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.
TOURIST TRAP: Right before the slasher craze of the eighties, a double fistful of more surreal entries found their way to cinemas, including this gem. Chuck Connors of all people, shows up to make your skin crawl, in a story that does a good job of capturing that elusive “dream logic” feel that can make a film seem like a nightmare.
THE RAID: REDEMPTION: The action spectacle I’d read raves about found its way to my DVD player, and delivered as promised. Simple enough siege story with Iko Uwais from MERANTAU kicking asses from one and of a criminal-infested apartment building to the other. The intricate fight scenes will fill the bill for action junkies.
CREATURE OF DARKNESS: Few films have actually ever filled me with rage because of nothing more than the incompetence and utter lack of care that went into making them. This POS is on that short list. I will award kudos to the designers of the titular creature–but other than that, I hereby forbid anyone in my family or circle of friends from ever again mentioning this egregious mess.
DRAGON (WU-XIA): It’s a shame this recent Chinese release has such a generic title; it’s sure to get lost in the shuffle of martial arts films–and it deserves much better. The always excellent Donnie Yen in another dynamic role (also working as fight choreographer, though there are only a handful of fights) opposite Takeshi Kaneshiro in a what can only be described as a historical action mystery akin to a Chinese period version of A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE. Excellent on all levels.
A FORCE OF ONE: One of Chuck Norris’ earlier vehicles. So hopelessly dated there’s no way to recommend it, especially if you’re a martial arts fan. The fight scenes here are Norris’ worst without exception (yes, that includes “Yellow Faced Tiger”) but that’s mostly owing to utterly clueless and careless camerawork. Interestingly, the “helicopter kick” that Jean Claude Van Damme claimed to have invented is performed here by Eric Laneuville, years before JCVD’s advent.
2 DAYS: Paul Rudd plays an actor who drafts a film crew to document the twenty four hours leading up to his planned suicide. Less depressing and edgy than it sounds, this low budget comedy, lensed on 16mm, is worth a look.
THE ABC’s OF DEATH: An anthology film with each entry based on a letter from the alphabet is a mediocre idea at best. After about C or D, the law of diminishing returns kicked in, with each entry becoming worse. Part of the problem is that most of the stories are more comedy than horror, and not very funny at that. A shame, because there are some true talents credited here. Full disclosure: I stopped watching after about H or I, when a torture scenario that involved child rape, among other things, suddenly drained away the last scrap of enjoyment. I get being edgy, but don’t go cheap, boys and girls.
UNDERTAKER: THE STREAK. I’ve long since given up on professional wrestling, but it’s nice to relive some of the highlights of my old favorites. Mark Callas, a.k.a. The Undertaker, is one of the most imposing and talented performers in the business, and his morbid gimmick strikes a chord with a horror fanatic like me. Really only of interest to like-minded folks.
SPLICED: After a long string of disappointing horror viewings, I somehow managed upon this enjoyable 2002 ode to teen slashers. Drew Lachey, who I believe was in a boy band or perhaps an MTV “program,” leads a cast of good-looking high schoolers in the tale of a horror movie icon seemingly come to life. It’s like a tribute to Wes Craven with elements of both SCREAM and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET coming into play, and handled fairly well at that. (Editor’s Note: Drew Lachey is brother to Nick Lachey, who was indeed in a boy band.)
11-11-11: Dripping with creepy atmosphere and a sense of dread, as well as some fine performances and nice direction by SAW vet Darren Lynn Bousman. So why did it seem to lie so flat to me? Maybe it’s the now-cliched twist ending.
Stay tuned for future installments from PCG’s Quirky Queue!