of the Gods. It may have elements of many a sci-fi film, but it’s sights are clearly aimed at American consumerism. It’s mainly a critique of advertising, hype and the public buying frenzy that usually follows, when corporate America convinces us that we all have to have something. And it’s all wrapped in an amusing sci-fi/horror coating. It’s a low budget film with some very amusing practical SPFX ranging from some well rendered make-up prosthetics, as well as, some delightfully old fashioned model work to portray the carnage created when The Stuff finally comes out of human hiding and reveals itself. It’s a goofy movie and did not do very well when first released, but it has gained a following and received more appreciation, all these years later. It’s also bolstered by some nice 80s nostalgia and the humor and satire hits more than it misses.

The actors all get the material and walk a nice line between taking the script seriously, yet still having some fun with it. Moriarty plays his Mo as a very eccentric fellow. Don’t let his sarcasm and devil-may-care attitude fool you, he can be a hero when he needs to be. Andrea Marcovicci is pretty as Nicole and does get in on some of the action, so she isn’t just arm candy or a side kick. Comic legend Garrett Morris has a good time as dethroned chocolate chip king Charlie. He is part Famous Amos and part Dolemite. Paul Sorvino is also fun as a right-wing militia leader whom Mo turns to for help. Rounding out is Scott Bloom as a kid who discovers the truth about The Stuff and is now on the run from his own family. There are also some fun cameos, so keep your eyes peeled.

This isn’t a great flick, but it is clever and it’s satire well aimed and intended. It’s a fun movie and the cast has a good time, though without turning the material into an outright joke. The FX are charmingly old school by today’s standards and it’s messages about mass consumerism still apply.

MZNJ Personal Trivia: Saw this flick in a theater when it came out in 1985 and was disappointed, as the advertising had me expecting far more of a straight-up horror film. Watching it again with different expectations, I can now appreciate what Cohen was going for- MZNJ

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) pints of The Stuff.

 

 

 

 

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HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY TO FRIDAY THE 13th!

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The woman that started it all, Jason’s mom, Mrs. Voorhees!

40 years ago today the original Friday the 13th was released in theaters and a horror classic, a legendary franchise and a horror icon were born! Sure, Jason didn’t come along as the killer till part 2, but this is the installment were his iconic character first came to life! HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY FRIDAY THE 13th!

-MonsterZero NJ

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COOL STUFF: VAMP (1986) COLLECTOR’S EDITION BLU-RAY!

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VAMP (1986) COLLECTOR’S EDITION BLU-RAY!

 

Vamp (1986) (full review HERE) is an 80s vampire flick that was sadly overlooked when first released. A smaller budgeted movie than the other vampire flicks of that era, but one that finally is being discovered and given the credit it deserves. After all, it presented the story of a queen vampire and her nest of followers being located in a strip club, a full decade before Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn. In this 2016 special edition Blu-ray from Arrow Video, Vamp can now be watched in all it’s original gory glory.

 

As for the disc itself….

The high definition transfer of this 80s vampire flick looks really good considering it is over 30 years-old. The film is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and there is some grain in the picture, but the neon colors are bright and vibrant and the images are sharp. The sound is the original mono track and while that may disappoint home theater enthusiasts, it’s certainly sufficient and should please purists who want to hear it in it’s original presentation. Probably as good as it’s ever going to look.

 

Now on to the extras….

The extras included are better than one might expect for what was a bit of an under-the-radar release back in 1986 and should please fans of this film. It starts out with a new documentary made at the time of this disc’s release in 2016 called One of those Nights: The Making of Vamp. It features new interviews with director and co-writer Richard Wenk, stars Chris Makepeace, Dedee Pfeiffer, Robert Rusler, Gedde Watanabe, the late Billy Drago and cinematographer Elliot Davis. It’s fun and informative, from the universal praise for Deedee Pfeiffer from cast and crew, to Grace Jone’s being both very enthusiastic to work on the film, yet perpetually tardy getting to the set. A cool documentary. There is also rehearsal footage, Richard Wenk’s 1979 comedy/musical short Dracula Bites the Big Apple, a blooper reel, TV spots, trailers and a photo gallery. While there are oddly no audio commentary tracks, there is a nice info-filled souvenir booklet inside the case. A solid special edition from Arrow Video, who also did the really good BloodThirsty Trilogy Blu-Ray set.

