While I hate to pigeonhole myself, I find that, with the Haunted Hollow Chronicles, I’m very much considered a splatterpunk/retro-eighties style author. At least for now.
Not such a bad lot in life, actually. I grew up on 80s horror, metal, and action cinema, and it’s still very much a part of who I am. Films and shows such as STRANGER THINGS and IT FOLLOWS bring me a deep sense of… completion, for lack of better.
I have already addressed how I wrote The Haunted Hollow Chronicles (book 3 is essentially finished, pending publisher approval) with a very deliberate exclusion of modern internet-focused technology so that the characters feel the isolation and vulnerability I remember as an 80s kid. There were plenty of desolate backwoods parking, partying, and “rumble” (we didn’t call it that — I mean, how quaint) spots that attracted us, the southern American trash teen.
Places with no adult supervision, let alone police presence. Spots where one’s B-movie fueled imagination could easily cast one’s adolescent sense of self as a character in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday The 13th, or -if you’re really imaginative- MAD MAX, and its numerous, mostly Italian post-apocalyptic imitators. Places where one might feel a sense of peril where there wasn’t any — but could be.
All the cliche’s – parking with your girl behind an abandoned factory, running out of gas, being chased by crazed hillbillies, meeting your rival to settle a score in a circle of hooting classmates and headlights — not so inconceivable. We did these things, or knew kids who did.
So I’m led to wonder — what draws the younger folk to the trappings of this era? Because surely to Godzilla, my decrepit age group is not the only one consuming al this nostalgic horror media.
2015’s THE TURBO KID could have come right out of 1986, with it’s synth soundtrack, gory practical effects, and grungy post-apocalyptic setting (complete with Michael Ironside, THE go-to villain for the best and/or worst of the eighties exploitation classics) yet it’s makers let all us 80s survivors in on the joke, sometimes with the subtlest of winks, sometimes with a billboard. It makes perfect sense that BMX bikes will be the chief mode of transportation when the gas runs out — yet it is sublimely hilarious to see the film’s hulking, scarred thugs hunkered over and peddling around on a whirring two-wheeler, same as the titular kid.
It’s set in the future — which is 1997 to the film’s internal hapless post-nuke scrabblers. It feels “80s” because it’s made very deliberately like an 80s movie. Scanning through the user reviews on iMDB, it’s not hard to spot who’s been around long enough to know this is a loving homage and who are the whippersnappers inclined (rightfully from their view) to sneer at the low budget and the quirky acting. Yet even those detractors admit it has a powerful charm. This point I make to illustrate my own curiosity regarding the 80s nostalgia fad.
Take the Netflix dramedy G.L.O.W. It nails the era and its values, yet… still seems like an all-knowing look back somehow. “Those people are naive, and oh my God, do they not know how different, silly and meaningless this will all be in a few years???” we are led to think.
Not that that’s bad. It’s a great show. It’s just — I find that I don’t want the real 80s; a time when, not only nuclear apocalypse but the other more insidious apocalypse of corporate domination stood as looming threats, influencing our daily lives for better or worse. The 80s we geezers are feeding to today’s iPhone-addled youth, is decidedly better than the real thing.
At least, it looks much cooler on film.
If I had a nickel for every upcoming horror film synopsis or blurb that used some variation of the term “80s throwback/homage/celebration” the total would come to $8, 677.05, adjusted for a circa 1985 economy. Enough for about three VHS movies back then.
Still, getting into the head of a genre nerd born in say 1995 and feeling how they feel when they listen to Duran Duran or watch The A Team, The Fly, or even, say, Rocktober Blood sounds like a good time.
Doubtful we’ll have the of technology for such recreational brain-vading until at least 2025 though, and by then everybody will be marking out over the early 2000s, leaving the 80s about as irrelevant as the 50s, an era with which, for the record, I was quite enamored during the 80s.
But enough ramble-niscing. Here in the deepest catacombs of North Carolina’s nights, your ol’ pal Pattie doesn’t get a chance to spend much time around younger schlock culture geeks. I’d love to hear from some post-eighties babies who dig the vibe of that decade. What’s cool about it? What’s ludicrous? Help me help you help me be the best retro-recaller I can, so I don’t have to write fifty scenes of characters whining about their smart phones not working.
The latest from PCG’s Quirky Queue
Donnie Yen, the most prolific Asian action star working, is doing what they all do, which is to transition from pure martial arts films to grittier action dramas. This one delivers the goods in almost every department (though it could use a bit of a trim IMO) and as a student of both realistic combat techniques and great action choreography, I was pleased to see how Yen’s always spectacular choreography has continued to not only improve, but work nicely with the story. For example, it’s not unusual to see MMA style techniques in action movies these days, but Yen really knows how to set these up within the framework of a given fight’s psychology.
This low budget sci-fi actioner holds up pretty well against its more expensive brethren thanks to good performances from a likable cast. Loved the score for this one, reminiscent of The Terminator though it was.
COME BACK TO ME
A good concept, dark enough to be shocking at times, but more often rather pedestrian thanks to what seems like rushed directing. Like I know anything. But anyway, the cast, looking like soap opera stalwarts, rises to the occasion throughout, making it a decent watch.
The end times prophesied by St. John in the book of Revelation are here! And while the tribulation of those left behind, or whatever, is indeed horrendous, it’s also a rich mine of comedy gold. Those little scorpion/locust things are a major annoyance (as well as a hilarious homage to The Outer Limits’ Zanti Misfits) but they pale in comparison to cursing crows, fiery comets and The Beast himself, as portrayed by Craig Robinson.
‘Member this one, from 1985? Based on the popular board game (when was the last time that happened?) this one drops some 80s B-listers into an old dark mansion with a scoundrel who is blackmailing them, and of course the bodies hit the floor. The multiple endings have all been clumsily edited into the digital version for Clue completists (?)
SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE’S SHERLOCK HOLMES
The Asylum, progenitors of “mockbusters” like SNAKES ON A TRAIN and TRANSMORPHERS, offers up its take on Sir Doyle’s famous detective, hoping you’ll accidentally rent it instead of the Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr. smash. You could do worse though, as there is plenty of eye candy and decent enough acting.
DEATH ON DEMAND
How do you take a cast of attractive, frequently nude actors and make their sex scenes utterly repugnant? How do you turn the tongue-in-cheek subtleties of a self-conscious slasher script into a humorless embarrassment? How do you make gory, harrowing death scenes boring beyond belief? Apparently, you hire a reality show director, and let him ply his cynical trade, unhindered. To be avoided.
Jean-Claude Van Damme plays a retired mercenary drawn back into the game when the American daughter of an MMA contender is kidnapped by sex traffickers. Not as much martial arts as that synopsis might imply, but still plenty of satisfying action, and JCVD’s grown kids are certainly coming into their own as performers.
Though it’s a little found footagey, this bizarre effort transcends that gimmick in short order, becoming a trippy meditation on the power of art versus the comfort of mundane existence. Not for everyone but those who “get it” will love it.
THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN
Drive-ins of the 60s and 70s seem to have been the targets of the films created by Charles B Pierce, who helmed this 1976 proto-slasher that is probably too deliberately paced for young whippersnappers. I know it was for me; though there are a handful of moments that stand with the best of the early slashers. A good sense of time and place (Texarkana, post-war 1940s) is the film’s greatest asset, making it well worth a watch.
Stay tuned for the next Quirky Queue! Coming soon!