Stephen King’s Children of the Corn (1984)

One from the re-watch pile…

Stephen King’s Children of the Corn (1984)

Film: If you’ve been reading this blog for the last few years, or read my reviews over the past 10 years, or even listened to my podcast, you may notice two things that I say over and over again.

1. My favourite movies mostly come from the 1980s

2. I am not a fan of Steven King’s writing.

The weird thing about these to things is that they do intersect: I really like all of the Stephen King novel based movies. It’s true. I’m a fan of the man’s ideas, but not of his execution. Do I feel bad about it? No. Would I watch any film based on a Stephen King novel at any time of the night or day? Yes.

I know that this wasn’t the first King translation I ever saw because I KNOW that I was taken to the cinemas to see The Shining by my parents at the ripe old age of 10 which launched both my fear of fathers and my love of breasts. This film, 1984’s Stephen King’s Children of the Corn (yes, that’s the official title) must have been very close to being the next one. I was watching a lot of horror in the early eighties so realistically it could have been this, or Cujo, or Carrie, but I can’t be sure.

What I can be sure of was that I definitely saw it when it first came out on VHS in Australia, and it probably made me a fan of the ‘abandoned town’ as a setting for horror films!

Anyway, the story of Stephen King’s Children of the Corn (SKCotC) begins with a mass murder in a small diner of all of the adults by the children of the town. One boy witnesses it and chooses to make an attempt to escape the town which is now being controlled by teenage religious zealots, led by Issac (John Franklin) and his thuggish sidekick Malachai (Courtney Gains).

Tragically he doesn’t escape, but he does make it to a highway where young lovers, Burt (Peter Horton) and Vicky (Linda Hamilton) come across his body, and this leads them to the town where they are terrorised by the children, and threatened to be sacrificed to something called ‘He Who Walks Behind The Rows’.

Will Burt and Vicky escape, or will they be sacrificed to… well, whatever ‘IT’ is…

This is as eighties as a film can get, but it has some amazing ideas and some truly threatening scenes. I remember when I first saw it I was reminded on the classic Star Trek series episode ‘Miri’ but that was probably just a teenage me associated two cool things together.

King’s story here was adapted by George Goldsmith (Blue Monkey) and its a solid thriller made real by the direction from Fritz Kiersch which visually tells of the desolation of remoteness of farmland and their communities, and just how easily one could drop off the map if not tended to appropriately. It’s also a fascinating look at the manipulation of religion by its leaders.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the 88 Films Slasher Collection Bluray, which was presented in 1.78:1 and with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track, both of which were surprisingly good considering the age of the film.

Score: ****

Extras: There’s a couple of extras on this disc:

The original trailer for the title film, plus trailers for Don’t Go In The Woods, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Live Like A Cop Die Like A Man, Mother’s Day, Slaughterhouse, Trancers and Splatter University.

The Life, Legacy and Legend of Donald P. Borchers is a fairly thorough, 90-odd minute documentary about the movie producer, Donald P. Borchers, who produced this film as well as Vamp, Tuff Turf and Angel. It’s really an interesting insight into the Hollywood machine as well as Borcher’s actual career.

Score: ***

WISIA: Its a Stephen King classic and demands to be watched more than once.

Graduation Day (1981) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Graduation Day (1981)

The cover the 88 Films’ Graduation Day BD release

Film: I love my 80s slasher films. From the Halloweens (yes I am aware that they started in the 70s, but predominantly the sequels hit in the 80s) and the Friday the 13ths and their imitators like The Burning, which I think is one of the finest slashers of all time, I love em all… to varying degrees…

I was very excited to see that 88 Films were making a bluray collection that focused on the slasher film. Excited, because it meant some of the lesser known and released slashers would get a working on bluray. 88 Films did a cool job with this collection too, all the cases in red and with thin, numbered spines, though some of the decisions made, like my previously reviewed Dead of Winter,  are a bit dubious.

