PopGap Diary: Octoblur 2023
Written by dorrk
A little peek behind the curtain — here's what invariably happens leading up to every Octoblur: I take stock of the movies that I might watch in an upcoming marathon. These consist of new horror titles, some new discoveries of old films, some classics that I have yet to confront, and those bedamned wallflowers that linger on the fringes year after year and yet get skipped again and again. I look for themes that might connect some of these movies into potential watchlists. One such theme, which I consider and discard every year as it's one of my least favorite horror genres, is "Animals Attack." This year, I've decided to force myself to finally include a collection of these movies in Octoblur, but I can't limit myself to natural horror, so I expand it to "Creatures Attack" — now my list can encompass not only animals, but all manner of manimals and other monsters. And, before you know it, what first seemed like a theme has turned into a random horror grab-bag, and my comically named "shortlist" of titles on deck for the month is somewhere in the 200s because it's impossible for me to keep these things meaningfully limited. . Meanwhile, I keep on the lookout for Halloween-set horror movies, because it's October, and that's what everyone wants to watch during October: dry leaves blowing down desolate streets past gray houses with lit jack-o-lanterns on their porches as something terrible happens to someone in the street or in the house....
I should add a BTW here for anyone who loves this like I do: this year's new horror release Cobweb (2023) is full of fine Halloween flavor, and a fun movie, to boot. If you need a kickstart for some grim Fall-spirit, you could do far worse than Cobweb!
Anyway, this Halloween search leads me to some new discoveries that don't fit my general theme, and sometimes sparks my interested in a subtheme — this year, Rock & Roll Horror — and suddenly I've added 100 new potential titles to my already too-long shortlist. A sane person might say, "I should save this sub-theme for a major theme next year," but a crazy person would say, "But I want to watch them all now, Daddy!" and since only a crazy person would do something like Octoblur in the first place, it's forgone conclusion which direction this takes.
So, I guess my point in all of this is: This is not the work of normal, reasonable person, and any façade of theme or self-control is no more substantial than a plastic Halloween mask that won't even last one night of trick-or-treating.
That said, this year's theme is Incredibly Strange Creatures, which encompasses animals and rock-and-rollers and, well, everything else, it seems. Don't look for reason where none exists.
Update: I just wrote all that not realizing that this is our TENTH annual Octoblur! So, make up whatever special fanfare you think should accompany such a dubious accomplishment. I have other equally unimportant things to do.
Octoblur 2023 Horror Movie Reviews
Octoblur 2023 #61: Boardinghouse (1982)
Directed by John Wintergate
This indie curiosity has gotten some love recently with a 160-minute director's cut, a Blu-ray release, and some critical reappraisal for its cult properties. It makes sense, I suppose, in the age of Skinamarink (2022), to which Boardinghouse is like a slightly more narrative-driven grandparent. Imagine a bunch of random shot-on-VHS footage of young models living together in a house — in the kitchen, in the pool, in the shower — interrupted occasionally by weird events and/or some crude video effects. It's the kind of "just fucking around with new technology" project that never really graduates from "intriguing" to "interesting," quickly slides backward into "tiresome," and ultimately bursts into some kind of life in the final 8 minutes, making you wonder why there wasn't more of the good stuff early on. I can't image sitting through the additional hour-plus of the director's cut when they can barely fill 88 minutes with anything of note. Director/star John Wintergate has a good icky screen presence, and his co-star/wife Kalassu, also acquits herself well enough (early on, I wondered if she might be Cassandra "Elvira" Peterson in an early role). I guess I'm glad I finally watched this, but I'll be just as glad to forget it. At least it's not aggressively hateable like Damon Packard's somewhat similar Reflections of Evil (2002).
Octoblur 2023 #60: The Driller Killer (1979)
Directed by Abel Ferrara
I haven't had enough gritty 1970s horror in my diet this Octoblur, but that's nothing Abel Ferrara can't fix. He directs and stars in The Driller Killer (1979) as a frustrated artist living in squalor in The Bowery on the edges of the New York punk/no-wave music scene. To relieve the rising tension between his contempt for commercialism, his two live-in quasi-girlfriends, and his need to pay the rent, Ferrara picks up a power drill and takes out some skid row bums, for starters. It's admirable in a way that Ferrara avoids the easy anti-hero shtick of having his character become a Robin Hood of murder, killing only the elites who have their boots on the necks of the poor — his character goes right for the most vulnerable victims because he is not acting out of righteous indignation but petty anxiety and fear of the thin line between himself and the mentally ill and dispossessed who are an omnipresent reminder of his own predicament. This isn't wish-fulfillment disguised as horror, this is the horror of desparation and self-loathing, nakedly, and its both viscerally rough and artfully crafted. The music scene setting is pretty cool, and Ferrara gives a lot of time to the colorful band practicing in the neighboring loft. This is a solid vibe movie that would make a good double-feature with William Lustig's Maniac (1980) or Ferrara's own subsequent film, Ms. 45 (1981).
Octoblur 2023 #59: Hell Night (1981)
Directed by Tom DeSimone
Octoblur 2023 #58: Girls School Screamers (1985)
Directed by John P. Finnegan
1980s slashers are my comfort food, so I can be tolerant of the ones that aren't in any way exceptional as long as they aren't annoying. Girls School Screamers (1985) is a good example of an amateurish quasi-slasher that hits a lot of the right notes without ever being original or good at anything that it attempts. A group of college girls spends the night at a mansion to catalog its art collection, but echoes of the mansion's dark past make it a rough night, to say the least. A regional independent production out of Philadelphia, Girls School Screamers was mostly a haunted house thriller until Troma got their hands on it, retitled it, and added some effective (and some lousy) gore inserts. Otherwise, everything is plain: the cast, the plot, the direction... but it's not overwritten and the characters aren't abrasive and endlessly bickering. It's an earnest movie made by plucky-if-not-talented upstarts, and that's OK with me.
