SLAY BELLES: HEROINES OF HOLIDAY HORROR!

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SLAY BELLES: HEROINES OF HOLIDAY HORROR!

The holiday season is here and sometimes it seems there are more Christmas themed horrors than ones set on Halloween. But if there is a gift these holiday horrors bring, it’s a bevy of cuties and foxy final girls to warm our hearts like chestnuts roasting over an open fire. So without further ado, here are some of holiday horror’s hottest heroines!…

(Click on the highlighted titles and movie posters to get to our reviews and on the gallery photos to get a better look at the slay belles!)

Black Christmas (1974)

Black Christmas is one of the original modern slasher films and graced us with the beautiful Olivia Hussey as final girl Jess and a pre-Superman Margot Kidder as sexy, saucy Barb!

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

Silent Night, Deadly Night is another Christmas horror classic and this film has it’s shares of beauties as well. Sexy blonde Tara Buckman plays killer Billy’s mom Ellie, Toni Nero plays his work crush, Pamela and legendary scream queen Linnea Quigley plays the hot ill-fated babysitter Denise!

Black Christmas (2006)

Black Christmas 2006 wins the award for most holiday honies in one movie. Remake of the 1974 classic has a bevy of beautiful sorority sisters to melt any snowman…

SILENT NIGHT (2012)

This quasi-remake has a few cuties of its own. It has My Bloody Valentine 2009’s Jaime King as pretty deputy Aubrey Bradimore, Scott Pilgram’s Ellen Wong as adorable police station receptionist Brenda and Zombeaver’s Cortney Palm as ill-fated adult movie actress Maria.

BETTER WATCH OUT (2016)

We finish up this look at festive final girls, Christmas cuties and sexy slay belles with a look at one of the latest to join the holiday fun, Olivia DeJonge as embattled, yuletide babysitter, Ashley from the twisted Christmas thriller, Better Watch Out!

HAPPY HOLIDAYSfrom MONSTERZERO NJ’S MOVIE MADHOUSE

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE BARN (2016)

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THE BARN (2016)

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

Crowd funded horror/homage definitely has it’s heart in the right place and knows it’s 80s influences well, even if it isn’t quite as successful at delivering the goods as the films it’s trying to pay tribute to.

Flick starts out in the small town of Wheary Falls in 1959 where a Halloween set Harvest Hootenany festival goes wrong for one little girl who unwisely challenges a local legend about three demons that inhabit a local barn. The film then jumps 30 years to 1989 where Halloween obsessed teen Sam (Mitchell Musolino) and some friends accidentally awaken this legendary trio of demons while stopping in Weary Falls on the way to a Halloween night rock concert. Now Sam, his best bud Josh (Will Stout) and pretty Michelle (Lexi Dripps) find themselves battling the demonic Scarecrow, Boogeyman and Hollow Jack, that they have awakened from The Barn.

80s homage is written, directed and edited by Justin M. Seaman and the filmmaker’s intentions are certainly noble. The flick does indeed have the feel of one of those 80s horrors and even gives it an old VHS look with scratches and grain and muted colors. For nostalgia purposes, the film knows it’s source material well and we sense Seaman has a genuine love for these films and the horror genre in general. The basic story certainly works for the type of film it’s trying to be and the director does have a good visual eye and achieves a lot on a small budget. Where the film loses ground is in the writing and the editing. The dialogue is simply very stale and the exposition sequences seem to go on and on and are flat and un-involving. Seaman could have cut out a good ten minutes of talkiness from his homage and gotten it in at a much tighter 90 minutes, or less, and the film would have moved much better. It is a bit too slow paced for it’s own good. There were sequences of talk that felt like they could have been removed completely without hurting the movie, such as Sam’s talk with his dad and when they meet George Hayward (David Hampton), who was with the little girl in the opening sequence. Drunken George’s dialogue seems to go on forever and basically adds even more exposition to a local legend that was fine as it was. His story only convolutes things and the possible way of sending the demons back he relates, is just weak. Sometimes a bit of ambiguity is good, instead of explaining things in too much detail. As a matter of fact, the whole 1989 Halloween Hootenanny sequence goes on way too long, a prime example of how better writing and editing could have made this tighter. The horror sequences, featuring the three demons, themselves are fine. They are not scary or suspenseful, but they do work and Seaman’s demons are effective enough on the homage level they are intended. The FX are quite good for a low budget flick, especially the gore and they do emulate 80s FX work very well. As nostalgia, the film works very well in many ways, especially with Rocky Gray’s cool 80s style electronic soundtrack to add even more of the 80s feel. But as a movie, it’s a bit tedious and flat at times and lacks any real suspense and scares to make it really special. It needed some life to it’s scenes and performances.

