IT CAME FROM 1980X: VHS Halloween Triple Feature!!!

It’s the month of October. It’s Halloween. No, not the day itself, but tis the season. That means we need to focus on some truly excellent 80’s horror surrounding our beloved holiday. Sure we could give the rehash job to Halloween and its subsequent sequels, but that’s not entirely in spirit of the game although I can assure you that I’m working on something that focuses on the Carpenter magnum opus. Today we’re going to focus on some horror flicks that are about Halloween, but aren’t John Carpenter’s Halloween. Let’s talk about The Day After Halloween, Trick or Treats, Lady in White in our first IT CAME FROM 1980X triple feature offering. Each of these movies incorporates something of the Halloween spirit and only one of them actually gets any street cred for being an honest to goodness creep out. There’s a pile of movies that take place on Halloween and there are lists upon lists out there if you feel so obliged to Google ‘em. I’m not leaving them out I assure you.

Let’s do this fucker chronologically starting with The Day After Halloween from 1981 (although I’ve seen it listed as 1979, but with the re-title job it was probably updated and I’d still bet my bottom dollar that it’s actually 1979 anyway so poo). With a tag line like “They Thought It was Over But the Real Horror !!! Began… (insert movie title)”. The Day After Halloween is totally trying to play off the success of Carpenter’s classic, wants to be a sequel and features box art that really lends itself to being a cheap knock off rather than its own consolidated entity.  Other titles include One More Minute and Snapshot which even further the conclusion that what is now The Day After Halloween was at one time an entity that didn’t focus on it’s connection to Halloween… that is until the success of the Carpenter film. It only recently received a release on DVD through Scorpion, but I’m proud to have a copy with classic VHS cover straight from the VHSPS (who we love, adore and support whole-heartedly).  Last time I checked the VHSPS website there was an error on this particular release, so if you need a copy maybe check with them via email.

Synopsis from the back of the box:

Angela, a beautiful young girl struggling to survive in the big city turns to fashion modeling. To add to her problems, she suddenly learns that an old boyfriend is a crazed maniac and that he is after her. Frantically she does everything to avoid him, but is finally cornered in her own place with no way out. What happens to Angela is a new high in terror and suspense.

(We tried to find a trailer, but alas, no trailer was to be found… feel free to poster one in the comments below).

I assure you that all the bad punctuation is theirs and not mine even though we all know I’m plenty guilty of writing so fast that I forget the rules of grammar that threaten the very fabric of existence. I think the important thing to take away from that synopsis is that there isn’t one reference to Halloween, the day after Halloween or even a goddamn pumpkin! I know that I tried to impress the point that the marketing of this movie is specifically designed to play off of the slasher films of its age like Halloween (especially Halloween), but you would think that they’d use more tact. Hell, shoot one extra scene at a Halloween party. Even just put a decoration or two in the background. Something! Make an effort. Today Stephen Spielberg would just CG in a jack o’lantern or a picture of John Carpenter’s balls in the background, but this is 1981 (if you believe one source), 1983 if you believe the back of the box and 1979 if you believe IMDB.  The movie doesn’t even know what year it was released, but I think I can help with an explanation for that as well.

The Day After Halloween (misnomer of the fucking year) was made in Australia during the famed, lauded, adored Ozploitation years (you can Google what that is if you don’t know and while you’re at it Google Exploitation films in general). In fact it plays a pivotal role in getting a few key players noticed (and one without her shirt on… BOOBIES!).  This one is even referenced in Not Quite Hollywood, a full length documentary about the Ozploitation movement that features everything from the ABC’s of Sex to the Road Warrior. You should definitely see it. Fans of genre filmmaking need apply and lie on their application. You need to see it even more than you need to watch The Day After Halloween. Whoa!

Now on to some of the folks we need to be talking about. Sigrid Thornton is a pretty big deal in Ozploiation cinema. She becomes a pretty big deal in the Aussie world, however in The Day After Halloween, she gives us a look at her birthday suit (please Google this and enjoy what little you’ll find and the quality at which you’ll find it). It’s nice to know that horror movies, even bad horror movies, can serve a purpose i.e. removing the unwanted clothes of attractive female potential victims. It’s something to see if you’re a fan of her later work which I would expect actually includes very few of you since its mostly unhorror related. Chantal Contouri on the other hand shows up in the 1979’s The Thirst. So there’s that. So that’s it right? Nope! Simon Wincer, the Director, is well known. Can you say Free Willy? Quigley Down fucking Under! Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles… whoa! You’re probably like great… non horror. We don’t care. Then maybe you’ll care about the writer, Everett De Roche who is Ozploitation royalty having written Road Games, Razorback, Patrick… Now you care, right? His co writer, Chris de Roche… only wrote this… so let’s blame him for how bad the movie is (or maybe it’s the guy who directed Free fucking Willy!).

