Tag 80s Comedy-Horror

Cheerleader Camp (1988)

Cheerleader Camp (1988)

Give me a K – Give me an I – Give me an L – Give me an L

A cheerleading squad head up to a summer camp in order to compete in the district finals where they soon fall victim one-by-one to a unknown killer.

 

I thought I’d keep the plot as condensed as possible since that’s all about there is to this cheap late 80s slasher which is heavy on the silliness, top-heavy on the nudity, light on gore and puts a terrible strain on the attention span of anyone watching. Who would have thought watching a load of hot cheerleaders getting sliced to bits in a summer camp would be such a chore? To be fair to the makers of the film, there’s little camouflaging what they set out to make which is of the ‘boozy college dorm’s regular Saturday night entertainment’ variety.

Basically a goofy version of Friday the 13th with cheerleaders, Cheerleader Camp shows little sign of its slasher credentials as the first half of the film borders on being another tacky American teen sex-comedy set in a summer camp. All of the obligatory clichés are present including the slutty cheerleaders, the fat ‘comic relief’ guy, the weird caretaker, the perverted sheriff, uptight counselors, etc. The characters are the stock variety we’ve seen before so many times during the 80s but what really drives the proverbial nail through the skull with them is how badly acted they all are. Whether it’s intentional or not, some of the actors really grind away at the audience until you get your watch out and wait for the countdown to their demise. The script has them all engaging in various sexual shenanigans and hi-jinks around the camp.

It’s a frat boy comedy full of juvenile sexual humour where the biggest ‘jokes’ come from silly rapping and of course the obligatory scene in which the fat guy bares his ass. The biggest crime that Cheerleader Camp commits is that it thinks its funny but it blatantly isn’t. The attempted laughs fall at the first hurdle, the goofy characters are just irritating and the genuine sense of cheese that the film tries to convey really comes off harming it more than it should.

You’d have thought that the film would at least share the wealth with slasher goodies and for this I’m referring to the gore and nudity. You have to wait some time before the kills start up in earnest and even then there’s not much to savour. The film is nowhere near as bloody as you’d expect, save for one or two of the deaths, and although there’s a bit of malice involved in some of the kills, the majority of them are so routine you’ll not even bat an eye lid when one of the cast is killed off. Filled with red herrings from the start, it’s a tad too easy to spot the twist despite the best efforts of the script to keep you guessing until the very end.

There’s also a small amount of female flesh and this cheerleader camp must have the world record for the team with the biggest breasts in the world. Surely the physics required in sticking to the energetic cheerleading routines with such, ahem, ample participants, is a bit ridiculous. But the girls get naked so who cares – certainly not the guy in casting who decided to cram a load of porn stars and Playboy centerfolds into the film. Kudos to you, Mr Casting Director. Other casting comments include the star of the show, Betsy Russell who has gone on to greater recent fame as ‘Mrs Jigsaw’ in the Saw films and genre character actor George ‘Buck’ Flower as the cranky caretaker who blurts out the single funniest line of the film whilst watching the cheerleaders practice when he says “makes your pee-pee harder than a bag of nickel jawbreakers.”

 

Cheerleader Camp has some alright moments from time to time but it’s just too daft to be entertaining. Low budget, low brow and high trash. I guess some people will view it as a ‘so bad it’s good’ slasher but at a time when the slasher was on life support, even Cheerleader Camp fails to get the pulse going.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988)

Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988)

When you go camping just take the essentials

Angela has been released from a mental asylum and whilst she was there she underwent a full sex change to become a woman. She gets a job as a counsellor at a summer camp and everything seems normal. That is until teenagers start to break the rules and she has to punish them – by death.

 

Sleepaway Camp may not one of the strongest of the 80s slasher breed but it is definitely the one you’ll never forget should you ever watch it. With one of the most shocking and pretty darn nightmarish endings ever, it became a cult hit. And with success and fame come sequels. Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers completely abandons everything that made the original such a unique horror film by ditching the gloomy edge, the freaky characters and the shocking revelations. Instead we get a completely campy, moronic, typical 80s body count flick complete with plenty of T&A and gore. The acting is dire. The dialogue is awful. The film itself looks terrible with lots of grain, bad lighting and awful sound but it all adds to the ‘seedy and I shouldn’t be watching this’ feel that a lot of older 80s films have on video. But there’s just something so entertaining about it all that compels you to keep watching. This is the ultimate cheesy slasher film.

