Galaxy of Terror (1981)

Galaxy of TerrorAfter making fifty-plus films since 1955, Roger Corman was tired of directing and stepped down as a producer. The guy is now 97 years old and is still working in the business. Salute! With his company, New World Pictures, he hired young talents who would later work in big Hollywood films. And Galaxy of Terror is more or less his trademark film with the ingredients Corman got notoriously known for: schlock and awe with tons of entertainment value. Galaxy of Terror had a budget of 1.8 million dollars and was filmed in Roger Corman’s backyard in Venice, California.

 

The film starts with a space guy who runs from someone, or something, in a spaceship which has crashlanded on the mysterious planet Morganthus. He gets brutally killed by an unseen force which we soon learn comes from a huge, futuristic-looking pyramid not so far from the crashing site.

 

We’re not on Earth, however, but on planet Xerxes where an obscure ruler called Planet Master whose face is covered with a red, gloving dot is ordering the crew of the spaceship Quest to go on a mission on the same planet we saw in the beginning. Why? That’s a good question. We meet our crew of ten: Cabren, Alluma, Kore, Baelon, Ranger, Dameia, Quuhold, Cos, Captain Trantor and Commander Ilvar. The two most familiar faces we see here are Sid Haig, 22 years before he became a more household name as the killer clown Spalding. The other one is Robert Englund, three years before he wrote film history with his killer glove.

 

As the crew lands on the planet, they are quick to discover the pyramid, which they decide to investigate. And what they encounter as soon as they even touch the pyramid are not scary aliens, but a manifestation of their own deepest fears which are ready to kill them in the most brutal ways.

 

Visually, the film takes a lot of inspiration from Alien and copies the style of H.R. Giger with some mixture of 1950s sci-fi. So it’s no wonder it’s been called a rip-off of that film. But that’s only on the surface. Plot-wise, Galaxy of Terror goes in its own unique direction whereas Event Horizon took the concept to the more extreme.

 

The most remarkable thing here is the set-design and overall look of the planet, which was constructed by a young workaholic by the name James Cameron. He worked day and night on the set, also as a second-unit director, to prove himself, and so he did. Much of the visual style was also used some years later in Aliens which explains some of the similarities. The spaceship hallways were set up in Roger Corman’s own house.

 

And with that being said, the film has enough of schlock and fun B-movie moments to get entertained by. There’s some very wonky and eye-rolling dialogue here and no one can blame Sid Haig for demanding to play his character as a mute. That was only until he had to say his one line I live and I die by the crystals.” And sure he did. RIP. The acting is overall decent and they do the very best of what they had to work with. We have some great and fun death scenes that include a victim getting sucked by some tentacles with the most cartoonish slurping sound effect. Robert Englund fights an apparition of his dark self (an early glimpse of Freddy, perhaps?) while the others among the crew get burned alive and blown to pieces.

 

And, of course, what is Galaxy of Terror without its classic rape scene? And not just any rape scene, but with a huge, slimy maggot! Director Bruce Clark refused to film it, so Roger Corman had to step in and do it instead. He’d already gotten some flak for filming a rape scene in Humanoids From the Deep the year before where a fish monster fucks one of the victims. So this was clearly right up his alley. The blonde actress Taaffe O’Connell got the pleasure of almost getting killed when the thing almost squeezed her to death, completely naked and covered in slime, during filming. Luckily, she survived and looks back at the incident with a great sense of humor. This scene had to go through the editing process three times before it got an R rating instead of an X. This was originally meant to be a morbid love scene where Taaffe moans like a porn star and literally dies of an orgasm overdose. Anyway, it became the film’s big money shot, which Robert Englund can tell when a film critic in a suit and tie once came to him shortly after the release and said: You were MARVELOUS in that film where the giant maggot FUCKED THE GIRL!”

 

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Director: Bruce D. Clark
Writers: Marc Siegler, Bruce D. Clark
Country & year: US, 1981
Actors: Edward Albert, Erin Moran, Ray Walston, Bernard Behrens, Zalman King, Robert Englund, Taaffe O’Connell, Sid Haig, Grace Zabriskie, Jack Blessing, Mary Ellen O’Neill
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082431/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rats – Night of Terror (1984)

Rats - Night of Terror

They’re here! They’re coming!

God! No!

 

The year is 250 A.B. in a distant Mad Max world where the planet Earth has been blown to dust by nuclear bombs. A group of bikers are on the look for food and shelter and discover some decayed, empty laboratory in the city. But don’t get too comfy cuz the place is crawling with rats! Big, fat rats. Thousands of them! And like our group of bikers they’re hungry as well and takes a bite out of every human flesh they can jump on. It’s already time to find the flame thrower.