Graduation Day: Patch MacKenzie as Anne Ramstead

This however is 1981’s Graduation Day, directed by Beyond Evil’s Herb Freed, who also co-wrote the story with Anne Marisse and it tells of a series of murders that are taking place in a town after a track star dies after a particularly stressful run, but why are these murders taking place? Is the runner’s sister, Anne (Patch MacKenzie) who has returned from military service responsible? Or is it the coach, (the unfortunately named) George Michaels (Christopher George) who has snapped after a feeling of responsibility for the girl’s death? 

Graduation Day: Michael Pataki as the Dean

Or is it someone else?!?

Honestly, it’s not the greatest slasher in the world, though some of the deaths are quite inventive. If it has any notoriety at all, it is due to the fact that the aforementioned Christopher George, star of Lucia Fulci’s City of the Living Dead stars in it, and a very young and pretty Linnea Quigley, scream queen extraordinaire and star of Return of the Living Dead amongst other films gets her very young and nubile boobies out.

So I guess at the very least it’s worth it for that.

Score: **

Graduation Day menu screen

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the UK 88 Films release from their Slasher Classics Collection (Volume 1 actually) and is presented in an OK 1.78:1 widescreen image, which has an occasional artefact, and a pretty good DYS-HD mono audio presentation.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: The disc opens with a trailer for Calum Waddell’s doco Slice and Dice decent bunch of extras appear on this release of Graduation Day:

 First we have a documentary called Scream Queens: Horror Heroines Exposed which is hosted by Debbie Rochon, which talks about the ‘classic’ scream queens of the 80s. Thankfully it features Brinke Stevens, Michelle Bauer and Linda Quigley aka the REAL scream queens! It explores the entire ideal of the scream queen from nudity to crazy fans.

Graduation Memories, an interview with author and critic Justin Kerswell who talks about the film and its history.

Next we have a bunch of Troma extras which are, well, of Troma’s usual quality, if you know what I mean.

The Cannibal Lesbian Hoedown, a music video by Lloyd Kaufman and it’s exactly what you think it is… but with more boobs.

Tromantic Filmmaking Classroom: The Arm Rip shows how an arm rip effect can be done. It’s pretty dire and not very funny.

Interview with scream queen Linnea Quigley sees Quigley talk about her career.

Intro by Lloyd Kaufman which was made for a DVD release (which all of these are) and again, isn’t too funny.

Theatrical trailer is exactly what it says it is.

Speaking of trailers, there is also a bunch of trailers of 88 Films releases including Puppet Master, The Pit & the Pendulum, Demonic Toys, Bloody Birthday, Two Moon Junction, Doll Man, Bloodsucking Freaks, Puppet Master II, Puppet Master III, Tourist Trap and Castle Freak.

This release also has an interview card with a an article called Class Dismissed, in which Calum Waddell interviews star of Graduation Day Patch MacKenzie. This release also has a reversible cover with alternate art. 

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s an OK slasher but I can’t really see myself watching again.

Graduation Day: Linnea!!!

Arcade (1993) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Arcade (1993)

The cover of 88 Films Arcade

Film: The 90s were a pretty dire time for this horror fan, and as an 80s horror fan, that may have been partially my fault. It the 80s we had become accustomed to every film becoming a franchise: Freddy, Jason, Michael…. even Full Moon Pictures, who produced this film Arcade, had their franchises with the Puppet Master and Subspecies films. By the time the 90s hit, horror was just potential series starting and failing; I’m looking at you, Brainscan and Doctor Giggles.

Those few early years of the 90s just were terrible, and even Fangoria knew that there was something gumming up horror’s plumbing as some of the articles, and covers of this period included mainstream films like Jurassic Park and Batman Returns!

Thankfully due to fresh blood like The Blair Witch Project (not a film I like but I appreciate what it did for the genre) and revamped old blood like Wes Craven’s with his successfully, cynical and self-aware Scream films, horror survived and didn’t go the way of the western or the musical, a topic discussed occasionally at the time.

