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Friday, August 31, 2012

Audience Reaction To "Halloween" (1978)

     This is like the coolest thing ever. This is horror history right here.  It's an actual audio recording of an audience watching and reacting to the very first "Halloween" in a Hollywood theater.  I find this stuff utterly fascinating, and would love to find more footage like this- audio or video.  So rad.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Initiation

     If you're ever looking for a fantastic 80's slasher about a mysterious killer stalking nubile sorority pledges in a deserted mall at night, then how about THE INITIATION?

     Daphne Zuniga- yes, Jo from Melrose Place, plays Kelly Fairchild. Seems Kelly is pledging her local college and learns she must participate in the annual sorority initiations to earn the respect of older sisters. The initiation ritual is to break into the mall after hours and steal the uniform worn by the hunky security guard.  Just so happens that rich girl Kelly's daddy owns the mall, and Kelly knows her way around the facility. And wouldn't you just know it- the initiation is the same night a mental patient has escaped from the nearest mental asylum, and is currently hiding in the dark mall, unbeknownst to the girls. I love this stuff!

     Kelly is doing her thesis on dreams and dream analysis. Which is funny, because she has been suffering from the same recurring nightmare over and over.  Kelly turns to sexy professor Peter (James Read), who is also heavily interested in dreams and the symbolism behind them.  He introduces her to his Dream Factory and his assistant, sassy and delicious Heidi- who promptly steals the show. Those glasses alone... She's 100% awesome. Kelly's parents (Clu Gulager and Vera Miles) are richand come across as conniving, suspicious, annoying, and possibly evil. And Mum seem to drink a lot. Mum doesn't like the thought of her daughter discovering what's causing her nasty dreams, and would like for her to just forget it!

      Even though it doesn't kick into high gear until the gals are locked in the mall, this is still a super-fun slasher. I love Jo from "Melrose Place" in a slasher. I love the creepy after-dark atmosphere of the mall. I love the corniness mixed some moderately decent stalk/slash scenes. I love the many POV shots of the killer throughout the film. I love the short shorts on the boys, who all look 17. I love the sorority girls, who look about 35. I love the dream/psychology mumbo-jumbo. I love the Tom Selleck poster seen on a sorority girls' wall.  And I love the totally didn't see that coming shock twist of an ending. Ha! This is pure 80's slasher fun all the way.

     There's no extreme gore, but some decent scares sprinkled throughout that certainly deliver the goods.  This easily ranks alongside such notable classics as HELL NIGHT, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME,  and THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW as some of the most memorable college-themed splatter flicks of the 80's. What could be better than having a bunch of 80's kids being stalked by a maniacal killer in an empty shopping mall? I can't think of a thing.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sorority House Massacre

      By 1986, slashers were on their way out.  However, the influence of "Halloween" was still being seen, and "Sorority House Massacre" was a memorable entry in the dying slasher genre.  "A Nightmare On Elm Street" had introduced a new trend in fantasy/horror, and this film curiously combines elements of both that and "Halloween". It was marketed as part of the Massacre Collection, and makes a great double feature with "The Slumber Party Massacre".

     "Sorority House Massacre" tells the story of Beth, a rather butch college gal who's just moved into a new sorority and happens to be suffering from some nasty bad dreams and visions.  Mainly of some weird dolls and a strange man with a knife.  Beth left school for a bit to attend the funeral of her aunt, and comes back to an almost empty sorority (most of the sorority girls are away on a trip for the weekend).  And of course, in time-honored slasher fashion, an escaped mental patient has just escaped from the nearby asylum.  Yes.

     I mentioned "Halloween" earlier because this film has been widely criticized for being too much like John Carpenter's classic slasher.  It is.  The killer escapes, comes to town in a station wagon, stops by a hardware store, and goes back to his old house where he killed his family years earlier. Really.  And to top it off, he's hunting his surviving sister, who is unaware of her family history.  All that's missing here is Donald Pleasance running around, and well, everything that made "Halloween" so great in the first place.  Now don't get me wrong.  I love me some "Sorority House Massacre", but for different reasons than "Halloween".  Carpenter made a piece of art- an undying and influential classic.  This is not art, nor a classic.  It's pretty generic and unmemorable, actually.  But, like so many horror movies from the 70s and 80s, it's such a good time to be had that I find it irresistible.

     It's perfectly reasonable not to expect a classic when you're talking about one of those many nondescript and formulaic slashers from the dying days of the genre.  But don't let that stop you from watching this one.  Generally known as a rather anemic but oddly fascinating slasher from the late 80s, it's also known for having Carol Frank (director of "Slumber Party Massacre) directing it.  It's got some pretty good cinematography, some rather cool and kinda creepy dream sequences, some bitchin' 80s fashions, and a pretty decent score.

     On the other hand, you've got some downright bad acting, a bland killer, and a totally pointless yet downright hilarious montage of a bunch of sorority girls who pop in a cassette tape and try on each other's clothes. It's the fashion show from Hell, and it's totally rad.  Oh and this is the only slasher I can think of that has somebody murdered in a wigwam.  Don't ask- just watch!  While "Sorority House Massacre" offers up its fair share of gratuitous nudity, the film does offer up some surprising male nudity as well.  Fair is fair.  It's typical 80s lunacy, but for this genre, you could do so much worse.  It's nowhere near as sleazy as it's made out to be.  I like this movie- as bad as it is.  I like it a lot.  I also very much liked "The Slumber Party Massacre". It's a total guilty pleasure, and sure does hit the spot.  I'm irresistibly drawn to these movies- I can't explain it.  I just am.  All in all it was a helluva lot of fun watching this one.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


     Friday nights were a religious experience for me as a teen.  It usually meant renting a handful of VHS tapes and ordering a pizza.  My local video store, Totally Tape, was hallowed grounds in my eyes.  Ran by a hippie couple in their late 40s, they had literally tons of horror movies- the biggest selection I've ever seen in one place.  Every title you could possible think of was crammed into that mondo horror section.  This is where I discovered many gems of horror that I still love to this day.  I'll never forget browsing all those wonderful VHS tapes on the shelves for days, and those faded but powerful images are forever burned into my brain.  Nostalgia is a great thing.

     "Halloween" made the biggest impact on me, so we'll start with the wonderfully retro VHS covers of the first three "Halloween" films.  I couldn't even tell you how many times I rented this movie growing up. This was a staple of many Friday night sleepovers.

     Usually if I had the original "Halloween" in my hands, the sequel was coming along for the ride.  I usually consider the first two films one big movie anyway.  It was a big deal to order 3 large pizzas and make this a double feature.  Yes.

        Good times.  Sometimes I wonder if it's possible to overdose on the 80s...

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