 

The only believable aspects about this very cheese-smelling low budget apocalyptic flick is the abandoned city set-designs which also was used in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America. And with a pretty decent cinematography, despite the circumstances, the film at least gets the atmosphere and the sense of the apocalyptic environment and surroundings. We also have some gory and graphic moments here as well, the most notable being the lucky rat which we can assume crawls straight into someones vagina and eats itself out of the dead victims mouth. Yum!

 

And then there’s the… rats. We have some hundreds of them running around the actors feet as they try to make us believe that they fights against them while they also do their very best to not harm them. Because no rats where harmed during the making of this motion picture. And it looks as inept and retarded as it sounds. Not that I want to see rats, or other animals, getting killed, but still. Several rats died of natural causes during the making, though (RIP), but director Bruno Mattei had no budget to waste them. Instead the genius used them as props by throwing them at the actors to make it look like they jumped on their victims. Pure movie magic.

 

We’re also entertained by a group of actors who mostly couldn’t look a bit scared even if they were paid a million. Instead we have goofy faces, monotone screams and just overall bad acting. All of course Italians which was poorly dubbed with stiff cartoonish lines, like most of the older bad Italian horror films. And if you sense the smell of cheese getting stronger, you’re not wrong. Claudio “Troll 2” Fragasso co-wrote and co-directed (without credit) the film. Other sources says that he didn’t direct a single scene. But just pretend he did, cuz that makes it even funnier. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it was him that came up with the batshit twist at the end.

 

Rats - Night of Terror Rats - Night of Terror Rats - Night of Terror

 

Director: Bruno Mattei
Writers: Bruno Mattei, Claudio Fragasso, Hervé Piccini
Original title: Rats – Notte di terrore
Country & year: Italy, France, 1984
Actors: Ottaviano Dell’Acqua, Geretta Geretta, Massimo Vanni, Gianni Franco, Ann-Gisel Glass, Jean-Christophe Brétignière, Fausto Lombardi, Henry Luciani, Cindy Leadbetter, Christian Fremont
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0086176/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Watcher in the Woods (1980)

The Watcher in the WoodsPaul and Helen Curtis moves into a manor located in rural England, together with their two daughters Jan and Ellie. The manor is owned by an elderly woman named Mrs. Aylwood, and she lives in the guest house next door. Mrs. Aylwood once had a daughter, Karen, but she disappeared in an abandoned chapel in the woods thirty years ago. Upon seeing a photo of Karen, Jan notices that she actually looks a lot like this girl. And she also starts sensing something strange about the place, witnessing strange lights in the woods, glowing objects, and visions of a blindfolded girl in the mirror. When getting to know some of the townspeople, Jan wants to find out more about Karen’s mysterious disappearance in the woods all those years ago, and finds that she was together with a bunch of friends that night. What they were up to and what happened to Karen is something only they would know, but none of them are willing to talk about it.

 

The Watcher in the Woods is a supernatural film from 1980, directed by John Hough and Vincent McEveety, and Produced by Walt Disney Productions, being one of several live-action films from a time when the studio focused on targeting young adult audiences. It is based on a novel from 1976 by Florence Engel Randall, and it was filmed at Pinewood Studios and the surrounding areas in Buckinghamshire, England. The building that’s being used in the film is called Ettington Park Manor, and it was also used in The Haunting (1963).

 

Upon its release, the film had to be pulled from the theaters pretty fast as the response was overwhelmingly negative, both from critics and audiences, and many considered it “too dark”. Thus, the studio made the decision to make changes to the movie, with extensive reshoots and a brand new ending, and re-released it eighteen months later in 1981. Despite the critical response being so harsh, the film still ended up gaining a cult following over the years.

 

Now, this movie is certainly not one to watch if you want something scary. It’s from a time when Disney started dipping their toes into PG-rated films, with…well…rather mixed results. Something Wicked This Way Comes is probably one of their best and most memorable efforts among these. While The Watcher in the Woods is more aimed at a young audience, it still does have a certain appeal with a gothic teenage mystery vibe to it, and it is of course heightened by the performance of Bette Davis, who plays Mrs. Aylwood. There are some spooky goings-on, with some charming old-school supernatural effects, and I can easily imagine that seeing this as a kid during the 80’s would make a certain impact. Then again, the director John Hough previously directed the 1973 horror film The Legend of Hell House, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is at least some spookiness here.

 

So I’d say that overall, The Watcher in the Woods works as a family suspense thriller, layered with a certain old-school charm.

 

The Watcher in the Woods The Watcher in the Woods The Watcher in the Woods

 

Director: John Hough
Writers: Brian Clemens, Harry Spalding, Rosemary Anne Sisson
Country & year: UK, US, 1980
Actors: Bette Davis, Lynn-Holly Johnson, Kyle Richards, Carroll Baker, David McCallum, Benedict Taylor, Frances Cuka, Richard Pasco, Ian Bannen, Katharine Levy, Eleanor Summerfield, Georgina Hale
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081738/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

976-Evil (1988)

976-EvilIn this directorial debut of Robert “Freddy Krueger” Englund, we dial the number 976 to hear our horrorscopes. Yes, with three R’s. And anyone who dials this cursed number will hear a voice by Satan himself as he speaks in riddles how you’ll die in just a few moments.