Arcade is one of the not so successful attempts at franchise creation, but it does stand out as having, for its day, some pretty incredible computer effects not done by a big Hollywood company like ILM.

Arcade: Megan Ward and Peter Billingsley

Onto the story: Alex (Megan Ward) has had a rough year. First her mother committed suicide, and then her Dad, well, he should be committed. To make matters worse, her friends are a bunch of 90210-styled buttholes (amongst them, Seth Green, who still looks exactly the same as he does now). 

Dante’s Inferno is a club/ video game arcade that they hang out in, and some of them are quite excited to try a brand new virtual reality game called ‘Arcade’ which is introduced to them by a video game executive from Vertigo Tronics called Difford (John De Lancie), but there is something not quite right about the game.

The games antagonist, Arcade, can bring people into the game peemanentky, and manipulate reality to his own ends…

So I’ll get a few of the bad points out of the way first. The characters are the most facile, awful bunch of turds I have ever had the misfortune of witnessing. Seriously, they are like the worst of each of the jerk characters from the Nightmare On Elm Street series all put together in one film, and they grate on every single nerve you have. Now this wouldn’t be a problem if any of them could act, but there were less wooden performances in 18th century puppet shows.

Next is the character of ‘Arcade’ itself. Remember how the killer from Bad Dreams was like a poor man’s Freddy, and then the bad guy from Brainscan was like an even cheaper version of him? Well Arcade is an even cheaper version of him, but they spent a fortune on now-archaic special effects to realise him. He’s (it’s?) a taunting smartarse just like the rest of the group, so I am surprised he wants to kill them, and not just join their gang of butt-plugs.

Next, it’s Albert Pyun’s direction. Normally I like his direction, and count The Sword and the Sorcerer as one of my favourite fantasy films, but here it meanders along with the adore mentioned sub-par acting and clunky dialogue.

Arcade: Megan Ward and Peter Billingsley

Which brings us to the final issue. The packaging for this disc from 88 Films proudly announces ‘from the writer of The Dark Knight and Man of Steel’. The person they refer to is David S. Goyer, who didn’t just write THOSE two films, but also two of the best Call of Dutys (in Black Ops 1 and 2), and the Blade films, and the weird scifi film Dark City. This is not a careers highlight, and it’s not necessarily that the idea is bad, because it was great when it was a film called ‘Tron’, it’s just poorly executed, which possible circles back to the acting and direction.

It’s a circle of suck.

On the plus side, the computer effects, considering their time, are a fun look at where we were in computer graphics was at this time.

I must say though that my favourite bit is when the surviving kids meet the game programmer, who doesn’t look like a cool, hippy-nerd in a superhero shirt, but instead is a 40-something, porno-moustached nerd in a labcoat and spectacles.

As a weird aside, one thing I did find interesting was I kept getting reminded of the film Pulse that starred Kristin Bell and Ian Somerhalder, which in itself was a remake of the Japanese film of the same name from 2001. It was probably just me, but I just felt a few suggestions made by the film made me think of that one.
Unfortunately those couple of musing things didn’t make up for the rest of the film, and I kid you not, every 20 minutes feels like an hour. Don’t bother.

Score: *

88 Films Arcade title screen

Format: The reviewed copy of the film was the UK’s 88 Films region free DVD release. This film ran for approximately 85 minutes, and was presented in an average 1.33:1 video with a decent digital 2.0 audio

Score: **1/2

Extras: There’s a couple of extras on this disc, but not a great deal. First we have a ‘making of’ in the form of ‘Videozone’ which Full Moon Pictures used to put on VHS tapes at the end of the feature. This one’s pretty good as it has an early look at how what we now call CGI is created for the film.