Octoblur 2023 #57: Nightmare Weekend (1986)
Directed by Henri Sala
One of my goals every Octoblur is to discover something weird and unexpected, like Nightmare Weekend (1986). I can't say it's particularly well-made or intentionally interesting, but David Lynch wishes he could make something this weird with as little apparent effort. Can the plot of Nightmare Weekend (1986) be summarized, or even understood on a fundamental level? No. It has something to do with scientists performing risky experiments with a new, incomprehensible bio-tuning technology on a group of unsuspecting teenage girls. Things not only go wrong, they go batshit crazy. Along the line, there are sensitive bikers (notably Dale Midkiff, who wears half of a BFF necklace for his biker buddy), there is a sinister arcade in which a mean couple copulates on a pinball machine, there's a makeout session with a tarantula... oh, did I mention that there's a supercomputer operated by A HAND PUPPET? I was afraid after the bonkers opening three minutes that it would be all downhill from there, but this Troma production pays off with new quality WTFs every 5-10 minutes. The acting isn't good, but A+ to this cast for playing along with this oddball smut, and A++ to writer/director Henri Sala for this wondrous mind salad of sleaze, gore, and offputting sexual expression. Fun music by Martin Kershaw, with the song "Nightmare Fantasy," sung by Miriam Stockley, sadly absent from Spotify.
Octoblur 2023 #56: Night of the Living Dead (1990)
Directed by Tom Savini
While I appreciate the position the original Night of the Living Dead (1968) holds in the horror firmament, I've never much liked George A. Romero's breakthrough. First, zombies just don't interest me much, at least not until they start to show a little personality in Return of the Living Dead (1985). Second, I do not at all enjoy Judith O'Dea's performance as Barbara. I can forgive the limitations of a low budget, but her character/performance is a shrill, shrieking bore and it buries a movie I can only appreciate from afar. I've never watched Tom Savini's 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead before now, but my one hope was a new take on Barbara, and it at least delivers that if little else. Once again, a siblings' trip to a cemetery is interrupted by the walking dead, and one of them, Barbara (Patricia Tallman), makes it to a farmhouse where she and a few others — including Ben (Tony Todd) — spend the night fighting for their lives, a mostly losing battle. Horror legend Tom Savini takes a backward leap from the makeup department, where he excels, to the director's chair, where he is barely adequate. While Romero does write a stronger character for Barbara this time around, that — and the pleasure of seeing Todd in a non-sinister role for a change — is about the only item of interest in this remake. The gore effects are intentionally conservative, the writing is still overall weak and full of one-note characters who bicker endlessly, and the acting is almost as stiff as in the original. Todd alone in this cast has the magnetism that elevates poor material, and he's not strong enough to lift this weight. A wholly new epilogue has some interesting beats, but it also includes one of the worst lines of dialog I've ever heard as a character is forced to speak the writer's theme complete with awkward writerly phrasing. Dour and disappointing, and not fun in the least.
Octoblur 2023 #55: The Frighteners (1996)
Directed by Peter Jackson
There was a time when I loved some of Peter Jackson's early movies, but that was a time a long ago. I was a big fan of Braindead (1992) (or, as I knew it, Dead Alive) and even Meet the Feebles (1989), for their mix of outrageous dark humor and gross effects, but this was in spite of the exaggerated style in which he presented the material. It bugged me then, and bugs me a lot more now. I have been meaning to rewatch The Frighteners (1996) for some time — my last viewing was when it played theatrically, I think — but have been wary of the exact reaction I had this time around: it is too much made of too little. Michael J. Fox stars as a man who can see and communicate with ghosts, and uses this power to drum up work as a paranormal cleaner — like Charlie Chaplin's window repair scheme in The Kid (1921), he gets his ghost friends to spook homeowners so that they'll hire him to drive the ghosts out. Meanwhile, another ghostly presence has figured out how to commit murders when Fox is inconveniently nearby. Cue: manic slapstick comic horror action. A lot of talk about directing lately has focused on tone — that a director's main job is managing tone — and it appears to me that Jackson, with The Frighteners, has mastered a tone known as "aggressively annoying." Aside from the two principal roles — played by Fox and Trini Alvarado — every character is one-dimensional and played as loudly and bigly as possible. Most of the gags are low-hanging fruit but are trumpeted like the coming of Christ. BIG BIG BIG. LOUD LOUD LOUD. And never because the quality warrants it. Fox and Alvarado keep it real, but they are drowned in a torrential downpour of ectoplasmic overacting from all sides, just like the few quality jokes are smothered to death by noisy crap and iffy CGI. Jeffrey Combs, who I love in two of my all-time favorite horror movies, The Re-Animator (1985) and From Beyond (1986), is unwatchable in The Frighteners, because Jackson hates his character — he seems to hate most of the characters here, which is never fun — so much that he piles on repellent details and forces Combs to get bigger with each new personality deficit until he is a virtual foghorn of repulsion. Well, congrats, Jackson, it worked. I didn't want to spend more than one minute in this overbearing world of buzzing human insects, and you kept me there for 122 minutes, and you acted like it was supposed to be fun.
Octoblur 2023 #54: Opera (1987)
Directed by Dario Argento
As I do with Lucio Fulci, I also try to fit at least one unseen Dario Argento movie into each Octoblur. I have similar problems with both Italian horror icons — too much time spent on inane plots and dull characters — but when they do what they do best, there is no beating them. What Argento does best is visual style and atmosphere, and those elements are in pretty good form in Opera (1987), if not quite up to the standard of his masterworks Suspiria (1977) and Phenomena (1985). Cristina Marsillach stars as a burgeoning opera star whose debut role in a production of Giuseppe Verdi's Macbeth is plagued by a masked killer who forces her to watch his murders. Ignoring all of the silly plot details in the periphery, the core horror concept — the killer binds her and attaches needles to her eyelids, so that she cannot close her eyes while he performs his crimes — is memorable and each instance is gruesome. Argento and cinematographer Ronnie Taylor (who won the Oscar for shooting Ghandi (1982) a few years earlier) keep the camera moving but never so ostentatiously that it becomes distracting. This is an energetic high-quality Argento production, with a mix of opera and heavy metal music that works quite well. I have no idea what the final scene has to do with the rest of this movie — although the preceding homage/parody of The Sound of Music (1965) is gold — but that's part of the charm of Argento specifically and Italian horror in general: even at its best it's a minefield of the purest bullshit.
