Tag Archives: 80’s Movies

Sixteen Candles (1984)

sixteen candles

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: He has her panties

The 80’s may eventually become known as decade of the teen movie. There were so many and 98% of them were crude, moronic, and forgettable. However this disarming film, a product of John Hughes, is a winner. It’s a simple story that manages to bring out the universal truths of that age in a seamless manner. Its best asset is its ability to show how all those things that are considered insignificant to others is a big deal to teens. The film may be best suited for adults who can look back on that period with a mature perspective and a wry sense of wit as well as nostalgic to those who were adolescents when the film came out.

The film stands out from the rest in other ways too. First is the fact that the majority of the cast actually look the age they are playing and resemble the physical awkwardness. Other teen movies always seem to have pretty models and chiseled faced guys who look older than they should. The kids here also don’t have that annoying smugness. The filmmakers approach it with the idea that behind all that crudeness it is still an innocent time. It’s also nice to see parents and teens getting along and not constantly at odds. The late night talk between Ringwald and her father (Paul Dooley) is quite touching.

The film has some really funny moments. The destruction of a nice suburban home during a wild teen party is fun. Hall’s ‘official’ unveiling of Ringwald’s panties to a group of awed freshman is also memorable.

Ringwald is perfect in the starring role as she was sixteen at the time and seems to embody the character. You hardly see the acting. Hall was also a good choice as the male geek. He certainly has the scrawny physique of a typical freshman as well as the outrageous persona that he creates to help compensate for it. It is also interesting that at times he shows some mature sensibilities, which is a good example of how adolescence can be a mixture of different traits. The adult cast is great as well especially the veteran character actors who play the grandparents.

This film borders on being a minor classic even though there are a few drawbacks. One is the ending sequence where Ringwald’s older sister, who is also the bride, starts to behave erratically, which becomes comic overkill. The picture worked better when it stuck with Ringwald and her high school experiences exclusively. The film also has a few too many neat wrap-ups. The worst being when the hottest girl in the senior class falls in love with Hall, which was too much of a stretch. The music score gets heavy-handed at times especially when it’s used to accentuate a comic moment. There are also a few too many unnecessary sound effects.

John and Joan Cusack can be seen in small roles with John looking very young. Jami Gertz can be seen quickly as a drunken party guest. Also Blanche Baker, who plays Ringwald’s older sister, is the real life daughter of actress Carroll Baker.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: May 4, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Rated: PG

Director: John Hughes

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Red Dawn (1984)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Fight for your country.

Due to the recent release of the remake of this film I decided it would be a good time to review the original.  One thing that has always surprised me about this movie is the fact that out of all the 80’s movies out there why this one would remain such a perennial hit to the point of remaking it even though the cold war has technically long been over has always been a bit of a mystery. I know the ladies at my office are young and don’t know many old movies, but for whatever reason they are familiar with this one, which kind of compelled to check it out.

I remember when the film came out many liberals complained that this could never happen and tried to boycott it much like they did with the ‘Amerika’ mini-series that came out a few years later and dealt with the same plot. My position on the matter remains the same, which is freedom of speech comes first and if someone wants to make a movie about a Soviet invasion more power to them and if they want to make a movie about Sweden invading us then they can do that too.

Now with that said I still felt it seemed farfetched. The explanation for how the Soviets were able to invade us so very easily and quickly is spotty, but I guess if you are going to enjoy the film then you’re going to have to overlook it.

The plot consists of soviet troops parachuting out of the sky and shooting up a classroom before taking over the rest of the small Colorado town. A group of teens manage to escape and hide out in the nearby mountains. Eventually they start to wage guerrilla warfare against the invading troops and name themselves the ‘Wolverines’.

I liked the way the teens are portrayed. They are not just a bunch of spoiled, superficial suburban kids concerned with being hip and trendy and talking in some irritating slang. Instead they seem very much like young men growing into being real men. The fact that there are a few casualties and that they change and become hardened by what they go through makes it all the more authentic. I also liked that the two young women they pick up along the way end up fighting and shooting up the bad guys just as well as the males.

Patrick Swayze does a terrific job as the group’s leader. He makes a strong presence and I wished the movie had focused more on him. It is fun seeing Charlie Sheen looking very boyish and older actor Harry Dean Stanton has a good bit as the father of one of the boys who is now imprisoned in a labor camp and instructing them on how to toughen up.

