Welcome to another installment of IT CAME FROM 1980X where I tackle the 80’s like a running clothes line fresh off the turnbuckle. Tonight we have a double feature for you straight from Continental Video. Don’t know Contintental Video? I’m not surprised, but I assure you by the end of this whole thing you most certainly will know them, fear them and maybe enjoy them a bit better. They’ve put out so much of what you love, but I don’t think they were marketed nearly as well as Midnight, Wizard, Canon or Media. For Christ’s sake somebody get me a T-shirt of this beautiful company. The double feature in question comes courtesy of VHSPS as is often the case. The Slayer and Scalps were released as a part of a special promotion as is stated on the cover of the VHS (or in this case handsome DVD rip).
2 FILMS. 1 CASSETTE. $49.95 SUGG. RETAIL (in a colorful circle no less).
This packaging probably sold a hundred tapes back in the VHS boom, but $49.95 is absolutely steep for a VHS tape buy today’s standards. You’ll only find collectible VHS for that. Still, I remember going into my video store as a kid and trying to order a copy of Creepshow. I was quoted a price of $70. Yes, there was a time where the video stores cornered the market on “priced to own” copies of your favorite flicks and boy did the distro companies rape us. In the end the consumer wins the day and we buy DVD copies for five bucks a pop at WalMart, but I’d almost prefer not having to buy every movie because I can afford EVERY movie. When you put the $49.95 price tag in context it’s actually a good deal… until you watch the movies that is. Let’s dig in.
THE SLAYER (from the back of the box):
David & Kay & Eric Brooke: Two couples in search of a long-awaited, restful vacation on an island retreat off the Georgia coast. Upon arrival at the island, Kay sees familiar locations which have appeared in her dreams and drawings over the past years. Her premonitions are realistic and frightening and she warns the group that they’re going to die. Kay’s imagination soon becomes reality as the maniacal, inanimate things which inhabit her nightmares are unleashed into the real world, maiming and viciously slaughtering her companions in terrifying, horrific scenes. (Run Time: 75 minutes)
SCALPS (also Playing… from the back of the box):
Ancient terror rises from the grave as a college professor sends students on a class project to the forbidden “Black Trees” Indian burial site, in direct contradiction to orders given him by his superiors. Legend becomes reality in this gruesome production as one-by-one the students meet their fate at the hands of the 100-year-dead renegade Indian, Black Claw: self-appointed guardian of the sacred burial site. The students are haunted and hunted by an evil brought upon themselves until a shocking twist of events occurs. Heads fly and scalps soar in this exciting, blood-letting thriller. (Run Time: 75 minutes)
WARNING (from the back of the box… gotta love the 80’s): These films contain many scenes designed to frighten, terrify and upset the viewer. they are no recommended for children or the weak-hearted.
It’s nice to know that we have a rating system in this country that can be circumvented by warnings like this that are absolutely fun. I love to know just how upset I’m going to be made by a movie I’m about to watch. It works better than the friggin letter “R”. This warning dates the movie. Let’s start with The Slayer and move on to Scalps in a bit.
The Slayer actually bored me to sleep. Literally. I woke up somewhere around 60 minutes into the film and stared at the counter in disbelief. What was even more unbelievable was the fact that I MISSED ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. The best part of the damn movie is the monster (picture below) and you see it on the cover and you don’t see it in the film at all. It’s barely even on display even when it is in use and it was most likely the sole reason the friggin’ movie was made. “Hey guys, we have this great prop monster we created. Let’s make a movie about it”… Script? What script? Who needs a script. Sure there’s some funny dialogue that’s unintentionally funny, but this is the 80’s. That’s a given. You still need a narrative or at least lots of splatter… if nothing else you must have boobs… maybe mullets…. and Firebirds. Get me? I mean unless your the crew of The Deadly Spawn. Then you should burn you script before you even go in for funding.