 

In real life, 976 was an actual premium-rated telephone number that allowed people to call services of everything from Tech support, overall entertainment to phone sex. And, of course, having your horoscope read (with one R). The service also charged extra, which was every parent’s nightmare when they got the next phone bill.

 

Fun fact: Robert Englund still meets fans at comic cons who tell him that their worst grounding by their parents was when they called Freddy himself on a 976 number where Englund laid down a bunch of stock replies. He would also on occasions answer the phone for people all over America for an hour. This was at the peak of Freddy mania. Fun times.

 

One of the callers we meet here is the teenager Hoax (Stephen Geoffreys). He’s an awkward nerdy introvert on the spectrum of mentally retarded. He lives across his cousin Spike (Patrick O’Bryan), who is the polar opposite of Hoax: cool and a badass pussy magnet. And Hoax looks up to him as Spike has to protect him from being bullied. He also lives with his crazy, religious mom who doesn’t make things easier. And Spike can’t protect his sorry ass every minute as he also has a girlfriend to be with. Hoax gets frustrated, angry and now wants to show the bullies and even his mom that he’s no longer to be messed with. After a Satanic ritual and a 976 call, he gets slowly possessed by Beelzebub, develops supernatural powers and big claws to have his sweet revenge.

 

The first forty minutes or so in this “anti-bullying film” (as Englund calls it) are pretty slow and clunky, and with a script co-written by Brian Helgeland (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Highway to Hell, Mystic River), I expected some more insanity, for lack of a better term. We have a weird love/hate relationship between the cousins Hoax and Spike to build up some dramatic tension. Unfortunately, their chemistry isn’t quite there. Spike also has a girlfriend, Suzie, who mostly looks bored until she gets attacked by spiders. We have a detective, who investigates the source of the cursed 976 call, who looks even more bored. The only one who stands out among the flat characters is the clumsy goofball Hoax as he wears the same nerdy outfit throughout the whole film, except some scenes where he’s wearing a cute pajamas.

 

The real fun is when Hoax starts to get possessed through several stages with some really tasteful make-up effects by Kevin Yagher, who also worked on the original Child’s Play and several of the Elm Street films. We also have some clever use of miniatures, and a climax with set-designs which look like something from a dream sequence from the already mentioned franchise. The direction is mostly solid with colorful, vibrant cinematography in the purest 1980s style. Robert Englund is of course the one behind the evil 976 voice, where he does his very best to not sound like Freddy Krueger. The gore is very minimal, as low-budget as this is, but the little we have is at least well done.

 

As much as we love the cheesy and distinct corniness of the 1980s it must be said how ridiculously dated the film is. Such as being a nerd in that decade was the most “gay and uncool” thing ever. The concept with payphones and if not novelty phones where you actually had to get your fat ass from the couch to dial the number to the local pizza delivery. Could anyone born after the 2000s even grasp to imagine? My oh my, the ole’ days… It’s funny how Robert Englund had to repeat himself during the commentary track on the Blu-ray to remind the Gen Z how insanely different the world actually once was.

 

976-Evil overall is a very mixed bag that maybe works best just as a curiosity to see how our favorite boogeyman from the 80s is as a director. Slow first-half, full popcorn entertainment with some extra cheese during the rest. The film was released on Blu-ray from Eureka Classics in 2020 with an extended version and commentary track by Robert Englund and his wife Nancy Booth, which both met on the set of the film and has been married since. How cute.

 

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Director: Robert Englund
Writers: Rhet Topham, Brian Helgeland
Country & year: US, 1988
Actors: Stephen Geoffreys, Jim Metzler, María Rubell, Lezlie Deane, J.J. Cohen, Patrick O’Bryan, Sandy Dennis, Darren E. Burrows, Gunther Jenson, Jim Thiebaud, Robert Picardo, Paul Willson, Greg Collins
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094597/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cat’s Eye (1985)

Cat's EyeThis feline adventure starts with a stray tabby cat which is getting chased by a dog, and ends up hiding in a delivery truck. This truck drives to New York City, where the cat sees the vision of a young girl through a display window. She pleads for the cat to come and help her, but then a guy comes and pick the cat up and puts it in a cage, and here the first story of this film starts. The cat is taken to a clinic called “Quitters, Inc.”, where smokers are coming in order to kick their smoking habit. Dick Morrison, a smoker who has been advised by a friend to join Quitters, is signing up before he knows anything about what he’s in for: he’s told that from now on, every time he fails holding back the urge and smokes a cigarette, horrors will befall his wife and child. The sadistic counselor shows him a room, where Dick gets to see the tabby cat inside where electric shocks comes from the floor, causing the cat to jump around in fright and pain. After this display, he says it will be his wife in that room if the smokes just one cigarette from now on. If he fails a second time, it will be his child. And if he fails a third time…well, I’m not even going to say what he claims they’ll do to his wife then. What could possibly go wrong from here… but at least, in the end, our cat hero manages to escape the place so we can get to the second story of the film.

