Friday, December 12, 2008
Famous People Love Horror: Trent Haaga's Top Ten Underrated 80's Horror Flicks
Name: Trent Haaga
Horror Fan Credentials:
a) Is responsible for penning the recent horror hit Deadgirl.
b) Has acted in movies with titles like Splatter Disco and Creep Creepersin's Erection.
c) Made his acting debut in the infamous Troma studio's film Terror Firmer.
Ten Underrated 80's Horror Flicks (in no particular order) as chosen by Trent Haaga ....
1) Alone in the Dark (1982) - No, this is not the shitty Uwe Boll video game movie. This is an underrated classic that takes the standard slasher set-up and packs it with interesting characters and social commentary. Most people's exposure to this one came from the cruddy clip film Terror in the Aisles. Everybody remembers the running over the mailman for his hat scene. Martin Landau, Jack Palance, and Donald Pleasance were just three washed-up actors looking for work in 1982. Neither Landau nor Palance were Academy Award considerations way back then, but, shit, somebody find the casting agent on this movie and give em a big kiss on the lips for me.
This movie has a pretty simple premise. A handful of insane inmates escape during a blackout to kill their new doctor and his family, but there's so much more here. The crazies escape during a chaotic blackout and think that the real world is perfectly suited for them ... and may be even more insane than they are. This movie has it all, including Donald Pleasance as a dope-smoking doctor, a gigantic man-child pederast, a character called "The Bleeder" who wears a hockey mask before Jason did, a concert by real punk band The Sic Fucks, and one of my favorite final shots of any movie ever. It finally came out on DVD a year or so ago, so I got to get rid of my full-screen laser disc.
2) Slaughter High (1986) - One thing that I consider a hallmark of 80's horror is the what-the-fuck-is-going-on quadruple whammy ending. You know what I'm talking about. You think the movie's over but there's one more surprise, or maybe it's all been a dream…or a dream within a dream, but then you wake up one last time. Logic totally goes out the window, just so the filmmakers can do the whole, "You think it's over, but it's not!" thing. Even 80's "classics" like Nightmare on Elm Street did that shit, but none can hold a candle to Slaughter High.
My folks dropped me off at the theater to go Christmas shopping and I went to see this one all by myself. I walked out of the theater all discombobulated. I consider the experience to be my first acid trip. The killer is a picked-upon nerd in a jester outfit but by the end he's staring into the camera in a mental institution dressed like a nurse (obviously, The Dark Night ripped this off) and peeling his face off…WTF? Slaughter High also has the death by acid-beer shotgun, death by riding lawnmower, and death by trampoline scene that Eli Roth stole for his Thanksgiving trailer. Shit, I'm having flashbacks just writing this thing. Will someone please release this on DVD?
3) Killer Party (1986) - AKA The April Fool, this movie says, “Fuck you, ridiculous quadruple-ending. We're gonna do a quadruple beginning!" It takes the first ten minutes to be a film within a film within a music video by some ridiculous 80's hair metal band. After that it becomes a sorority prank film, turns onto a possession movie, and then still has the balls to have an ending that doesn't make any sense. And, like all horror movies in the 80's, it's got tits. Oh man, I want to put on a headband and some turquoise spandex and fucking Flashdance right now. Why is it that a bunch of movies that I consider classic aren't even out on DVD? Am I that out of touch? Somebody tell MGM to get off their asses and release a special three disc edition of this, stat!
4) Trick or Treat (1986) - Ah, heavy metal. Fuck that new-fangled anthology film Trick R’ Treat, this is the real deal. Metal god Sammi Curr gets resurrected when a nerd who is a big fan plays his records backwards. The nerd gets cool, but it costs him his goodness. This film is metal as hell and it includes cameos from Ozzy and Gene Simmons before they became reality TV stars.
You know, even when 80's horror movies were a bit "lighter" in tone than others, they still managed to get titty shots in there, much to my teenage pleasure. I was 15 years old in 1986. Maybe that's the magic year for me, since the last three movies on this list came out that year. At least this one is available on one of those cheap-jack DVDs that you see with old cartoons and 3 Stooges DVDs while you're in line at Rite Aid. The director went on to make the basketball playing dog movie Air Bud.
5) Psychos in Love (1987) - An early direct-to-video film, and one of the first outright gore comedies. Yeah, it's cheap as hell, but it actually prefigured a lot of that reflexive stuff that Craven did with Scream with a lot more nudity and blood. The title pretty much says it all. Two psychos meet, consider themselves as potential victims, find out they're both loco, and fall in love…until another psycho comes along and threatens their marital bliss. I still hum the Psychos in Love theme song in the shower and I can't look at a grape without saying the, "Grapes? I fucking HATE grapes! All kinds of grapes!" monologue that is a running gag in the film. Apparently some German DVD company released a special edition of this on DVD a few years back, but they only made 300 of them. Once again, somebody needs to rectify this situation.
6) Nekromantik (1987) - Jorg Buttgereit is a shining example of how you can make a movie for a couple of thousand dollars and not have it be a piece of shit. Pretty much all of his movies are brilliant. Sadly, he quit making films because it was too stressful and didn't make him any money. I mourn his departure form the world of film. I showed this movie to a chick that I met to see if she was cool or not. Now she's my wife. Nuff said.
7) Prince of Darkness (1987) - People dismiss this film as a John Carpenter failure. Screw them. The devil is a swirling green tank of protoplasm in a church basement in downtown Los Angeles and Alice Cooper melts into a pile of bugs. What more do you need? One of the Simon brothers from Simon & Simon? It's got it.
8) Bad Dreams (1988) - Dean Cameron from Ski School and Summer School slashes himself all up with a straight razor. They should have called it Bad Dreams School; then I could have a "Dean Cameron School” triple feature sometime. Richard Lynch, a real-life burn victim, plays a burn victim cult leader. An air-conditioning vent gets filled with blood and guts, which rain down on a bunch of cops. But is it real, or the imaginations of a bunch of mental patients? Whatever it is, it's bad-ass.
9) Don't Go In the House (1980) - As sleazy and disturbing as Maniac, but with twice the disco and ten times more flame-throwers. Serious Mama's boy and child-abuse victim hates women, kidnaps them, strips them, and flame-throwers (or is it flamethrows?) them to death in a special metal room in his house. Not an ounce of humor to be found in this one. It's pretty much flat-out creepy and disturbing. I had a chance to re-watch this one at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles a few months back and it's just as effective now as it was 28 years ago. They just don't make ‘em like this anymore. And, miracle of miracles, it's available on DVD!
10) The Blob (1988) - Remakes generally suck. This one doesn't. The Blob itself is super-fast and violent, and the script by Frank Darabont, among others, moves along at a great clip. The bad guy in Robocop who gets doused in toxic waste and exploded by a car is a good guy in this one, but he still gets a great snapped in half backwards death.
Man, I want that guy's career! And you want 80's? Check out the alpha male mullet on anti-hero Kevin Dillon. Look no further for proof that this one was shot in the wonderful decade of terrible haircuts.
To find out more about the unique mind of Trent Haaga, make sure to visit his blog. Also be sure to check out Deadgirl.