There is also a trailer for Arcade, and an 88 Films Trailer Park featuring trailers for The Corpse Grinders, Two Moon Junction, Blood Orgy of the She Devils, Hideous, Girl in Gold Boots, Robot Wars, Dollman, The Doll Squad, Castle Freak and Slice N Dice.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: I am never, ever, ever, ever, ever going to watch this ever again.

Bloody Birthday (1981) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Bloody Birthday (1981)

Film: Ain’t no slasher like an 80s slasher!

88 Films have risen so quickly in the go-to UK DVD and bluray collectors scope that they now rival Arrow Films, and the quirky Shameless Screen Entertainment. I admit the only one of these companies that I have bought all the films available is Shameless, but my collectors reflex has been in full flight with the numbered yellow covers.

Whilst I watched many slasher films in the 80s on VHS, I have no recollection of ever seeing this title, even on the shelves! We certainly didn’t have it in the video shop I worked in, and I don’t recall seeing it at any of the other local shops near my house.

This film was directed by Ed Hunt, who also directed Diary of a Sinner and Plague, amongst others and he co-wrote the film with Barry Pearson, who wrote Paperback Hero, and worked with Hunt on several other projects.

This film is about the tenth birthday of three children, Timmy (K.C Martel), Debbie (Elizabeth Hoy) and Curtis (Billy Jayne) who were born during a solar eclipse which, according to astrology, means they are missing ‘something’ in there personality.

What that thing is, is remorse, as over the course of several days, the three start a serial killing rampage, targeting anyone who has wronged them and these victims include teachers, babysitters…. even family members, but can they be stopped, or will their little group fall apart as kids start to blame each other for the murders…

Its a fun movie, for sure. It’s not very bloody and at times feels like it was almost made for television, except for the collection of boobs on show would never have been allowed on TV in the early 80s! The performances range from decent to terrible, and I should point out that both Susan Strasberg and José Ferrer make cameos. The final girl, played by Lori Lethin, is a delight too: a real ‘sunny’ personality.

Score: ***

Format: This review was done with the U.K., region B bluray release of the film, which runs for 85 minutes. The film was presented in an average but clear and artefact free 1.78:1 video with a decent mono audio.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: The first thing I have to say is I like how 88 Films have given us a black bluray cover and a reversible sleeve; one side with original artwork and the other with an unimpressive, updated one. I always dig these kind of physical bonuses!

There’s a couple of OK extras on this disc:

Don’t Eat the Cake: an Interview with Lori Lethin is just that, an interview with the actress who played Joyce which is charming.

A Brief History of Slasher Movies featurette is a short look at the slasher film, but it’s really just an interview with Adam Rockoff, author of the book Going to Pieces: The Rise & Fall of the Slasher Film.

There are also several trailers for Bloody Birthday, Bloodsucking Freaks, Tourist Trap and Two Moon Junction.

There is also a informative commentary by the author of Teenage Wasteland, Justin Kerswell with Calum Waddell.

Hidden in the audio section is also an audio only interview with the director, Ed Hunt which is also played over the film as a director’s commentary.

Score: ***

WISIA: 80s slashers are my jam, of course I’ll give it another spin.

The Bogey Man (1980) Review

One from the re-watch pile…

The Bogey Man aka The Boogey Man (1980)

Film: You know those times where you watch a film and think to yourself,’ Damn, that was a great idea, poorly executed.’
Director Ulli Lommel’s film The Boogey Man (in the UK, where this release is from, called ‘The Bogey Man’) is one of those times. I wanted to like it, and it had some the trappings of a film that I would like: the time period as I love late 70s/ early 80s horror; pretty, accessible girls, a threatening backstory to set up future horrors; a dude in a weird mask… You know, the usual suspects.

I will point out that whilst it did skip gratuitous nudity, except for a blink and you’ll miss it half-nipple, it replaced it with a horrendously un-sexy ‘implied’ blowjob, cause you know, they are the best kind. Oh, hang on: that’s not a win at all!