 

Next, the cat manages to leave Manhattan via the Staten Island Ferry, and ends up in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he once again sees the disembodied image of the girl asking for his help. But then, the cat is taken home by a crime boss and casino owner, Cressner, whose wife plans to leave his abusive ass for another man named Norris. Cressner has Norris kidnapped, blackmails him, and gives him the chance to get away if he manages to successfully circumnavigate the exterior ledge of Cressner’s penthouse. Nothing goes smoothly for the people involved in this story either, of course, but once again the cat manages to get away of course.

 

Then we get to the final story, where the cat gets on a freight train and ends up in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he finally meets the girl that he’s been seeing visions of. Her name is Amanda, and she eagerly adopts the cat and names him General. The mother tries to protest, because she’s afraid the cat will harm their parakeet Polly. What they don’t know is that something else has gotten inside the house that will harm not only Polly, but Amanda as well: a malevolent little troll who kills the parakeet with a tiny dagger. Guess who gets the blame for that. But the troll is also after Amanda, trying to steal her breath while she sleeps, and General is the only one who can save her.

 

Cat’s Eye is a 1985 anthology fantasy horror film, directed by Lewis Teague and written by Stephen King. Teague also directed Cujo (1983), another film based on a Stephen King book. The three stories included are Quitters, Inc., The Ledge, and General. The first two are based on two short stories from Night Shift, while the third story was written for the film. It had a budget of $7 million, and grossed a little over $13 million at the box office. It was nominated for the International Fantasy Film Award for Best Film in 1987. The theatrical trailer for the movie actually claimed that this was Stephen King’s first motion picture screenplay, but that’s actually incorrect, as he previously wrote the screenplay for Creepshow (1982). This being a movie based on Stephen King’s stories, it comes as no surprise that it’s stuffed with several easter-eggs from King’s other stories, where the dog chasing the cat in the start of the movie is none other than Cujo himself, and the cat also nearly gets run over by Christine. The child actor who plays Amanda, Drew Barrymore, previously appeared in Firestarter (1984).

 

Now, Cat’s Eye is pretty much exactly what you would expect: fun, whimsical and overall very entertaining. It’s filled with 80’s magic. Prior to watching the movie, on a blu-ray release from 2022, we were greeted with a notification saying “Please note that this film reflects historical attitudes which audiences may find outdated or offensive“. Now, this ghoul woman is certainly not a youngster anymore and literally grew up with movies that are considered offensive today, but I honestly had problems finding what could be so offensive here. The smoking, perhaps? Er, well, whatever. Offended people will be offended, I guess. Talking about the smoking parts, there are some scenes in that story that is truly over the top where the smoke-craving guy starts hallucinating and sees a dude blowing smoke out of his ears while making train noises, and cigarette packs walking around the place with lady legs. Jeez! Overall the movie has a very lighthearted tone, despite a couple scenes that are rather dark, and it mixes the fantasy elements with the horror and humor quite well.

 

The effects are solid, where they used huge props for the girl’s room in order to make the little malevolent troll appear small. While the final story with the troll is a lot more cheesy and fantasy-themed compared to the other two stories, it still fits surprisingly well with the rest as the quirky tone from the very get-go makes us expect pretty much anything to happen. It’s fun, charming, and could easily make you purr over the fanciful 80’s nostalgia. The movie also includes a synth-score by Alan Silvestri, which bears some resemblance to his score for Back to the Future which was also released the same year. And who can resist the catchy theme song!

 

Cat's Eye Cat's Eye Cat's Eye

 

 

Director: Lewis Teague
Writer: Stephen King
Country & year: US, 1985
Actors: Drew Barrymore, James Woods, Alan King, Kenneth McMillan, Robert Hays, Candy Clark, James Naughton, Tony Munafo, Court Miller, Russell Horton, Patricia Benson, Mary D’Arcy, James Rebhorn
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088889/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Troll (1986)

TrollHarry Potter Jr. is to be drawn into a world beyond his wildest fantasy and he’ll need a little magic of his own to get out of it alive.

 

The Potter family of four (dad Harry Potter Sr, mom Anne Potter, their son Harry Potter Jr and daughter Wendy Anne Potter) are moving into an apartment complex in the Bay Area of San Fransisco. As the daughter Wendy Anne (Jenny Beck) starts exploring, she goes down to the laundry room in the basement where she encounters — drumroll — a troll! This little goofy-looking monster creature, which looks as menacing as a fluffy baby panda, wears a magic green ring that allows him to take the appearance of other people.

