IT CAME FROM 1980X: Slaughter Tales… An S-O-V Neo-Classic Anthology Horror Made on the Lowest Budget Possible

Remember in Kill Bill Vol. 2 when David Carradine (Bill) explains to Uma Thurman (Ms. Kiddo) why he finds Superman to be the most fascinating of all super heroes? Basically he says that Clark Kent is Superman’s vision of humanity, his criticism and his observation of man. He says it with a slow drawl and makes you feel all gushy and warm up until he hits the punch line when you get the feeling like you might just wanna punch Superman in the face for belittling us so. Yes, we are the dorks you have been looking for. We are the weak people of Earth who where suits and ties and spectacles, but you know what? We also invented the fuck out of you, Superman! I only go through this little ramble because quite honestly I saw a shot-on-video movie that was put together by a young man by the name of Johnny Dickie recently that had me spinning Bill’s diatribe to Beatrix over and over again in my head. The movie in question is Slaughter Tales, a compendium of horror shorts formed into a traditional portmanteau offering ala Creepshow or Deadtime Stories and, as you will soon see, is Johnny Dickie’s own commentary and criticism on various 80’s horror subgenres, much loved but as we all know, not without perilous and often equally adored flaws.  IT CAME FROM 1980X proudly brings you a review of a modern, 80’s, Shot-On-Video Underground film to bake your potato and jiff your pop. Slaughter Tales!

Let’s start out with Dickie. Johnny Dickie is a fourteen year old filmmaker. He didn’t just make one short film. He compiled a series of them all fixated on common themes from 1980’s horror films. Dickie himself seems well versed in one of the most beloved periods in horror history and is definitely a horror fan. Just take a look at the various shirts he changes into throughout the movie (he plays nearly ALL the characters!). He’s also responsible for the score which is spot on Full Moon inspired synth action. You’ll enjoy it. Close your eyes and imagine you’re still wearing Cavarrici’s.  He’s the writer. The Director. Johnny Dickie’s name is credited with a formidable assortment of tasks. It’s a nearly flawless example of the inspired action of an independent filmmaker taking the camera into his own hands and going from fan to artist surely with the appropriate blood, sweat and tears inserted for subtext.

The movie itself features a wrap story that follows a hooligan, loner who steals a VHS tape from a garage sale and brings it home to enjoy. He watches each short film on the tape, offers criticism, falls asleep, has lucid, violent fever dreams and comes to find that the fiction he believed he was watching might be more real than ever imagined. Throughout his private screening, the audience is privy to the character giving a staunch critique of each of the shorts in the truest fourteen year old tongue i.e. curse words a-go-go. (Drinking game: drink every time he says “fuck”… only if you’re of age… or have a death wish).

Other stories include:

–          A guy drinks this stuff that he finds in his cabinet, and it begins to takeover his body. He must do whatever is necessary to remove the parasite from his body… anything. Very Cronenberg

–          A slasher feature with an amazing mask that reminds me of the cover of Violent Shit (remember the German gore explosion of the mid 90’s?). This story isn’t overly long, but is important to our wrap story.

–          A young hero must do battle with an escaped mental patient that can only end in a creative weapons bloodbath. I love movies that take place in a basement with nothing but a light in the middle of the room to provide shadow and suspense. Well done.

–          The best effects work of the film features a bunch of slimy little creatures ala Night of the Creeps that attempt to “impregnate” a young man… turns out their origin isn’t as alien as you might think.

–          A teen left home alone raises a demon from Hell by chanting words he reads in a book. Gory murder ensure. Repeat.  Think Evil Dead or Night of the Demons.

As previously stated, between each segment is either  criticism by our young hooligan or a fever dream with ultra violent mutilation. The whole thing wraps nicely and with the exception of some belabored dialogue in the closing minutes of this film, will be an enjoyable piece of closure.

This movie is the lowest budget you can imagine, but that being said it’s a fun production. You’ll laugh at some very intentional humor and maybe even a few unplanned moments. Dickie goes for the gross out on more than one occasion and while he won’t always achieve realism, his effects work can be likened to the styling in the films of Frank Hennonlotter; gross-outs with fake, latex appliances, very practical and over the top. The narratives may not always be cohesive, but you’ll get the concept. Once you have the concept your job as an audience member is to allow yourself to be entertained. You may need to suspend your disbelief a wee bit more than a traditional independent, low budget release. Think of what might happen if Chainsaw and Dave from the 80’s classic, Summer School, got ahold of their parents’ camcorder and asked Mr. Shoop to help them shoot a short film to impress the ladies.

This is obviously a love note to the 80’s horror fan, to the fans of VHS artwork in it’s keen packaging (releasing on VHS), to the fans of low budget splatter and gore epics (I’m thinking Gore-met and Microwave Massacre but fans of Nail Gun Massacre will get a kick out of this as well).  Ultimately though we have a movie put together by a kid who wasn’t alive during the period to which he pays homage. As such, he is looking toward that period with unjaded, unnostalgic eyes and provides a well versed criticism of films of that period. What worked. What didn’t. How they could bore the pants off you for a solid hour before hitting the splatter setting. The same repeated musical themes used throughout to get the audience excited, ready to pounce and then let down by the red haring. Makeup that was not only produced for a low budget but also looked low budget even coming from larger production houses. I myself kept thinking Deadly Spawn. Low budget effects that look low budget but some how you are deeply affected by them. The whole time you’re asking yourself if a reasonable person in a similar situation would take the actions of the protagonist. This is where the disbelief is put on pause and you have to fight your way to the gore scenes so you can snuggle your date closer and maybe get to second base.

So Bill who got killed had his Superman and Johnny Dickie has Slaughter Tales, and I’m a happy horror fan for that. I’m not sure it will be everyone’s cup of tea, but fans of the SOV style should take notice of his rookie effort. You liked recent releases of The Basement, Turnpike Killer and older classics like Boarding House? See it. Make sure to let Dickie know you support his style of filmmaking and drop him your thoughts.  Hopefully he’ll be making more of these and help reignite the horror genre. Hopefully some fans of this shooting style will take a gander and learn a thing or two from some of the flaws and successes of this picture. Laugh out loud. Enjoy the splatter. Quote it and find your own personal favorite one-liners.

Slaughter Tales will be released November 20th (check it out HERE).

FaceBook it HERE.

Make sure you tell Johnny what a good job he’s doing. He’s a horror fan first. Filmmaker second and very funny guy with a great sense of humor to be sure.


About Jimmy Terror

Dr. Jimmy Terror, more commonly known as James P. Harris, has been “writing your eyes” shut since 2010 with his horror themed blog, Dr. Terror’s Blog of Horrors (whose name is a play on words derived from the Amicus film, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors). In the early 2000’s he fronted the band The Vaudeville Vampires, a short-lived "Horrorabilly" band which saw the creation of a catalog of horror related songs before disbanding (with only one, six song demo ever being produced and distributed). He has had only one on screen appearance to date in the horror short, Ocean Parkway, as maniacal, gloved killer with a hair fetish. Having done some un-credited, behind the scenes work in some low budget genre pictures, he is currently working on his first foray into screenwriting with a demonic, retro gore entry that pays homage to Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento as well as other Italian masters of the genre.
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