I wasn’t a big fan of the original but Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers is about as radical a rethink of a series as I can recall. It’s a move which has both good and bad points. I mean I lost count of the gratuitous nudity after the fourth breast shot and there was more to come. It’s mainly the same couple of skanks that get naked but at least they chose the ones with decent racks! There is a pretty good body count as people get their heads and hands hacked off quite a lot. There’s death by drowning in an outhouse, a human barbecue and someone getting killed with a Freddy Kruger no less! Hell even a couple of voyeuristic kids aren’t immune to the body count. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the film was bordering on a parody but that’s giving the filmmakers too much credit. However there are a few in-jokes towards the genre including having a few of the characters dressing up as Jason, Freddy and Leatherface.

The film is far too stupid at times and it’s virtually plot-less. We know who the killer is right from the opening scene so gone is the element of surprise. Then the film just plods along, having Angela kill off a teenager every ten to fifteen minutes or so. Angela was a quiet, shy girl in the original whom you didn’t expect to be the killer come the final revelation. Here she has grown up and is now a one-liner slasher ala Freddy Kruger in later years, who dispatches her victims with numerous funny and unfunny quotes.

Pamela Springsteen (yes, she is related to Bruce) will either annoy the hell out of you or amuse you with her over-the-top approach to the role of Angela. She did both for me and after a while being annoyed with her enthusiasm, I grew to like her in the role. The infectious enthusiasm she brings to the role certainly pushes the character over the limits of sanity. Also in the ‘more famous relative’ category is Renée Estevez, sister of Emilio, who plays the role of the final girl with as much conviction of a worm in a bird’s nest.

The rest of the cast look way too old to be going to summer camp anyway and I actually thought they were fellow counsellors at first! They are made up the usual teen fodder characters – you’ll be hard pressed to remember any of their names both real or characters once the film is over. There’s the shy final girl, the slut, the jocks, the straight-laced hero and a dude with one of the best 80s mullets ever. Seriously this guy just reeks of the 80s. Also on the cast list is Walter Gotell, who will probably be more famous for his many appearances as the head of Russian intelligence in the James Bond films.

 

Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers uses a completely different approach to the genre than the original did. What made the original so unique wouldn’t have worked for a second time so instead we get a fun but incredibly stupid slasher film which is ideal for parties but not for film critics.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1988)

Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1988)

She’s back to Slash last year’s record.

Camp New Horizons opens up on the site of the former camp murders and intends to conduct a social experiment by pairing troubled and rebellious inner city teenagers with wealthy, well-educated upper class teenagers. Psychotic murderer Angela kills one of the inner city teens on their way to the camp and assumes her identity to gatecrash the group. It’s not long before she’s up to her old tricks again.

 

Filmed at the same time as the second instalment, Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland goes down exactly the same dopey slasher route into completely familiar territory. So if your tolerance levels for the manic Angela were exhausted during the last film, then switch off now because she gets a whole lot worse. This one basically feels like a mixture of the leftover footage and unwanted ideas from the first sequel and is a perfect illustration of why the slasher film died off towards the end of the 80s with its approach being to not take anything seriously, goof around way too much and try to be funny when it clearly isn’t.

Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland doesn’t have the same edge as before, partly because the first sequel was a complete change of direction for the series after the infamous original. Gone was the gloom, the grit and the seediness and in came the juvenile, the goofy and the silly. It worked well once because it was such a contrast in styles but I thought there’s only so much of that I could take and unfortunately this one pushed me over the edge. The attempts at comedy rarely hit the mark and the juvenile nature of the film will provoke more eye-rolling reactions than smirks or laughs.