 

And no, just for clearance, this girl is not the twin sister of Heather O’Rourke, nor does she spit acid on people’s face (for those who took the V: The Final Battle reference).

 

The troll, now in Wendy Anne’s innocent appearance, goes from apartment to apartment and transforms the tenants to trees, bushes and whatever. One of the tenants, played by a young and unknown Julia Louis-Dreyfus (four years before she got the big break), gets the pleasure to get transformed into a nymph and spends the rest of the screentime running around half-naked in her forest-transformed apartment as she giggles and laughs like an overstimulated little girl high on too much sugar. The whole complex is to turn into a schlocky B-movie madhouse which is soon to crawl of mythical creatures.

 

As they emerge in the apartments they have a catchy little satanic chant that could as well have been written by Danny Elfman for a Tim Burton movie. A scene I ‘d guess the kids of the 80s were pretty mesmerized by while the parents had a thumb ready to click the off-button.

 

As things get more and more weird around the complex, Wendy Anne’s brother, Harry (played by The Neverending Story star Noah Hathaway) gets in contact with the elderly woman Eunice St. Clair. She’s a witch, but don’t worry, she’s from the north. And we learn that she has some close connection to the troll and that he must be stopped. Is Harry Potter Jr. the one to save the day from evil trolls, wizards and whatnot?

 

Or what do you think, J. K. Rowling?

 

Beg your Pardon..? How could she know, when she denies to have even seen the movie. Yeah right. And I have never seen a porno movie. The filmmakers took it pretty far, though, and even considered to file a law-suit against Rowling after they suspected her of copying both the name of Harry Potter and the magical theme from the film. A remake was also planned to be made in the mid-2000s where John Carl Buechler, who also directed this film, was to return as director – but the success of Rowling’s Harry Potter and its film adaptations somehow made it convoluted due to copyright. What a mess. So yeah, Charles Band and company had their reasons to be a little bitter.

 

And speaking of Charles Band, this was the only film under the Empire Pictures banner (pre Full Moon) to have a PG-rating, if I’m not mistaken. Except some very minor hint of body-horror this a safe enough film to play at your kid’s sixth birthday. Despite the kid-friendly approach, the film has the Charles Band/Full Moon fingerprints all over the place with its silly humor and overall goofy, whimsical nature with actors who seem both confused and disoriented. The effects reek of 80s cheese and the troll costume worn by the Willow actor Phil Fondacaro is cute. Some of the other puppet creatures were recycled from The Dungeonmaster (1984).

 

Troll is also notable for having the Seinfeld star Julia-Lous Dreyfus in her first film role. And she couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this film and look back with some humble, nostalgic joy. So proud in fact that she called Jay Leno an asshole twice after he screened some clips from the film when she was a guest on his Late Show. Not much of a thick skin on that lady’s meatsuit or much sense of self-irony, being a comedian and all. Just like Jennifer Aniston’s view of her first filmrole in Leprechaun, she’s seriously ashamed as if she got reminded of that time she ripped a wet fart in public that went on repeat for ten hours. She should at least consider herself damn lucky for not being a part of the unofficial sequel that is Troll 2, because oh my God!

 

Troll Troll Troll

 

 

Director: John Carl Buechler
Writers: John Carl Buechler, Ed Naha
Country & year: US, 1986
Actors: Noah Hathaway, Michael Moriarty, Shelley Hack, Jenny Beck, Sonny Bono, Phil Fondacaro, Brad Hall, Anne Lockhart, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Gary Sandy, June Lockhart, Robert Hathaway
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0092115/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Night of the Demon (1980)

Night of the DemonNight of the Demon Bigfoot is an amateur monster schlock from 1980, which starts off with a wounded dude, Bill Nugent, lying in a hospital bed surrounded by doctors and a police inspector. He’s an anthropology professor, you see, and here’s his fascinating story you wouldn’t believe, which is about his adventure with a group of his students to track down Bigfoot in the woods of Northern California. And he has to convince the doctors that he’s not insane and that he was the only one who survived Bigfoot after the monster killed all of the students.

 

And good-fucking luck with that, my dude. Mr. Kallen from Slapped Ham would have loved to have you on his first podcast.

 

Bill starts with the first story, the first series of flashback scenes where we see Bigfoot killing random people. The first victim is some guy in the forest who’s getting ready to fish by a river. In order to have some suspense here, the monster is shown through POV and off-screen and, just like in the great classic Blackenstein, we have a moment where we see the monster rip his arm off with zero force in silhouette. Someone has clearly taken notes from the very best. While he bleeds to death with the use of the thinnest cranberry juice streaming from his ripped arm, the blood streams down to fill one of Bigfoot’s footprints, following the opening credits.