While on the subject of the performances, to be too picky over the acting in a low budget film like this, isn’t really fair. Let’s be honest,  the acting in a lot of the films that this flick is paying homage to, wasn’t exactly award level either. The cast in one sense are fine, though some of the dialogue reciting is a bit flat, but that could also be from the need for stronger guidance from a first time filmmaker. Mitchell Musolino is OK as Sam, as is Will Stout as Josh, though as heroes they are a bit dull. It also doesn’t help that lead Sam’s character is kind of a moody sourpuss and hard to endear to. At least Stout’s Josh is a bit more animated and likable. The one cast member who stands out a bit is cute, girl-next-door Lexi Dripps who is actually endearing as the perky object of Sam’s awkward affection, Michelle. She is one of the few cast members who sounds like she is talking naturally, not reading from a script. Sadly, the character of Michelle disappears for most of the third act action and when she re-emerges, it’s as a bound and gagged damsel in distress only there to be rescued by Sam and Josh. The film might have been better served to have Miss Dripps play final girl, or at least be more involved in the action, as she is the one with the strongest screen presence and most charm. Her character was one of the livelier ones, too, unlike the droll Sam, and is sadly underused. There are also small parts played by legendary Scream Queen, Linnea Quigley and Ari Lehman, who was the first actor to ever play Jason Voorhees (as a boy) in the first Friday The 13th.

I wanted to like this flick a lot more than I did*. It’s heart was in the right place, it knew it’s influences very well and nailed the nostalgia elements pretty much dead on. It had a perfectly fine horror flick story and director Justin M. Seaman has a nice eye for spooky visuals, with the flick looking good for something very low budget. Definitely an “A” for effort. Where the film stumbles, is in it’s writing and editing. The Barn could have been ten minutes shorter, without hurting the story, it’s a little too talky between the action and the dialog itself was very stale and flat. The film wasn’t actually scary and the simple and effective plot gets a little convoluted in it’s second act. Simpler and more streamlined was working earlier on. A very noble effort and we hope filmmaker Justin M. Seaman continues to hone his craft and maybe the next flick will be closer to the home run he was swinging for here. I still recommend horror fans give it a look for the nostalgia of it and simply for the effort put in by some independent filmmakers with a passion…and despite it’s flaws, that passion does show!

*This little flick has grown on me a lot since I first reviewed it. Not sure this statement still applies -MZNJ

-MonsterZero NJ

3 jack-o-lanterns for effort, heart and Halloween spirit.

tales of halloween rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: CHRISTMAS EVIL and SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT

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Tis the season!…

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CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980)

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

Few movies can make the distinction of being both laughably bad yet, remain very disturbing, but Lewis Jackson’s yuletide horror is bizarre and creepy enough to be both. Story opens with young Harry (Gus Salud) seeing Santa coming down the chimney and delivering presents for he and his brother (Wally Moran). His love of Christmas is shattered, though, when he catches that same Santa…actually his dad in a costume…going at it with his mother. Many years later the adult Harry (Brandon Maggart) is a lonely introvert who works at the bargain basement Jolly Dreams toy factory and is obsessed with becoming Santa Claus…an obsession that drives him over the edge and turns Harry into a Santa-suited homicidal maniac.

Written and directed by Lewis Jackson, this is both a hysterically bad flick and one that, somehow, remains really disturbing. Harry is just a very creepy person with his spying on neighborhood children, to see if they are good or bad and his deeply unnerving obsession with Santa Claus and Christmas. The fact that he is so determined to be seen and loved as the real Santa Claus drives him to kill anyone who laughs or makes fun of him, leading to his being hunted by neighborhood citizens actually bearing torches. It’s like Transylvania though, the film takes place in New Jersey. It’s all very funny to watch Harry snap and slaughter three obnoxious yuppies in front of a church and it’s parishioners and his Santa themed apartment brings the appropriate chuckles and chills. But the film is also very creepy in it’s portrayal of a man who psychotically wants to be loved by all as the most famous holiday icon of all-time, enough that he will kill anyone who doesn’t buy into his delusion. Jackson may not be a skilled filmmaker, but there’s no denying this flick entertains in both it’s badness and ability to present you with a truly unnerving main character. Credit has to also be given to Brandon Maggart for giving his Harry some strong creep factor while the rest of the cast are adequate at best. There is a very off-putting quality to this film that works with the camp factor far better than it should and I’ll wager quite by accident. A happy and horrifying accident, as the film does have a ‘made up as it goes along’ quality to it.