Octoblur 2023 #53: The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)
Directed by Freddie Francis
Victor Frankenstein is back and sad that nobody will leave him alone to make his monsters. How he is back after the climactic events of the previous film, The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), is answered by gracefully erasing the two previous movies from the canon. In flashback, we see a wholesale retconning of The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and an implied total erasure of its immediate sequel. What The Evil of Frankenstein (1964) does is an attempt to hew closer to the familiar Universal Frankenstein narrative (with a little bit of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) thrown-in), and it's OK on those terms if you can forgive the whiplash of its reboot. Broke, Dr. Frankenstein returns to his hometown of Karlstaad (from which he was merely banished for his earlier mischief) and discovers that his personal property has been pilfered by local bigwigs. When they try to expel him again, he ventures into the mountains and discovers the body of his Creature, preserved in a block of ice — a plot device that Universal used twice in the 1940s. After he thaws The Creature (Kiwi Kingston), however, he enlists Zoltan the hypnotist (Peter Woodthorpe) to jump-start its lethargic brain, but Zoltan (no relation to Dracula's Dog) has other uses for Frankenstein's mindless muscle man. Directed by Freddie Francis on the heels of his terrific Oliver Reed thriller Paranoiac (1963), The Evil of Frankenstein has no trouble avoiding the do-nothing lack of plot and energy of The Revenge of Frankenstein. It zips along through its relatively simple potboiler narrative, with Cushing reinvigorated as this more dynamic and action-oriented Dr. Frankenstein. Kingston doesn't get much to do as The Creature; although he more closely resembles Boris Karloff's blockheaded behemoth, there's still no personality to Hammer's concept of the monster. Katy Wild provides some spark as a deaf-mute beggar girl who intercedes in the story for no apparent reason. This is no classic, but it's back on-track after the franchise's faltering start.
Octoblur 2023 #52: The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Where The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) succeeded modestly in turning the focus of this monster story onto the man who creates monsters, The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958) exposes the error of taking this approach for too long. Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing), who was awaiting his execution at the end of the first movie, escapes the guillotine and sets up his medical practice — and his extra-curricular activities — in another town. This time he succeeds at creating a new "perfect man" without damaging the brain (donated by his hunchbacked assistant who wanted a better body), but this Creature is still anxious and has trouble adjusting to life without an occasional strangulation. I get the attempt here, but you can't make a Frankenstein movie with a creature played by a normal-looking tall man (Michael Gwynn) with a scar on his forehead. It kind of misses the point of what makes Frankenstein an enduringly fascinating story. It kind of misses the point of what makes any kind of story, actually, as minutes away from its ending it still felt like nothing had happened. The finale does eventually provide one of the more absurd twists to any Frankenstein tale, but it's too little too late. This is a flat dud.
Octoblur 2023 #51: The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Hammer Studios' first of many reboots of the Univeral Monster movies was this 1957 take on Mary Shelly's 'Modern Prometheus,' with a decidedly different direction from both the novel and James Whale's classic 1932 film. Peter Cushing stars as Victor Frankenstein, a wealthy doctor obsessed with pushing the sacred boundaries of modern science. His dream to create a new, perfected man out of dead bodies, however, goes awry, predictably. What is new about Hammer's perspective on the Frankenstein story is that the eponymous doctor is the focal point rather than his creature, who, as portrayed by Christopher Lee (one year before his breakthrough as the title character in Hammer's The Horror of Dracula (1958)), is little more than a bad mood in loose-fitting flesh. As written by Jimmy Sangster and directed by Terence Fisher, the core of The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) is Victor's single-minded experiment, for which he is prepared to sacrifice anything and anyone. This drama works well within Hammer's "gothic" atmosphere, with Robert Urquhart and Hazel Court delivering serious and committed supporting performances in key roles. Lee's creature (in his only appearance in the role) is a uniquely pitiable horror for its time — a literal shell of a person, not even sentient enough to be scared or confused, just a walking bag of base impulses. For one of those "Who is the real monster?" moral thought exercises, which have since become stale, The Curse of Frankenstein is an all-around solid effort.
Octoblur 2023 #50: Red Spell Spells Red (1983)
Directed by Titus Ho
It wouldn't be Octoblur without at least one genuine Hong Kong "black magic" shocker, and this year I chose the vividly titled Red Spell Spells Red (1983), directed by Titus Ho. It starts off with the kind of manic energy I've come to expect from this genre as a dark exotic ritual is interrupted by a kung fu battle between a sorcerer and masked assassins. Many years later, that sorcerer's tomb is disturbed by an ambitious documentary film crew, and the next thing you know there are scorpions everywhere. Although it has all of the hallmarks of its crazy genre — bizarre witchcraft from other Asian cultures (in this case, Malaysian Borneo), real animal violence, silly sexual comedy, a bonkers finale — and is visually accomplished, Red Spell Spells Red just lacked that extra bit of special craziness that distinguishes the best of its kind. It takes a little too long to get going, and is a little too beholden to Hollywood for its ideas, with apparent nods to The Evil Dead (1981) and The Omen (1976). Once the lively climactic battle kicked in, I had more or less lost interest. Still, this would make a fine entry to the genre for anyone who hasn't already basked in the creative glory of The Boxer's Omen (1983), The Seventh Curse (1986), Encounter of the Spooky Kind (1980), or Seeding of a Ghost (1983).
Octoblur 2023 #49: The Black Cat (1981)
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Yeah, so I did this Lucio Fulci double-feature, and what was I thinking? The Black Cat (1981) at least has some of Fulci's trademark depravity. Patrick Magee — whose face is perfect for Fulci, twisted up behind bulging eyes that are doubtless swimming with depraved thoughts — stars as a man whose cat is some kind of supernatural deathbringer. He can't stop it; they seem to be symbiotic. Anyway, the cat appears to a bunch of people in a small village, and they all die horribly. Mimsy Farmer plays a photographer who... honestly, it's late in the month, and I didn't care what was happening when I watched The Black Cat and I don't care enough now to describe it. Typical Fulci half-baked supernatural hogwash, including another one of his ridiculous bat attack scenes. I might have liked this more if I hadn't just suffered through Manhattan Baby. Music is by Pino Donaggio, in his two-year peak during which he also scored Brian De Palma's Dressed to Kill (1980) and Blow Out (1981) and Joe Dante's The Howling (1981).
