• ERIC BUTLER

1988 - Where Sequels and remakes rule the year.

Originally the subtitle was going to be "A Shift in the Horror Genre". And while I believe 1988 is a year where violence became more front and center in horror and action films, going through these I've noticed they were still fighting with the rating board. Below is my original opening and then throughout I'll notate when a movie was pressed for content ...


While there had been an increase in the violent content shown in both action and horror movies over the last few years, it wasn't until 1988 where there appears to be a visible shift at MPAA with how they applied their ratings. I'm not sure if someone was promoted or those in charge loosened the restrictions, but after a number of movies flirted with the X rating and the creation of the NC-17 rating, movies began to get away with more. The interesting part will be just how long was this uptick in violence left unchecked by the rating board.


This is a tough year to select the first movie to feature. There are some great ones in 1988 ...

Coming off their success with Nightmare on Elm Street 3, Chuck Russell and Frank Darabont continued their winning ways with the remake of The Blob. Looking at the list, I had 3 movies to choose from for the #1 spot. Luckily, I recently watched the Collector's Edition Blu-ray for this one so I knew it was my choice for 1988. The movie is the perfect blend of horror and comedy, something the 2 did so well in Nightmare 3.


Another reason I love this movie so much is its ability to rise above the B-movie feel it could have easily had. The cast is filled with character actors and up-and-comers but no one stands out or feels out-of-place. On top of that, the special effects weren't short-changed. They used $9 million of their $19 million budget on the special effects which give the audience some fun and creative kill scenes. The movie holds up even if Kevin Dillion's hair does not ...


It's a rent/buy to stream. If you like the movie and want to learn more, the Collector's Edition Blu-ray is filled with hours of features.


Blurb - A deadly entity from space crashes near a small town and begins consuming everyone in its path. Panic ensues as shady government scientists try to contain the horrific creature.



So no matter what, Child's Play was always going to be my #2. Tom Holland (a mainstay on the list - Fright Night, Psycho 2) returns to the horror genre after doing Fatal Beauty with Whoopi Goldberg - or maybe not if you've seen the movie.


Child's Play is a great movie with a solid cast, and a fun and memorable killer, who will span a number of sequels. The subject matter was too much for UA/MGM and they disowned the film after it came out, allowing Universal to scoop up the property and all future endeavors. Freddy and Jason both showed there was money to be had with the right face on your franchise. Stream it on Starz.

Blurb - A single mother gives her son a much sought-after doll for his birthday, only to discover that it is possessed by the soul of a serial killer.



I watched Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 over Thanksgiving to make sure my memories of the movie were correct. I came away with 2 conclusions: yes & this movie wasn't going to unseat The Blob.


This movie is one of the reasons I mention a visible shift in the intro, which is funny since originally this movie got the X-rating. So even with the bits they removed, this movie is drenched in blood. They weren't shy about just showing the audience what was happening instead of using suggestion and letting imagination take over. The other problem is New World was forced to slash the budget as they were running out of money towards the end. It doesn't totally kill the film, but there are parts where the effects are questionable.


I remember seeing this as a kid in theaters and being blown away by just how much gore was up on the screen. The Cenobites are awesome as always, but I would have liked a little more of Pinhead. Of course, we will get plenty in future films. Stream it on HULU, Prime, tubi, and Shudder.


Blurb - Kirsty is brought to an institution after the horrible events of Hellraiser (1987), where the occult-obsessive head doctor resurrects Julia and unleashes the Cenobites and their demonic underworld.


So The Unholy holds a special place in my horror-loving heart. Fans of horror movies who were around in the 80s & 90s got most, if not all, of their information from the magazine Fangoria. My first issue featured The Unholy in all its gory glory. I had my mom drive me to the gas station so I could check it out. I still remember walking in and picking it up.


Like everything I purchased for the first time as a youngster, this was a big decision. I'm sure it drove my mom crazy, but I was very meticulous before committing to a purchase.


Side note - it took me over an hour to decide which GI Joe was going to be my first when I was around 8-years-old. Knowing how insane I was, she planted me in front of them and went and did all the shopping while I compared the pros and cons of each one at the PX. I still hadn't made a choice when she came back ... there couldn't have been more than 6 or 7 to choose from. I finally went with Blowtorch.


