6WH: Week 6 - The Eighties Were Weird

Coming down the homestretch, this week's theme was a serendipitous one, as I didn't realize until I was near finished that these were all 1980s movies, and that their batshit insanity quotient compared favorably with the rest of this year's marathon. Score. Otherwise, there's not much to tie these movies together, but still, it was an interesting one.
  • Big Horror Brother (Robot Chicken)
  • Halloween Hugs (short)
  • Evil Dead II (trailer)
  • Children of the Corn - Adapted from a Stephen King short story, this is an odd duck of a movie. It clearly strikes a nerve with audiences, and to be sure, there are some really creepy aspects to the story. The kids who've taken over the town and murdered all their parents at the behest of some sort of creature pretending to be God is an interesting idea, and some of that stuff lands effectively in this movie. The casting, for instance, works really well. Often movies like this will crumble under the weight of the many adorable moppets required by the story, but this cast is solid.
    Isaac, you bitch
    In particular, Isaac and Malachai are great, as are our heros, Peter Horton and Sarah Conner herself, Linda Hamilton are doing what they can with a poorly conceived character. On the other hand, it's an interminably silly movie that never really delivers on its premise. Most aspects of the production are functional at best, and some stuff doesn't work at all. Its hard to really bag on this movie though, because it is a bit on the fun side. It's got a sorta campy, so-bad-it's-good vibe that clearly works for folks, as they've made a crapton of sequels to this sucker (which I have a mild curiosity about, perhaps we'll revisit next year). **
  • The Sleepover (short)
  • The Monster Squad (trailer)
  • Slaughter High (trailer)
  • Alone in the Dark - This year's batshit quotient was a bit lacking, but this movie puts us well on our way. It's the strangest movie of this year's 6WH marathon, and it's a fair amount of fun, even if it's not particularly accomplished. It's definitely got the most unexpected cast of the year, with folks like Donald Pleasence, Martin Landau, and Jack Palance all hamming it up. But Dwight Schultz (you may know him as Howling Mad Murdock from The A-Team or the weenietastic Barclay from Star Trek:TNG) is the lead, a psychologist who comes to a new hospital to help treat a bunch of psychopaths. Donald Pleasence runs the place, and has installed a fancy new "electric" security system. Naturally, a mysterious power outage lets the pyschopaths, led by Palance, escape. This is a bizarre movie. The opening non sequitur scene is fantastic, but I have no idea why its there. Pleasence seems to be just about as insane as the inmates, and the whole situations is rather strange. When the psychos escape, they immediately head to the general store to stock up on civilian clothes and weaponry, putting on hockey masks and using gardening implements to rip out a cop's throat (I'm pretty sure that guy heads off screen, never to be seen again). From there, the movie turns towards a more home invasion type scenario. And the ending, well, I don't know what to make of that either. It's an interesting movie. It's not something that will work for any but the most devoted genre hounds, but for us cuckoo nutsos, it's kinda fun.**1/2
  • Chopping Mall (trailer)
  • One Last Dive (short)
  • Phantasm 2 (trailer)
  • Angel Heart - A marked departure from the rather silly two movies above, this one is a much more serious effort. A sorta neo noir movie that only really approaches horror towards the end, though it's pretty clear from the very start that something is awry. A private detective named Harry Angel (played by Mickey Rourke) is hired through a law firm by a mysterious man named Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro) to find another mysterious man named Johnny Favourite. Of course, things are not what they appear to be, and everyone Angel interviews seems to wind up dead. In case you can't tell from the character names, this movie lays on the symbolism with a shovel, and not just with the names. De Niro is just chomping scenery, and his character's look is perfect, if a bit on the nose (there's a scene where he's peeling a hard boiled egg that is utterly fantastic).
    De Niro likes his eggs... deviled
    There's all sorts of visual motifs as well (the fan, the elevator to hell, etc...) and director Alan Parker is not shy about laying this stuff on. Parker also has a keen visual sense, and the movie is well composed and gorgeously photographed (this really stood out against the above two movies!) Great supporting performances by Robert De Niro and even Lisa Bonet, and actually, all the performances in the movie are pretty good. The movie does have a sorta languid pace, and could perhaps use some pruning, but it's otherwise a pretty good little film. I can't say as though the revelations towards the end are particularly brilliant or well executed (I mean, if you can't figure out who De Niro really is from the first scene...), but they work well enough, and the movie did manage to get under my skin a bit towards the end. It's a solid little film, perhaps not for everyone, but it works. ***
Stay tuned for the usual Speed Round on Wednesday, which will finish off this year's marathon. It's been a good one, and I'm already looking forward to next year!