With no story other than the continuation of Angela’s murderous rampage, the film lurches from one gory set piece to the next as the intelligence-deficient characters prove Darwin’s theory of evolution right. The characters are a complete waste of time because we know most of them are going to die. The film lives up to every stereotype you could imagine from ‘inner city teenagers’ including a black kid who listens to rap music and carries a blade, the Latino gang banger and the white punk. The pompous rich kids are given no better backgrounds other than ‘football scholarships’ or rich daddies. They’re all perfect caricatures of the 80s though and something which is unintentionally funny. It’s just as well that some of the females are good-looking and provide the token nudity for the film. It wouldn’t be a cheap 80s slasher without it. The only decent characters are the two camp counsellors – one being a lazy, fat woman and the other being a perverted older dude and both named after characters from The Munsters.

Angela should have been one of the decent characters but her shtick began to annoy me in the previous sequel and she turns it up a few notches here. Mercifully, she doesn’t waste any time in dispatching the teens and the body count is just as big as before. The deaths all come in quick succession too. In fact every five minutes or so, someone meets their doom in various ways. The overly creative dispatches aren’t there anymore although the lawnmower and flagpole deaths are quite inventive, if cheesy in their execution. There is some gore but quite a lot of it has been cut out to give it a suitable rating. Although for some reason this footage appears as an extra feature on the DVD – why not include it in the film since people are going see it anyway?

Pamela Springsteen is still pretty fun to watch as Angela but even she has lost her enthusiasm this time around. The script is basically ‘kill, small talk, one liner, kill, small talk, one liner’ for the whole film so maybe she even got bored with the same routine. I certainly did after the first twenty minutes. Usually I find it slightly insulting when a couple of characters go off on their own but here ALL of the characters go off on their own with Angela at some point or are left on their own at the camp. Couldn’t the writers have come up with better ways of getting everyone isolated?

 

I’ll be honest – you can do a lot worse in the sub-genre than watch Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland. It’s virtually the same film as the previous instalment except without the enthusiasm and charm and with a lot more infuriating cheese. If you like the gratuitous and corny 80s slashers then it’s definitely for you.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Critters 2: The Main Course (1988)

Critters 2: The Main Course (1988)

Get ready for seconds… they’re back!

Intergalactic bounty hunters Ug, Lee and Charlie are sent back to Earth because the Crite infestation had not been fully wiped out. The citizens of Grover’s Bend have mistaken a batch of Crite eggs for Easter eggs and it isn’t long before they hatch. The townspeople ignore the warnings of Bradley Brown, who survived the first Crite outbreak, as the creatures begin to run amok.

 

Unashamedly a Gremlins rip-off (something disputed by the director), the original Critters was a mildly entertaining sci-fi romp which introduced the world to the Crites – small, furry creatures with a set of razor-sharp teeth, an insatiable appetite for flesh, bad attitudes and potty-mouths. It received a theatrical release which was modestly successful but found its audience on home video, becoming a cult film in the process. And we all know that sequels are inevitable whenever the tills begin to ring so New Line churned out Critters 2: The Main Course a couple of years later.

Critters 2: The Main Course follows the conventional rules of a sequel down to a tee, continuing on the story from before. It’s virtually the same plot as the original, only we now know what the Crites are and we’ve already been introduced to a couple of characters brought back from the first one. So this allows the film to get right down to the action and there’s plenty of it this time around. No waiting around for characters to be introduced or events to unfold, this one gets down to the gooey stuff as soon as it is feasibly possible.

With a bigger budget and a larger scope, the action is allowed to move away from the confines of one farm location to encompass a whole town. The bigger scope of the story keeps things ticking away a little quicker than its predecessor and before you know it, all hell has broken loose as the Crites are free once again. There are times when this sequel comes off being too daft. The original wasn’t to be taken seriously but this one gets a bit too silly at times, throwing around plenty of in-jokes and gags which don’t really work. One of the faceless bounty hunters chooses the first form they see and for the benefits of the teenage audience, this bounty hunter chooses to transform into a Playboy centrefold (which also provides the necessary 80s nudity). A bit later, said bounty hunter then tries to transform into Freddy Kruger after seeing a poster advertising one of the Nightmare on Elm Street films. A bit of shameless cross-franchise promotion from New Line never goes amiss!