There’s a kickin’ score if the rest of the flick doesn’t do it for you with songs by Sherbet. It’s nothing to pop in your Walkman. Some of the original music is alright, but it’s mostly just copycatting. The only effect worth noting involves a pair of teeth sitting in a pile of ashes. It’s not a bad look, but I think my grandma pulled that some stunt when she left her dentures out and the cat knocked over the ashtray.

I’ve always loved the movie box for this one, but I’m afraid it doesn’t measure up. This is a warning and not a recommendation. The same company that distributed this put out Fulci’s The Psychic and then switched over to porn…. Really funny porn with clever plays on words and pizza boy actors, but porn none the less. Aren’t you glad that’s over? Let’s move on to a film that actually has some Halloween in it!

Next up let’s talk about Trick or Treats. This is another flick which I’ve only just watched for the very first time. I can remember seeing the cover on the shelf as a kid. The torn bag with the… severed head inside in place of candy; blood splattered on the ground. The tag line… … when Halloween night stopped being fun!” This is another perfect candidate for IT CAME FROM 1980X because it has yet to be released on DVD or other digital format legally. Let’s find out why it hasn’t been and maybe, just maybe… why it needs to get a release date.

Synopsis from the back of the box:

Mr. and Mrs. Adams are attending a Halloween masquerade party and decide to leave their precocious son, Christopher, in the care of Linda, a local babysitter. 

Christopher is a master of mischievous pranks and continuously batters Linda with them until a bizarre turn of events unleashes a true madman, just escaped from a mental institution who treats Christopher to a trick her will never forget and his babysitter may never survive.

Please do not confuse this with Trick r’ Treat from 2007 featuring the now beloved Sam. This isn’t an anthology, and isn’t nearly as horrifying. Further more it isn’t Trick or Treat from 1986 featuring everyone from Gene Simmons to Ozzy Osbourne. There isn’t enough metal in this movie to give it the kind of cult following that Trick or Treat had. All hail Fastway! Trick or Treats was release in 1982 at the height of what I would like to call the “babysitter needs a butcher” cycle. This includes everything from Funhouse to Halloween. I’m not sure you can make the case that Trick or Treats rips of any one movie more than the other but rest assured that having a Halloween related namesake is as a direct result of Carpenter’s Halloween. The plot itself involving a practical joke playing hooligan child makes me think of Funhouse. The pranks are actually quite funny and are reason enough for you to watch this flick. The escape from the asylum bit is also pretty popular trope throughout the early 80’s. I’m thinking New Year’s Evil off the top of my head. It’s a timeless threat I suppose. Why is it always around the holidays that the maniac killer escapes? Think of Tales from the Crypt from Amicus circa 1972? It’s Christmas and suddenly homicidal St. Nick is running around the burbs?

I love the cheese. I love the camp. I love that they use the same Disney sound effects real as featured on my favorite piece of collectors vinyl, Chilling Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. It’s not uncommon to hear them used in Disney flicks. It isn’t uncommon to hear them used in cartoons. Hearing them used in a live action movie will really make you giggle. I like to think of it as the new, old Wilhelm Scream. Also make sure to take a listen to “Help is on the Way by Horizon”. Whoa!

You’ll be happy to know that director Gary Graver went on to have an illustrious career making adult films. Such title’s as Countess Dracula’s Orgy of Blood and Phantom Love must have your ears perked. If that’s not good enough try Haunting Desires. I think I could go on like this forever given the list of titles he’s put out. Night Eyes Four! Bikini Traffic School! But what about serious horror… like Mortuary!  How about he was the DoP on The Toolbox Murders?  Follow all that up with The Kid with Broken Halo and The Kid with the 200 IQ or maybe Center Spread Girls and suddenly, we have no fucking idea what to tell you about him. He also wrote Trick or Treats.

