TBT 1980-1989

Throwback Thursday Movie: The House on Sorority Row (1983)

It’s graduation time for a group of senior girls in a college sorority. After their house mother squashes their plans to throw a graduation party at the sorority house, the girls decide to play a prank on her. The prank goes too far and ends in murder. Now the girls are being killed one by one. They must try to survive while also attempting to hide the evidence of their dark deed.

Even though this film is 33 years old, I had not seen it yet. Since I am undertaking the 31 Days of Horror challenge, it only felt right to watch this classic slasher flick. The plot is simple enough. Most people who went to high school or college are familiar with senior pranks. When the girls in this sorority try to prank their shrewd house mother, it accidentally ends in her death. The girls have their whole lives ahead of them, so instead of calling the police, they decide to dispose of the body before people arrive for the graduation party. As with any good slasher, nothing goes quite to plan, and the girls are killed off one by one. The twist in this film was actually fairly good. For most of the film I thought the ending was going to go one way, but it did a complete 180 on me at the climax of the film.

While the story is fun, what makes this film so great is how you can see the influence it left behind. Many films and TV shows have come out since this film was made that clearly drew inspiration from it. Many slashers I have seen over the years have certain aspects that appear to have come from this film. The most obvious connection to The House on Sorority Row can be seen in the first season of Scream Queens. The entire premise of the first season clearly was inspired by The House on Sorority Row, just in a more satirical form. It’s amazing to think that this film paved the way for so many other great slasher flicks.

The acting in this film was surprisingly good considering both the content and when it was made. Kate McNeil (Monkey Shines, As The World Turns) was great as the lead, Katherine. She was innocent, sweet, and everything you expect from a final girl in a slasher film. I was also a big fan of Eileen Davidson (The Young and the Restless) as Vicki. She was the perfect antithesis to Katherine. She was a slutty bitch who doesn’t take shit from anyone (especially not their house mother). She also managed to portray her character without feeling over the top in her performance.

Since this is an early eighties slasher film, the practical effects are generally kept to a minimum. It is really only the occasional smear of blood when someone is stabbed or shot. The only true practical effect involved a severed head in a toilet. I loved this effect because it was both gory and hilarious all at the same time. They appeared to have achieved this by having the actress under the toilet with her head sticking up through the hole (although I could be mistaken). Either way it was definitely a stand out moment in the film.

The House on Sorority Row is a film that every horror fan should see at some point. It’s influence can be felt in many later films and TV shows. This is the kind of cult classic that has a story most will be familiar with, but it is still a fun watch. It may not be as big as some of the other slashers such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween, but it deserves a certain level of respect and appreciation. If you haven’t seen this film yet I would definitely recommend giving it a try. If you have seen it, still watch it again to enjoy the slasher genre in its purest form.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10

Throwback Thursday Movie: Re-Animator (1985)

A medical school student named Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) is trying to find a classmate to be his new roommate. When a mysterious new student answers his add, Dan’s world gets turned upside down. This new student, Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), is obsessed with finding an agent that can re-animate dead tissue. Dan slowly gets sucked into Herbert’s work. It doesn’t take long for things to go awry, with some dire consequences that the two students may not be able to get themselves out of.

I know this may come as a shock to many horror fans, but this was my first time seeing Re-Animator. I know, I know! It’s shocking. There are many classics that I need to catch up on (which is why I do Throwback Thursday reviews). This is a film I’ve always wanted to watch. I see clips of it here and there on different horror TV networks, plus it has quite the reputation as a cult classic horror film.

Going into this film, the one thing I was the most excited about was the practical effects. Luckily the film lived up to my expectations. Eighties horror and scifi films always have the most creative and elaborate practical effects. Re-Animator doesn’t use as many practical effects as I was expecting, but the ones they do use are pretty amazing. Two of the stand-outs are a mangled, deceased cat that gets re-animated and a re-animated headless body (along with the severed head). With the severed head they did a great job going back and forth between using a model head and the actual actor’s head (which was stuck through a hole in a table).

Generally speaking, the story was interesting and kept my attention. While I wouldn’t technically call this a zombie film, it takes an interesting approach to the how and why the dead would be brought back to life. I enjoyed that it went in a more scientific direction than many living dead films do. There were some aspects of the plot that I don’t think worked quite as well. There were many times during the story where I couldn’t help but think “why?” Why was Herbert so obsessed with proving he could re-animate dead tissue? Why did Dan trust Herbert so easily? Why was Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale) obsessed with Megan (Barbara Crampton)? These pieces of the story made things more exciting, but I hate not knowing why they happened in the first place.

Considering this is a campy eighties horror flick, the acting is surprisingly good. Jeffrey Combs (Frighteners, From Beyond) was equal parts creepy and intriguing as the obsessive Herbert West. Throughout the film he does an amazing job of portraying the borderline psychotic need Herbert has to prove his theory, and his willingness to do whatever it takes to reach that goal. Bruce Abbott (Dark Justice), while not really a standout in the film, was still enjoyable to watch. At times his character felt a bit bland, but that could have been more due to writing than his acting. My favorite performance came from David Gale (Bride of Re-Animator) as the menacing Dr. Carl Hill. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to play a severed head, but he pulled it off in a way that was disturbing and comical all at the same time.

While I couldn’t say this film is my favorite eighties horror film, it’s definitely a fun watch that will appeal to many viewers. Re-Animator is a cult classic for good reason. Whatever it lacks in the scares, it greatly makes up for in weirdness and humor. It’s a fun story with a bizarre cast of characters. Add that to the delightfully cheesy eighties practical effects, and you get a recipe for a fun flick that will entertain people for years to come. This is a film that every true horror fan should see at least once.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10

Throwback Thursday Movie: The Monster Squad (1987)

I’m going to preface this by saying that this is a very biased review. I grew up watching this movie, some of my earliest movie-watching memories involve this movie, and I love it. That being said, it is still a pretty awesome movie. I have never introduced this movie to someone and have them not love it. It seems like the perfect choice for my Throwback Thursday movie review.

The film centers on a group of young teens that have their own monster club. They meet and talk about awesome monster movies and even have a clubhouse plastered with horror movie posters. The leader of their group acquires Abraham Van Helsing’s diary and soon realizes all the strange things that have been happening in their small town are leading to the end of the world. Who is trying to end the world, you ask? None other than all the classic movie monsters complete with Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the mummy, Wolfman, and the creature from the Black Lagoon. It’s up to these kids to stop the monsters from destroying the world and bringing about eternal evil.

This movie is not scary by any means, but it is insanely entertaining. The storyline is hilarious. It is often compared to The Goonies since they came out around the same time and both involve a group of kids that have to save the day. The writing is pure genius. Not only is the dialogue very witty, but there are also some amazing one-liners. One of the more famous lines that you may have heard before is “Wolfman’s got nards!”

This being an eighties movie, there are some great practical effects as well. Frankenstein’s monster of course has gorgeous makeup, along with the creature from the Black Lagoon. One top of that, the practical effects used when Wolfman makes his transformation and the mummy gets unraveled are very impressive.

This film really has everything you could want from a light-hearted eighties horror flick. It is witty, it has great practical effects, the storyline is very original, and it appeals to people of all ages. This is a movie that I would highly recommend if you are looking for a “gateway movie” to introduce children to the horror genre. It is also very fun to watch with a group of drunken friends. I truly hope you enjoy the movie, because it has given me much joy since the tender age of 4.

OVERALL RATING: 10/10 (I told you I was biased)