Tag Archives: Jennifer Runyon

Up the Creek (1984)

up the creek

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Win the raft race.

Bob McGraw (Tim Matheson) is a lazy college student who has taken out over 30 student loans under false names that has allowed him to remain in the school for 12 years. When the school’s dean (John Hillerman) finds out about it he threatens to have him expelled unless he and his buddies (Stephan Furst, Dan Monahan, Sandy Helberg) can win the annual raft race, which is something the school hasn’t done in many years. The four agree to do it once the dean promises them free degrees, but they find things to be tough going as not only must they fight the mighty rapids, but also some Ivy League preppies that will sink to any cheating low to win and a team of marines disgruntled at being disqualified.

This film seems like an odd career move for director Robert Butler who had just come off tremendous critical success with his directing of several early episodes of the ground breaking series ‘Hill Street Blues’ as well as his creation of the slick ‘Remington Steele’ TV-series and the dark/edgy Night of the Juggler film yet here he reverts back to his Disney roots doing a sort of updated, raunchy 80’s version of his Medfield College films that starred Kurt Russell. Unfortunately this one isn’t half as clever and entertaining as those were and in a lot of ways just as silly and childish. The only thing he gets right is the filming done on the Deschutes River in Oregon, which manages to have a few nifty shots of the rafts going down the rapids, but that is about it.

Matheson is the one thing that manages to hold it together playing an amusing caricature of a slacker that remains on-target throughout. Jennifer Runyon as an attractive blonde that he meets up with is gorgeous and perfect eye candy even though she has no nude scenes despite being the hottest female in the film. Furst has a few funny moments in a clichéd role of a gluttonous, overweight character, but it’s the dog named Chuck that ends up being the real scene stealer especially during a diverting game of charades.

Unfortunately the film is unable to hold the balance between being silly and raunchy. In fact after the first 20 minutes there is very little adult humor or nudity at all and what we get left with is a live action cartoon that is more lame than funny. The repetitive hijinks by the competing teams are campy and tiresome and the fact that Matheson and his crew are constantly able to rebuild their inflatable raft after it gets repeatedly destroyed makes no sense. The film would have worked better had it scraped the dumb humor altogether and focused solely on the race as that is the only time that it ever gets even slightly interesting.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: April 6, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 36Minutes

Rated R

Director: Robert Butler

Studio: Orion Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD-R, Amazon Instant Video

To All a Goodnight (1980)

to all a goodnight

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Santa stalks sorority babes.

An initiation stunt at a girl’s sorority house goes horribly wrong and one young woman falls to her death off of a balcony. Two years later the girls get ready for a Christmas party by inviting some boys over and soon they are all getting down-and-dirty, but then someone dressed in a Santa Claus suit begins hacking them off one-by-one.

I’m a big fan of David Hess who directed this feature as I feel his performance as Krug in the classic horror movie Last House on the Left was effectively intense and this film is also written by Alex Rebar who starred in the cheesy cult flick The Incredible Melting Man, so I wanted to cut this movie some slack, but found that I couldn’t. Things start out bad from the very beginning with a tacky flashback sequence that is wretchedly acted and photographed and then things go straight downhill from there. Part of the problem is that the scenes featuring extraneous dialogue between a lot of bland, cardboard characters that is usually used at the beginning of most 80’s slasher flicks as a sort of set-up, but here they get strung along throughout the entire movie. The killings themselves are brief and paced so infrequently that you start to forget that this is supposed to be a horror film. The tension is nil and having a setting dealing with snarky, snotty and horny sorority babes is a tiresome cliché.

The killings themselves are poorly photographed in dark lighting, so it is difficult to follow the action. The special effects are cheap and unimpressive. One scene features a couple getting killed while they have sex, which is a poor rip-off of the same scene that was done in Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood. Some fans of the film boast about the scene featuring a death of two people by an airplane propeller, but this is really no big deal because all you see are a few seconds of blood splattering on the outside of the plane and that’s it.

The script is illogical and full of a lot of loopholes. The identity of the killer turns out to be two people using the same disguise, which doesn’t make sense for several different reasons, which is too may to elaborate here. There is also a Leia character played by Judith Bridges who gets accosted by the killer in a shower stall while being completely naked, but for some reason is not killed and instead we see her at the end dancing some nutty dance, but with no explanation as to why. The policemen hired to protect the girls after the first victim is found dead do not dress in uniform and instead look like they are ready to go out to a club to pick up chicks and behave like it, which seemed wholly unprofessional and ridiculous.

Jennifer Runyon makes her film debut here. She had a brief 13-year-run, which included a co-starring role in the 80’s series ‘Charles in Charge’, but has not appeared in anything since 1993’s Carnosaur. She is certainly easy on the eyes, but her voice is too high-pitched and sounds almost like she is 8 or 9 years old or someone who has sucked up helium. Hess also casts his mother Judy Hess in a small role as Mrs. Ronsoni although in the closing credits it gets incorrectly listed as Mr. Ronsoni.

Despite being set at Christmas the action takes place in the warm tropical climate of California, which is okay, but the expectation for a Christmas movie is to have snow and cold. Having the girls trapped in their house because of the frigid weather or being chased by the killer while trudging through deep snow could’ve helped heighten the tension and added an atmosphere.

The pounding electronic music score is the only thing that I liked and helped give this otherwise static and forgettable production a slight distinction.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: January 30, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 23Minutes (VHS Print)

Rated R

Director: David Hess

Studio: Intercontinental Releasing Corporation

Available: VHS