My favorite performance though was Lea Thompson. She is real young and cute. I loved her volatile temper, her willingness to use a rifle without hesitation, and her infatuation with Andy Tanner (Powers Boothe) a much older man who joins them.

I liked that the point-of-view is exclusively with the kids. There is no attempt to show things from the Communist side, or even try to humanize them at least not until the very, very end. They are portrayed as monstrous and evil lining up civilians and savagely shooting them. If there is anything that can resonate with the masses it is emotionalism and this film keys in on it well and I think that is why it has remained a hit. It becomes like a David and Goliath story with the teens showing up the evil empire and disrupting their plans. I found myself rooting for them even though I kept wondering how they were able to find all that ammunition that they use as well as the warheads.

Action wise it is pretty good. It starts from the very beginning and doesn’t let up. In fact this film was in The Guinness Book of World Records at the time for having the most violent acts of any movie. The film averages 134 violent acts per hour and 2.23 per minute. I enjoyed that the special effects are all real and none of this computerized crap like you see today, which to me still looks phony and makes movies seem too much like a video game.

After about the first hour the movie started to drag and I kept looking at my watch wondering when it would be over. The ending had some satisfying elements as they attack the building housing all the leaders of the invasion, but it is not enough. If you take away the novelty of the Communist invasion then this thing is really just a standard action flick that is no better or worse than the thousands of others out there. The only reason to watch this is to compare it to the remake, or vice-versa.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: August 10, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 53Minutes

Rated PG-13 (The First movie ever to have this rating)

Director: John Milius

Studio: MGM/UA

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Scanners (1981)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: His head will explode.

Scanners are people with strange psychic powers that can not only read other people’s minds, but also kill them and even move objects with their brainwaves. A corrupt group of scanners lead by Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside) threatens world domination. Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan) who works for a company that is trying to stop these dangerous people finds a scanner named Cameron (Stephan Lack) that Darryl’s groups is seeking, but has not yet located. Ruth trains Cameron on how to hone in his scanning powers and then track down Darryl’s group and destroy it.

Director David Cronenberg is still in my estimation one of the premiere cult/horror directors around. It is one thing to make a great horror movie when you have a big budget and state of the art special effects, but it is another to make an effective movie when you have little to work with and yet Cronenberg has continually shown that a creative imagination can triumph over all else. He has also shown a refreshingly daring vision throughout his career and seems to have no hesitation in tackling taboo subjects.

This film proves no exception. The story is quite creative and there are continually new and surprising twists thrown in. The special effects are excellent and imaginative. I loved the protruding, blood spurting veins coming out of the arms and heads of Cameron and Darryl during their intense scanner showdown at the end. The melting telephone receiver isn’t bad and off course the exploding head is memorable and deserves its place in the annals of gross cinema history.

With that said I still felt the film could have done a better job at setting up the story. It starts right away with a lot of action before anything is explained and makes things confusing. Some sort of prolog in this case would have been appropriate. Everything also seems rushed. This is a great plot with interesting scenarios and I as a viewer wanted a little more time to soak it all in, but wasn’t given any. The sets and backdrops are redundantly dark and grimy and lack visual design. Overall the film has a seriously dated look and although there are way too many films being remade these days and some that are not necessary this is one movie were I would advocate it especially if done with a high budget and a competent director.

Stephan Lack makes for incredibly weak leading man. He is better known in the art world as a renowned painter and his film career was quite brief. After watching his performance here it is not hard to see why. He has very much of a ‘deer-in-headlights’ look and a voice tone that shown no infliction, or emotion. His lack of charisma or stature seriously weakens the film’s overall effect and why he was chosen for the part is a mystery.

Jennifer O’Neill is gorgeous as Kim a female scanner who works with Cameron in his quest to find Darryl. The woman, who was a former model, has a face that is so beautiful it is mesmerizing no matter what angle she is shown at or emotion that she is conveying. My only complaint is the small streak of gray that was put into her hair, which I found unnecessary especially since she was portraying someone who was Cameron’s same age, which was the early 30’s.

On the villainous side Ironside certainly has the chiseled threatening features of a bad guy. However, I actually thought that Canadian character actor Lawrence Dane who plays one of Darryl’s spies was actually more effective.

The artwork done by the Benjamin Pierce character (Robert A. Silverman) visualizing giant heads and the thoughts inside people’s heads was really cool and avant-garde.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated R

Director: David Cronenberg

Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures

Available: DVD

Southern Comfort (1981)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Watch out for Cajuns.