So onto the synopsis…

Years ago, young Lacey (Natasha Schiano) witnesses the brutal murder of her mother’s abusive boyfriend at the hands of her brother Willy (Jay Wright).

Today, Lacey (Suzanna Love) and her brother, the now mute from trauma Willy (Nicholas Love) live with her son, husband and uncle and aunt on their farm, but she is haunted by the memories of what happened that night, brought on by a deathbed letter from their mother. She visits the local psychiatrist, Dr. Warren (John Carradine) who suggests that perhaps revisiting her childhood home will help to exorcise the demons within her, but when she does, she appears to see the spirit of her mother’s lover in the mirror, and so she smashes is, releasing him to wreak havoc on her live, and the lives of her young ones… And anyone who gets light reflected on them by, say, a piece of it attached to a child’s shoe… Yeah, that’s what I thought too.

So like I wrote earlier, it’s not a bad idea, it’s just not quite executed effectively. The concept of a murdered creep’s soul being trapped in a mirror is an awesome one, but the hows and whys are not communicated other than through legend one of the characters was supposed to have heard, we are just supposed to assume that this is what happens. It’s just a glaring hole in the plotting that with such a weak explanation makes the film seem limp. There’s a hinted at subtext of possession too, which is also frustratingly left under-explored.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need a film to hold my hand and lead me through the story, but a map and a compass wouldn’t hurt!

There is also some things the family do that are just inexplicable. When Lacey smashes the mirror, her husband re-assembles the glass like a jigsaw to prove that there isn’t creepy presence in the mirror, and then hangs it in their kitchen. I’m not entirely sure why.

The acting in the film is fine, and even the effects, simple as they are, work just fine, and the soundtrack is really good. I do have to commend Lommel’s direction at times, as he uses mirrored reflection in many interior scenes, rather than shooting it straight-on. His exterior shots are also shot with a very distinct, rural-painterly look to them, with the actors planted in very specific spots to balance the image.

It feels like it wants to be something else, like maybe the Amityville Horror, which came out a few years earlier, but I just might be projecting the familiarity of the architecture of the farmhouse into that, though it is essentially about a ghost of the past terrorising a family.

To sum up, The Boogey Man is not a bad film, just a missed opportunity.

Score: ** 

Format: The region-free bluray disc is number 10 in the U.K. company 88 Films ‘Slasher Collection’. The film looks and sound great, considering its age and is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio.

Score: ****

Extras: A few extras on this disc. First we have an interview with director Ulli Lommel, which goes for about 17 minutes and is pretty average quality, and Lommel speaks VERY slowly and deliberately but an interesting interview nevertheless, and he’s an amazingly impressive name-dropper. 

Next we have a trailer for the film, a couple of TV spots and my most hated of extras, a stills gallery: I will give this stills gallery a small amount of credit though as it has international promo material in it.

This disc also has a few other trailers for films from 88 Films including Puppet Master, The Pit & the Pendulum, Demonic Toys, Two Moon Junction, Dollman, Bloodsucking Freaks, Puppet Master II, Puppet Master III, Tourist Trap and Castle Freak

There is also a booklet written by genre journalist Calum Waddell, which I would have loved to have reviewed, but the writing, black on red paper, is so microscopic I’d need a library microfiche to actually read it.

Score: ***

WISIA: The Bogey Man is actually quite a frustrating watch as it seems like a gigantic missed opportunity. Honestly, if not for getting it as part of the Slasher Collection and deciding to review it here, I probably would never have watched it again after seeing it for the first time years ago. 

Dead of Winter (1987) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Dead of Winter (1987)

Film: There are several actors and actresses whose work I will watch no matter what, even if friends tell me not to bother, or if online reviews are low, or even if the tale suggested by the synopsis on the back of the DVD/ Bluray/ VHS/ whatever doesn’t sound to my taste. There are many different reasons why I like these performers: acting skills, appearance et cetera but I’ll always keep an eye out for them.