So, if this type of flick is your bloody cup of egg nog, enjoy this movie for what it is. It’s a strange and sometimes laughably bad movie that still has the ability to creep you out with it’s disturbed main character and some gory kills all within it’s yuletide setting. There is something unnervingly real about Harry that makes you believe that there might be someone like him out there, yet, the film itself can be almost surreal with it’s torch bearing New Jersey residents and the fact that kids really seem to like Harry’s Santa despite their parents knowing something is really off about this guy. This film has developed a bit of a cult following and I can see why as it is definitely midnight movie material, especially if it’s midnight on December 24th. Recommended for those looking for something weird, unsettling, but very amusing!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 campy and disturbing Christmas trees.

fred clause rating

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SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)

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

This Christmas set 80s slasher isn’t very scary, but it is a lot of fun. It has a very devious sense of humor and certainly isn’t afraid to involve little children in it’s holiday horrors and blood soaked Christmas clichés.

The story opens in 1971 with five-year-old Billy (Jonathan Best) not only being frightened out of his wits by Santa horror stories from his demented grandfather on Christmas Eve, but witnesses the brutal murder of his parents by a thief dressed in a Santa suit. Three years later we find Billy (Danny Wagner) in an orphanage where a cruel nun is trying to force his fears of Christmas out of him by forcing Christmas on him. We finally cut to ten years later where a now eighteen, Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) gets his first job…at a toy store…at Christmas! And to make matters worse he is chosen by his boss to play Santa and when he catches a co-worker forcing himself on his store crush Pamela (Toni Nero), Billy snaps and a yuletide murder spree gruesomely begins. Will anyone survive the holidays now that a Santa suited Billy is killing anyone he deems naughty…which is pretty much everyone he encounters!

As a horror film, this flick has very little scares or suspense, but as directed by Grizzly Adams creator Charles Sellier…from Michael Hickey’s sadistically clever script…the film is a lot of gruesome fun that definitely isn’t afraid to cross some boundaries, especially when it gleefully involves little kids in it’s horrible holiday hi-jinx. If the things little Billy experiences aren’t enough, the deliriously horrific scene of an orphanage full of little kids witnessing the gunning down of a priest in a Santa suit, by an overzealous cop, will have you giggling out loud. Sure we know who our killer is without question and his victims are fairly random Santa fodder, but the fact that Sellier so happily makes a bloody mess of one of the most beloved holidays, makes up for the fact that their really isn’t much to chill us other than watching the plentiful and well orchestrated blood and gore spatter all over the screen like spilled eggnog. It’s good, gory, campy fun and makes no excuses that it is breaking some taboos and is proud of it.

The cast, including 80s scream queen legend Linnea Quigley as a victim, are all delightfully bad. They are all mostly unknowns, except for TV actress Tara Buckman who has a brief role as Billy’s hot but ill-fated mom. Wilson just basically carries out his villainy with a blank and evil stare, but it’s enough to work even if he is not an overly strong psycho. Actress Lilyan Chauvin is actually a lot scarier as Mother Superior who tries to torment the love of Christmas back into the young, mentally scarred Billy and Gilmer McCormick is sweet and likable as Sister Margret a young nun who takes pity on Billy, even when he turns stone cold killer.

