80s Horror to Watch Now

In this first installment of Netflix Instant Queue Theater, I watched all or part of 18 movies. 

Horror movies are a dime a dozen and chock-full of clichés. They take place in cabins. At summer camps. In creepy old mansions. High schools. And tiny towns. They are rife with hot coeds getting naked. It’s no secret that these flicks can be pretty bad. Especially ones from the ‘80s. The trick is to find ones that are so bad they’re good. Here are the best and the worst. 

THE BEST

1. Basket Case (1982)

This one is absolutely classic. It follows Duane, a twentysomething newcomer to New York City. He takes up residence in a Times Square flophouse carrying a wicker basket, which is inhabited by his conjoined twin, who was separated from him when he was a child and thrown out with the trash. The twins go on a mad search to find the doctor who separated them and the twin terrorizes the hotel. Check out the awesome vintage scenes of Times Square in the ‘80s.

2. Ghoulies (1985) 

Satanic motifs are a staple of many horror movies – think “The Exorcist,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Omen.” Those flicks are actually good. “Ghoulies” is so horrible it’s great.  

Jonathan is a college dropout who inherits a huge mansion from his dead grandfather who was apparently involved in black magic. He conjures up six demons who go on a killing rampage at a totally ‘80s party. Check out the goofy talking elf midgets he also summons.

3. Humanoids from the Deep (1980)

Roger Corman directs this cult classic about a small fishing town jolted by mutant creatures that emerge from the ocean and attack young, hot women and mate with them. Lots of tit shots, if you’re into that sort of thing. Low-budget monster movie at its finest.

4. Dolls (1987)

 

Another mansion tale. This time a family of three gets their car stuck in the mud during a thunderstorm. They take shelter with an older couple who are doll-makers. The dolls come to life at night and there is tons of blood and gore. Bonus points for the punk rocker characters. Awesome.

5. TerrorVision (1986)

From the early age of cable TV comes this incredibly cheesy story of a family whose satellite dish transmits violent aliens from a distant planet. With notable metalhead and new waver characters. Totally ‘80s.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Return to Horror High (1987)

This one sucks but it features George Clooney. Luckily he gets killed off about 20 minutes into the film, so you can stop watching after that. Seriously bad acting from a future movie star.

The Burning (1981) – The cliché summer camp slasher flick stars a young Jason Alexander of “Seinfeld” fame. Otherwise forgettable.

The Video Dead (1987) – Zombies hobble out of an evil TV set in this trashy ‘80s straight-to-video B-movie. You can get away with watching half of this one. Gets old fast.

Bloody Birthday (1981) – Forgettable story of evil kids gone wild that is pretty awful with the exception of the skateboard kill-scene halfway through.

THE WORST

 

I Spit on Your Grave (1978) – The rape scene is horrible.

Slumber Party Massacre (1982) – the only good thing about this one is the tits.

C.H.U.D. (1984) – dreadfully boring.

 

Sleepaway Camp 2 (1988) – also boring.

Creepshow 2 (1987) – a pale shadow of the original.

GENUINELY GOOD

And finally, here is a list of classic horror films and available for streaming:  Evil Dead (1981), Friday the 13th (1980), Hellraiser (1987) Children of the Corn (1984) Pet Sematary (1989) Creepshow (1982), Child’s Play (1988),  Tucker And Dale Vs. Evil (2010 – not from the ‘80s and really a spoof, but genius).

What are your favorite so-bad-they’re-good horror movies? What genre would you like to see next for Instant Queue Theater? Leave a comment below.

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Shut Up and Play the Hits

New Doc Highlights LCD Soundsytem’s Gangbusters Grand Finale

LCD Soundsystem is tied with Bright Eyes as hands-down my favorite band of the past decade.

The Brooklyn-based electro rockers – led by mastermind James Murphy – almost single-handedly revived and reinvented a genre known as dance punk. Loud. Fast. Fun. It’s rock music with a disco beat that you can shimmy and shake to. It’s electro music dressed in punk clothing – jam-packed with thumping bass lines, acid-washed keyboards, live drums and distorted guitars. And of course a cowbell thrown in for good measure. It’s all part of LCD’s signature sound.

LCD Soundsystem broke up in 2011. The new documentary – Shut Up and Play the Hits – follows the band as it prepares and performs its final, sold-out show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. This is a band that played much smaller venues than that but they wanted to go out with a bang, and they sure did.

I was lucky enough to score a ticket to one of four sold-out screenings at the Music Box theater in Chicago. The movie played at one-night-only screenings throughout the country, but the demand was so high in Chicago there were four screenings. A total of 2,600 Chicagoans have seen the film – the most in all of the US.

I moved away from New York before the band played that final show, but I would’ve undoubtedly been there had I still been living in Brooklyn. 

I had the privilege of seeing LCD Soundsystem four times while they were still together. Twice in New York – at Randall’s Island opening for Arcade Fire in 2007 and at Terminal 5 in 2009. And twice in Chicago at Lollapalooza 2007 and at the Aragon Ballroom in 2011.

James Murphy broke up LCD Soundsystem that year and everyone was shocked that a band on the brink of superstardom would quit. The film documents the 48 hours which encapsulate the moments preceding the concert, the show and the aftermath.