Octoblur 2023 #48: The Exorcist: Believer (2023)
Directed by David Gordon Green
I shouldn't have been so prideful during my review last week of Pet Sematary: Bloodlines that I was avoiding this other new horror reboot because the original film is so precious to me. When my kids ask me to go see a movie with them, I generally do it, so we went to see The Exorcist: Believer (2023). The demon (the same one, presumably?) is back and possessing more tween girls. This time he hits a double, slipping into two presumptuous middle schoolers as they attempt to summon the spirit of a dead relative. The movie never addresses what it's like for a demon to possess two people at once. Is it harder? More rewarding? It doesn't really address anything, but just throws a bunch of annoying character conflicts at the possession core to see what sticks, and nothing sticks. It's all ideas and no exploration; shocking moments with no purpose or result; scary editing, just because. Throw in a 90-year-old actress from the original movie, because this is the fad, and then throw her out just as quickly. It's a grab bag of almost everything I hate about the bad contemporary horror IP charnel house. I mostly liked director David Gordon Green before he became the unlikely horror reboot auteur, but I do not care for the ideas he brings to this genre. Or, rather, I find some of his ideas suspect, and some compelling, but really dislike his execution of all of them. He seems to me like a filmmaker whose ideas about what makes for good horror come from watching horror trailers, because he seems to be aiming for a lot of high-impact gimmicks that are painfully try-hard when in the flow of a full narrative. Dispiriting, especially when one of the best new movies of 2023 so far, Talk to Me, is also about possessed teens but with a completely fresh and fun take. Watch that instead.
Octoblur 2023 #47: Manhattan Baby (1982)
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Every Octoblur I try to fit in at least one Lucio Fulci movie. This year I did a double feature, starting with Manhattan Baby (1982), a title I don't think I had noticed prior to prepping for this year's horror movie marathon. Within the first few minutes, I thought maybe I had stumbled upon one of Fulci's best-looking movies. The way he and cinematographer Guglielmo Mancori shoot their Egpytian locations is stellar. I suppose that that high visual standard never drops off, but I admit to becoming distracted by the lack of anything else compelling in this inane supernatural thriller. I'm not even sure I can describe what happens. There are mummy lasers that blind a man, while his young daughter gets possessed by an amulet. Her rude little brother becomes more rude. There's sand on the floor of their bedroom and their babysitter goes missing. Their mom works with a guy who wears novelty glasses. Some other guy gets attacked by birds. Why are all of these things in the same movie? For a filmmaker whose plots generally fall somewhere between batshit crazy and plain stupid, this effort is somehow worse than usual. Maybe the lack of lurid gore and sex exposes just how dull and incompetent a storyteller Fulci is? I shouldn't be surprised, as I make the same complaints about Fulci every year, but I was hoping to have a bit more fun with this and it just bored me. No memorable scenes whatsoever.
Octoblur 2023 #46: Wild Beasts (1984)
Directed by Franco E. Prosperi
It's going to be hard to continue with my "animals attack" theme after this mean-spirited Italian shocker has spoiled the fun. I'm not one to raise a fuss over old-timey on-set cruelty to animals, but this has some grim presumably real moments that sour the whole enterprise. And those aren't even, arguably, the most alarming scene in this movie about escaped zoo animals who go on a PCP-fueled rampage across Frankfurt, Germany. Wild Beasts (1984) is as gory as it is ghoulish and has some respectably disturbing fake scenes... if you can stomach the real ones, which include footage of horse-butchering, tiger-drugging, and, seemingly, rat-burning. All this while some typically bland Italian-horror movie characters attempt to deal with the damage while spouting awful dialog in their oddly blasé manner. There's also a typically insane Italian-horror twist ending that is so out of left field it has to be appreciated as the only ending to this garbage that might overshadow its many sins. I'll say this about Wild Beasts: you likely haven't seen anything quite like it, and are probably happy with that. Directed by Franco E. Prosperi, who was instrumental to the "Mondo" faux documentary movement that began with Mondo Cane (1962) and included some incredibly gnarly exploitation curiosities like Africa Addio (1966) and Addio Zio Tom (1971).
Octoblur 2023 #45: Equinox (1970)
Directed by Jack Woods
I followed Evil Dead II (1987) with this obvious inspiration for Sam Raimi's classic franchise. A group of hikers come across a coveted book called The Necronomicon which unleashes a primordial evil in the woods. Honestly, for the first half-hour or so, Equinox (1970) was giving me some worrying Curse of Bigfoot (1976) vibes, with its skint budget and lazy approach to storytelling. Director Jack Woods has a nicely creepy demeanor in his performance as a park ranger ominously named Asmodeus, but when the monsters finally appear, Equinox finally becomes fully campy fun — and with an affection for the creature effects of Ray Harryhausen. Also appearing in the movie are writer Fritz Leiber (whose great short story Weird Woman has been the source for two movies from Octoblurs past), Frank Bonner (who would later feature prominently in the TV sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati), and the voice of the great monster movie chronicler Forrest J. Ackerman.
Octoblur 2023 #44: Evil Dead II (1987)
Directed by Sam Raimi
Evil Dead II (1987) is a fun explosion of manic, gory cinematic energy and a perfect Halloween night party selection. Some might balk at its sequel status if they haven't seen The Evil Dead (1981), but that shouldn't be a factor, as it's actually a reboot. I prefer the original now, with its rougher edges and less jokey tone and better casting, but when I was 15, Evil Dead II was pure joy. This time around I watched it with two of my teenage children. The younger one found Bruce Campbell's candied hamming a bit too much, which is hard to argue with as a matter of taste. It even takes me some time to acclimate to his large gesturing, and I've had it in my life for 35 years. He stars as a man battling evil forces unleashed in the woods around his isolated cabin. There are possessions, decapitations, renegade limbs, laughing hunting trophies, stop-motion aninmation, fountains of blood... everything you might want from a movie during October. Even though it's not my favorite choice, Evil Dead II's wacky cartoon vibe is staunchly conservative compared to its sequel Army of Darkness (1993), which goes too far for me. Within its specific groove, EVIL DEAD II is a peerless 1980s horror comedy.
Octoblur 2023 #43: Krysař (1986)
Directed by Jirí Barta
Says the guy who doesn't care about animation: There's obvious craft at work in this reinvention of the famous folk tale The Pied Piper of Hamlin, but Jirí Barta's worldview is so grim and ugly, it's a misery to sit in his company for an hour. This is more or less also how I felt about Phil Tippett's astounding work on his recently released Mad God (2021): great work, but no thanks. I don't share their misanthropy and find no joy in wallowing in their dull pessimism. There's a twist in this one, for those familiar with the tale, but it's an eye-roller for me. This will probably delight anyone who loves animation, which I do not.