A National Guard unit goes on a training exercise in the Louisiana swamps and finds themselves fighting for their lives from a group of vindictive Cajuns that lurk in the woods.

Just about all the characters are obnoxious, unlikable, and incredibly ignorant. These guys have to be the most undisciplined and poorly managed guard unit out there. It becomes like a comedy of errors and one almost begins to side with the Cajuns. The suspense ebbs and flows poorly and most of the time there is no tension at all. The final sequence takes too long to play out until you end up not caring what happens. It would have been better had the Cajuns not been so hidden and given a face and some distinction. It also would have been a better atmosphere had the story taken place in the summer instead of the winter. The film though is really hurt by the fact that it is too reminiscent of Deliverance which is a better film simply for the fact that it created a more lasting eeriness. Also, the sequence involving the killing and gutting of what looks to be a wild hog is just about as gruesome and graphic as the infamous turtle killing scene in Cannibal Holocaust.

On the positive side there is one good scene involving a very intense attack by a group of vicious dogs as well as a nicely photographed knife fight between actors Powers Booth and Fred Ward. The Cajuns are portrayed as being more cunning and clever than in Deliverance, which makes this a little more of a slick thriller. Ward is very good in his role as one of the surly soldiers and Keith Carradine is surprisingly engaging in his part.

Ultimately this is a grade C Deliverance that despite some good attempts just never comes together. It would be best to just watch the original and avoid this one completely.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: September 25, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 46Minutes

Rated R

Director: Walter Hill

Studio: EMI

Available: VHS, DVD

Can’t Stop the Music (1980)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Somebody stop this movie.

It’s an extraordinary achievement that this actually got made. It’s a relic of its time that is beyond words and is like nothing you have ever seen or will ever see again. This is one of those bad movies that you just have to see and, for a while, even enjoy in all its awfulness as it tells the story of the Village people and their rise to fame.

Unfortunately it’s not overdone enough to achieve that coveted cult status. The humor isn’t corny enough the storylines are not dumb enough and the costumes are not gaudy or the sets garish enough. They don’t even let the Village People try to act and make complete fools of themselves. They do have some speaking lines, but they are wisely brief. Eight minutes is all you need of this phenomenon before its long takes and general empty headedness become overwhelming.

Steve Guttenburg is probably the most annoying even more than he usually is. He is too clean cut and eager to please and his swift rise to success is artificial. The songs he writes are bad even for disco. Hearing lines like “he’s a genius” and “he knows what people want to hear” are probably the film’s single most insulting element.

Most youth oriented movies don’t cast too many older actresses, but this one does. Tammy Grimes, June Havoc, and Barbra Rush put a lot of energy into their parts and in the case of Grimes a lot of camp too. It’s a strange sight to see these three jump onto stage and line dance with the Village People during their last number. Paul Sand is fun in a part that goes against his persona as he plays an aggressive, no-nonsense record producer. Even Bruce Jenner, and I hate to say it, has his funny moments as an uptight lawyer. Yet it is Valerie Perrine that comes off best as her down to earth sensibilities helps to hold the whole thing together.

It is hard to tell what type of audience this film was aiming for, or even what the thinking was. The overall banality seems best suited for pre-teen girls yet the gay overtones snub that. Anyone over sixteen just isn’t going to buy into it and having the whole thing directed by 60-year-old Nancy Walker best known for play Ida Morgestern on the TV-Show ‘Rhoda’ makes it even more confounding. Even members of the Village People have stated in interviews that they dislike this movie. The only possible explanation is that it was made by people on cocaine for other people on cocaine.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: June 20, 1980

Runtime: 2Hours 4Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Nancy Walker

Studio: Associated Film Distributors

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Where is Michael Meyers?

Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins) is an emergency room physician treating a patient (Al Berry) who arrives in the facility clutching a Halloween mask and stating that someone is out to kill him. When the man does end up being killed Dan becomes suspicious that it may have something to do with the mask. He teams up with the victim’s daughter Ellie (Stacey Nelkin) and the two find that the trouble began when her father visited the Silver Shamrock factory. It is here that they meet the company owner Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy) who turns out to be a maniacal man who has created Halloween masks that have a computer chip implanted in them that will kill the children wearing them.

