Horror Bites - Dripping with Goo

PART TWO - Daddy would've gotten us Uzis...


Time to change gears and see what else the 80s has in store. So coming down from all those eye gags and scenes of oozing madness, let's take a look at something a little different, where comedy is at the forefront and in some cases things are surprisingly tame for the horror genre. in this decade. Of course this is often a genre which merges into the realm of sci-fi B-movie type stories, so you're always going to find a few cases where they shift to focus on those aspects. But a recurring factor here is dumb laughs, silly dialogue and slimy but often bloodless special effects.

Night of the Comet is one of those films which smacks you right in the face with a whole load of garish '80s flavour as soon as it starts. The music, the colours and the outfits, it's all eye watering stuff to look at. The lead characters are two sisters, and the younger one wears a garish cheerleader outfit for a long stretch of the movie. Just check out that hair. Adding to this there's a bright red filter over the camera lens in a lot of the outdoor shots. It takes up almost half the screen at times to give the effect of airborne dust particles from the titular comet.

Thankfully this is all adds up to an entertaining piece of film without the style becoming too distracting. An opening narration explains that the comet causes extinction each time it passes through our solar system, thanks to a deadly red dust left in its wake. Now from the artwork you might expect this to be a zombie movie of some kind, but in reality it's a doomsday story like Day of the Triffids where the protagonists wake up to find a world where people have mysteriously vanished.

While at first it's clear that a lot of them have disintegrated watching the cosmic light show (leaving more of the red dust) there are others left alive who didn't get at full dose. As a result these survivors may be... less than sane. There are plenty of post apocalypse style clich├ęs like bands of thugs roaming the local stores and scientists trying to solve the problem through some rather shady methods. Plus there are a lot of neat cityscapes where everything is abandoned. A couple of sequences showing the reality of the comet's side effects are creepy enough and the make-up is great, but despite a eerie dream sequence it's ultimately a light hearted movie.

3/5


TerrorVision continues the 1980s fashion nightmare and the comedy tone, but takes both aspects to new extremes. At first it looks as though this is set in some kind of near future with all the ridiculous set designs. Television control gadgets are covered with buttons and moving parts, a the new dish they are installing is a gigantic 'DIY 100' model. Early on somebody talks about eating lizard tails (a renewable food source!) but after a while it feels like more of a parody of the period, both in terms of the dress sense and technology.

Rooms are decorated with bizarre erotic paintings that poke fun at Patrick Nagel, with pop art scenes of nudity and bondage appearing in the background of many shots. The costumes resemble ridiculous takes on the likes of Cyndi Lauper and '80s metal groups. This kind of excessive cartoon version of American life is everywhere as it goes into bizarre subplots about the parents of the household being swingers and the grandfather being a gun hoarding conspiracy nut. This is a house that features both a pleasure room and an armoury.

The title hints at what is going to happen, after all TV is bad for you right? However nobody expects their new receiver to pick up cosmic energy beams, particularly ones that contain mutated alien designated for waste disposal on other planets. But rather than reducing the monster into harmless energy, an accident causes it to travel through space allowing it to materialise on Earth through the TV screen.

The monster itself is also a cartoon character with a lot of eyes and teeth, huge amounts of dripping goo, and a mouth that never stops moving. Soon enough people are eaten and as usual the youngest child becomes a witness nobody believes. It plays to the expected tropes despite all this madness. The Empire Pictures logo features but this isn't Re-Animator. The monster kills are pretty gross but there's green slime in place of blood. There are some body morphing effects but it's very tame outside the lewd bedroom antics and the set decorations. The whole thing descend into silliness that is best left to be discovered.

 3/5


Moving on to something that never quite gets to full speed, House (1986 this time) is basically a riff on Poltergeist done with extra comedy. A horror novelist planning to move on to more personal projects decides to write about his Vietnam war experiences. The war has left its mark, but recent events including the disappearance of his son, a divorce, and the death of his Aunt are not helping. He thinks moving into her house will help for some reason, but of course things there are not as they seem.

He soon discovers monsters in the closet (and other places) before he starts to see things including flying garden tools and moving taxidermy fish. This sounds like standard fare but there is never enough focus on either horror or the main plot. To make sure we understand that this is a comedy we are soon introduced to a prying neighbour played by George Wendt from Cheers. He gets all the funniest scenes and gives the best performance, particularly in his introduction where he talks about the late Aunt being crazy.

The problem is that the haunted house isn't given centre stage and isn't explained enough. Why are there creatures? What did the Aunt discover? How does this tie in with the war memories if they aren't the cause? It's hard to say because unlike Poltergeist the execution is lacking. It jumps between writing sessions and monster hunt scenes, and the atmosphere is very bland for a story about isolation. There's fun to be had along the way, but it seems like a series of jokes that interrupt the writing stuff. Some work and others that fall flat, there's a ghoul here, an annoying visitor there. The war flashbacks eventually pay off in the best sequence, but overall this is a very mixed bag of tricks.

2/5


To end this with something just as PG rated as the others, let's take a quick look a The Monster Squad. Mixing the old school Universal horror villains with the a typical '80s teen adventure, it's got the usual amount of comedy foul language but lacks the kind of teeth as you'd expect. One surprising moment sees werewolf meet hand grenade, but elsewhere there's little in terms of sudden violence. But this is a movie that combines Shane Black sarcasm with Stan Winston effects, you've got to give it credit where it's due even if the target audience is an unclear. Those Goonies fans who were also into James Whale?

It shares writers with House and again the storyline is a pretty uneven. There's something about Dracula trying to get an amulet to take over the world, but it will also destroy him if found by the heroes. He enlists other movie monsters like The Wolfman and The Mummy to help because of course he does. Apparently this magic crystal can shift the balance of good and evil in their favour but in the right hands will create an Evil Dead II style portal to take the all bad guys away.

The ensemble is a nice idea and it's fun to see Tom Noonan as Frankenstein's monster, but how they all come together to team up and what they want after the crystal is destroyed is all pretty vague. For some reason the kids of the Monster Squad end up in possession of Dr. Van Helsing's diary, and they head off to find both a translator and eventually someone who can open the portal. It has to split the running time between goofy kids club house bits, domestic drama scenes, and of course the evil doomsday scheme.

There are plenty of silly chases and some sillier dialogue to be found here so it's not without a certain charm, even it's pretty bizarre to see characters like Dracula using dynamite. Most of his cohorts cause mayhem along the way, although the Gill-man from Creature from the Black Lagoon doesn't really do much at all. Even the Count's three brides make an appearance later on, just so they can aimlessly wander around in the streets. Like the central idea itself this is an oddity, but it's likeable enough on the whole for fans of monster movies or anyone into this sort of light hearted adventure.

3/5

(PART ONE)