Pray To Get Out!!!

This latest batch of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT features another terrifying trio of underrated horror flicks from the gory days of the 80’s horror craze! Often overlooked, and all three are personal favorites of mine. Best of all, all three of these Brain Hammer approved clas-sicks are available on dvd and can be easily found for a reasonable price. You have to pay to get them in your collection…and pray to get them out!

 

LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

THE FUNHOUSE (1981)

The story unfolds in classic horror movie fashion. Four teens head out for a night of fun at a rather sleazy traveling carnival which has just come to town. As the evening comes to an end, they decide to spend the rest of the night inside the spooky looking funhouse. They all agree and decide to ditch the last ride before the attraction shuts down. As they hide out inside the attic of the funhouse smoking grass, the four witness a murder committed by the horribly deformed and sexually frustrated teenage son of the carnival barker who hides his hideous wolf-like face and glowing red eyes behind an equally freaky looking Frankenstein mask! Soon after they are discovered by the demented father and son duo, and then stalked and slain as they try to escape the funhouse with their lives.

An exceptionally well made monster/slasher hybrid film from director Tobe “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” Hooper. Luckily for horror fans Tobe turned down Steven Spielberg’s offer to direct fucking “E.T.” so he could make this flick instead! Things worked out perfectly for everyone, because Hooper & Spielberg worked together a year later instead and created the legendary “Poltergeist.”

From the opening “Shower-Slasher 101″ sequence, which seems to playfully reference both “Psycho” and “Halloween” through the violent climax of the film where the monster finds a violent demise in the bowels of the funhouse, this flick is always creepy and captivating. There are some especially well done chase sequences along the way. It’s an incredibly atmospheric and scary film for a relatively cheap production filmed entirely on a soundstage in Florida. The use of color throughout is beautiful, and this is probably Hooper’s most polished looking horror film. (“Poltergeist” looks and feels like more of a Spielberg movie) The make up was done by Rick Baker and Craig Reardon and they did a great job as always.

The “monster” is also a bit sympathetic, in the proud tradition of Frankenstein’s monster. You get the feeling that despite his deformity and homicidal impulses, he’s really just a horny teen trying to get laid. We’ve all been there. Horny teens (and perverts of all ages) watching this flick in hope of some nice gratuitous nudity from the aforemented opening shower scene will be sorely disappointed when they see the odd, pancake shaped tits of the lead actress! BARF! I was screaming for a nice set of “stunt breasts” and Tobe Hooper should have done the same thing! This flick should also be of interest to fans of Dean Koontz, because after the film was released he wrote a novelization of the screenplay under the psuedonym Owen West He added a lot of backstory about the carnival family tree which would have been an interesting, but perhaps un-necessary addition to the movie.

THE FUNHOUSE is a unique and memorable flick from the golden age of slasher horror. I personally consider this flick to be the best thing Hooper ever did that doesn’t have the words “TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE” in the title. I’ve noticed that as of late Hooper’s film “Eaten Alive” is gaining newfound popularity and a larger audience via dvd. Hopefully “The Funhouse” will find a larger audience too. There’s a lot to like about this one!

 

 

BAD DREAMS (1988)

The always creepy Richard Lynch (“Invasion USA,” “Cut & Run”) stars as Franklin Harris, a deranged cult leader who controls a hippie commune called Unity Fields. One day Harris decides to usher in a whole new era of unity amongst his followers by dousing them in gasoline and setting them all on fire. A massive explosion then kills 30 of the filthy hippies and leaves only a sole survivor – Harris’ personal favorite love child, Cynthia. (Jennifer Rubin, who also appeared in “A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”) Cynthia had second thoughts about immolating herself and ran away shortly before the shit hit the fan. Despite being doused in gasoline and trapped inside a burning, exploding building, Cynthia somehow manages to avoid being burnt to a crisp and is pulled from the wreckage by paramedics relatively unscathed.

Cynthia is brought to a hospital, where she spends the following thirteen years in a coma. When Cynthia finally wakes up, the real nightmare begins. After waking up from her coma Cynthia is transferred to a mental health facility ran by a shady doctor named Berrisford and placed into a special “borderline personality” therapy group led by the dashing Dr. Alex Karmen. (Bruce “Re-Animator” Abbott) The dazed and confused girl attempts to put the pieces of her troubled past together while constantly being drugged and surrounded by neurotics and psychotics, including a whining E.G. Daily (The Devil’s Rejects), a chain smoking Susan Ruttan (L.A. Law), and a wise cracking, self mutilating Dean Cameron (fucking “Chainsaw” from “Summer School!”).