Although listed as the third part of the Halloween franchise there is no Michael Meyers here, nor any of the other familiar characters. The idea was to continue the series by having creepy stories with some connection to the Halloween holiday released each year, but this film did so poorly at the box office that the idea was dropped. The original script by Nigel Kneale was meant to be a dark comedy, but producer Dino De Laurentis wanted to play it as a straight horror film and striped the screenplay of the humor. Had it been kept in the humorous vein it might have worked, but the idea is too ludicrous to be taken seriously with glaring plot holes that defy all logic.

One of the biggest ones is the fact that Cochran plans on killing the children by having them all watch an advertisement his company has created and will be broadcast on all the channels at 9:00 Halloween night. Supposedly there is some sort of signal in the ad that will set of the computer chips in the masks, which the children are all supposed to be wearing while they watch the ad that will kill them instantly while also creating deadly snakes and spiders in the process. How a computer chip could create live creatures is ridiculous enough, but the fact that somehow Cochran does this by using pieces of a Stonehenge rock that he has stolen is even more absurd. There is also the fact that if the commercial airs at 9:00 eastern time it would only be 6:00 on the west coast. Therefore the commercial would be delayed by four hours, which would be enough time for the authorities to figure out what was going on and pull the ad before it ever even aired in California and probably have Cochran under arrest by then.

There also the fact that Cochran seems to have no plan B here. The reason for why he is doing this is murky at best, but what he hopes to gain from it is even more elusive. There is also the question of how he plans to escape once it becomes obvious to everyone what happened. None of this of course is ever explained and these are just a few of a myriad of implausibilities that the story spits out. There are so many of them that they aren’t even worth explaining, but clearly any film that expects the viewer to overlook so many glaring loopholes is not good. The film is like a flimsy outline to an idea that no one bothered to think through with the details.

I was also unimpressed with the masks themselves and couldn’t understand why all the children would be so excited to have them. They looked like something one could pick-up at a cheap dime store and had nothing unique or distinctive about them except that they could supposedly glow in the dark. The factory where the masks where is made is equally unimpressive looking like an old, rundown, non-descript building that had no visual presence. I was expecting the building especially from a company that could create such a nefarious technology as these masks to be sleek, modern, and imposing, which would have helped create a more foreboding feeling. The commercial used to advertise the masks is unimaginative and cheap looking. The jingle used in the ad, which was set to the melody of ‘London Bridges’ because apparently that was under public domain at the time, becomes irritating to listen to and gets overplayed.

One of the few things that I liked about the movie was the fact that the protagonist was a middle-aged man instead of teenagers. The gruesome special effects are okay and veteran actor O’Herlihy shows enough sinister mugs to the camera to be fun. I also liked at the end how Ellie for some unexplained reason turns into a robot and keeps on attacking Dan even as he vigorously dismantles it.

Segments from the original Halloween can be seen in this one. The first time it is shown while Dan is watching TV at a bar it is a clever in-joke, but when it gets shown again near the end it becomes a mistake because it reminds the viewer how much better that movie is compared to this one.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: October 22, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated R

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Halloween II (1981)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Michael won’t go away.

It’s still Halloween night 1978. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is rushed to the nearby Haddonfield Memorial Hospital to have her wounds attended to while Michael Meyers (Dick Warlock) roams the streets. Eventually he becomes aware of where she is and stalks her in the hospital while killing off anyone who gets in his way.

The film starts out okay. I liked the camera closing in on the pumpkin during the opening credits and revealing the shape of a skull inside. A fiery car crash that burns a kid wearing a similar mask to Michael’s is effectively graphic and  showing things from Michael’s point-of-view as he peers inside the neighbor’s homes has shades of Rear Window to it. However, I was confused why it wasn’t shown through the two eye holes of the mask since Michael was still wearing it and that was how it was done in the first film.

Things start to decline as it goes on and deviates too much to the standard slasher formula. I forget where I read it, but I remember somebody writing about the perennial characteristics of a tacky 80’s slasher film and one of them was having a scared cat jump out at someone some time during the film. The scene where the hospital security guard (Cliff Emmich) is going through the dumpster behind the building I started to think that this is the part for the proverbial scared cat and sure enough within seconds one jumps out pretty much cementing this for me as a second-rate shocker.