Octoblur 2023 #42: Monsters Crash the Pajama Party (1965)
Directed by David L. Hewitt
This very silly short no-budget monster movie starts with eight minutes — nearly a quarter of its running time — of spoken credits with a comedy bit for each department. What follows is a slip-shod excuse for girls in babydoll nighties to run around while monsters chase them. As dumb as it is, there is a genuine sense of humor bubbling in the margins. Perhaps the best moment is when a Wolf Man appears suddenly, drops trou, and then scampers off. If that is what you want, this is it.
Octoblur 2023 #41: The Curse (1987)
Directed by David Keith
Actor David Keith directs this curious adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space, which is handsomely shot for a movie of its budget and reputation. Will Wheaton stars as a reluctant farm kid whose problems with his abusive step-family are exacerbated when a nearby meteor (or something) crash pollutes the local water and turns everyone into crazed mutants. Some of the storytelling is disjointed and too many characters are one-dimensional cartoons, but individual scenes are effective — especially the discovery of the meteor, and a chicken attack on a young girl — and there's enough originality throughout The Curse to make it stand out. Despite bombing financially, several unrelated movies were packaged as its sequels on home video. Produced by Ovidio G. Assonitis, director of Madhouse (1981) from earlier this Octoblur, and probably why there is such a strong Italian horror vibe in the visuals, effects, and music. Also stars Claude Akins and John Schneider.
Octoblur 2023 #40: Ice Cream Man (1995)
Directed by Paul Norman
Clint Howard stars as a disturbed Ice Cream truck driver who, owing to the childhood trauma of seeing his favorite novelty dessert hawker gunned down in broad daylight, mixes his treats with murder. Ice Cream Man is one of those high-concept ideas in search of a movie. Director Paul Norman — from a script co-written by David Dobkin — throws out a bunch of wacky ideas and some stick, but there's no coherent notion to hold it together. Howard's psychosis and the expression thereof has no narrative theory behind it, and the mixture of exaggerated comedic gore bits — like David Naughton's severed head on an oversized sugar cone — with a feint at making Howard a serious and sympathetic sufferer is misguided. Norman isn't bold enough to make his title character a fun monster and fails at depicting the pitiable shlub he aims for. Some memorable moments, but that's it. Also stars Olivia Hussey, Jan-Michael Vincent, David Warner, a kid shamelessly presented as a Macaulay Culkin doppelganger, another kid in an unconvincing fat suit, and Sharon Lawrence, who plays one of the most inexplicable characters I've ever seen.
Octoblur 2023 #39: Prophecy (1979)
Directed by John Frankenheimer
Prophecy (1979) is a big-budget Hollywood studio monster movie about a creature who is half-Native American vengeance spirit and half-pollution mutated bear. This creature — it's referred to as Katahdin —makes and breaks John Frankenheimer's movie. It's a well-designed giant goopy frightmare, but it moves like a stiff Barney the Dinosaur being wheeled around by roadies, nullifying the impact of some otherwise gory, gruesome terror. Talia Shire, Robert Foxworth and Armand Assante lead the cast, which also includes Richard A. Dysart sporting some wild 1970s hair later in the film. Movies with plots that involve ecological damage as a trigger for killer animals often take themselves too seriously, and that's the case here. Frankenheimer could be great — The Manchurian Candidate (1962), The Train (1964), Seconds (1966) — but this is a low point.
Octoblur 2023 #38: Pigs! (1972)
Directed by Marc Lawrence
I went into Pigs! (1972) — a.k.a. Daddy's Deadly Darling, a.k.a. The 13 Pig, and a.k.a. 10+ other titles — expecting some low-rent sleaze and at least one scene of pigs eating a person, and got half of that. The first big surprise is that Pigs! was directed by familiar character actor Marc Lawrence, who I know as the assassin Rumplestiltskin from my beloved Foul Play (1978) but whose career stretched back to the 1930s and featured roles in Key Largo (1948) and The Man with the Golden Gun (1974). The second surprise is that although Pigs! feels sleazy due to its location and budget, it's really more of an Actor's Studio-style exercise for thespians to feel some seedy characters. Toni Lawrence (the director's daughter) stars as a young woman who takes a job at an out-of-the-way cafe run by the mysterious Zambrini (Marc Lawrence), whose neighbors suspect him of turning people into the noisy pigs he keeps in his barn. Aside from a few scenes made more uneasy in the context of a father directing his daughter in intimate moments, Pigs! is pretty tame, with a few violent scenes, half of which are nightmares. As low-rent psychodramas go, this is OK as a curiosity if a bit too obvious.
Octoblur 2023 #37: The Vineyard (1989)
Directed by James Hong, William Rice
Everyone knows James Hong. He's one of the most recognizable character actors of the last 50 years and one of a handful of Asian actors who seemed to get every Asian role on TV throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He's in Chinatown (1974), Airplane! (1980), Blade Runner (1982), Big Trouble in Little China (1986), and even, now in his 90s, the Oscar-winning Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022). I was surprised to learn a few years ago that Hong directed two movies, starting with the soft-core comedy Teen Lust (1979) and ending with this bizarre horror comedy a decade later. In The Vineyard (1989) Hong seems to be drawing on the Hong Kong tradition of zany "black magic" horror, and he does a decent job of it. Hong stars as a coveted vintner who has been in the wine business for almost a century, thanks to the Oriental blood magic — sourced from the bevy of caged young women who act as his personal juice bar — that keeps him young. I'm not going to pretend I followed the plot, but there are zombies and fight scenes and a crazy old woman in the attic. Despite some brutal gore, The Vineyard has a light manic 12-year-old boy creative energy that makes it go down smooth. Filmed at the Dunsmuir-Hellman Historic Estate, which is a familiar location to fans of Phantasm (1979) and Burnt Offerings (1976).