Scarlett Johansson would be one at the top of that list for reasons that I don’t necessarily want to go into here, but certainly in my top ten is a gentleman by the name of Roddy McDowall, star of films such as Planet of the Apes, Class of 1984 and Fright Night, not to mention the TV series The Fantastic Journey, which I loved as a kid, and many, MANY cartoon voices, like The Mad Hatter in Batman The Animated Series.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was in this flick, as the only reason I nabbed it was it is part of 88 Films’s Slasher bluray collection (number 8) and being an OCD completist wherever possible, I had to buy it. The bonus was Mary Steenburgen’s star turn: I’d only ever seen her, where she had been memorable, in Back to the Future 3, so I wanted to see if she was capable of something other than the gentle spoken, sweet wife of Doc.

Struggling New York actress Katie McGovern (Mary Steenburgen) lands an opportunity for a job after an audition with the pleasant, but odd Mr Murray (Roddy McDowall) who seems to be quite captivated by her. He takes her to meet reclusive, retired, and wheelchair bound Doctor Joseph Lewis (Jan Rubeš) who is impressed by Murray’s choice.

Soon she finds herself with her appearance slightly changed and recording a scene on video to send to a director whose lead actress, the spitting image of Katie, has had a nervous breakdown and needs to be replaced, but Katie is uneasy… It feels like she is being held prisoner in Lewis’s house, a feeling which gets greater as time rolls on… And the winter snows kick in… And Murray and Lewis’s motives for her being there are revealed…

Unfortunately, my synopsis makes the film far more exciting that it really is. 

This loose remake of 1945’s My Name Is Julia Ross is dull and asexual and is like a very VERY ordinary midday movie, or even after school special. Steenburgen gets a go in multiple lead roles, but she is just so vanilla that every scene she is in droops terribly. Thankfully McDowell’s effete and submissive role lifts some of them, as does Jan Rubeš bonkers reclusive cripple, who seems to be almost emulating Lawrence Olivier’s role in Marathon Man… albeit a Diet Coke, toothless version.

This movie is slow paced and dare I say it, boring, but it’s nothing that a better director could repair, oh, and change all the cast except Roddy McDowall… And the soundtrack is quite weak… Actually, it’s quite terrible: purchase only if you need to fill the space between 7 (Nailgun Massacre) and 9 (X-Ray) in your 88 Films Slasher Collection

Score: *

Format: This bluray is region B, runs for approximately 100 minutes and is presented in a satisfactory 1.85:1 picture with a decent Dolby 2.0 soundtrack.

Score: ***


There aren’t many extras on this disc other than this stills gallery, which unless it depicts poster art or associated merchandise, I feel is a worthless extra. It’s an animated visual medium for Corman’s sake, don’t just stick a piss-poor selection of images from the film together with some music. It’s lazy and frustrating. This one does at least have one movie poster at the end of the slideshow/screensaver.

This disc also contains trailers for other 88 Films releases Puppet Master, The Pit & The Pendulum, Demonic Toys, Bloody Birthday, Two Moon Junction, Dollman, Blood Sucking Freaks, Puppet Master II, Puppet Master III, Tourist Trap and Castle Freak.

Now the packaging also claims that this has a collector’s booklet by Slice and Dice director and journalist Calum Waddell, but unfortunately mine did not come with this. I’d say I was just unlucky, but I do have another Bluray in this collection by 88 Films which suffered from the same issue. That’s some pretty terrible QC right there. The packaging also claims to have the trailer for Dead of Winter, but it must be extraordinarily well hidden as I could not find it.

It also has a reversible sleeve, but the hidden one is quite bland.

Score: **

WISIA: No. I wouldn’t have watched it once as nothing on the back cover sounds even slightly appealing, and IMDB’s synopsis isn’t much more alluring, but it being a part of 88 Film’s slasher bluray series, I thought I’d give it a go. That thought was wrong.