So back to Fangoria. The cover was promising, listing a number of interesting and recognizable horror happening. I started flipping through it and was blown away. There was so much stuff packed into the issue and some extremely graphic pictures from the set of The Unholy.


I'd like to say I walked up to the counter and just bought it, but I pulled a GI-Joe and went over the magazine with a fine-toothed comb. I'm surprised that the clerk or my mother didn't appear to remind me I wasn't at a library. In the end, I bought it, and The Unholy went to the top of my list of must-see movies in 1988.


The Unholy was originally written around the time of The Exorcist & The Omen and has that old-school 70's vibe. The movie is creepy and gory, and a lot of fun but some effects could have used a CGI bump. You can stream it on VUDUfree.


Blurb - A priest battles a demon that kills sinners in the act of sinning.



With the Tommy Jarvis trilogy coming to an end with Part VI, the idea was to have Jason and Freddy meet on the big screen in Part VII. However, to no one's surprise, the big wigs at Paramount and New Line couldn't agree on compensation so the studio pivoted. Friday the 13th Part VII - the New Blood introduced Tina as the new protagonist.


The supernatural tone continued from Part VI with the bonus of Tina also having powers. This offers the opportunity for bigger fights and more impressive action on film. This is also the first movie Kane Hodder plays Jason. He makes for an impressive figure and gives Jason a menacing presence.


I stated in the opening that movies in 1988 seemed more violent as if the MPAA allowed for more to make it to the big screen. So imagine my surprise when I found a note that said this movie also flirted with an X-rating. It had to be submitted 9 times before they could get the R-rating they wanted. It remains the heaviest censored movie of the franchise. Makes you wonder what they wouldn't allow.


Blurb - Jason Voorhees is accidentally freed from his watery prison by a telekinetic teenager. Now, only she can stop him.



Next up is another sequel, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. I have this #3 in the Elm St series and it is the one that made the largest box office(It was also the highest-grossing horror movie of 1988). As I've said many times before, Freddy was keeping New Line afloat. So much in fact, that Robert Englund got top billing for the first time. They also decided (rumored) to save some more cash by replacing Patricia Arquette with Tuesday Knight.


I'm pretty sure this is the first Elm St I saw in the theaters. So it does have a bit of nostalgia for me, but I do think it's a worthy addition to the franchise. It is Englund's favorite, and you can see how much fun he's having with the character throughout. His popularity grew so much that the studio decided to try it out on TV with Freddy's Nightmares, an anthology series hosted by the man himself. You can watch the movie on HBOMax but the show is unavailable.


Blurb - Freddy Krueger returns once again to terrorize the dreams of the remaining Dream Warriors, as well as those of a young woman who may be able to defeat him for good.



Who would have guessed another sequel that resurrects the cash cow, Michael Myers. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers brings back the original boogieman and gives horror fans what they wanted. The idea of making Halloween an anthology franchise fell flat, mostly due to the studio having Myers appear in the first 2.


Season of the Witch didn't get the response they wanted, and by the end of the 80s, everyone was gaga for the slasher. Freddy and Jason were humming along, and they saw the 10th anniversary of the first movie to be the perfect reason to bring Michael back. Never mind the ending to Part 2, they'd make it work. Find out if they did on amc+ & Shudder.


Blurb - Ten years after his original massacre, the invalid Michael Myers awakens on Halloween Eve and returns to Haddonfield to kill his seven-year-old niece. Can Dr. Loomis stop him?



Phantasm II took a weird road to be made. Creator/Writer/Director Don Coscarelli completed Phantasm in 1979 and Beastmaster in 1982 and then nothing more than a Dio music video. Then Universal stepped in to finance the sequel to the original horror classic. And while they made it the lowest-budgeted film by Universal in the 80s, the $3 million was 10x the amount needed for the first one, and the largest amount of any of the sequels.


However, moving to Universal had its drawbacks. They were more hands-on, demanding certain aspects of the script be changed or ignored and refusing to allow the original actors to come back for the main roles of Mike & Reggie. Coscarelli dug in his heels, even having the 2 actors come in and audition for the roles they played almost 10 years earlier. The studio relented and allowed him to choose 1. He selected Reggie Bannister to reprise the Reggie role and recast Mike. You can stream it on tubi.