Octoblur 2023 #36: Curse of Bigfoot (1978)
Directed by Dave Flocker
This moldy turd of a movie is a series of false starts that serve as introduction to the repackaging of the 1958 B-movie Teenagers Battle the Thing as an hour-long flashback illustrating the real dangers posed by cryptids like the titular Bigfoot. According to the narrative, the events depicted therein are so traumatic, that three participants have since been institutionalized and one young woman was been struck mute by the experience.... but that promise is never paid off in the slightest. Maybe she was bored speechless? The awful creature effects are fun, but used so sparingly that one must suffer through 85 minutes of pedestrian time-wasting to get to them. Completely worthless. But still not as bad as Grizzly II: Revenge.
Octoblur 2023 #35: Dark Angel: The Ascent (1994)
Directed by Linda Hassani
When I sit down to watch a movie produced by Charles Band's Full Moon Entertainment, I put up the same guards I use when watching a Troma production: I expect something awful with campiness the most likely saving quality. Maybe I should revise that expectation because I unironically enjoyed Dark Angel: The Ascent (1994). Directed by Linda Hassani from a script by Matthew Bright (the man behind cult movies Freeway (1996) and Tiptoes (2003)), Dark Angel seems to have been made with some real care and effort. Angela Featherstone stars as Veronica, an angel who works in Hell, but who dreams, like The Little Mermaid, of experiencing life with humans on the flipside of Earth's crust. She gets her wish, but when confronted with man's cruelty, becomes , with the aid of her trusty hellhound, a supernatural vigilante. Featherstone, who is probably best known as Adam Sandler's jilting fiancée in The Wedding Singer (1998), is simply captivating in this role. Hassani shoots her perfectly, but her performance is so sincere and subtle that I had to remind myself multiple times that this was a Full Moon movie. The concept of an Angel dutifully serving God by torturing the wicked is novel, and while Dark Angel: The Ascent (1994) doesn't dwell on theology, it's still given some room to breathe in the writing and directing and is far more provocative than expected. This is an unlikely gem. I wish Hassani had directed more feature films, because there is real quality here.
Octoblur 2023 #34: The Night of the Hunted (1980)
Directed by Jean Rollin
Jean Rollin is a European art-horror director with a reputation that I only half-understand. When I first started discovering his movies about 20 years ago, it seemed like they all consisted of listless people walking, often naked, through woods or on beaches or in castles, and maybe there was an actual vampire lurking somewhere, but mostly just a creepy tone with nothing happening as languidly as possible. Guess what happens in The Night of the Hunted (1980)? The twist here, I guess, is that the listless walking happens largely inside an apartment building, but some of it happens in a factory and a train yard. Porn star Brigitte Lahaie stars as a woman who appears to be fleeing from something, but she can't remember what. The sinister-seeming doctors who come to collect her say that she suffers from a degenerative condition that leaves her with no short-term memory and which will eventually render her a mental vegetable. Lahaie and her fellow-afflicted wander aimlessly around their high-rise prison, sometimes with a glimmer of a vague desire or memory. Some of them commit suicide, others try to escape. This is what I might call Ennui Horror, which is as French as it sounds. I kind of enjoyed Rollin's vibe this time — which is aided by some sparse but effective music — but his actors are rarely good enough to fully pull it off, this cast included.
Octoblur 2023 #33: Day of the Animals (1977)
Directed by William Girdler
What if I told you that there's a movie in which a shirtless Leslie Nielsen wrestles a bear, and it's not a comedy? Would you need to know anything else? In the unlikely event that more info is needed, Day of the Animals (1977) is another film from director William Girdler, who hit big in the wildlife horror genre with his previous effort, Grizzly (1976). Day of the Animals is similar, but bigger, as environmental changes turn all animals living above an elevation of 5000 feet into crazed human-eaters, which spells a bad trip for a camping expedition led by Christopher George. People get attacked by birds, wolves, spiders, cougars, dogs, snakes, and bears in between some Love Boat-quality melodramas. Nielsen steals the film as a petty asshole who devolves into a real creep (is man the most animal animal of all?). The cast also includes Linda Day George, Richard Jaeckel, and Andrew Stevens. Music provided by my main man, Lalo Schiffrin. This is exactly what it needs to be at all times. Between this, Grizzly, and his next (and last) movie, The Manitou (1978), I am now a wholehearted Girdler fan.
Octoblur 2023 #32: Exists (2014)
Directed by Eduardo Sánchez
Director Eduardo Sánchez (Blair Witch Project (1999)) heads back out into the forest for this tight and effective found-footage monster movie. Dora Madison — who was our Octoblur "Best Actress" a couple of years for her gonzo performance in Bliss (2019) — and a group of friends hope to spend a weekend at a cabin in the woods (when has this plan ever worked out?), but find themselves set upon by irate Bigfeet. Like Backcountry (2014), Exists is lean and focused and makes good use of shaky cam and quick editing in building mystery, but doesn't play coy for long. Unlike Bobcat Goldthwait's exasperating Willow Creek (2013), Exists is no tease. Once the action starts, it's on, and the ride is harrowing. There are some really smartly devised scares. Not my favorite style of horror, or my favorite kind of ending for horror, but this is solid.
Octoblur 2023 #31: House of Frankenstein (1944)
Directed by Erle C. Kenton
Universal's original run of classic monster movies goes completely off the rails with this disaster, despite a promising setup that is defiled by the end of the first act. House of Frankenstein offers up some big headlines — Karloff returns! Dracula too! — and then wastes them, perhaps with no idea how to incorporate all of its half-ideas. Karloff doesn't play The Monster (that falls to the invitingly named Glenn Strange) but Dr. Niemann, a mad genius who escapes from prison, along with his hunchbacked assistant Daniel (J. Carrol Naish), and sets out for Castle Frankenstein under the cover of a traveling sideshow in which Count Dracula's bones are the prime attraction. Dracula is accidentally revived and later The Monster and The Wolf Man are rescued from blocks of ice (again). Meanwhile, Daniel falls in love with a gypsy (Elena Verdugo) who prefers hunky Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.). Lionel Atwill appears as yet another character in this franchise. There is a lot going on in House of Frankenstein (1944), but nothing leads anywhere and the monsters — the ostensible reasons for this movie — are wasted. They are plot points from index cards that were thrown in the air and selected seemingly at random. It's nice to see Karloff back in a role that would have been fun had it not been in the middle of this mess — he plays a similar role in the much better The Body Snatcher (1945) — but his presence doesn't help Strange, who plays Frankenstein's Monster like a block of wood. Everything ends in quicksand, which is an apt metaphor.