This is a deviously fun slasher though, admit-tingly, as a horror, it is kind of weak. It makes up for a lot of that weakness by delighting in breaking some movie taboos and pouring blood over as many Christmas traditions as possible in gleeful fashion. It’s an entertaining enough slasher though, it is far more campy than creepy and that’s just fine. Obviously recommended during the holidays when endless showings of A Christmas Story drive you to want to kill. Billy will be happy to oblige for you.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Christmas trees.

fred clause rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: GRADUATION DAY (1981)

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GRADUATION DAY (1981)

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

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.

graduation day rating

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: WITCHTRAP (1989)

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WITCHTRAP (1989)

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

1989 horror flick is written and directed by Kevin S. Tenney who gave us two 80s cult classics, Witchboard and Night Of The Demons. The story here, in his third flick, has a team of paranormal psychologists entering an old mansion that used to belong to a powerful psychic and warlock (J.P. Luebsen), who is now dead. His spirit supposedly haunts the place and the team is sent in with a trio of detectives to try to free the structure from it’s malevolent occupant’s grip. The spirit of Avery Lauder is a powerful one and soon the team’s numbers begin to dwindle as his diabolical influence attacks from beyond the grave.

This is a pretty bad movie. For starters, this flick has a silly plot of trying to subdue the evil spirit, so the present owner can turn the place into a ‘haunted bed and breakfast’ while the malevolent spirit is trying to resurrect himself. Add on to that the really wooden performances from the cast of unknowns…except for 80s scream queen Linnea Quigley…and some hysterically awful dialog and Tenney has fallen far from his first two cult favorite flicks. Even the shot set-ups are really awkward and the pacing is incredibly slow for a 90 minute flick, not to mention the really cheesy make-up and visual FX. It would appear Tenney forgot everything he learned about filmmaking for his third film and sadly, as it looks really amateur and he never really recovered, based on his mostly forgettable filmography following this clunker. At least there is a very 80s electronic score by the director’s brother, Dennis.

Sure, there is some entertainment value here. The dialog and some of the terrible acting can produce some giggles and Linnea Quigley does get to flash the assets that made her a horror icon during the 80s. It’s still not enough to really elevate this bomb or make it really worth sitting through. A disappointing and surprising misfire from a man who started his film career with two cult classics. Maybe he gave us everything he had the first two times around.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 powerful warlocks who inhabit a bad movie.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)

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SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)

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

This Christmas set 80s slasher isn’t very scary but, it is a lot of fun. It has a very devious sense of humor and certainly isn’t afraid to involve little children in it’s holiday horrors and blood soaked Christmas clichés.

The story opens in 1971 with 5-year-old Billy (Jonathan Best) not only being frightened out of his wits by Santa horror stories from his demented grandfather on Christmas Eve, but, witnesses the brutal murder of his parents by a thief dressed in a Santa suit. Three years later we find Billy (Danny Wagner) in an orphanage where a cruel nun is trying to force his fears of Christmas out of him by forcing Christmas on him. We finally cut to 10 years later where a now 18, Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) gets his first job… at a toy store… at Christmas! And to make matters worse he is chosen by his boss to play Santa and when he catches a co-worker forcing himself on his store crush Pamela (Toni Nero), Billy snaps and a yuletide murder spree gruesomely begins. Will anyone survive the holidays now that a Santa suited Billy is killing anyone he deems naughty… which is pretty much everyone he encounters!

As a horror film, this flick has very little scares or suspense but, as directed by Grizzly Adams creator Charles Sellier… from Michael Hickey’s sadistically clever script… the film is a lot of gruesome fun that definitely isn’t afraid to cross some boundaries, especially when it gleefully involves little kids in it’s horrible holiday hi-jinx. If the things little Billy experiences aren’t enough, the deliriously horrific scene of an orphanage full of little kids witnessing the gunning down of a priest in a Santa suit, by an overzealous cop, will have you giggling out loud. Sure we know who our killer is without question and his victims are fairly random Santa fodder but, the fact that Sellier so happily makes a bloody mess of one of the most beloved holidays, makes up for the fact that their really isn’t much to chill us other than watching the plentiful and well orchestrated blood and gore spatter all over the screen like spilled egg nog. It’s good, gory, campy fun and makes no excuses that it is breaking some taboos and is proud of it.

The cast, including 80s scream queen legend Linnea Quigley as a victim, are all delightfully bad. They are all mostly unknowns, except for TV actress Tara Buckman who has a brief role as Billy’s hot but, ill-fated mom. Wilson just basically carries out his villainy with a blank and evil stare but, it’s enough to work even if he is not an overly strong psycho. Actress Lilyan Chauvin is actually a lot scarier as Mother Superior who tries to torment the love of Christmas back into the young, mentally scarred Billy and Gilmer McCormick is sweet and likable as Sister Margret a young nun who takes pity on Billy even when he turns stone cold killer.