Blurb - Mike, now released from a psychiatric hospital, meets with Reggie, and discover his dreams (the events of the original film) are real, and they both journey to find and stop the evil Tall Man from his grim work.



One of the last movies I saw at the Fort Rucker Army Base theater was Return of the Living Dead Part 2. The director Ken Wiederhorn was trying to get out of the horror genre but the studio would only buy his script if he made it a part of the Living Dead series. Many of the cast and crew would comment how little enthusiasm he had for the project as they were making it. While it shows at times, they were able to put together a fun adventure/coming of age movie planted in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. The irony is after this film, he would only be offered horror/comedy opportunities. Stream it on Starz.


Blurb - Curious kids unearth the barrels that previously helped revive the dead, which proves the second time's an undead charm.



Halloween III director Tommy Lee Wallace tackled another sequel with Fright Night 2. Holland was offered the film, but he was still working on Child's Play. However, they did bring back William Ragsdale and Roddy McDowell to reprise their roles. While the movie has a good script and a terrific cast, it made hardly any noise at the box office. Many horror fans didn't even know it existed because of a nonexistent ad campaign and limited release schedule.


The producer in charge of the project was Jose Menendez, who was murdered by his sons soon after the film wrapped. Because he was the main cheerleader for the project, they lost all the backing needed to get the word out about the film. They also lost a chance at a trilogy. I wonder what part 3 might have been like? Part 2 is a rent/buy to watch.


Blurb - Charley Brewster and Peter Vincent must face more vampires, out for revenge.



The last sequel of note in 1988 was the return of Angela in Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers. Director Michael A Simpson wanted to take the film in the direction of some of the more popular slashers and introduce more comedy to the franchise. Felissa Rose read for the part, but she didn't click with the one-liners, and Angela was recast. They filmed parts 2 & 3 back-to-back in about 6 weeks. Stream it on Prime and Tubi.


Blurb - Angela, supposedly reformed and living under an assumed surname, is working at a summer camp. However, when the campers start misbehaving, she soon reverts to her old ways.



First-time director Anthony Hickox wrote the script for Waxwork in 3 days. This is one of the movies that made me think the MPAA was shifting as it is pretty gory in spots but compared to some of today's movies, it's not too bad. The cast is great, including Zach Galligan from Gremlins. The only drawback to the film is a hurried ending that suffers from the production running out of money. It's kind of silly, but it doesn't take away from the actual scenes within the "wax world". Stream it on VUDUfree & tubi.


Blurb - A wax museum owner uses his horror exhibits to unleash evil on the world.



Wes Craven throws his hat into the zombie genre with The Serpent and the Rainbow. Except not the kind of zombies hungry for brains, but the ones you find in Voodoo. This movie is more of a series look at religion and corporate greed clashing as one side wants to keep its secrets and the other is desperate to discover them. Bill Pullman is fantastic in this film, and the horror comes from the unknown and the world he finds himself thrust into.


Another one I saw at the Fort Rucker theater. I was so blown away by it, I went down and asked for the movie poster. He wouldn't give it up, but at the time it never occurred to me to offer him money for it. A missed opportunity. You can stream it with the Max app.


Blurb - An anthropologist goes to Haiti after hearing rumors about a drug used by black magic practitioners to turn people into zombies.



George Romero's first studio picture was Monkey Shines. The film has an amazing cast Jason Beghe, Kate McNeil, Stephen Root, Stanley Tucci, and Janine Turner but the final cut was controlled by the studio and led to the movie flopping at the box office.


I also saw this on base, but this was the only movie where a man in the audience stood up, announced "Holy Shit, I don't think so", and started to walk to the exit only to be dragged back to his seat by his buddy. Dude was huge. Stream it on Prime and tubi to see your reaction.


Blurb - A quadriplegic man has a trained monkey help him with his paralysis, until the little monkey begins to develop feelings, and rage, against its new master.


The final 6 movies that could have been on the list if I wasn't tired ...

Pumpkinhead is based on a Clive Barker story, Dead Ringers continues Cronenberg's dominance of horror films, Elvira is an icon and the movie is funny. Killer Klowns is a Cult classic and Brain Damage and Night of the Demons are gory fun.


Maybe I'll write more about them or you can just hunt them down and watch them.



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