It intercuts live scenes from the concert with bits of Murphy mundanely moping around his Brooklyn apartment, shaving his face and walking his dog.

In an interview on The Colbert Report that is excerpted early in the film, Murphy told the comedian he was ending the band because it was getting “embarrasing.” At 41-years old, he didn’t feel like he was fit to be in a band anymore.

In a memorable scene, rock journo Chuck Klosterman asks Murphy what LCD Soundsystem’s biggest failure was. His answer: breaking up the band. But maybe it’s for the better.

Neil Young said it best and Kurt Cobain famously quoted him in his suicide note: “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” LCD Soundsystem never put out an album that sucked. They have three – all of which are artistic triumphs.

Maybe Murphy will continue his music career playing sporadic gigs as a DJ. I saw him spin at The Mid in Chicago in the spring and I was absolutely blown away. None of this two laptops and iTunes nonsense. Murphy actually spins vinyl. The records he drops are spine-tingling ear candy. I don’t know where he gets his vinyl, but they are songs you’ve never heard of but wish you had. I went by myself – my date cancelled on me – and I danced my ass off.

Here’s to hoping that James Murphy will keep dance punk alive, even if it’s just on the ones and twos.

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Pop Culture of Mass Destruction

 The Colorado Shootings: Guns, Not Movies To Blame

 

The suspected gunman in Aurora, CO – James Holmes – inevitably had an unhealthy obsession with the ultraviolent Batman films. He dyed his hair red and told police “I am The Joker.” He had a Batman poster and mask in his apartment.

Did he read comics? An ABC report speculates that the shooter may have mimicked a scene in the comic book series The Dark Knight Returns. In the 1986 comic book, The Joker murders an audience in a TV studio with “smile gas.” Of course, the gunman in Aurora used tear gas at the beginning of the massacre in the movie theater.

I’m surprised parents and the media are not blaming pop culture for the shootings. They certainly did in 1999, when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire on Columbine High School in Littleton, CO, killing 12 classmates and a teacher and injuring 21.

Back then, like now, everyone was looking for a scapegoat – a reason why something like this could’ve happened. Now, in the wake of the Aurora tragedy – which happened just a 20-minute drive from Littleton – we are having a conversation about guns, not pop culture. We finally got it right.   

In the case of Columbine, parents blamed the music Harris and Klebold liked – “shock-rocker” Marilyn Manson and German industrial band KMFDM. It was widely reported that the two also liked to play blood-and-guts video games like the now-old-school first-person-shooter Doom. They would watch violent movies like The Matrix and Natural Born Killers as well.

I visited Littleton with MTV News correspondent Gideon Yago in 2004 – five years after the massacre there. We went there to grab some local flavor, taking the temperature of the town and meeting some Columbine students from the first class that was not around during the shooting. Was bullying still prevalent? Yes – according to the skaters, punks and goth kids we met at the skate park near the school. No, according to the jocks and cheerleaders. “We all get along,” they said.

As a lowly associate producer, my job was to find these students in advance so that we could have a plan to interview them when we got there. This was long before Facebook and Twitter. If those tools were around it would’ve been easy to find kids, but they weren’t so I actually found some on the then-popular blogging community LiveJournal.

The video I cut is not on the Internet – there are copyright issues with the music I used – but I still have the tape on Beta SP, a format which is a dinosaur of the television industry. Maybe someday I will transfer these tapes to digital for all to see. However, a text interview with survivor Richard Castaldo is still posted on MTVNews.com.

My piece examined the effects the massacre had on pop culture and the movies, TV shows and music that were influenced by the tragedy.

For example, a Deftones music video called “Back to School” shined a spotlight on bullying and celebrated the punks and goth kids who feel like they are “different.” In the video, they are the cool kids, not the jocks and cheerleaders who traditionally hold the title of “leaders” of the school.

And of course there was the 2002 documentary Bowling for Columbine – Michael Moore’s poignant examination of gun culture in America. His was one of the few loud voices that took a stand against the real problem – guns.  

I absolutely hate guns. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve never even touched one. And I think it is more dangerous to own one than it is to be gun-free.

I was never allowed to play with G.I. Joes as a kid. My dad wouldn’t allow it. I’m glad he didn’t. I was allowed to play with cartoonish ones like squirt guns, but anything that resembled the real thing was off limits.

After another horrible tragedy, the Republicans will once again find a way to defend the right to bear arms while still criticizing the violence. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) went as far as to say that people in the theater should’ve been allowed to carry concealed weapons and intervene with their own guns. That would’ve made the situation even more dangerous.

The NRA’s unofficial slogan is famously “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” That is utterly false when you consider the type of guns that are legal in the US. Hunting rifles and handguns are perfectly acceptable in my view. But no one needs an assault rifle with a high-capacity magazine to shoot deer. The weapons of war the shooter purchased were perfectly legal. And this is sad.

Ultimately, with this new shooting, we as a country are finding the real scapegoat. It is not pop culture. It is our gun culture. However, guns aren’t the only problem. The elephant in the room is mental health.

After all, it is easier and cheaper to buy a gun in this country than it is to afford quality mental health care. I am not defending the shooter. Mental illness is no excuse, but we need to have a serious discussion about mental health – not just guns.

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