Back to the 1980s for 6 of 9; Haunts, Parallel Universes, Bloody Revenge and One Helluva Twist

Okay, party people. Nine films tonight. I’ve been working and watching football. I actually watched one of the films from the list this weekend – the original Fright Night. It’s funny watching Amanda Bearse in a role where she has to kiss a guy. I found her character to be more frightening at the end than master vampire Jerry Dandridge. I’m not sure why they had to try to “age” Roddy McDowell with bad hair and make-up. Anywho, I digress. Back to the countdown…maybe it’s because Back to the Future predicted the Chicago Cubs would win the World Series this year (and they actually made the playoffs), but for some reason, with a couple of exceptions, it’s back to the 1980s tonight. This is the part of the list where the order starts to get really difficult.

  1. 1408 – 2007

John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson star in this haunted hotel room thriller. Again, I find haunted anything movies difficult to do well and this one is done well. This is one of those films that I only saw once and it is time to see it again. Stylish and stylized, Cusack is fantastic in this movie and the ending is, well, chilling.

  1. House of Wax – 1953

I swear, if you prefer the remake with Paris Hilton there is no hope for you. This is vintage Vincent Price. I wonder how many of the films on my list involve someone who was wronged and comes back for bloody revenge. Price certainly comes back for his revenge in this and instead of cold, it’s served hot – hot wax. Price is his usual fantastic self in this and House of Wax is my favorite Price vehicle.

  1. The Fly – 1958/1986

I am going to group the two films into one here. I very much enjoyed the original 1958 version with David Hedison as the doomed scientist whose transporter machine splices his with a housefly. Vincent Price stars as well. The scene when the fly with the human head trapped in the spider web is the stuff of horror movie legend. David Cronenberg’s direction and Jeff Goldblum’s performance turned the 1986 version into a horror masterpiece. Goldblum’s “Brundlefly” transformation is disgusting and tragic all at the same time. Geena Davis also stars.

  1. Poltergeist – 1982

How Tobe Hooper could direct The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and then this is beyond me. Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams star in this haunted house film. Heather O’Rourke made the Carol Anne role an iconic one before her untimely death after the filming of the third installment. We’ve all quoted Carol Anne’s, “They’re here.” This is the movie that made me hate clowns…forever. There are plenty of movies and TV clowns that followed to reinforce that, but this movie’s clown toy scene is what did it. A word to those in charge of such things, if you’re going to move a cemetery, move the coffins and bodies too.

  1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – 1974

Tobe Hooper’s finest horror work involves grave-robbing cannibals and a chainsaw wielding character that has also become iconic in the genre – Leatherface. His first appearance is horror movie jump factor gold. This film is gritty and nasty, and you almost feel like you need to take a shower after watching it. There’s a remake and sequels and prequels. Never mind them, watch this, it’s all you need in the Texas chainsaw horror realm.

  1. Phantasm II – 1988

I didn’t see the original Phantasm. I’ve never seen the sequels. Angus Scrimm as the Tall Man is another one of those perfect actor/role deals. The real victim here is the Hemi ‘Cuda they flip and wreck. Gorgeous car and meets a tragic end. The Tall Man, the flying, murderous silver tennis balls, possession, shadowy parallel universe. A bit of an underrated 1980s horror film that gets lost in the malaise of slasher films of its time.

  1. Spellbinder – 1988

Tim Daly from Wings, Rick Rossovich from Top Gun and a very young Kelly Preston headline this very unexpected treat. Witches, Satanic cult, human sacrifice and one helluva twist at the end. I remember watching this for this first time and my jaw dropped when the twist happened. I never cared much for Daly as an actor. He’s one of the things I don’t like about Storm of the Century. But his naïve everyman act is perfect for this film.

  1. Re-Animator – 1985

Loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West: Reanimator, Jeffrey Combs cements himself as an 80s Lovecraft adaptation regular. Dr. Herbert West works to perfect a serum that will re-animate the dead. As usual, this isn’t the best idea and predictably has disastrous results. Several unwatchable sequels followed. Another Lovecraft adaptation veteran, scream queen Barbara Crampton, also stars.

  1. From Beyond – 1986

As much as I love my H.P. Lovecraft, I love many of the film adaptations and this is my favorite. It’s horrifying and ridiculous at the same time. And I learned what the brain’s pineal gland is in the process. Combs and Crampton star in this as well. Crampton in a dominatrix outfit is almost worth the watch alone. A machine called the “resonator” enables people to see another dimension or universe. It wouldn’t be a horror film if murderous creatures didn’t exist in the void.

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