Once again the effects work from the Chiodo Brothers is top notch. Not just content with a handful of the little monsters in the first film, this sequel ups the ante and throws around hundreds of them. As deadly as they are, the Crites are so ridiculously cute in all of their fur ball glory. They don’t get as much screen time as the Gremlins might but they take full advantage of the scenes they’re in, particularly one in which they have taken over the local cafe. Their daft antics, foul-mouths and gluttonous attitude will win over many fans before the end of the film – and they’re supposed to be the bad guys! One new talent they’ve acquired is to form up into a giant ball and roll around the town like a massive bowling ball. In the best special effect of the film (and arguably the best moment of the film anyway), this giant ball rolls right over an unlucky guy who was running away from it, leaving a quivering mess of a fleshless-corpse on the ground in it’s wake. They never really look like anything more than puppets but their screen time has been increased since the original and that’s only a good thing.

Back to stop them are Scott Grimes, who has grown up a fair bit in two years and Terrence Mann and Don Keith Opper as Ug and Charlie, the two bounty hunters who appear in every one of these films. It’s nice to have a bit of continuity going on here as the actors all reprised their roles. It’s a pity that M. Emmet Walsh didn’t/couldn’t return as Marv as Barry Corbin steps up the obnoxiousness a couple of levels, chewing tobacco and swaggering around the screen like some low-rent cowboy.

 

If you liked the original, then you’ll no doubt like this too. Despite the silliness levels being raised, Critters 2: The Main Course does everything an 80s horror sequel should do – more monsters, more blood, more boobs and more action. You can’t really go wrong!

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Invasion Earth: The Aliens Are Here (1988)

Invasion Earth: The Aliens Are Here (1988)

Guess who’s coming to the 8 o’clock show.

Beetle-like aliens invade a small town where the teenagers have been watching a sci-fi marathon in the local cinema. Zapping the projectionist, the aliens splice together footage of old sci-fi films to try and keep the crowd entertained whilst they slowly take over their minds. A couple of teenagers realise what is going on and try to put an end to the invasion before it’s too late.

 

Invasion Earth: The Aliens Are Here is just basically an excuse to show a load of clips of some old cheap science fiction films and jazz it all up in a package. It’s hard to review in all honesty because most of the running time is taken up with clips of films like The Giant Claw, The Amazing Colossal Man, Reptilicus, The Blob, The Trollenberg Terror, The Thing from Another World, War of the Colossal Beast, Fiend Without a Face and so on – funnily enough most of those have been reviewed on this site! If you want a break down of those films, then scour the site for more in-depth analysis. For anyone who hasn’t seen the films from which the clips are taken, some of the highlights may actually make you want to go and check them out. Other clips may not! There are some real turkeys in there like The Giant Claw but there’s also some decent outings like Fiend Without a Face. The clips aren’t edited together very well though and it jumps from one film to another randomly so you’ll never quite know which film the current clip is from unless you’ve seen them. But the nostalgia for this bygone era of science fiction will shine through and there’s an obvious love for the 50s running right through.

As far as the framing device goes for the film, it’s probably the only decent story that would warrant the clips being shown. I really don’t get the need for the alien invasion angle though. If someone wanted to make a clip show, they should have just gone ahead and done it. The whole alien invasion plot isn’t done very well and it runs like a very timid Invasion of the Body Snatchers clone where they use pods to take over people whilst they’re watching the clips. It may be a nod to the aforementioned film and a throwback to the cheesy 50s science fiction stories but it’s just a silly plot device. The beetle-alien costumes look rubbish and their leader, a big brain with a single eye, is simply a dodgy-looking puppet. You wonder how much they actually spent on the costumes and special effects. Considering how much footage from the old films they use, I’d say the best part of the budget went on securing the rights to screen these clips. There’s also a daft sense of humour running through the film with some of the aliens assuming different roles in the cinema like becoming the popcorn vender, etc.