 

As Bill and his group of students head into the forest to find our mythic creature, they hear about this lady Wanda. She’s a mysterious outcast who lives as a hermit in a cabin deep in the woods, and the legend says that she knows where Bigfoot is. Okay, then. In the meanwhile, as they’re heading for Wanda’s cabin, we get some more flashback scenes told by Bill as they sit around the campfire to remind us how dangerous this Bigfoot is. All these campfire scenes were shot and added during the post production because the producer wanted to amp up the gore. We see Bigfoot killing people in different ways, but don’t get too excited. In one scene, he even uses an axe and the effect is the cheapest-looking rubber wound sticker they could afford.

 

The most memorable scene is the biker dude who gets his dick ripped off when he’s about to take a piss. Because this is no laughing matter. This is serious. Dead serious. Just look at the deadpan seriousness on Bill’s face when he tells the story. Don’t you dare to even chuckle or roll your eyes in disbelief. Show some respect for the poor guy.

 

We also have a campfire story about this random couple who’s about to have sex in a van. This is also the only body count flashback scene (as far as I remember) that was not shot in broad daylight. This is one of the more what-the-fuck-moments where the guy gets dragged by Bigfoot up to the top of the car while the lady can’t decide how to react as she makes orgasms sounds and looks confused rather than terrified. It’s noteworthy to mention that director James C. Wasson mainly produced porn films, so maybe there are some connections there.

 

Then there’s the star of the film, the man, myth and the legend himself: Bigfoot… and I have to be honest and say that the face-makeup is not the worst I’ve seen. Some effort went in here for sure, and I would assume the make-up artists took some inspiration from the creation of Michael Myer’s mask in Halloween, only here based on the face of Mick Jagger. And I don’t think anything can really top that.

 

Night of the Demon is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Severin Films, restored and uncut. A fun time for all lovers of schlock and funny-bad movies.

 

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Director: James C. Wasson
Writers: Mike Williams, Jim L. Ball
Country & year: US, 1980
Actors: Michael Cutt, Joy Allen, Bob Collins, Jody Lazarus, Rick Fields, Michael Lang, Melanie Graham, Shannon Cooper, Paul Kelleher, Ray Jarris
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0081229/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghost Story (1981)

Ghost StoryIt’s a cold winter in the small New England town of Milburn. The year is 1979, and four elderly friends who have formed a men’s club which they call the Chowder Society, get together to tell each other ghost stories. These men are the businessman Ricky Hawthrone (Fred Astaire), the lawyer Sears James (John Houseman), the physician John Jaffrey (Melvyn Douglas) and Mayor Edward Charles Wanderley (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.). Meanwhile, in New York City, Edward’s son David dies after falling from his apartment window in a high rise building, something we witness was caused by him stumbling backwards in shock as his girlfriend suddenly turned into a living corpse right before his eyes. Edward’s other son, Don, then comes home to see his father, who soon after also dies in a snowstorm when falling off a bridge. Don doesn’t believe for a second that his father committed suicide, and approaches his father’s friends of the Chowder Society and wants to gain membership there by offering a ghost story of this own. And his tale soon reveals something about a mysterious woman named Eva Galli, who is apparently the source of everything that is happening to them…

 

Ghost Story is a supernatural horror film from 1981, directed by John Irvin and based on the novel by the same name written by Peter Straub. It stars Fred Astaire (this was his last film), Melvyn Douglas (also his last film, and he previosuly had a role in the excellent ghost horror film The Changeling from 1980), Douglas Fairbanks Jr., John Houseman, Craig Wasson (who played a role in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) and Alice Krige (who played the evil witch in Gretel & Hansel from 2020, and also had roles in Silent Hill from 2006 and Sleepwalkers from 1992). Thus, there’s a handful of recognizable faces for horror fans here.

 

Aside from a strong cast, there’s definitely a good amount of atmosphere as we watch the elderly gentlemen either sit by the fire telling their stories, or in some kind of supernatural misfortune. It’s almost like you can smell the mix of cigars and Old Spice through the screen. The movie itself moves along at a leisurely pace, offering scares on a very limited scale but instead focusing on upping the underlying apprehension for what is to come. The apparition and ghost effects are quite decent, however sparsely they’re actually used. Spooky scenes of an old dilapidated house, flashback scenes and some shots of a delightful wintery landspace makes the film pretty nice visually, although any major scares are sorely lacking.

 

Now, for those who have read the book, you’ll notice that the movie is very different in so many ways. Normally, a movie adaptation usually has more than a few changes, but there are those that have changed a few things here and there and then there are those that have changed so much that it’s barely even the same story anymore. The movie adaptation of Ghost Story belongs to the latter category. I won’t spoil too much, but the original story is so much more than just a ghost story, and the drastic change in the movie version also caused several key elements to be removed entirely. Some characters, like Gregory Bate and his little brother Fenton, feels like they were shoehorned in just to have them there, because the lack of their eerie backstory pretty much removes their purpose completely. Originally, Peter Straub was unhappy with the final result due to the removal of elements and complete change of his story, and as a result he would not allow any further adaptions of his books. Over the years, though, he did apparently soften up on it and have praised the actors, music and atmosphere in the film despite being disappointed with the movie overall. He was grateful that it actually caused people to seek out the book, as the movie did have quite the success with a total of $23,371,905 at the United States box office, which made it the third-highest grossing horror film in 1981 and the 34th highest grossing film of the year.

