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Every Halloween you should make an effort to see a horror film or two that has until then missed you. This year I saw a trifecta of 80’s efforts.  Maybe next year I’ll try some stuff from the 70’s.

Scanners (1981) – Some movies get by on the power of just one scene.  The right scene in the right place can make the audience forget whatever drudgery happened before or happens after.  In the case of David Cronenberg’s Scanners, an exploding head at the movie’s beginning mask the fact that Scanners is mostly a bore to sit through.  One of Cronenberg’s first success stories as a director, Scanners is about a bunch of actors, sorry, Scanners, starring at each other really hard.  By starring at people really hard they can manipulate, harm or even kill them.  The plot’s not very interesting and the dialogue, also by Cronenberg, has all the finesse of tapping on a tin drum for 90 minutes.  Cronenberg has made many interesting movies but he can be distant, alienating and emotionless and Scanners has all of these in abundance.  The casting also leaves a lot to be desired. Little known Canadian thespian Stephen Lack is the lead and he seems to have been cast because he can stare.  He can’t emote for his life but he sure can stare.  He’s the Oliver of staring.  Unfortunately when he’s not staring he’s prozaic.  All of this really doesn’t matter because Scanners is all about that exploding head.

 

 

The Howling (1981) – Joe Dante made a splash in 1984 with his delightfully mean spirited Christmas classic Gremlins.  The film that got him on the map though was 1981’s The Howling.  From the glorious age of ambitious physical effects, Howling features all kinds of gruesome werewolf transformations that helped to define special effects of the era.  The more I revisit this stuff the more I wish some filmmakers would bring it back and give CGI a break.  These are some amazing accomplishments and appreciators of early 80’s horror efforts will love it.  The snag is that you have to sit through and hour of tepid melodrama before you get to any of the cool shit.  The Howling is 60 minutes of silly build up capped off by 30 minutes of what the audience really wants.  Once the werewolves make their presence known and start terrorizing the rest of the cast everything is hunky dory.  But that first hour is a chore.

 

 

Night of the Comet (1984) – An unbearable piece of 80’s sci-fi/horror garbage.  A comet passes the Earth and everyone not locked away in a steel room is turned to red dust.  Thank goodness our heroine was having sex with her scumbag projectionist boyfriend in a sleeping bag on the floor of the projection room when it zoomed by.  For reasons unexplained a few people are turned to zombies instead of dust.  Projector floozy and her sister survive and proceed to have idiotic hijinxs such as firing uzi’s on cars and performing fashion shows in abandoned malls.  It’s hard to tolerate a fashion montage under any circumstance but here it’s mind blowing.  The whole world is dead, so let’s try on clothes!  It’s the kind of clueless movie only a special kind of moron could make in the 1980’s.  Why anyone gives this a pass based on nostalgia or camp factor is something I cannot comprehend.

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