Donald Pleasance as Dr. Loomis is solid as always. The intensity that he displays is good and seeing him as a good guy for a change since the majority of his career he played dark and twisted characters is refreshing. Curtis is also good in the reprisal of her part, but for the first hour she barely appears at all. I was also confused with the scene where she for some unexplained reason falls into a comatose state and then just as strangely snaps out of it a few minutes later.

The Meyers character becomes a detriment here. Having him constantly getting shot at and then bouncing back up without any rational explanation was irritating. He gets around at too many different places and seems a little too slick. For instance he’s able to cut off the phone lines to the hospital in some unexplained way as well as slashing the tires of every single car in the hospital’s parking lot. Also, where does a guy who has been institutionalized since age six manage to figure out the meaning and origins of samhain, which is a word that he writes in blood on a wall of a classroom?

There are other loopholes as well. For instance the hospital seems extremely dark and shadowy. Most hospitals I have been to are always well lit inside especially the hallways, but here it is almost like there are no lights on at all. The part where Michael stabs a nurse in her back with a thin surgical blade and then is able to lift her from the floor with it is ridiculous because the blade just wouldn’t be strong enough. The knife that Michael steals from an old lady (Lucille Benson) when he sneaks into her house is different from the one that he jams into the desk of a classroom that he breaks into.

The extreme lapses of logic are a big problem. When the film starts to have no bearing in reality then I find it hard if not impossible to get caught up into it. Clearly the screenwriter and director were making up the rules as they went along causing the climatic sequence that should have been suspenseful to be, at least to me, boring and annoying instead.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: October 30, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated R

Director: Rick Rosenthal

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video 

The Prowler (1981)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Just another slasher flick.

A gruesome murder is committed during a graduation dance in 1945. Now, thirty-five years later, the town decides to hold another one and soon the gruesome murders start back up.

The film does have an unusual opening for a slasher film, which consists of actual newsreel footage from World War II. It also nicely recreates a 1940’s dance scene. The presence of veteran’s Farley Granger and Lawrence Tierney help a little, but not much. Neither is seen a whole lot and in the case of Tierney isn’t even given a single line of dialogue. Bill Nunnery comes off best in his brief appearance as a lazy and apathetic hotel clerk. There is also a good moment of juxtaposition featuring the girls dressing up for the dance while cutting away to show the killer dressing up to kill them.

However, the movie is incredibly boring and redundant. There seems to be no point to the murders from before and why it was even put in seems ridiculous. The teen characters are one-dimensional and useless. The scenes that are supposed to be intense and scary become excessively dragged out until they become dull. The much ballyhooed special effects by Tom Savini don’t seem all that gruesome. The killings are pretty much standard stuff with most consisting of just a quick slash to the victim’s throat and then cutting away. The only decent one involves the death of a nude shower victim via a pitchfork. One particular killing seemed hard to believe if not completely impossible. It involved the killer putting a large knife all the way through the top of the victim’s skull and then out the bottom of his jaw with just one swoop. Then somehow the killer is able to easily take this same knife all the way back out, clean if off, and use it on his next victim. The girls are decent looking, but there needed to be a lot more nudity to make it worthwhile.

Despite attaining a cult following I found the film to be unimaginative and formulaic. The killings are boring and there isn’t one single scare or fright in it.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: November 6, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Rated R

Director: Joseph Zito

Studio: Sandhurst

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

The Burning (1981)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Cropsy doesn’t look good.

A summer camp caretaker named Cropsy (Lou David) is badly burned during a practical joke gone horribly wrong. Five years later and disfigured he gets out of the hospital and goes on a murderous rampage using a pair of gardening shears. However, he kills young campers at a completely different campsite and who had nothing to do with his accident.

Jason Alexander, in his film debut, is great. He shows a lot of charisma and pretty much carries the movie. You not only get to see him with a full head of hair, but for the lady viewers you also see his bare behind along with Fisher Stevens’s. This is also Holly Hunter’s first film, but she is seen very little. The teen characters here look like real teenagers instead of college- aged young adults like in most of the other films in this genre. They also have a little more distinctive personalities and aren’t quite as cardboard as usual. The women are good looking and there is a gratuitous nude scene involving actress/model Carole Houlihan.