This is a deviously fun slasher though, admit-tingly, as a horror, it is kind of weak. It makes up for a lot of that weakness by delighting in breaking some movie taboos and pouring blood over as many Christmas traditions as possible in gleeful fashion. It’s an entertaining enough slasher though, it is far more campy than creepy and that’s just fine. Obviously recommended during the holidays when endless showings of A Christmas Story drive you to want to kill. Billy will be happy to oblige for you.

3 Christmas trees.

fred clause rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (1988)

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NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (1988)

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

This is another 80s horror written and directed by Kevin Tenney (Witchboard) and is a predominately silly flick with some the gore and scares sharing time equally with the laughs and goofy humor. While the film has more of a horror movie feel than the soap opera-ish Witchboard, it still is far too goofy to really be scary despite some effective and plentiful gore.

The film takes place on Halloween night at a party being thrown at an abandoned funeral home by high school goth chick and suspected black magic user, Angela (Amelia Kinkade) and her friend Suzanne (Linnea Quigley). An assorted group of party goers arrive including Judy (Cathy Podewell), party animal Stooge (Hal Havins) and nerd Roger (Alvin Alexis). Of course no party in a former mortuary can be complete without a seance and before you can say “not a good idea” Angela and Suzanne are possessed by demons and begin to gorily dispatch the assorted party guests who themselves rise from the dead as vessels for demonic entities.Will anyone escape this Halloween party alive?

I’m not really a big fan of this film. Despite the amusing premise and the plentiful blood and gore, It’s a very slow moving horror/comedy that is not particularly scary and not all that funny either. Tenney seems to want the best of both worlds here from Joe Augustyn’s script and while the set-up was ripe for some Halloween fun, the film is directed very by-the-numbers and is far less clever than it thinks it is. Maybe the reason is that the story is pretty thin and probably would have been better served as an episode of a TV show than stretched out over 90 minutes. Once the girls are possessed the slowly isolate others and dispatch them rather methodically dispensing tired one-liners as they gruesomely off their victims. There is little suspense as our characters wake up to what’s going on and try to find a way out and it’s pretty obvious who are there to become corpses and who are there to be our survivors. It’s just a matter of sitting through the weak comedy and equally weak attempt at scares till it all plays out. There is some heavy 80s nostalgia at this point and at least David Lewis’ cinematography makes this look far more like a horror film than Tenney’s WitchboardDennis Michael Tenney once again does the music and it is a bit atmospheric though, not very remarkable.

The cast are all weak. Cathy Podewell tries hard as our final girl/heroine Judy, but the rest of the cast are pretty wooden including Kinkade as Angela and that hurts the film which needed a stronger villain to work better. Havins is just annoying as frat boy-like Stooge though, in his defense, his dialogue is terrible. Quigley is there to show her boobs and when she does speak, her line readings are far flatter than her cleavage and her demonic form is not very threatening. Roger is a stereotypical cowardly nerd who finds his courage and is probably one of the more successful characters in the flick. The rest are generic and unmemorable demon fodder and there is no attempt to really make the characters anything more than the two dimensional cliche’s they are.

In conclusion, I was never all that fond of this flick, though respect that it is a cult classic with a following…I’m just not one of the following. I do appreciate the 80s nostalgia and it is heavy with that, but overall find the film a dull and by-the-numbers horror/comedy that is not all that successful at being either. It’s a silly flick that has the benefit of some well executed gore and make-up FX and otherwise not much else to recommend. It’s almost a mystery as to why it’s premise had so much more potential for a fun time than Witchboard yet, is half as fun. Also a good example of how light and silly horrors got in the later half of the 80s. (For my article on the subject of the tonal change of horror through the 80s, go here!)

2 unimpressive actresses with impressive surgically enhanced racks.

night of the demons rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985)

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RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985)

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

I have to admit, I am not the biggest fan of this flick. True, I was first disappointed because, I was expecting something far more serious from the co-creators of Night Of The Living Dead and Alien and instead got a silly horror/comedy trying a little too hard to be hip. But, over the years I’ve come to realize that simply not all of the bits work and it wears out it’s welcome and gimmick long before it’s 90 minutes are over. Sure it has some fun scenes and a few quotable lines and I understand that many consider this a cult classic and I respect that, but, to me the flick is mediocre at best.