Of course the movie does feature David Carradine, and yes that should make you happy even if it isn’t his biggest most important role. It also stars horror royalty, Peter Jason of In the Mouth of Madness and They Live fame. There’s a second Carpenter connection to this film (that and the fact that it ripped off Halloween make it a cult classic, right?). Hey, Paul Bartel was in Escape from LA? That’s a third connection! (maybe we should start announcing the Dead Air restrospective series about the Carpenter now and spare ourselves the missed opportunity to shamelessly buttplug our awesome podcast).

Trick or Treats won’t scare you. It’ll get you laughing and fits in nicely with your 80’s slasher marathon. Again, still not available on DVD, but you can pick it up on VHSPS for $10. Aren’t those fellas just handy as Hell?

Last but certainly not least is Lady in White from 1988. This is the only flick on the list that seems to make a dent in the “must watch” category. People rave about this flick. It was even nominated for a Saturn Award in 1990. It was initially put out by Anchor Bay when Anchor Bay was releasing shitty horror movies regularly (no change?). It’s actually seen the light of laser having been released on DVD a couple of times, but let’s not hold that against it. Why does this puppy make the grade over the other films on this list?

Synopsis from the FRONT of the box (since the back of the box was unavailable):

The year is 1982. The place is Willowpoint Falls. Nobody talks about what happened in the school cloakroom 10 years ago. Now, in the dead of night, Frank Scarlatti is going to find out why.

The first thing I wanna say is that the Lady in White is a top notch film for an independent release that got picked up by the majors and gained quite a bit of popularity. There’s nothing quite like a traditional murder mystery-ghost story to give you the heebie jeebies. That being said, this isn’t a scare flick. You will not jump out of your seat with fright, but your older kids might get quite a bit out of it. This is definitely a movie that should be enjoyed younger and then should appreciate in the user’s brain. The reason I say this because I wasn’t entirely smitten with it or at least not to the degree that many folks seem to be. That doesn’t mean that I’m not a fan, that I didn’t enjoy it or that I won’t recommend it, but it would have made a more lasting impression when I was younger. It’s an 80’s flick after all. The don’t necessarily age well in that they are timeless. Our nostalgia builds into a beautiful series of memories about film of our favorite decade. This probably should have been one of them for me but sadly was not.

Frank LaLoggia did a couple of other movies. Fear No Evil is one of note and has definitely street cred among the 1980x’ers. I’m a huge fan of Fear No Evil’s cover art though not as much a fan of the film itself. It was one of the movies I was forced to catch later. Parents would let me pick it up as a kid, but it stared at me from the rows of video tapes on the video store wall and haunted me. LaLoggia also had a role in The Wizard of Speed and Time which has been talked up quite a bit as of late. What is it about this man’s work, all be it low in quantity, that seems to attract us?

Everybody in this movie is a big star of some kind. Lukas Haas is in everything. Just look up his resume. Inception sticks out to me. Len Cariou? How about 1408 it we’re trying to give a horror pedigree. Kather Helmond was the grammy in Who’s the Boss? She’s much less flirtatious in this film. One of my favorites seeing Lucy Lee Flippin. She was the school teacher in Little House on the Prairie. I couldn’t help but find this fact fascinating. It’s really not even the best thing she’s been in. She was in Police Academy 2 for fucks sake! The real winner in this ensemble cast (that probably doesn’t seem like an ensemble but it is) is Mo Green… Alex Rocco from the Godfather! Even my wife knows who he is.

It’s a very New England horror movie and was mostly film in upstate New York and from what I’ve heard the Berkshires in MA. A true northeastern ghost story and might play well alongside Straub’s Ghost Story. I love that it features “Did You Ever See a Dream walking?” by Bing Crosby which gets play in so many of our favorite horror movies. It’s a creepy song in any context. The effects are very Disney and reminded me of Bed Knobs and Broomsticks at times. Best of all it actually begins on Halloween and thus fits in nicely with our theme though it actually continues through Christmas. The Christmas scenes are possibly more eerie than the Halloween ones.

It’s widely available on DVD which is actually something of a rarity in this column. None the less it is an 80’s film so it belongs here. It actually also had a release in early Anchor Bay history. Pretty darn cheap right HERE.

There’s your triple threat. Next 1980x will be somewhat of a pictorial offering. As 80x as ever. Head cleanings for all this Halloween season!

-Dr. TERROR

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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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