It doesn’t take long before Cynthia begins having hallucinations, and the terrified girl starts seeing the charred corpse of Harris everywhere she looks. Even worse, Harris keeps imploring Cynthia to “keep her promise” and commit suicide so she can join the rest of the Unity Fields followers in eternal bliss. Harris also warns his love child that if she won’t kill herself, he’ll kill her newfound friends so they can take her place by his side instead. Harris is a man of his word, and immediately begins taking out the cracked out patients one by one. Cynthia (and the viewer) watches in helpless disbelief as the unfortunate patients are drowned, thrown from windows, chopped to bits by giant turbines, consume conveniently located bottles of formaldehyde, and gut themselves with scalpels! All of these incredible deaths are made to look like simple suicides, and this makes Cynthia’s cries for help even more unbelievable.

Dr. Karmen promptly falls in love with Cynthia (great ethics there, Doctor) and tries in vain to stop the rest of his patients from offing themselves. After being fired by Dr. Berrisford for getting too personally involved, Karmen pops some meds and hallucinates about running Berrisford over in the parking lot (?). He eventually sobers up and uncovers a deadly conspiracy that hides a madman even more dangerous than Harris. Cynthia’s worst nightmares have indeed come to life, and her desperate fight for survival has just begun.

I really enjoy this underrated 1988 effort from writer and director Andrew Fleming. This flick was and still is commonly dismissed by most horror fans and critics as a lame “Dream Warriors” rip off with Richard Lynch as a wannabe Freddy Krueger. I don’t see it that way at all. The basic similarities are obvious: Jennifer Rubin in an asylum battling a badly burnt lunatic who snuffs the patients and makes it look like suicide. But the differences, which are quite substantial in my opinion seem to fly over people’s heads. The biggest difference is tone. BAD DREAMS has it’s share of pitch black humor, but Franklin Harris is no wisecracking Freddy Krueger. Richard Lynch does a great job in this role and plays it totally straight. I wish he had more screen time. The flashback footage where Harris preaches about “the joining of man and woman” and “making a break from the old world” is some of the creepiest stuff in the movie.

The other major difference is the plot device that leads to the twist of the film’s climax. I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone, but I will say that the “hallucinatory” nature of the movie is what makes it so unique. I think the title “Bad Dreams” is misleading, if only for the simple fact that there’s hardly any dreaming involved. “Bad Trip” would have been a much more appropriate title. Speaking of tripping, it’s completely mind boggling that Richard Lynch would have agreed to be in this movie, because in real life he had once set himself on fire while tripping on acid! It’s unnerving to watch Richard soaking himself in gas and lighting himself up when you can clearly see the real life effects of such an incident all over his face. It’s much more disturbing than anything a makeup artist could create.

“Bad Dreams” delivers the goods in the splatter department. The highlight for gorehounds is an awesome sequence where the liquefied remains of two disgusting looking middle aged sex addicts pour out of ventilation ducts and rain down upon both the hapless maintenance man sent to investigate and the patients on the floor below. There’s also a very convincing looking scene where Dean Cameron slams his hand down onto a knife blade. I have to say that Dean pretty much steals the whole fucking movie. His high strung, on edge, and over the top turn as “Ralph” is easily the best performance in the entire film. After watching him chew up the scenery here with such gusto, I have to wonder why he didn’t become a bigger star. I love that guy!

You might notice a lack of attention to the performances of Jennifer Rubin and Bruce Abbott, but that’s for the best really. In their defense, they weren’t really given a lot to work with. The love connection between these two is far fetched from a storyline perspective, and even less convincing on screen because these two have zero chemistry with each other. When Bruce tells Jennifer “I love you!” at the end of the movie it’s flat out laughable. I loved Jennifer in “Dream Warriors” so I’ll go easy on her, but I’ve always thought Bruce was kind of a doofus in those “Re-Animator” flicks. I’ll blame him instead. All I can say is that it’s a good thing they had an excellent supporting cast!

Starz/Anchor Bay released an excellent dvd of BAD DREAMS that includes a gory alternate ending, directors commentary, the theatrical trailer, and three brief behind the scenes featurettes. Great stuff that makes for an essential purchase. Watch this one with an open mind and you just might like it.

 

 

HELL HIGH (1989)

A sexually repressed biology teacher named Brooke Storm (Maureen Mooney) is tormented by memories of the violent impalement death of two sexually frustrated greaser teens that she accidentally unleashed during her tender youthful years as a pink party dress sporting Jon Benet lookalike. All grown up but mentally disturbed, Ms. Storm begins to crack when one of her very worst students – a nasty punk named Dickens (Christopher Striker – RIP) begins harassing her. The tension reaches a breaking point when Ms. Storm snaps and slaps the Dickens out of Dickens in class. Humiliated, Dickens vows revenge on the teacher.

The incouragable sociopath Dickens is never far away from his loyal followers – Smiler and Queenie. Smiler (Jason Brill) is the token obnoxious giggling fat fuck moron, and Queenie (Millie Prezioso) is a slut with attitude and a taste for the colorful fashions of Cindy Lauper. The gang becomes a fearsome foursome when Dickens befriends a pretty boy pussy named Jon Jon (Christopher Cousins) who recently quit the school’s football team because he couldn’t take the pain. Dickens shares his trusty bottle of Jack Daniels with Jon Jon after school and then the two fast friends bond some more while following Ms. Storm home from school. Jon Jon starts whining about how he doesn’t like “the stink of it,” which prompts Dickens to respond with the classic line “You don’t like the stink of nothing. Besides, there’s nothing after high school. There’s only more stink.”

The boys follow Ms. Storm back to her isolated home near a swamp and get their jollies peeping at her in the shower. Much to the lads (and the viewers) shock and delight, the closeted and conservative looking Ms. Storm actually has a smoking hot body, and she seems to get a big kick out of groping her soapy breasts in the shower (Do girls really do that?!?)! The next day, the pack of misfits attend a football game at the school. This allows Dickens a chance to approach an injured player on the sidelines and threaten to “open up” his leg wound with a huge oversized knife! Then the gang hop into Dickens’ car and drive onto the football field so Jon Jon can intercept the ball mid-throw and ruin the game for his former team mates.

Later that night the kids decide to go to Ms. Storm’s house for a little fun. The pack of hooligans head into the swamp to gather up as much slime as they can in garbage bags and then proceed to vandalize her house. They throw the slime all over the house, dump a bucketful on Ms. Storm’s face, jump up and down on the roof, and break a window in the front door. Their festivities are briefly interrupted by the high school’s lesbian swim coach, who unexpectedly shows up at the house to visit Ms. Storm. Unbelievably, the coach doesn’t seem the least bit concerned to find her friend babbling hysterically and covered in slime. The broken window doesn’t faze her either. Instead of doing something crazy like calling the police, she gives Ms. Storm a quaalude, tucks her into bed, and leaves!

This gives Dickens and the gang the perfect opportunity to break into her home. The mean spirited pranks turn sinister when both Dickens and Queenie take turns molesting the drugged and delirious teacher. Fortunately for Ms. Storm, Dicken’s concept of “nailing this bitch” consists solely of pawing at her breasts and scrunching up her nightgown a bit. Some in-fighting between the kids gives Ms. Storm a window of opportunity to escape, which she attempts to do by swiftly defenestrating herself! The gang is shocked and horrified, but express more fear for their futures than remorse for their deeds. Jon Jon even mutters “There goes my future.”

But unfortunately for everyone involved, Ms. Storm isn’t dead. The now battered and bloody biology teacher finally snaps and goes berserk. Her demented night of vengeance is best summed up by the European title of the film – “Raging Fury!” The gory highlights include heads being bashed with rocks (very brutal!), pencils shoved into temples, multiple bloody impalements, throat slitting, and human dissection experiments. This teacher is tough, and her final exam will be murder.

HELL HIGH is a fairly unique horror film from the dying days of the 80’s slasher craze. It didn’t exactly set the box office on fire, only raking in a meager $187,920. For some reason this film received terrible reviews, mostly from critics who apparently didn’t even watch the movie before reviewing it. I say that because comparisons to “Carrie” and “Prom Night” are beyond me. Perhaps the title is misleading, because this is hardly your run of the mill high school slash ’em up. This flick plays out more in the sleazy revenge-themed tradition of flicks like “I Spit On Your Grave” and “Class Of 1984.” There are a couple of very nice T&A shots along the way. Hats off to director Douglas Grossman for fine use of stunt breasts. Maureen Mooney was pregnant during the filming and had tiny tits anyways.

I thought the acting in this film was better than average. Maureen Mooney does a great job in the lead role, as does Christopher Striker. There’s great chemistry between the two, you really get the feeling that they hate each other. Sadly, Striker passed away from AIDS shortly after the film finished shooting. “Hell High” is also notable for featuring one of the very best male screams in all of horror history. Your eardrums will also be assaulted by some hideously catchy original pop music provided by Johnny Vance. The theme song “I’ll Trust In You” will haunt your dreams for days after seeing this.

I have fond memories of first seeing this flick back in 1990 on Joe Bob Briggs’ “Drive In Saturday Night” show on The Movie Channel. The fine folks at Shriek Show released a fantastic dvd of HELL HIGH that includes goodies like a directors commentary track, interviews, trailers & tv spots, and best of all – a hilarious commentary track with none other than Joe Bob Briggs himself! I’m a big fan of this flick and a highly recommend a purchase.

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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