 

Vamp was not a huge box office success when first released on July 18, 1986, but wasn’t a bomb either. It has developed a well deserved cult following since and is now recognized as a cult classic. It was kind of the overlooked 80s vampire flick, released between Fright Night and The Lost Boys, but now is finally getting the attention and treatment this underrated little flick deserves.

On a personal note, I actually saw in a theater back in 1986 and this special edition really brought back memories and was a great way to revisit it. Highly recommended if you are a fan.

Available on https://arrowfilms.com or from Amazon.

-MonsterZero NJ

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: MUTANT (1984)

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MUTANT (1984)

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Story for this flick is simple. Brothers Josh (Wings Hauser) and Mike (Lee Montgomery) are on a bonding getaway when they are forced off a rural road by a group of locals. This leads them to staying in a small town, one unfortunately close to a chemical dumping site. The chemicals are slowly changing the locals into vicious killers and when Mike disappears, Josh joins forces with cute teacher Holly (Jody Medford) and alcoholic sheriff Will (Bo Hopkins) to investigate. Soon it becomes a fight to survive as the infected locals multiply and overrun the town, killing everyone they come across.

Mutant is basically a zombie flick as directed by John “Bud” Cardos (The Day Time Ended, The Dark) from a script by Peter Z. Orton, Michael Jones and John C. Kruize. Cardos’ direction is rather straight forward and by-the-numbers, though it moves well enough. For a zombie film, it’s got minimal bloodshed, despite a high body count and really doesn’t crank up the action till the last act. It’s still a fun horror flick and there is plenty of 80s nostalgia now, all these years later. The zombies, or infected, are fast moving and their touch burns their intended victims, much like in the 1980 flick The Children, which also featured toxic chemical zombies. They also have an aversion to bright light and can be gunned down easily without the necessity for a head shot. There is also the usual out-of-towners vs redneck locals subplot, here, too, especially before anyone starts believing Josh that something is terribly wrong. Add to that a conspiracy/cover-up sub-plot that works well and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. The last scene at the gas station is pretty intense and makes for a solid climax. On a production level, the film looks good and makes good use of it’s rural Georgia locations. The make-up FX, including some cool Howling-esque transformations, are well done. The zombies look scary and Cardos isn’t afraid to have children fall victim to them or become them. There is a low gore quotient, but the attacks still have impact. Flick also has some atmosphere and overall is a good time.

It has a fun cast. Wings Hauser is his usual bug-eyed self and it’s fun to see him play a good guy, as he is best known for portraying the psychotic pimp “Ramrod” in 1982’s Vice Squad. Jody Medford makes for a very likable heroine as local school teacher and bartender, Holly. Despite being attractive and charming, she only did one other movie, Chained Heat. Veteran actor Bo Hopkins is also solid as the drunk sheriff, who sort of transforms into a noble hero over the course of the film. The supporting cast are all fine in their roles, including Lee Montgomery (Burnt Offerings) in the brief role of Mike and Close Encounters of the Third Kind’s Cary Guffey as student Billy.

In conclusion, this was a surprisingly good time on the revisit. Actually caught this flick in a theater in 1984 and was disappointed, back in the day, that it wasn’t more in the style of Dawn of the Dead or Zombie. With those expectations gone, it’s now a nostalgic and fun monster movie and one of the earliest films to portray it’s zombies as more fast moving and vicious. Cardos may not have been the most stylish director, but his workman approach suits the small town setting and rural local characters and keeps the film grounded. A fun zombie flick that does things a little different.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) permed and bug-eyed Wings Hausers.

 

 

 

 

 

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