 

If you fancy watching basically a highlight reel of some old B-movies then check this out. If you can’t be bothered sitting through the individual films, then the best bits of them are shown. It’s the only reason to watch Invasion Earth: The Aliens Are Here.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Evil Laugh (1986)

Evil Laugh (1986)

Ten years ago something terrible happened in this house… This weekend it’s about to happen AGAIN.

A group of young medical students help out one of their friends by agreeing to clean up an old orphanage in the mountains. It was shut down ten years earlier when the custodian ran amuck and murdered the residents after being accused of being a child molester. The students are unaware of the horrible events that took place in the cursed house but their weekend of fun takes a deadly turn for the worst as they begin to mysteriously vanish one-by-one at the hands of a cloaked murderer.

 

Boy, I’ve seen cheesy films in my time but this one must be the ultimate cheddar of the bunch. Evil Laugh is a truly rare find. I’d not heard about it until I was flicking through the awesome slasher bible web site that is Hysteria Lives! but even then it’s been almost impossible to get hold of. It took me a while to find a copy from abroad but maybe the hassle of importing over to the UK wasn’t worth it. For all that it’s cracked up to be, Evil Laugh is simply another generic 80s slasher which by any other genre standards would be horrific. But this is the slasher genre after all and when a film is this intentionally goofy and cheerful, it’s hard to really hate it.

Kim McKamy, Steve Baio, Tony Griffin, Jody Gibson and co. must surely the most horrific cast ever assembled for a horror flick. They’re truly the nadir of the acting profession. People so wooden in their delivery that there are guys putting varnish on them whilst they speak. People so cheesy that there are queues of wine connoisseurs waiting outside to eat them. I’ve not seen a cast look as dumbfounded to be acting as this. They fill the quintessential stereotypes to a tee – dumb, big breasted blonde, a jerky jock who spends half of the film with his shirt off, snobby rich kids, nerdy joker, etc. And they fill these roles with big 80s hair and bad 80s fashion (small tight shorts for the guys, bra-less vests for the ladies).

Many people have labelled this as precursor to Scream for the fact it’s quite self-referential and is happy to drop the names of films like Friday the 13th and Halloween. One guy must have been the prototype for Randy, the film geek from the Scream films. He’s seen reading Fangoria early on in the film and his later insistence that no one has sex because it equals death falls on deaf ears (obviously!). His knowledge of horror films ensures that he survives longer than his annoying character has any right to do. What about that 80s soundtrack? If you ever wanted a glimpse into the madness of 80s music then this film is for you. There’s a prolonged ‘cleaning the house’ sequence in which all of the main characters dance around cleaning the house with this 80s pop pap blurting out in the background.

The murder sequences had potential to be brutal but the film always cuts away from the nasty stuff at the wrong moment, most likely due to the rather limited budget. The highlight kill features the totally implausible dispatch of one of the group via the use of a microwave. The fact that microwaves can’t work with the door open isn’t lost on the unlucky chap who is only happy to remind the killer of that – but the damned microwave still works and fries his head anyway! If you’re a fan of the gore then you’ll be disappointed and I can’t help but think that a few more over-the-top kills would have done wonders to add to the cheesy tone of the film.

The killer looks nothing like the creepy guy from the front cover either. He looks to have dressed up with whatever was left on the set: washing up gloves, a ski mask and a dirty hoodie. Added to the fact that the actor portraying the killer isn’t the most physically imposing person to done a mask and kill teenagers and it adds up to a slasher who will more likely kill their victims through laughter than the blades they carry. You might guess who the killer is pretty early as it’s the only other character introduced in the film that has yet to encounter the hooded horror. And to make sure that the title has some relevance to the film, the killer continually lets out this irritating, girly laugh. An ‘evil laugh’ if you will!

 

Evil Laugh is silly slasher nonsense like you won’t have seen before and will never see again. It’s a timeless product of the 80s which shouldn’t work on any level but it’s too hard to resist its copious amounts of cheese.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Hard Rock Zombies (1985)

Hard Rock Zombies (1985)

Their farewell concert is to die for!

