1985 - Horror Top Heavy Once Again
It's tough to pick which movie should have the number 1 spot this week. There are 4 that I feel are worthy, but I love Fright Night too much to drop it. I'm not a big vampire fan outside the classic Dracula character, but there are a handful of movies that get it right. This movie does just that. It's also the first movie I remember my father announcing there wasn't a chance in hell he'd be seeing it when we saw the preview in theaters.
If you've been following each year, you'll remember the name Tom Holland. The magic he worked with the Psycho 2 script (plus the work on Cloak and Dagger, The Beast Within, and Scream for Help) got him an opportunity to direct. Fright Night is his first project. Even better, the studio heads were all tied up with other projects they thought would be bigger hits and left him alone. What we get is a funny, touching, and scary vampire movie that holds up today. Stream on amc+.
Blurb - A teenager discovers that the newcomer in his neighborhood is a vampire, so he turns to an actor in a television horror show for help dealing with the undead.
The only reason Re-Animator isn't #1 is I came to the party a little later than I did with Fright Night. I remember seeing bits and pieces here and there, but never sitting down and consuming this masterpiece start to finish. I rectified that a few years ago with the Arrow Collector's Edition and had immediate regrets. All those years I went Re-Animator free ... what a waste.
This movie has quite a few reasons to be on a top-list.
The movie itself is an amazing mix of horror and comedy with over-the-top gore.
This is Stuart Gordon's directorial debut. He will pop up in future lists as he puts his stamp on the horror genre.
Jeffrey Combs is spectacular as Herbert West. He oozes the self confidence and arrogance needed to pull of the character.
Barbara Crampton throws her hat in the ring for the title of generational scream queen. She will show up in many lists in the future.
Although by the end of filming, it wasn't a faithful adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's story, it is one of the best based on any of his work.
You can stream it on tubi, amc+, and shudder.
Blurb - After an odd new medical student arrives on campus, a dedicated local and his girlfriend become involved in bizarre experiments centering around the re-animation of dead tissue.
Be warned this is the cleanest preview I could find but you're going to see some backsides.
The Return of the Living Dead is next up. Quick note - it's not a part of the Romero Zombie franchise. No these zombies can talk, are smart, and will make you laugh. The movie is directed by Dan O'Brannon, one of the co-creators of Alien. He also suffered from Crohn's before they really knew what it was. My son battle's Crohn's and I like to remind him that even though there were a ton of ups and downs for O'Bannon he was able to follow his dreams. And this was at a time when people were way less understanding about such issues. This one is on HBOMax.
Blurb - When two bumbling employees at a medical supply warehouse accidentally release a deadly gas into the air, the vapors cause the dead to rise again as zombies.
If you've been following along, then you know Paramount killed off their slasher cash-cow in The Final Chapter in 1984. Deciding this was a mistake, the big wigs greenlit Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning. The plan was to have Corey Feldman reprise the role of Tommy, who know suffers from PTSD from the incidents of the 4th movie. The only problem was Feldman was busy making The Goonies and had to settle for an opening scene only. Instead they aged the character and we got TV actor John Sheperd in the Tommy roll (he speaks 24 words in the movie - not lines, words).
The director attempted to go all out with the sex and violence but the MPAA demanded last minute changes to 16 scenes to get them to change the rating from X to R. By this time an X rating was the kiss of death for movies. It was better to get a NR(not rated) and skip the board than an X but both were nearly impossible to get into certain theaters, especially in the U.S. south.
While this movie doesn't have anything to make it special, it is important to the cannon because it continues the legend of Jason and shows the character is still a cash cow. Stream it on Prime and Paramount+
Blurb - Still haunted by his past, Tommy Jarvis, who, as a child, killed Jason Voorhees, is sent to a secluded halfway house in the countryside, where the killing of a young man triggers a brutal series of murders in the area.
Silver Bullet just falls outside of the big 4 but not by much. Stephen King's reign continues as he has 2 more movies in 1985. This is easiest the best of those and off the top of my head is a top 5 movie in a list based on his material. I'm a sucker for a werewolf movie, and this one delivers.
I was a huge fan of the book it's based on, Cycle of the Werewolf. I remember the first time I saw it. It was on a table just outside the Fort Rucker PX next to Baskin Robbins. A lady was selling comics, and horror books and there it was kind of between both. I thought the cover was great and I hadn't soured on King yet ... I mean I was 10 or 11 at this point, still plenty of time. But it was the interior art that made the book a must have. I asked the lady to hold it and I peddled my butt off to scrape together every spare cent I could. Thank God for couch change.
But enough about the book, back to the movie. While Corey Feldman was making waves in Friday the 13th, his buddy Corey Haim got to face off against a werewolf in his electronic wheelchair; throw in Gary Busey as the crazy uncle and you got magic. This movie had a first time director but the screenplay was written by Stephen King, and in the end they made a very entertaining movie. This one is rent/buy right now, but it usually pops up on Prime a few times during the year.
Blurb - In a small town, brutal killings start to plague the close knit community. Marty Coslaw, a paraplegic boy, is convinced the murders are the doings of a werewolf.
