Sunday, November 13, 2011

Home Sweet Suck: A Thanksgiving Story

Last night, Joanna and I watched a duo of flicks with Thanksgiving as the backdrop. The first was the annual standard Home for the Holidays. The second was a movie that I had been wanting to see for years, and of which I was finally able to procure a copy over the summer (thank you VHS Preservation Society): the 1981 slasher Home Sweet Home. I didn’t know anything other than it was a slasher that took place at Thanksgiving.

The tagline makes no sense, as only one character is named Bradley
 The movie starts out by disregarding the then-standard of slasher cinema by showing us the killer. No mask, no mystery (and no connection to the victims and no motive—not even a flimsy one—but that part didn’t bother me). So we see a beefy, Lou Ferrigno-type guy in a skintight shirt kill some dude and take his station wagon. He then runs down an old lady crossing the street, and proceeds to drive out to the country where a wannabe record exec guy (played by Don Edmonds, director of the Ilsa movies) is throwing a California-style Thanksgiving gathering for his friends (also present are his son Mistake, a rock-and-roll-obsessed-but-looks-more-like-a-mime-than-KISS amateur magician and his daughter Angel, played by a very young Vinessa Shaw).

The first half hour or so of the film is enjoyable, but in a bad way. It’s entertaining to watch the stereotypical bad acting, the flimsy plot and the absurd set-up and characterization going on. After everything is in place, though, the movie is just boring as hell for the final hour. The kills certainly are not very inventive. You don’t care one way or the other about a single character. And again, the killer looks like Lou Ferrigno.

Suffice it to say, we will not likely be making this flick a November tradition. But still, in my never ending quest to see every 80s slasher ever made…at least I get to scratch one off the list. Other films we may be thankful for this month include the Parker Posey-starring The House of Yes, the hour-long, turkey-slasher mini-epic Thankskilling (this movie is actually pretty fun if you go not expecting anything other than a turkey killing kids and dishing out one-liners), and the Pauly Shore classic Son-in-Law. Just killing time until we can sink our teeth into the many and varied Christmas flicks we watch every December.

Preview of next month:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Johnny's Top 10 Genre Movies of the 1980s!

In wanting to do decade-themed top 10 lists, I should probably go in chronological order, but it seems appropriate to start with the decade I grew up with, the one in which I developed my love for all things horror, sci-fi and weird. This list will be genre-centric, so even though movies like Thrashin’, Gleaming the Cube and Rad! are counted among some of my favorite movies ever, they won’t be included here.  Here are my faves of the Reagan era, in my best attempt at putting them in descending order:

10. Howard the Duck- Scoff all you want. I fucking love this movie. I loved it the first time I rented the VHS as an 8- or 9-year-old kid, and I fucking love it now on the fairly-recently-released DVD. I can kinda see, I guess, why a lot of people don’t care for it….it is pretty fucking ridiculous. But damn, if it isn’t the most charming kind of ridiculous there is. This flick will forever remain the definitive Lea Thompson-making-out-with-a-duck movie in my eyes.

 9. The Empire Strikes Back- Pretty obvious and standard. Not really much to say here, other than that there are those who prefer Jedi and those who prefer Empire. I have always been part of the latter.

8. Return of the Living Dead 2- I hear people speak ill of this movie all the time (though I did meet a guy once about 5 years ago that had the RotLD 2 VHS cover tattooed on his forearm--that guy is ok in my book), but I can never understand why. Obviously, the first RotLD is hard to match, but in my mind, this sequel has always come close, if not surpassed the original. And in a crunch, I usually watch part 2 instead. While I love a good zombié verité picture as much as the next fella, hordes of walking dead have always suited the campier side of film much better to me. In a post-Shaun of the Dead world, where zombedies are a dime a dozen, I think the idea was much more novel in the 80s.

The Legendary Bob
7. Dead Dudes in the House- This may seem a strange entry. But in my world, it makes so much sense. My brother, my sister and I caught this on Cinemax or whatever in 1989, and had the foresight to tape it, as well. I cannot tell you how many times we watched this movie after that. We all three knew it by heart, so much so that we would reenact it with GI Joes, line for line. In case you haven’t seen this Troma-distributed gem, a group of would-be partying kids move into a house where decades ago an old woman stabbed her daughter to death. The kids break the woman’s tombstone--which is planted in the front yard--awakening the murderous elder. The old woman, who is actually played by one of the male kids in heavy makeup--then makes quick work of the kids. Most of the actors and the director have very, very short filmographies (although Bob seems to have been in quite a bit of stuff in the past 10 years--including an episode of Fringe, which I watch, and never even noticed!!!). In short, watch this, if you haven’t. It’s just a damn fun, cheap-as-hell picture.

6. Toxic Avenger- It was hard to choose just one Troma-produced movie. TA and its sequels, along with Class of Nuke ’Em High and its sequels, could easily take up this entire list. I have so much respect for Lloyd Kaufman, and he numbers among the few genre celebs that I would really, REALLY love to meet one day. But at the end of the day, I’ve got to go with the one that started it all. What I can I say? I love the monster hero.

5. Rock N’ Roll Nightmare- I am a sucker (A SUCKER!) for rock n’ roll or metal-themed horror movies (or non-horror rn’r movies in general, really--see ext entry). I love Black Roses, Trick or Treat, Monster Dog, Dead Girls and to a lesser extent Hard Rock Zombies (actually, I didn’t really care for HRZ that much…I would’ve preferred if they actually played hard rock, instead of the AOR type stuff that was actually in the movie). I even really enjoyed the recent Suck. But the crown ruler of rn’r movies for me is the one starring heavy metal god Thor and his band The Tritonz. Tune your fucking weapons and rock and roll with crappy demon puppets, shitty dialog and laughable SFX (and I mean that all in the very best of ways).

4. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure- It counts.

3. The Lost Boys (also tied with Evil Dead and Evil Dead II--we’re gonna need a bigger list)- Ask my wife, and she will tell you about the weird crush I have on Messrs. Feldman and Haim. And it is a tough call for me between LB and the Coreys’ 1989 masterpiece Dream A Little Dream (which totally counts). In the end, though, the vampire classic among vampire classics just edges the body-swapping Dream out of the race. I also really loved BOTH LB sequels. Necessary? No. Fun? Hell yes. R.I.P. Corey Haim.

2. The Monster Squad- This was my The Goonies. I watched and loved The Goonies just like any other kid growing up in the 80s. But MS was my shit. I watched this movie so many fucking times. I remember seeing TV spots for it when it was coming to theaters. In those days it seemed like eons before a theatrical movie would hit VHS. And I cannot express the giddiness I felt as a young boy when I finally got to rent this movie. And I rented it a lot. A lot. I was so bummed to hear in the DVD commentary that Fat Kid had died in the 90s. R.I.P. Fat Kid.

1. Nightmare on Elm Street (either parts 1, 3 or 4)- When choosing a favorite Nightmare, it usually just boils down to what day of the week it is. I love ‘em all (New Nightmare and FvJ included). Of course the first is a classic. The third was the one that introduced me to the series. The fourth has just always been a personal fave (I love Rick and his kickboxing scenes to “Anything, Anything”. Freddy will always be the ultimate Movie Maniac in my book (speaking of books, I am currently reading Robert Englund’s Hollywood Monster, which Joanna got for me for Christmas--signed at that--and it is so much fun). The entire NoES series will always be number one on my all-time favorites list.

Rick, You Little Meatball
And a P.S.: Making this list is actually pretty impossible.  As soon as I was done I remembered like 15 movies I should've included, like Escape From New York.  So this is the top 10 off the top of my head!