 

Personally, I would recommend the book as a much more complex, intriguing and immensely layered supernatural story, and I could easily see how the book could have made for a pretty good miniseries or even TV series, if made by the right people. But regarding this movie, then overall I’d say it works well as an average, old-fashioned atmospheric Ghost Story.

 

Ghost Story Ghost Story Ghost Story

 

Director: John Irvin
Writers: Peter Straub, Lawrence D. Cohen
Country & year: US, 1981
Actors: Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., John Houseman, Craig Wasson, Patricia Neal, Alice Krige, Alice Krige, Jacqueline Brookes, Miguel Fernandes, Lance Holcomb
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0082449/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Contact (1985)

Making ContactTake a bunch of obscure deleted scenes from E.T., Poltergeist, and some unreleased haunted house movie made by Disney TV, stitch them randomly together with little to no context – and then you have Making Contact, written and directed by Roland Emmerich. Yes, the master of disaster himself who gave us Independence Day.

 

And no, Making Contact, which Emmerich made eight years before his global breakthrough with Stargate, has nothing to do with making contact with space or aliens. I don’t exactly know what the movie is trying to make contact with… A cohesive plot it is certainly not, and I don’t even think that a young, struggling Roland Emmerich knew. He just wanted to make an entertaining movie, according to the film’s wiki page. And entertaining it is, but mostly for the wrong reasons. And that’s always something I can appreciate.

 

The film centers around the young kid, Joey, who’s just had his dad buried. Why, what or how, we never get to know. The same night, while he’s in his room, the house gets haunted by… something. All the toys start to move and a red-glowing toy phone in his closet starts ringing. On the other end is his dad, or that is what we’re supposed to believe. We’re only some minutes in when I can already picture this as one of the many unofficial sequels that got spewed out of Italy during the 1980s. And if that was the case here, this would be released as Poltergeist 2, without any questions.

 

Joey and his mother also happen to live next door to the same house from the Psycho films. Here it’s condemned and ready to be demolished. One day, Joey goes for an exploration in its cobwebbed basement, where he finds a ventriloquist dummy. The dummy’s name is not Norman Bates but Fletcher, and we soon learn that he’s possessed by a demon or something which should rather be locked up in a blessed cage in the occult museum of Ed and Lorraine Warren.

 

Weird, supernatural shit also occurs at school where an egg rolls by itself over a ruler from one table to another. Some girls’ pigtails start to float just out of the blue… and when I thought I’d seen it all: instead of a bunch of chairs stacked up on each other in the kitchen, we have some sharp knives stuck in the kitchen cupboard.

 

Making Contact is a weird mesmerizing mess that can never decide what direction it wants to go with a tone that bounces all over the place. There’s a side-plot with the demon possessed-whatever doll that never gets explained. The other kids in Joey’s class set up a plan to kill him because…because. Joey suddenly has telekinetic powers. Scientists set up a lab at Joey’s house. Kids are running around in Norman Bate’s huge underground basement where a big hamburger-shaped monster pops up, and some other ghoulish creatures for a quick moment. The top of a big maze can be seen in the distance and I wonder if there’s a shrine in there as well. The visual effects look like scraps from Mr. Boogedy.

 

Almost the entire cast is of non-actors who’s only appeared in this film, most of which are Germans while the shooting took place in Germany, Virginia Beach and at the backlot of Universal Studios in California where the exterior of the Psycho house is located. The film got English dubbing for its DVD release with a new musical score which sounds very familiar to a certain John Williams. And now I’m almost tempted to claim that Steven Spielberg actually ghost directed the film in some bizarre alternative universe while he snorted lines with Tobe Hooper. Because the more I think of this film the more confused I get.

 

Making Contact is obscure for a reason, but the weird and goofy nature of it, and if not considering who’s directed it, makes it more of a morbid curiosity and something to at least have some fun with. Emmerich followed up with the horror comedy Ghost Chase, aka Hollywood Monster, in 1987 which is even more nuttier.

 

Making Contact Making Contact Making Contact

 

 

Director: Roland Emmerich
Writers: Roland Emmerich, Hans J. Haller, Thomas Lechner
Original title: Joey
Country & year: West Germany, US, 1985
Actors: Joshua Morrell, Eva Kryll, Tammy Shields, Jan Zierold, Barbara Klein, Matthias Kraus, Jerry L. Hall Jr., Sean Johnson, Christine Goebbels, Ray Kaselonis
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0089378/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hobgoblins (1988)

HobgoblinsWriter, producer, editor and director Rick Sloane is a true independent auteur, no one can at least take that away from him. He’s made 16 movies over the course of the decades since the early 80’s, and we all should know about his Vice Academy films, a spoof of Police Academy which spawned five whole sequels. Yet he’s known for one movie and one movie only: Hobgoblins – one of the most, if not the most, sour fart-smelling and cringe-inducing cheese fests from the 1980s that got its place on the Worst Films Ever Made list and became a cult-classic of so-bad-it’s-good-movies.