Octoblur 2023 #30: The Monster Squad (1987)
Directed by Fred Dekker
It might be easy for someone to write off The Monster Squad as a silly teen comedy of no consequence, but it's hard for me to imagine a more perfect 1980s homage to the classic movie monsters. On paper, it's a cynical high-concept cash-grab — "The Goonies fight Dracula & Co." — but in the hands of writer-director Fred Dekker (whose Night of the Creeps (1986) is a favorite from the very first Octoblur 10 years ago) it is the most lovingly crafted example of how to mix old and new without shortchanging either end. The monsters in The Monster Squad — Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Frankenstein's Monster — are menacing and vivid, the action scenes are sharp and exciting, the kids are genuine, all of the actors take their roles seriously and add depth in between the setpieces, and the story, which is pure hokum, feels like it has real meaning by the end, at least within the movie's world. This is a perfect family-friendly Halloween movie (if no one in the family is offended by some now frowned-upon 1980s sensibilities) because it takes the monsters seriously as scary creatures — there's no scrimping on the horror in The Monster Squad — but Dekker is always working from the point-of-view that we watch and love horror because it's fun, which is why the kids in the movie have a monster club to begin with.
Octoblur 2023 #29: Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
Directed by Roy William Neill
Octoblur 2023 #28: The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)
Directed by Erle C. Kenton
Octoblur 2023 #27: Son of Frankenstein (1939)
Directed by Rowland V. Lee
Octoblur 2023 #26: Pet Sematary: Bloodlines (2023)
Directed by Lindsey Beer
Octoblur 2023 #25: Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
Directed by Steve Miner
I last reviewed Friday the 13th Part III (1982) in 2018, and I think I may have been too negative. Here's the thing: This movie is garbage, but it's garbage I like, and I will only maybe half-admit to myself why I like it. But I know it's trash, I know it's badly directed (for the most part) and badly acted and, unlike most of the other movies in this famous slasher franchise, even the special effects are pretty terrible. But I still like it. One of the reasons I stupidly oversaturate myself with horror movies every Octoblur is that, because of movies like this one, horror movies are my comfort food. I've watched most of the twelve movies in the Friday the 13th franchise close to 10 times, this one included, despite thinking that only four of them are actually well-made. So, keep all this in mind when I review a movie like this.
Now, a summarized rewrite of my review from five years ago:
After it spends five minutes recapping the ending of Friday the 13th Part II, this sequel launches into a confusing disco version of Harry Manfredini's score, which should be ample warning: this movie is a confounding combination of the worst and best of the series, a slave to conflicting fads and severely lacking in quality control. This garishly ugly and hastily written exercise in milking the box office is nevertheless responsible for introducing what is possibly the most potent and popular piece of horror iconography since the era of the Universal monsters: Jason Voorhees' hockey mask. Friday the 13th Part III also features a handful of the series' most memorable moments, some legitimately creative and some laughably awful.
Dana Kimmell leads a cast featuring a few appealing actresses alongside some extremely goony men. Paul Kratka, as Rick, is far ahead in the running for worst actor in the entire franchise; with his lumbering, affectless presence, that he stands out so clearly even in this subpar cast is saying something. Like Amy Steel before her, Kimmell shows real grit in her face-off with Jason. As the filmmaking finally comes to life during the final 20 minutes, it's a thrill watching Kimmell take the fight to Jason — if only some of this spirit were on display earlier.
Octoblur 2023 #24: Evils of the Night (1985)
Directed by Mardi Rustam
This sleazy little shocker could be 'Exhibit A' for everything wrong with cheap 1980s exploitation movies, except for one unlikely ingredient that almost redeems it. As randy college students party at a nearby lake, a cabal of alien scientists (played by, believe it or not, John Carradine, Julie Newmar from the 1960s Batman TV series, and Tina Louise from Gilligan's Island) are abducting youths and performing experiments on their blood. You can easily guess that the lakeside teens are next in the queue for the blood bay. It's all pranks and fornication until someone gets exsanguinated. Director Mardi Rustam has no eye for cinema, and Evils of the Night, as a result, feels as cheap as it is nasty. However, Rustam somehow lucked into a few young cast members who brighten a movie that doesn't deserve their charms. Karrie Emerson stands out the most as an actress of certainly better quality than this low dreck and makes for a heroine worth cheering for. More surprising, however, are Bridget Holloman and G.T. Taylor, who were presumably cast for their other assets, but they inhabit their "bimbo" roles with the most unlikely good-natured wholesomeness. Even David Hawk, as the ridiculous lunkhead forever conspiring to sleep with them, exudes goofy harmlessness. These four young actors put some admirable effort into their cynically written roles and I wish they had all worked more and in better material (Emerson, for her part, is also in the great cult movie Chopping Mall (1986)). To Rustam's inadvertent benefit, the sheer likability of these actors makes the predicament that befalls them feel legitimately perilous and tense, and not just mean and gross. Evils of the Night, however, is essentially mean and gross — with Neville Brand and Aldo Ray as a couple of vile creeps who embody the lowest of its lows — and exactly the kind of movie that no mother wanted her 13-year-old son bringing home from the video store in 1986 while being exactly what that 13-year-old was hoping to find.
Octoblur 2023 #23: Slotherhouse (2023)
Directed by Matthew Goodhue
Octoblur 2023 #22: Pinocchio's Revenge (1996)
Directed by Kevin Tenney
I wanted to like Pinocchio's Revenge (1996) but it tested my patience. It's the kind of title that seems to promise something obvious: a wooden puppet committing murders. And it finally delivers, but boy does it take its time and in a frustrating manner. The driving idea is incredibly dark — that this evil puppet convinces children to commit murders — but director Kevin Tenney (Night of the Demons (1988)) soft-pedals it, as if the production team lost their nerve. The movie mostly relies on close-ups of the Pinocchio puppet's creepy but inanimate face, which gets exasperating the longer it seems that the puppet isn't actually going to be doing anything worth watching. Brittany Alyse Smith, who stars as the child in Pinocchio's thrall has an Olsen Twins quality to her acting that is both amusing and irritating. Rosalind Allen, who plays her mother, evokes Erin Grey at times. Aside from some extremely gratuitous nudity, this could be PG-13 or a made-for-TV movie, and it needed to be much more ruthless to be any fun.
