TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE HORROR SHOW (1989)

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THE HORROR SHOW (1989)

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80s horror has Det. Lucas McCarthy (Lance Henriksen) finally catching vicious serial killer Max Jenke (Brion James). Jenke is sentenced to die in the electric chair, but doesn’t go down easily. McCarthy is continually plagued by nightmares of the killer’s exploits, but soon finds out that it may not be simply bad dreams, but Jenke himself haunting the detective and his family for revenge.

Flick is directed by James Isaac from a script by Leslie Bohem and Allyn Warner, the latter credited under the pseudonym of “Alan Smithee.” It’s a silly horror flick with a ridiculous plot, but entertaining, as the filmmakers were smart enough to play it quite straight. There is some gory violence and some intense scenes, but the plot gets sillier as, much like another dream demon, Freddy Krueger, McCarthy can only stop Jenke by bringing him back into the physical world and blowing him away. It’s ludicrous, but still amuses and the gore and FX are handled very effectively. There are some nasty dream sequences and the cast all play their parts well. There is an moody score by the legendary Harry Manfredini and some nice cinematography by Mac Ahlberg to ad atmosphere.

Lance Henriksen is always the pro and no matter how over-the-top things get, He gives McCarthy an intensity and strength, yet also makes it believable that Jenke scares him. As “Meat Clever Max” Jenke, Brion James is in Krueger territory being way over-the-top and having a good time with it. He makes Jenke a scary dude, even if his antics are familiar. Rita Taggart is good as Lucas’ caring and concerned wife, Donna. Dedee Pfeiffer (Vamp), in her second only horror flick, is sweet and sexy as their teen daughter, Bonnie. She’s a prime target of Jenke. Rounding out is Aron Eisenberg as her younger sibling, Scott. Unfortunately he’s a bit annoying. There is also a smaller role played by Day of the Dead’s Terry Alexander, as McCarthy’s ill-fated partner, Casey. A good cast that play the material straight and help it be far more effective than it has any right to be.

Overall, this is a silly flick in true 80s style that gets a lot of milage out of it’s ridiculous story by simply playing it straight. It has some nasty violence and manages to be effective, despite it’s silly and familiar premise. Not a classic, but an amusing example of 80s horror, especially in the later half of the decade where colorful and over-the-top was more the style.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) meat cleavers.

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SOUTHERN COMFORT (1981)

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SOUTHERN COMFORT (1981)

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Film takes place in 1973 with a national guard unit on training maneuvers deep in the Louisiana swamps. A squad of these weekend warriors goes on a recon mission and decides to steal some locals’ boats to cross the bayou. When the owners return in mid-theft, the incident quickly leads to violence and the unit commander (Peter Coyote) is killed. To make matters worse, the soldiers ‘arrest’ a local man (Brion James) and destroy his shack in retribution. Now the remaining guardsman are being hunted through the swamps and killed off one by one by the vengeful inhabitants. With only one box of live ammunition between them and miles of hostile swamp in front of them, their chances of survival seem slim, as their numbers dwindle and they start turning on each other, as well.

Southern Comfort is an action/thriller directed by Walter Hill and co-written with David Giler and Michael Kane, that sadly requires a lot of stupid behavior from it’s main characters to move the story along. Granted the leads are supposed to be a bunch of ignorant and arrogant yahoos, but even for these guys, some of their actions just don’t make sense. That and making most of the film’s principals unlikable, for the most part, doesn’t exactly evoke our sympathy much. Only Keith Carradine’s Private Spencer and Powers Boothe’s Corporal Hardin seem to have some common sense and are the only somewhat likable characters here and even that’s pushing it. The film does have atmosphere and it does seem at times like there could be danger around any tree, but it is hampered by a slow pace and the fact that these guys are more of a threat to themselves and each other, than the locals. Despite being a very flawed film, there is still somewhat of an entertainment value to it, thought. Maybe it is seeing these morons get themselves deeper into trouble and then what’s coming to them, sometimes by their own hands, and sometimes those of their pursuers. It also takes until the last act before things finally start to click on a thriller level and we get some solid action and suspense. On the positive side, there is some nice cinematography of the Louisiana Bayou by Andrew Laszlo and an atmospheric score by Ry Cooder.

I actually saw this in a theater in 1981 and remember it far more fondly than I did upon my recent revisit. It’s not terrible and there is some decent action, but I guess I was a lot more forgiving in my teens than I am now. It’s an OK flick, that’s really hampered by unlikable characters and the constant stupidity with which these trained reservists act, and the fact that they pretty much invite all that befalls them with their actions. It finally gets moving in the last act and the blurred line between good guys and bad guys is lifted for a more straightforward finale, but it’s a little late. Overall, it’s just disappointing when I initially remembered it as a much better movie. Also stars Fred Ward, The Thing’s T.K. Carter, Sonny Landham and Buckaroo Banzai’s Lewis Smith.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) bullets.

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