Jesse and his rock band play plenty of gigs in the hope of making it to the big time. After one of their gigs, they are warned by a strange girl not to go to Grand Guignol for their next gig as the parents there don’t want this unhealthy rock influence on their children. The band head to Grand Guignol to play the gig but on their way, they are kidnapped and murdered by a strange family of freaks led by none other than Adolf Hitler. Cassie, the strange girl who warned them not to go, brings the band back to life as zombies in order to stop Hitler from starting the Fourth Reich.

 

I don’t think I’d ever be able to make up as random a plot as this. With midgets, werewolves, murderous hitch hikers, zombie rock musicians and Adolf Hitler himself, this is one bizarre film labels itself as “a comedy horror cult classic” but fails to give the source of the quote. Hard Rock Zombies was made in the 80s when heavy metal and rock music was being blamed for almost everything in America. With cries of “it’s the music of Satan” and an uncanny amount of conservative Americans attempting to rid the world of it, the music was badly treat and there are a few trashy horror films which feature this as a core element to their story (the other being Trick or Treat featuring Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osborne no less!). The protests should not be against the music but against the crimes of humanity to which this film associates itself with that music genre.

Hard Rock Zombies is such a horribly made film full of goof and camp and usually I’ve got a decent tolerance for that sort of thing but this is beyond watchable for the majority of it’s running time. It was originally devised as a twenty minute short but was given a bigger budget and expanded to over an hour and a half. You can immediately see which parts of the story were added later because they make absolutely no sense whatsoever. Why is Adolf Hitler in here? Are we to believe that he escaped Nazi Germany forty years ago, fled to America, started eloping with a werewolf and become the patriarch of a family of midgets, overgrown Hitler youth and a blonde chick who came straight out of a Bon Jovi video? Was this his master plan to rebuild his empire and start The Fourth Reich – murdering a few rockers in the middle of nowhere? Funnily enough the addition of Hitler may have worked had he become the main protagonist in the film. But he’s killed off and turned into one of the zombies long before the end credits roll.

At times Hard Rock Zombies plays like a tribute video to some long-forgotten rock band with lots of overly long rock songs being blasted out every few minutes (and these songs are played out in their entirety too, no doubt to pad out the running time). I’d a lover of all things heavy and metal but these songs are absolute tripe – 80s hair metal at it’s worst. There’s shots of the band goofing around on a bridge, riding skateboards, posing on cars and looking like they’re enjoying life – the sort of stuff that would go down well in an 80s music video. Coupled with the copious amounts of mullets and leather jackets, this isn’t exactly a film that has dated well over the years.

Hard Rock Zombies isn’t a zombie film for those looking for some classic zombie action. The make-up looks really shoddy for the most (in fact some of the band looked better as zombies!) and there’s not an awful lot of traditional zombie action like throat-ripping or flesh-eating. There’s little gore at the point of zombification and in fact there’s more over-the-top carnage when the family of freaks decide to kill the band. The four band zombies walk like robots. If any of you remember the video for the Adam Ant song ‘Stand and Deliver’ and call recall the dance that they do, then that’s how these guys walk around. And yes, the band do actually play a live set as zombies. They’d rather do that than anything else. In fact the quest to put on the show in Grand Guignol is the band’s main focus. They do get their revenge on the Hitler clan and the townspeople who hired him but it’s hardly revenge as we know it. It’s all so rushed and done and dusted quickly so that the band can get back to doing what they just want to do – rock out. The townspeople even try and fight off the zombies by hiding behind giant cardboard heads of the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis!

Funnily enough, it’s not the most random thing in the film as there’s a blonde chick who keeps dancing all over the show, a midget who literally eats himself to death, a woman holding her dead boyfriend’s severed head and asking him if he’s alright and the sight of Hitler dressed as a grandfather attempting to make love to a werewolf dressed as a grandmother……..

 

Hard Rock Zombies is painfully unfunny, badly made and a real travesty to sit through. I’d say you’d need to see it to believe it but I wouldn’t want this film gaining anymore exposure and becoming a cult classic. If this is the cinematic rep that heavy metal will be renowned for, then it’s best to start listening to country and western.

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