 

The film starts in some old movie studio where the young nightguard, Dennis, have been strictly told by his older co-worker McCreedy to stay far away from the vault. Of course he won’t. And when he enters it, he’s suddenly on a stage in his own fantasy land where he’s a rock star. Shortly after he grabs the mike and does some silly movements, and ends up getting killed, off screen. A new young guy gets hired with the same warnings to stay away from the vault. Pffft, yeah right. One night when he opens it, a group of fluffy Mogwai/Critter hybrid creatures escape from the vault and drive away in a golf cart.

 

To quote the back of the Blu-ray; as bodycounts starts to rise, Kevin, with help of his friends, decide to track down the deadly creatures before they wreak havok on the city.

 

There’s only one (yes 1) bodycount in the entire film though, and that’s the guy we saw in the beginning, and the film is as tame as a newborn kitten. We learn that the creatures came from space in the 1950s in a small shuttle that crashlanded near the movie studio where McCreedy was a nightguard. He has since then kept them trapped in the vault, since anyone who encounters them will have their fantasy wishes come true, only until they get killed by the creatures. And guess what: they also get attracted to very bright lights. Rick Sloane claims that he wrote the script for Hobgoblins several years before Gremlins, by the way, so don’t you even dare to think otherwise.

 

There’s no more plot to break down from here ’cause there isn’t any. We have a string of nonsensical scenes where our group of protagonists keeps bullshitting around Kevin’s house. We have some rivalry between Mike and some Rambo wannabe who fights with rakes, because…just because. Later that night, they have a party where the creatures finally stop by to get the plot going forward. We eventually end up in some sleazy nightclub where it just gets more crazy and weird.

 

Hobgoblins

 

Hobgoblins is a real stink bomb in every aspect with the production value of an episode of ALF. The direction, the acting, the story (if there is any), the characters, the pacing, the effects, everything falls completely on its face. The attempt to be a comedy is like … I can’t even put a word on it. It’s something else. Holy moly macaroni. Even though the actors are a group of young and fresh graduates from the prestigious Troll 2 School of Acting, Troll 2 is Citizen Kane compared to this one, and you have to lower your bar to the lowest to sit through Hobgoblins.

 

There are no effects here. No blood, nothing. The only kill we get happens offscreen because its budget of $15,000 obviously couldn’t afford a single effect artist. What we have left is actors who do an impossible job to make us believe they are in danger while they wiggle around with lifeless puppets in the purest Ed Wood style. Picture Bela Lugosi with the octopus and there you have it. When we see the puppets moving around, they’re being operated by a woman who has just been released from a mental hospital. No shame in that. Sometimes crazy people need a job too.

 

The film is also sprinkled with goofs, but the one who caught my eye was the sequence with the car during where a hand visibly rocks the stationary car, and you can see it as clear as day. Then we have the grenades of the Rambo-wannabe-dude which he throws around the nightclub that does zero damage. A grenade gets thrown in one direction but explodes in a completely different direction. Like Ed Wood famously said: Filmmaking is not about the tiny details. It’s about the big picture.

 

Some trivia: The film was shot without permits and in a single week. The film studio was in a parking lot that was deserted at night, next to a crackhouse. McCreedy’s gun was actually a cap pistol, purchased from a toy store for five dollars. Only the eyes for the hobgoblins were going to be seen in an earlier draft of the script. A pit bull’s growl was used for the voice of the hobgoblins. Rick Sloane initially planned on making a sequel in 1990 and had even written a screenplay for it, but it wasn’t made until 2009 as Hobgoblins 2.

 

Hobgoblins was also mocked by Mystery Science Theater 3000, an episode which Rick Sloane got shocked by when he himself was mercilessly mocked over the film’s end credits. In an interview with Dead Central in 2009, he was asked about the movie’s position on the IMDb Bottom 100. He said he was “surprised it slipped down to #25 as it at sometime was the 2nd spot, right behind Gigli. As for now, it’s on #35. It’s also on a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack from Vinegar Syndrome.

 

Hobgoblins Hobgoblins Hobgoblins

 

Writer and director: Rick Sloane
Country & year: US, 1988
Actors: Tom Bartlett, Paige Sullivan, Steven Boggs, Kelley Palmer, Billy Frank, Tamara Clatterbuck, Duane Whitaker, James R. Sweeney, Kevin Kildow, Daran Norris, James Mayberry
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0089280/

 

 

Tom Ghoul