On the Blue Underground DVD version make-up artist Tom Savini hosts a bonus feature, but warns everyone at the start not to watch it until they have seen the film so as not to ‘spoil’ it for them. However, it is hard to figure out what exactly it is that he would be spoiling as the movie is routine to the extreme. There are absolutely no interesting plot twists or surprises. It is also hard to believe that anyone could get a pair of simple gardening shears to do the things this killer gets them to do. The only really scary scene in this film is at the beginning where you get to see a close-up of actor Lou David’s strangely shaped nose. The camera slowly zooms into him as he is sleeping and you feel almost like you are being driven into his extremely large nostrils that seem to get bigger and bigger.

Savini’s special effects really don’t seem all that impressive especially in this day and age. There is a scene on the infamous raft killing sequence where it is quite obvious that the neck that the shears are cutting through is plastic and not really that of the actor’s. Also during the opening sequence when Cropsy runs out of the cabin while on fire he is not wearing anything on top of his head yet when the camera cuts to an outdoor shot of him it is obvious that the stunt double has something on his head.

I found this to be as bad and as uninspired as all the other Friday the 13th rip-offs. This is good only as a curio at seeing Alexander, Stevens and Hunter in their film debuts.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: May 8, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated R

Director: Tony Maylam

Studio: Filmways Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

The Nesting (1981)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: House haunted by hookers.

This review will start off a month long theme where in celebration of Halloween every 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s movie reviewed will be a horror one. This film sat in pretty much obscurity until being released by Blue Underground onto DVD and Blu-ray on June 28th. The story deals with Lauren (Robin Groves) a writer who rents an old house that looks strangely similar to the one depicted on the cover of her last novel. Eerie events start to happen and she learns that the building used to be a house of ill-repute and the prostitutes who were murdered there in cold blood are now coming back in ghostly form to seek revenge.

The film was directed by Armand Weston best known for directing porn movies during the 70’s including a couple of edgy, envelope pushing rape and revenge sagas The Taking of Christina and The Defiance of Good.  The directing here is competent enough that it is watchable, but the scares and horror is at a minimum. There are a few moments of creepiness and atmosphere, but it is not sustained and the film is unable to build any momentum, or suspense. The result is rather disjointed and unfocused. The premise borders on being campy and a 104 minute run time is way too long for a plot that offers a meager payoff.

Groves is an unusual choice for the lead. Usually films in this genre cast young college age girls in these roles with high sex appeal and skimpy outfits so that way they will be able to hold the viewer’s (males) attention during the slow parts of which there are many. Groves on the other hand is middle-aged, has an oversized mouth, and a hyper personality that seems better suited for comedy. She does end up having a nude scene, which isn’t bad, but I still felt she wasn’t the right fit.

I did like the idea that the character is given some unusual traits including suffering from agoraphobia (the extreme fear of the outside world) and a kooky creative personality that initially embraces the scares that she receives in the home because she feels it will help stimulate her artistic process. However, the film does not pursue these ideas enough and by the end seemed to have completely forgotten about them.

I was disappointed that Gloria Grahame an Academy Award winning actress was given such little screen time and actually doesn’t even utter a line of dialogue until the final 15 minutes of the movie. This woman was a leading lady during the 40’s and 50’s, but had the misfortune of marrying director Nicholas Ray and then having an affair with Ray’s 17 year old son from a different marriage. She eventually married the son and even had two kids with him, but the resulting scandal ruined her career and demoted her to B-movies afterwards. Still I thought she looked terrific and was better looking than Groves even though she was in real-life twenty-five years older than her. Her best moment is when she crosses a street and then gets hit in rather graphic fashion and run over by a speeding car that gets repeated several times.

Veteran actor John Carradine also appears, but I wished they hadn’t even bothered with him. He appears frail and elderly and speaks his lines in a mumbling fashion.

I did like that the movie was filmed on-location at the Armour-Stiner house in Irvington, New York. This is a unique domed octagonal residence built in 1860 and one of the few left standing. There is even an outdoor scene filmed on the home’s roof where Lauren’s analyst (Patrick Farrelly) falls from a ledge and gets impaled by a weather vane, which proves to be the film’s best gory moment.

The wrap-up and explanation for why Lauren was so strangely attracted to the home is actually kind of neat. I also liked the scene recreating the murderous events where everybody ends up getting shot one-by-one in slow motion. However, the script was in bad need of trimming and revision. There also should have been more special effects sprinkled throughout the production instead of just cramming them all in during the film’s fiery finale.


My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: May 3, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 44Minutes

Rated R

Director: Armand Weston

Studio: William Mishkin Motion Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video