6WH: Week 3 – Revisiting 1981

This was originally going to be a week chock-full of slashers, but despite an excellent start on that front, things gradually got less-and-less slashery. As it turns out, all three movies are bona fide members of the horror class of 1981, a year in which changes in distribution and low-budget independent filmmaking conspired to release an explosion of horror movies on an unsuspecting populace. Much of this was driven by the slasher craze, but horror in general was booming in the early 80s and particularly in 1981.

Naturally, I’ve already seen a lot of the classics from that hallowed year, but there were a few high profile movies I’d missed out on for whatever reason, so here goes:

  • Thursday the 12th (Robot Chicken)
  • Thanksgiving (fake trailer)
  • Scanners (trailer)
  • Happy Birthday to Me – Someone is offing the cool, smart kids (but I repeat myself, heh) at a prestigious prep school, but who? There are approximately a gajillion red herrings in this film, as the mysterious killer takes out each of the “Top Ten” students, and Ginny keeps having weird flashback to past trauma. Lots of suspicious characters, including one of the Top Tenners that specializes in… taxidermy? This leads to amusing puns along the lines of “Hey, stuff it, dude.”

    Happy Birthday to Me

    Happy Birthday to Me!

    Directed by J. Lee Thompson (who made the well regarded Cape Fear), this is one of the more fun examples of the teen slasher genre, with creative deaths (including a neat scarf in the motorcycle wheal death, a death-by-barbell, and the most famous weapon, death by shish-kebab) and a series of goofy, Scooby Doo-like twists at the end. There’s even a grand unmasking as the true killer is revealed. Clocking in at 110 minutes, it’s one of the longest slasher movies ever made, but it’s still a lot of fun. Not quite top tier, but certainly top of the middle tier. ***

  • The Evil Dead (Japanese trailer)
  • My Bloody Valentine (trailer)
  • Driving Lessons – Halloween Deleted Scene (short)
  • The Funhouse – This is a film that’s generally lumped into the Slasher sub-genre, but in the end, I have my doubts. It certainly starts off by totally aping Halloween and Psycho, but it winds up being a practical joke, not a real shower-murder scene. As the film progresses, things certainly get tense, but it’s still not quite like a traditional slasher, as the villain seems to have more in common with monsters like Frankenstein (whose mask the killer wears for the first half of the movie or so) than the past-tragedy-inspired killers of your typical slasher. Unlike most killers, this guy evokes a certain amount of pity, even if he’s terrifying and deformed.

    The titular Funhouse

    The plot revolves around a bunch of stupid kids who elect to spend the night in the titular Funhouse of their local carnival, only to find said deformed monster murdering a fortune teller over an expensive handy. Naturally, all the doors are locked and the carnies can’t leave any witnesses… hijinks ensue. This one certainly takes its time, but once it gets going, it’s pretty solid. It’s atmospheric and tense, featuring much less gore than you’d expect for a movie of this era, but it gets the job done. Not one of director Tobe Hooper’s best movies, but a worthy effort nonetheless. Probably somewhere in the middle of the middle tier of slashers, definitely worth watching if you like that sort of thing. **1/2

  • Jason’s Deceiving Speed (Robot Chicken)
  • The Prowler (trailer)
  • The Burning (trailer)
  • Bloody Birthday – And this one wound up being very light on the slasher elements, probably better classified under the realm of Kids are scary and hate you! movies. In this case, said kids were all born during an eclipse, thus making them into psychopaths who begin exploring their murderous tendencies starting around their 10th birthday. Lots of foreshadowing, as people who deny the kids what they want get their inevitable comeuppance. Not a lot of gore, but they make up for it with lots of boobies. It’s not scary or even very tense at all, but it winds up being great fun, as it seems to recognize just how silly it is, and it revels in making you hate those sneaky little shits as they engage in their murderous shenanigans. Kid actors in movies are usually a precarious thing, but here, those eclipse kids are kinda awesome, always smirking and looking all smarmy and evil. Overall, not really a noteworthy film, but I had fun with it. **1/2

So there you have it. Not really sure what next week will bring, perhaps some stuff currently in theaters, or maybe just a week with no discernible theme. Stay tuned!

2 thoughts on “6WH: Week 3 – Revisiting 1981”

  1. Nice! And yeah, if Bloody Birthday ended up being more slashery, I’d have had no problem calling this a full slasher weekend, but whatever.

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