TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: RETRIBUTION (1987)

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RETRIBUTION (1987)

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80s supernatural horror opens on Halloween night with lonely artist George (Dennis Lipscomb) trying to commit suicide. He is revived, but begins to have horrifying nightmares of people he doesn’t know, being murdered in terrible ways. His psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Curtis (Leslie Wing) is baffled and cop Lt. Ashley (Hoyt Axton) is suspicious, as George’s dreams are coming true. It appears George was born on the same day and initially died at the same moment as gangster Vito Minelli, who is using George’s body to get revenge on those who murdered him.

Flick is produced and directed by Guy Magar who also co-wrote with Lee Wasserman. Despite some unintentionally goofy scenes, the film has a more serious tone than most horrors of the later 80s generally had. Vito in George’s body is a vicious and vengeful spirit, who murders people in sadistic and gory ways. We follow George’s emotional torment as he is forced to watch and take part in Vito’s gruesome vengeance and it is effective. The gore is pretty good and Magar does bring some intensity to the proceedings. On the down side, flick is about 10 minutes too long and by it’s last act it starts to wear us down with it’s brutality, but it is still an entertaining mix of slasher and supernatural horror. Magar uses some very colorful lighting filters on scenes, something that would become popular again with up and coming directors in today’s contemporary filmmaking. Despite being a malevolent spirit, Magar does earn Vito (Mike Muscat) a little sympathy when we flashback to his brutal death, though the scene also reveals his killers as equally cruel and thus removes any residual sympathy we might have had for them. In contrast, George comes across as a very sweet, if not emotionally troubled man and his romance with hooker with a heart of gold Angel (Killer Klowns’ Suzanne Snyder) adds to our empathy for him. George never really gets a break in the flick and it does resonate. Retribution would have left it’s audience with a lingering bittersweet conclusion, had Magar not opted for the cliché shock ending. Concluding it this way also doesn’t make any sense, as Vito’s vengeance is complete and there is no reason for him to continue to hang around. There was also no reason for him to attack Dr. Curtis either in the last act, other than to set up the climax, as she had nothing to do with his murder. On a production level, the film looks good for a slightly over $1 million budget. Magar uses the L.A. street locations effectively, Gary Thieltges’ cinematography is colorful and the electronic score from frequent John Carpenter collaborator Alan Howarth, adds atmosphere and 80s nostalgia.

The cast is good. Dennis Lipscomb is very likable as the troubled artist George. He’s a lonely guy, but not a creep as most characters like this are portrayed. We do feel bad for him when Vito starts to use him to kill. Leslie Wing is pretty and does a good job as the psychiatrist who seems to legitimately care for George. Axton is solid as the stereotypical cop character and Suzanne Snyder is very sweet as Angel. Snyder and Lipscomb have some chemistry together and their scenes together come across as genuine. It makes Angel and George’s tragic romance really click to the story’s benefit.

In conclusion, not a perfect movie, but an effective slasher. It’s a bit slow paced and maybe a few minutes too long, but it has a more serious tone at a time when horrors in the late 80s were becoming more humorous and self-aware. The cast add some depth to their roles and the scenes of horror are colorful and have some intensity. A bit too brutal for it’s own good at times, but otherwise a lesser known 80s horror worth checking out if you haven’t seen it.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) jack o lanterns as it does open on Halloween.

tales of halloween rating

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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988)

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KILLER CLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988)

Sometimes you have to lighten things up a bit during the Halloween season and what better way than with this cult classic horror/comedy!… and one I actually saw in a 42nd Street grind house just before the big ‘clean-up’ ended an era. My only time in one of those theaters and I’m glad I had the expeience.

The story is simple and echoes one of those alien invasion flicks from the 50s with a small California college town being set-upon by a race of aliens, who resemble clowns, with plans of taking over the town and harvesting it’s citizens for food. It’s up to local guy Mike (Grant Kramer) and his girlfriend Debbie (Suzanne Snyder) to somehow convince the stubborn sheriff (John Allen Nelson)… who is also Debbie’s ex-boyfriend… that this is no college prank and the townsfolk are in the midst of a cotton candy covered nightmare. Can Mike save his town from the Bozo-like invaders or will they all find themselves taken to the aliens’ big top shaped mothership to be used as clown food!

Cult classic is a deviously fun romp written, produced and directed by the Chiodo brothers. Every clown cliche in the book is utilized in amusingly gruesome manner from people sealed in cotton candy cocoons, ferocious shadow puppets and popcorn that evolves into jack-in-the-box like creatures, to combating the invaders by shooting them in their big red noses. As shot by Alfred Taylor, the film is as candy colored as it’s villainous clowns and their lethal toys and the production design echoes the nightmare circus it’s supposed to be. Every prop and set has an appropriately circus-esque look but, with a sinister edge that really helps enhance the atmosphere of a sinister big top that director Stephen Chiodo gives this ghoulish delight. And the director does succeed in giving this flick both a sense of dread and a sense of fun as the alien clowns are quite amused by the carnage they create and so are we. We are almost ashamed at how much delight we take in watching a killer clown luring in a little girl while holding a giant mallet behind it’s back or a tiny clown bullied by a biker who gets his block knocked off by the little guy, literally. The Chiodos stuff more clown cliche’s than can fit into a clown car into their midnight movie thriller and all with a sinister edge and the creature effects portraying the villains are very well done, as the rest of the visual FX are charmingly old fashioned. The film can be both spooky and side-splittingly funny and more often than not, at the same time and it works perfectly. Add in John Massari’s spooky circus music imbued score and you’ve got yourself a cult classic midnight movie that accomplishes pretty much everything it set out to do!

The cast all play it fairly straight too, just like in those old 1950’s sci-fi flicks but, you can tell they are having a good time and there are plenty of tongue-in-cheek moments. John Vernon’s mean old cop Mooney chews up the scenery a bit but, it fits his character. Other than that Grant Cramer, John Allen Nelson and Suzanne Snyder all take things serious enough to make it work with the film’s tone of a semi-straight 50s style alien invasion flick… with the invaders being scary clowns with diabolical senses of humor instead of little green men.

A deviously fun cult classic and an almost perfect flick to lighten up your Halloween movie schedule when you need a break from the more intense stuff. Watch it on a night with Night Of The Creeps and The Monster Squad and you’ll have a fun film festival that will still keep the Halloween spirit ghoulishly well.

3 and 1/2 killer klowns!

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