Silver Bullet wasn't the only werewolf picture to get released in 1985. They finally released a sequel to The Howling with Howling II: You're Sister is a Werewolf. Like The Return of the Living Dead, the costume designer embraced the mid-80s in this movie and the director filled it with the music of the time. Stream it on tubi.
The biggest plus of this movie is the inclusion of horror icon, Christoper Lee. Although when he meet the director of the first Howling, Joe Dante, he did apologize for appearing in this movie. He stated that he did it because he had never been in a werewolf picture before.
This movie took place in the US and Eastern Europe. It was when they arrived in Czechoslovakia that the crew discovered Lee was a war hero from his action in WW2. He never spoke of it since he was a part of the British Intelligence agency. He killed a top Nazi official in the country and worked to free the people under Nazi rule. He later went on to hunt Nazis after the war.
Blurb - A man discovers that his sister was a werewolf, and helps an investigator track down a gang of the monsters through the United States and eastern Europe.
Another sequel to come out in 1985 was A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge. With the success of part 1, New Line recognized it had a money maker in the Nightmare Franchise and pushed for a sequel. Wes Craven wasn't interested in returning and they didn't even think of bring Nancy back, so we have a new cast behind and in front of the camera. This movie takes place 5 years after the first, and is set in the same house Nancy lived in the first movie. While this movie made money, enough to keep New Line in the black, it is one of the weakest of the Elm Street movies.
It is Kim Myers debut and can be streamed on HBOMax.
Blurb - A teenage boy is haunted in his dreams by deceased child murderer Freddy Krueger, who is out to possess him in order to continue his reign of terror in the real world.
George Romero returns to the Zombie genre that made him so popular with the end of his Dead trilogy, Day of the Dead. While this had the lowest box office gross of the trilogy, it is Romero's favorite. He had a more ambitious screenplay, but they couldn't gather enough funds so his ideas didn't come to life until 20 years later in Land of the Dead. Stream it on peacock, crackle. and shudder.
Blurb - As the world is overrun by zombies, a small group of scientists and military personnel dwelling in an underground bunker in Florida must determine whether they should educate, eliminate or escape the undead horde.
The man who brought the horror world Suspiria, Inferno, and Tenebra produced and wrote the screenplay for Demons. It continues his reign as Italy's King of Horror. You can stream it on Popcornflix with ads.
Blurb - A group of random people is invited to a screening of a mysterious movie, only to find themselves trapped in the theater with ravenous demons.
Dario Argentino also wrote, produced, and directed Phenomena. This is Jennifer Connelly's first starring role in a film, and has Halloween's Donald Pleasence. It joins the number of beautifully shot but violent horror films Argentino provided fans throughout the years. Stream it on tubi, amc+, and shudder.
Blurb - A young girl who has an amazing ability to communicate with insects is transferred to an exclusive Swiss boarding school, where her unusual capability might help solve a string of murders.
With a screenplay by Stephen King and the talents of James Woods & Drew Barrymore, Cat's Eye follows the formula of the classic anthology horror films of the past. The cat takes the viewer on a story that interweaves 3 stories. This is the first King movie to get the new PG-13 rating. It's on HBOMax.
Blrub - A stray cat is the linking element of three tales of suspense and horror.
Maybe this should be higher, but I think I need to rewatch it before making any rash decisions. Lifeforce was directed by Texas Chainsaw Massacre & Poltergeist Director Tobe Hooper and the screenplay was worked on by Dan O'Bannon and his partner at the time. The cast includes Patrick Stewert, Peter Firth, and Mathilda May as a bonus. I know the European cut is a bit more in both the sex and violence but I haven't seen that version to tell you if it's better than the cut released in the States. It's a rent/buy to watch right now.
I will tell you I came up with an idea for a book about space vampires before being reminded about this movie and the book it's based on ... Space Vampires.
Blurb - A race of space vampires arrives in London and infects the populace, beginning an apocalyptic descent into chaos.
From the director of Q(see 1982) and the It Lives franchise, comes The Stuff. A funny horror film with a message, be careful what you consume because it might just consume you. Stream it on amc+, tubi, and shudder.
Blurb - A delicious, mysterious goo that oozes from the earth is marketed as the newest dessert sensation, but the tasty treat rots more than teeth when zombie-like snackers who only want to consume more of the strange substance at any cost begin infesting the world.
Finally, I'm going to put these 2 films together. I haven't seen The Bride in 30 years so I can't remember if it's anymore than a watered down version of The Bride of Frankenstein. The only thing that stands out is it is Beals's second film and Sting's first film after Dune.
The Doctor and The Devils is another movie based on the Burke and Hare case. They were the guys who dug up bodies for doctors in Victorian England to cut up and advance their knowledge. These 2 decided it was easier and more profitable to kill the people and deliver them fresh. The cast is fantastic - Timothy Dalton, Jonathan Pryce, Twiggy, Julian Sands, Stephen Rea, and Patrick Stewert. It's directed by Freddie Francis who did a number of horror films from the 60s and 70s for Hammer and Amicus. But I've watched it recently and something about it is flat. It's one of those movies you watch to see these actors more than to watch the movie itself. Both movies are rent/buy to stream.
1985 was another year where several of my favorite movies while growing up came out. So many that they'll get featured either Wednesday or in one of the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned.