Halloween Party (1989)

I’ve extolled the virtues of SOV in that it’s the most democratic of all film formats — well, iPhone movies would be but no one makes them full length all that often and people today would rather make unboxing videos than get their friends together and make a goofy slasher movie — because for the first time, literally anyone could get a video camera and quickly shoot and edit the movie that was in their head. Even more than Super 8, which still demanded that you hand cut and edit film, the VCR changed the world of films. And due to the need for video stores to have products or — in the case of Halloween Party — public access stations allowing normal citizens to create programming, all manner of new voices got the opportunity to be seen.

Dave Skowronski is one of those voices. A teenager when this was made, this was part of The D.J.P. Halloween Special that aired on a Cheshire, Connecticut public access channel. Halloween Party is just part of that whole affair, as Skowronski hosted parody videos, an older movie he had made and even a “Monster Mash” video with the cast of Halloween Party.

What you get is a movie that has only the most tenuous of slasher set-ups — Becky is having a party and that old farmer that killed his family has risen from the grave — but it somehow combines a film that gives you an authentic time capsule of 1989 teenagers — farts and all — with a movie that loves Halloween so much that it Bruno Mattei-style lifts music from the first, fourth and fifth movie. Also: the arrangement of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” from 2001 and the theme from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes also show up, copyrights be damned.

Yet all is forgiven because the farmer has makeup that looks frankly horrifying and when combined with the darker hues and blurry quality of the video format appears even more sinister.

Everyone talks too fast. Most of them showed up probably for the chance to get free soda and Doritos at a suburban house party that was turned into the setting for this movie. There’s also a scene where two girls abuse one another vocally that reminds me that I’ve forgotten the dudes who knocked out my teeth in hockey or broke a bone in wrestling, but have never ever forgotten off-hand comments a mean fourth grade girl said to me.

At once a tribute to the power of the slasher, the joy of making any movie you want and an amber capture of the teenage years of 1989, Halloween Party is true magic.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Las Vegas Bloodbath (1989)

Directed, written and produced by David Schwartz, Las Vegas Bloodbath follows the storyline of so many SOV films, which seem to be indebted to Herschell Gordon Lewis movies that came out two decades before: man gets screwed over, man goes insane, man brutally murders women as the camera focuses on the gore.

Sam Butler returns to Las Vegas after a business deal and finds his wife Ruth in the arms of a cop whose gun he takes and kills both of them. He cuts off his wife’s head and goes off, stabbing sex workers in the face, pulling their legs off with a car, shooting a bartender, using a shovel on a gardener and then attacking the Beautiful Lady Oil Wrestlers at a bridal shower that starts with him tearing a baby out of the soon-to-be mother Barbara, then wiping out everyone else, bathing in their blood and then killing another police officer.

Oh yeah, he also cuts a Jehovah’s Witness guy’s head off.

Imagine Maniac without any of the talent. Or more cocaine, if possible. But instead of the grimy world of New York at the end of the world, this is in Vegas, sunbaked city of sin transformed into a family destination but still a place where oil wrestling women have baby showers where women call one another bitch and whore and then have fashion shows for one another while drinking beer and eating donuts. You know, that sounds like a great day other than, you know, seeing a baby get tossed into the next room.

Do you want oil wrestling with your misogyny, this film stupidly asks, and certainly there are enough people who rented or bought this. Also: daytime whores, a line from the film, is the perfect band name.

The McPherson Tape (1989)

On the evening of October 8, 1983, the Van Heese family gathered to celebrate the birthday of 5-year-old Michelle. As the mother and her three sons Eric, Jason and Michael celebrated along with Eric’s wife Jamie and Jason’s girlfriend Renee, they soon had to solve a power outage. When the brothers went outside, they noticed a red light in the sky. And that’s when things went bad quickly, as red lights in the sky, an alien craft and even beings were recorded by Michael’s video camera.

Except, you know, this was all a found footage shot on video film by director and writer Dean Alioto, who used just $6,500 to make the film. The master tape burned in a warehouse fire shortly after being picked up for distribution, so this was a rare film for some time. In 2018, Alioto released the film on DVD and digital, then AGFA released a  blu ray that’s the best way to see this movie.

So many UFO lovers thought that this was real footage and the 1990s show Encounters even claimed that it was real footage. That’s because the bootlegs that were circulating had no credits. That’s where The McPherson Tape name comes from, as this was really named Alien Abduction. It was remade in 1998 as Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County.

The film feels a lot like the real life Kelly–Hopkinsville encounter — which I have also heard called the Hopkinsville Goblins Case — in which the communities of Kelly and Hopkinsville in Christian County, Kentucky battled several goblin-looking extraterrestrials. It’s one of one of the most significant and well-documented cases in the history of UFO incidents, even if the Air Force classified it as a hoax in Project Blue Book. Night Skies, which became E.T., and Critters were based on this story.

The Bloody Video Horror That Made Me Puke on My Aunt Gertrude (1989)

Kind of lost until Saturn’s Core reissued this on VHS a few years ago, this movie mixes both comedy and horror with dialogue that feels like it’s the first time that anyone has even seen the script. It concerns Video Magic clerk Ramon — there’s a poster for Goldengirl up like 12 years after that movie came out — whose boss Joe believes is a killer because one of the videos in their store has someone getting killed on tape. The real killer? Now he’s coming to take out Ramon.

Under the names John Bacchus and Zachary Snygg, this movie’s director has made stuff like The Erotic Witch ProjectPlay-Mate of the ApesThe Insatiable IronBabe and Beaster Day: Here Comes Peter Cottonhell. He’s still at it, too.

I’m sure his later movies are better. They have to be. This, however, is a bunch of teenagers grabbing a camera and trying to show you how hilarious they aren’t.

Yet somehow, as bad as the story and the dialogue is, the camerawork is inventive even on the lowest of budgets. It’s as if some teenagers overdosed on Sam Raimi and the Coen Brothers and that’s because that’s exactly what this is.

Violent Shit (1989)

Throughout Violent Shit, Violent Shit II: Mother Hold My Hand, Violent Shit III: Infantry of Doom, Nikos the Impaler, which was released in some countries as Violent Shit 4, and Karl vs. Axe, Andreas Schnaas has grown from making movies on the weekend with his friends and a camcorder to become known force in extreme horror.

Yet it all started here for so many. Twenty years before this film, Karl (Karl Inger) used a meatcleaver to end his mother’s abuse. Then, after years of prison life, he escapes into th woods and begins killing and eating his victims before realizing that all along he has been taught how to kill by demons. At this point, reality kind of stops and Karl crawls into the body of Jesus and then his skin begins to fall off, so he finally just rips himself to pieces, revealing a child covered in blood.

Will you like it? Are you prepared for a murderdrone dive ino absolutely nonsensical gory murder, punctuated by more murder, then followed by a demonic being that will definitely be hiding in my brain from now on and then, like I said, the killer disembowling a religious figure and then horrifyingly being born again. I always wonder if I should recommend things and what people will think of them when I do. So…you’re in this one alone.

Satan’s Storybook (1989)

Satan’s Storybook prefigures the streaming horror anthology films that litter our watch services today yet it’s miles above those, not just within its two tales, but with a connecting story that makes you want even more.

Directed and co-written by Michael Rider, who was also a zombie in the shot on video Hororama, this movie starts with the bride of Satan (Leslie Deutsch) — who by the way looks amazing and just like a late 80s heavy metal album cover come to life — being abducted by ninjas, one of whom is her sister, who is played Ginger Lynn, so of course I was beyond in love with this segment. This upsets Satan so much that he demands that his jester tell him some stories to keep his mood light. This segment hints at a third story as well as more of the story which is never delivered and honestly, that’s the only thing about this movie I dislike, because it leaves you wanting so much more.

“Demon of Death” is all about Zeek Heller (co-writer Steven K. Arthur), a serial killer who abducts metal and horror fan — she has a Scared Stiff poster on the all black walls of her room — Jezebell Jones ((Leesa Rowland) and even wipes out her family before being sent to rot in jail. He’s just like so many metal dudes I knew in 1989 except, you know, he randomly looks up girls from the telephone book — placing this firmly in 1989 — and killing them. Then he gets arrested by the law, wo say things like “The only thing that stands between you and Old Sparkey is us, and we don’t give a lizard’s dick if you do fry, you buttplug!” The trial goes on and on and right before they throw the switch, Jezebell does some black magic that doesn’t really work out like she planned. It’s grimy and grainy and you can see people reading their lines off scripts, which some reviews proclaim as the sign of a bad movie, as if they’d never watched SOV before.

The second segment, “Death Among Clowns,” has a clown named Charlie (Grady Bradner, the writer of The Howling and Cameron’s Closet in his only movie as an actor) hanging himself in his dressing room and then engaging in lengthy dialogue with another clown named Mickey La Mort, who is played by this film’s director and writer Rider. This is the segment that usually causes people to hate this movie as it seems to go on forever yet I love it. Mickey the clown keeps getting more demonic as the segment moves on and basically this is two writers putting together endless dialogue in one location — with a Howling IV: The Original Nightmare poster no less — and no twist ending. Exactly what you think is going to happen — a clown dragging another clown to Hell — happens. It’s. kind of fascinating, like near murderdrone with no murder.

This movie has so much fog throughout that one wonders if this was considered as a pack-in with fog machines so that people could learn of their power.

Satan’s Storybook has the feel of Night Train to Terror and I mean that in the best of mind-melting ways. There are so many moments in this that make little to no sense at all and that’s what I demand from my films. If anything, this is a movie where Ginger Lynn magically transforms from a ninja to a barbarian princess and if you can’t find some wonder in that, I think you should give up watching films and reading this site. Bring on the synth and distorted voices. Bring on the rubber masked demons. Bring on the fog, the glorious fog.

You can watch this on Tubi.

It’s Only a Movie (1989)

Joe Zaso also made the two Screambook movies and Guilty Pleasures and is known as the Horror Himbo. An avid bodybuilder, he made appearances as The Hulk, Spider-Man, the New Jersey Devil and Captain America. And if you care about such things, because of his 15 EEE shoe size, he wears his own shoes for every film he appears in.

Directing this film and co-writing it with this movie’s cinematographer V.C. Siegfried, Zaso also stars in it along with Brian Dixon, who plays two roles, Bosco and Madman Malone. The story is all about a film crew shooting a horror movie in a haunted house and, as you can imagine, the cast and crew soon start showing up dead. You’ve seen it all before, but have you seen it shot on video? Have you seen an older starlet engaging in pillow talk while in the tub to a man she doesn’t know is a zombie? Are you prepared for horrific accidents? The camera accidentally catching people yawning? A close that finds an entire gospel church on stage with lyrics about sweeping your floor?

Honestly, usually a gospel choir can save any movie or song. This is the one time I’ve seen this not happen, as the choir is barely competent and that made me enjoy this movie even more. I also enjoyed the video effects and chromakey taking the places of stock footage lightning.

Zaso himself referred to this as a “less-than-stellar musical.”

Who are we to deny him?

I joke, though, because this movie really fascinates me because how many people pushed this hard and decided to not just make a shot on video, but a shot on video musical? Zeso learned a lot from his earlier films, the horror anthologies Screambook and Screambook 2, and this really shows a ton of promise. His films are entertaining, which is more than I can say for so many other movies.

You can watch this on YouTube.

JEAN ROLLIN-UARY: Lost In New York (1989)

Two girls find a magical wooden device called a Moon Goddess — which looks like something Lina Romay would dig up in a Franco movie — and it transforms them into adults — or were they old women transformed into kids all over again? — in this under an hour made for TV ultra personal Jean Rollin film, which kind of feels like a greatest hits of his most striking moments.

This movie feels like the kind of fast forward nostalgia I had as a kid when I was made emotional by love songs I had no understanding of at the time.

Years later, Clams Casino would release a music video with footage of this film, which has been attributed to people struggling with depression and the video itself helping them.

In the same way that childhood ends and I am confronted by feelings within it to this day, this movie makes me feels things that I understand more with each watch. It is ghost-like. It is etheral. It is magic.

Idu Saadhya (1989)

The title of this movie is This Is Possible and it proves it. It was shot in 48 hours and is, yes, the Indian Kannadian remake of Michele Soavi’s Stagefright but has nearly an hour of comedy before becomes a remake of that film, except that the owl-masked killer in this is nearly cute in costume while equally being horrifying while out of it, ranting, spewing blood and sweating himself into a frenzy.

Director and writer Dinesh Baboo is known for films like Amrutha Varshini and Inspector Vikram. This somehow has cops that aren’t as ineffectual as the originals, but that movie sets such a bar for the worst police work in the history of giallo, if not film itself.

This movie also has some deranged music — check it out on YouTube — that somehow mixes an evil voice saying “Beware!” with a swing beat, distorted guitars and a sing-along chorus that shouts “Somewhere!” It also tends to alternate between English and Kannada and has rap parts and drums that had to come from an 808 they found at a swap meet. It’s so good.

In case you ever get down, remember that you live in a world that did not only create Stagefright but also this remix remake ripoff of it and that it’s actually good. I mean, the chainsaw scene makes it in here, even if it’s a budget version, but how wonderful are movies that can cross the borders of ythe world?

You can watch this on YouTube.

DISMEMBERCEMBER: Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! (1989)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was first on the site on December 24, 2019.

Monte Hellman started his career by directing Roger Corman’s Beast from Haunted Cave before working with Jack Nicholson on the westerns The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind, as well as creating the films Two-Lane Blacktop and Cockfighter. He also shot second unit on RoboCop and executive produced Reservoir Dogs.

The original script was thrown out and rewritten in one week, with that rejected version becoming the fourth film in the series. Shooting was completed by the next month and then editing was complete two months after that. This is a down and direty direct-to-VHS rental film, but it isn’t without its charms.

After being shot by police at the end of the previous film — cue the stock footage from Silent Night, Deadly Night — Ricky Caldwell has been in a coma for six years. Now, he has a transparent dome covering his damaged skull and the blood sloshes all around inside his brainpan.

Dr. Newbury (Richard Beymer, Ben Horne from Twin Peaks) is an eccentric doctor who wants to reach Ricky (now played by Bill Moseley!)  by using a blind clairvoyant named Laura Anderson (Samantha Scully, Best of the Best).

Laura hates the experience and decides to quit. She goes home for the holidays to visit her grandmother (Elizabeth Hoffman, Fear No Evil) with her brother (Eric Da Re, Leo Johnson from Twin Peaks) and his girlfriend Jerri (Laura Harring, who played Rita and Camilla Rhodes in Mulholland Drive, as well as being the first hispanic Miss USA).

Meanwhile, a drunk hospital employee dressed as Santa taunts a comatose Ricky, who wakes up and kills the guy. Soon, he’s on a trail of bloody murder all over again, tracked by Newbury and Lieutenant Connely (Robert Culp).

Ricky can see into the mind of our heroine — and vice versa — which means she can tell that he’s probably already taken out grandmother and that her brother, his girl and she are next.

Honestly, this is my favorite of the series so far because it’s sheer madness punctuated by people who have acted in David Lynch movies. I wonder if he used this as an example of who to cast?

You can watch this for free — with ads — on Tubi.

You can also get it on the Vestron Video Silent Night Deadly Night set which you can buy from Diabolik DVD.