There are a couple of fun kills. A disembodied head in a bed. A nice pitchfork kill. That’s it. That’s what you wait the whole 75 minutes for. 75 minutes. It’s like being in detention and some kid shoots a spitball at the blackboard which gets a rise out of the whole room and then the teacher tells everyone to quiet down. Everyone quiets down. Bells rings 60 minutes later. That’s all you get… and a fun, bad looking monster mask/prop which admittedly you might get in detention as well if you’re living in a world outside of the Van Halen school of Hot For Teacher.
What is absolutely astonishing is that there are two cast/crew members who go on to do some interesting things. J.S. Cardone directs this masterpiece. You wouldn’t expect him to do much else after this one. Who would give this fella money to make a movie after all. Well he goes on to write the remake of Prom Night, The Covenant. directed Wicked Little Things and 8MM2… oh and Thunder Alley… and Shadowzone. While none of these are truly awe inspiring, it’s a respectable shit movie list. It’s nice to know that J.S. found his niche, stuck with it and made himself a career…. with all that it’s hard to believe there’s a second person who made it “big” after The Slayer. Sarah Kendall. That’s right. You remember her from the Karate Kid part II. Stewardess number 2…. see what I mean? The rest of the cast seems to follow Cardone or at least followed him from film to film, acting, collecting a paycheck… living. Live on guys.
You can tell I’m not a happy camper right? It’s a good thing I watched The Slayer first even though it was the first of the two films on the original VHS. In all honesty I thought I was getting the Bruno Mattei Scalps from 1987, so I was watching it under completely different pretense. It was supposed to be for Italian Horror Week (when IT CAME FROM 1980X will undergo a face lift). Instead I watched and enjoyed Fred Olen Ray’s Scalps. Let’s get into that.
Fred Olen Ray changed my life and I didn’t even know his name until I watched this double feature. I know that it’s a bit dramatic to say that he changed my life. Sure he directed Scalps, but he also put together Evil Toon, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers and a pile of absolute trash, sleaze (Sleazemania) and near porn. When you go to the video store an impressionable young man and come across a film by Fred Olen Ray you leave with an impression and quite possibly a hard on. Scalps may not necessarily induce a physical response, but it’s fun. It’s bad. It’s got the dialogue and premise to make you Mystery Science Theater the whole thing.
Beyond the talents of Fred Olen ray you have a film put out by American Panther Productions. Who’s that? No idea. Doesn’t look like the did much after releasing this one. If you Google them you’ll find a whole pile of corporate Wiki articles and copyright notices so if you know more about them feel free to share in the comment section below.
This film is gory. It is super gory. It’s not Dead Alive, but it’s got that cheese ball, vicious fake looking gore that horror fans of the 80’s will appreciate and laugh at. There’s a beheading in the intro to the film that stands out as being well worth the watch. It’s not disgusting. It’s camp-tagious. There’s even an amazing transformation from normal, every day idiot kid to hardcore Indian ghost with a very physical presence who survives the transformation only to be cut a minute later to a very poorly made up, almost Halloween costume version of the transformation Indian ghost.
There aren’t many folks worth mentioning in this film but the cameo by Forrest J. Ackerman is a nice touch.The music is characteristic 80’s synth with some nice, pounding hits (as a fan of Wax Trax I’m gonzo for this big electro crap). The end of the movie even makes note to watch out for Scalps 2: The Return of DJ. A joke right? Nope. They really made the movie. It’s out there. I may just review that one for next week’s installment of 1980x if I can stand to finish the movie.
There’s one last thing I wanted to mention and it goes back to Continental Video other than doesn’t that bumper music make you feel warm and nostalgic? Stop by the IMDB list of Continental Video’s offerings. Notice any that you might have enjoyed a youngen? Witchboard stuck out to me. Nightmare City. Desperate Living. Everything… just pretty much say that this company packaged your childhood and made it available to your local video store owner so you’re brain would be good and rotten by the time you reached chemistry class Monday morning after a long weekend of movie watching. They’ve been going since the 60’s. It’s a powerhouse company that seems to fall apart around 1987 (and the wave pulled back).
As we all click over to VHSPS and purchase a copy of the movie for $10, let’s take a second to listen to Hunter Thompson’s diatribe about the 60’s. Replace peace and love and drugs with horror VHS, price to own marketing.