Octoblur 2023 #21: Grizzly II: Revenge (2020)
Directed by André Szöts
Octoblur 2023 #20: Backcountry (2014)
Directed by Adam MacDonald
I'm not an outdoorsman and I don't like camping, but fear of a bear attack has never been part of that equation, until maybe now. Backcountry (2014) is similar to the 2003 shark attack movie Open Water, as it attempts to depict with some degree of realism a true-life case of nature's unforgiving hunger for human flesh. In this case, a couple (Missy Peregrym and Jeff Roop) get lost while camping and find themselves in the hunting ground of a fearsome black bear. Director Adam MacDonald keeps the action tense and visceral, and the actors do a fine job expressing both the subdued terror of being lost in the wilderness and the more active terror of becoming a predator's lunch. What doesn't work so well in Backcountry are the unneeded additional contrived conflicts between the couple, one of which involves Eric Balfour as a hammy symbol of alpha-masculinity. Properly stressful, if not exactly fun.
Octoblur 2023 #19: Der Nachtmahr (2015)
Directed by Achim Bornhak
Octoblur 2023 #18: Rawhead Rex (1986)
Directed by George Pavlou
Octoblur 2023 #17: White God (2014)
Directed by Kornél Mundruczó
Octoblur 2023 #16: Grizzly (1976)
Directed by William Girdler
Octoblur 2023 #15: Dracula's Dog (1977)
Directed by Albert Band
Octoblur 2023 #14: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Directed by James Whale
Octoblur 2023 #13: Madhouse (1981)
Directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis
Octoblur 2023 #12: The Boneyard (1991)
Directed by James Cummins
Octoblur 2023 #11: Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (1978)
Directed by Curtis Harrington
Octoblur 2023 #10: Monster Dog (1984)
Directed by Claudio Fragasso
Octoblur 2023 #09: Man's Best Friend (1993)
Directed by John Lafia
Octoblur 2023 #08: Monkey Shines (1988)
Directed by George A. Romero
Octoblur 2023 #07: Alien Prey (1978)
Directed by Norman J. Warren
Octoblur 2023 #06: Black Sheep (2006)
Directed by Jonathan King
Black Sheep is one of many "Animals Attack" titles that has been on the periphery of my Octoblur watchlists for years and is one of the reasons that I decided to make that one of my themes this year. Director Jonathan King's dark comedy can be found on many of those "best horror movies you've never heard of" lists, and I can see why — it has the style of humor and high-concept plot that makes for good blog copy. An ambitious New Zealand farmer dabbles in genetic modification to create the sheep of the future, and winds up with a flock of meat-eaters whose bite turns humans into Dr. Moreau-like human-sheep chimeras. Some of the humor in Black Sheep is too broad in tone for me, but it still features some over-the-top highlights, like a sheep commandeering a truck for a short-lived driving lesson. I respond better to the deadpan moments like the many shots of sheep that in any other context would mean nothing, but in Black Sheep they take on an absurd menace. The "frankensheep" experiments are also well-realized comic horror with one hoof in a disturbing reality. Black Sheep isn't a particularly nice-looking movie, with an artless color palette and too much shaky cam during its action scenes. The cast also has its ups and downs. But it shares those shortcomings with the early low-budget shock classics of countryman Peter Jackson, and in content and tone, it's also a worthy heir.
Octoblur 2023 #05: Unwelcome (2022)
Directed by Jon Wright
Octoblur 2023 #04: No One Will Save You (2023)
Directed by Brian Duffield
Brian Duffield's directorial debut, Spontaneous, was my third favorite movie from the year 2020, so this Hulu streamer was a must-see for me this month. Kaitlyn Dever stars as a small-town outcast whose social anxieties are, one would hope, dwarfed when an alien invasion puts her survival instinct to its greatest test. Or does it? The ending left me scratching my head and, while I think it might be more interesting than my initial reaction allowed, I'm still not sure I appreciate any of its cynical potential meanings. That said, there are a lot of great sequences in No One Will Save You (2023), and Dever is quite good both in service of and despite the movie's flawed conceit: it is almost completely without dialog. This gives Dever a challenge that she surmounts triumphantly, but she can never really escape its artificiality. The challenge that Duffield set for himself with this gimmick is not as gracefully conquered. For it to really work, it should become less and less noticeable, just a seamless part of the reality of the movie; unfortunately, it is always at the forefront, calling far too much attention to itself through its sheer unlikeliness. Anyway, it is what it is, and the parts that are good are good enough to warrant dismissing the silly contrivance. The final act is a bigger obstacle, with its overindulgence of the emotional aspect of its narrative — Does every new horror movie have to be about living with trauma? It's become an exhausting and exhausted cliche... — and then, after some confusing editing, the final scene... Maybe it's something that speaks to the fragile younger generations, but every interpretation I come up with is gross and depressing. I still liked the movie overall? I could change my mind in 10 minutes, and probably will.
Octoblur 2023 #03: Phantom of the Mall: Eric's Revenge (1989)
Directed by Richard Friedman
Phantom of the Mall: Eric's Revenge (1989) is, inarguably, a very silly movie, transplanting the plot of Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera to the most 1980s of locations: the opening of a new shopping mall. The phantom in this iteration is a teenage gymnast who was burned nearly to death by the mall's real estate developers and, clad in his lettermans jacket and half of a face mask, murders anyone who poses a threat to his former girlfriend. For a silly movie, and one with no real signs of talent behind the camera, it mostly works due to the rough charm of its cast and the goofy spirit with which it tries to exploit its cliches. The cast includes, in supporting roles, an emergent Pauly Shore and the dependable symbol of cold '80s excess Morgan Fairchild. The rest of the cast barely made it past bit parts on 1990s episodic TV, but they have a confounding wholesome appeal despite including one former Playmate of the Month (Kari Kennell) and another future star of a cable series titled Erotic Confessions (Kimber Sissons, who shows a Tea Leoni-like earthy star magnetism in her throwaway friend role). As Phantom of the Mall: Eric's Revenge vacillates between cable TV mediocrity and gory sexploitation trash it somehow remains easily digestible and ineptly fun. It doesn't hurt that Eric's fave song is an awful butt-rock ballad performed by Stan Bush, who just a few years earlier gifted us all with "The Touch" from Transformers: The Movie (1986). Director Richard Friedman, naturally, would later direct episodes of Silk Stalkings and Baywatch Nights.