The film uses the original Night Of The Living Dead as a springboard, as medical supply warehouse worker Frank (Poltergeist’s James Karen) tells newbie Freddy (Jason Lives’ Thom Mathews) that the film Night Of The Living Dead actually happened and and George Romero changed the details to keep the army off his back. The zombie outbreak was caused by a military chemical weapon called Trioxin that accidentally raised the dead and an army screw-up brought some of the containers here to Louisville, Kentucky. He shows him some drums that he claims contain the imprisoned zombies and… of course… one gets punctured and Frank and Freddy become infected and the zombie inside escapes. With Freddy’s friends on the way to pick him up and party in a nearby graveyard and warehouse owner Burt’s (Clu Gulager) misguided idea to cremate a re-animated corpse during a rainstorm, it all adds up to a night of terror for all involved as the dead rise with one thing on their hungry dead minds… BRAINS!

There is some witty stuff in director Dan (Alien) O’Bannon’s script from a story by Rudi Ricci and NOTLD co-creators John A. Russo and Russell Streiner but, a lot of it is fairly by-the-numbers, too and adding a lot of punk rock songs to the soundtrack doesn’t really cover up the fact that this should have been a lot more clever. It uses another classic movie as a springboard and while there is the initial clever notion that NOTLD actually happened and there was a cover-up, the film doesn’t really use it for anything other then another routine zombie siege flick. I do like the notion that they eat brains to ease the pain of death. That was a clever touch, but, aside from that, it’s just another board the windows and doors zombie movie with some only half-successful comedy and slapstick thrown in. O’Bannon directs the proceedings with a fairly pedestrian hand, translating the script to screen with very little style or finesse. The film could have used a director who was willing to really go for broke with the premise and doesn’t play it safe like O’Bannon. Even Scream Queen Linnea Quigley’s nude cemetery striptease is done quickly and over before you can blink without ever even trying to exploit the whole nude minx in a sacred cemetery angle. The gore and creature FX are well done but, stay well within the R-rated limits and the last act simply gets annoying as characters shout, curse and cry continuously about their dilemma but, accomplish very little. The slapstick reaches a fever pitch but, O’Bannon is not skilled or experienced enough a director to keep it down to a tolerable level and let’s his cast over-act and it just gets grating. The film basically showed us all it had in the first half and now just barrels along to it’s predictable conclusion. There are some fun zombie bits but, they are few and far between as the action remains focused on those trapped in the mortuary and warehouse… and splitting the characters up and thus our focus, doesn’t help things either. It’s no surprise when the film is discussed that the conversation and quotes are all about the zombies as the human characters never really register.

The cast all over-act a lot, especially Karen who you just want to shut up sometimes. Don Calfa as the mortician is in constant bug-eyes mode even before the zombie show up and Clu Gulager is shamelessly unrestrained the whole flick. Quigley is certainly fetching as nude punk rocker/zombie Trash but, her line readings are flat and her dialog, not much better. And the film sadly makes little use of it’s naked, curvaceous brain-eating sex kitten… again, O’Bannon playing it safe. Mathews spends most of his time shivering and whimpering as he takes over an hour to turn into a zombie and the rest of the cast play stereotypical Hollywood cliche’ punk rockers and hipsters… two groups that would never have hung out together in real life. Even heroine Beverly Randolph is reduced to a crying, shrieking mess and it gives us no strong characters to endear ourselves too or identify with.

So, in conclusion my original opinion remains. The film has some fun bits but, overall plays it far too safe and doesn’t really make good use of it’s premise. Anything clever the film has to offer is basically in the set-up and aside from a legitimately creepy dialog scene with a dead corpse, the film really doesn’t do anything new with the whole zombie formula except to make a joke out of it in an attempt to be hip. There is some fun nostalgia at this point and the flick is very 80, but, overall it’s an overrated attempt to get more gas out of a classic movie’s legendary status and needed a far more deft and clever hand behind the camera to succeed in what it set out to do. Watchable but, very overrated. Made enough money to warrant a number of sequels with only Part 3 being a recommendable watch…and one that might be actually better than the film that inspired it.

2 and 1/2 tar men.

return of the living dead rating

 

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