You’re here! Oh goodie! Quickly, come in and lock the door behind you. Oh, be a dear and pull the blinds as well, I have something very special to show you. In honor of this month’s #GreedyGuts theme at Nightmare on Film Street, we have put together something wickedly wonderful for you.
We usually cover one film at a time here at the Vault, and like to keep things status quo. Any changes tend to send Martin, our stock boy, into a murderous rage.. but with so many devilishly damned delectations out there, we decided to take the chance and do things a little differently this time around. Martin will just have to deal with it. We had our staff (Martin included), compile the best “worst of” lists and we chose five films to highlight in our staff picks section.
So step this way and behold the wonderment that adorns the selves of the Nightmare on Film Street Video Vault Staff Flicks Picks.
DON’T GO IN THE WOODS (1981)
AKA Don’t Go in the Woods… Alone; rated R for sex, nudity, violence, gore, alcohol, drugs, profanity, and frightening, intense scenes. With a rating like that you know this is gonna be good… ish! The story follows four young, nubile campers on a weekend getaway. While out there, they are conveniently unaware of a crazy backwoods dude running around killing anyone he sees with a handy dandy spear. Unfortunately, by the time they find out about him, he has already begun hunting them down, one by one.
Mary Gail Artz, James P. Hayden, Angie Brown, and Jack McClelland star in their only feature film appearances which is probably a good thing considering how this slasher from the early 80s fared upon its release. Critics from across the nation panned this splatter hack job as a dud, a turkey, something not fit for anyone to see, but audiences had a different perspective.
In the peak of the slasher craze, Don’t Go In The Woods is held by some as a classic 80s horror film that is a must-see on many lists… but only if no one else knows you’ve watched it.
THE STUFF (1985)
Jen & Sylvia’s Pick
What do you get when you find a gooey, white substance oozing from the earth’s surface? Everyone knows the only reasonable answer is mine it, market it and sell it to consumers as the next dessert fad. But when that new confection starts taking over the consumer’s minds unleashing a mindless horde of “stuff” craving zombies, it’s buyer beware because there isn’t a class-action lawsuit that will stand up to this catastrophe.
The picture stars a surprisingly legit bunch of actors with Michael Moriarty (Return to Salem’s Lot,1987), Andrea Marcovicci (Velvet Buzzsaw, 2019), Garrett Morris (Ant-Man, 2015), Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas, 1990), Danny Aiello (TV’s Tales From the Darkside, 1984) and Patrick O’Neal (The Stepford Wives, 1975) in what is a veritable who’s who of mobster movies but all together in a horror flick instead. Talk about casting against type, but hey, fuggedaboutit.
Despite the film’s clever commentary on consumerism and tongue in cheek approach to the genre, audiences and critics alike didn’t seem to get what director Larry Cohen (It’s Alive, 1974) was trying to achieve and the result was box office failure. But thanks to the power of home video, The Stuff was able to ooze out a cult following of sorts and has done better over time.
Martin’s (reluctant) Pick
When the theme song for your movie is composed and performed by Paul Stanley of Kiss, Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, Rudy Sarzo of Whitesnake and Tommy Lee of Motley Crue, calling themselves The Dudes of Wrath, you know this ain’t gonna be your run of the mill horror flick! You also know that this movie probably isn’t going to be taking itself too seriously.
Shocker stars Michael Murphy (Strange Behavior, 1981), Peter Berg (Fire in the Sky, 1993), Mitch Pileggi (Return of the Living Dead Part II, 1988), Ted Raimi (Blood Rage, 1987) and Heather Langenkamp (A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1984) and tells the story of Horace Pinker, a television repairman turned mass murderer who faces execution by the electric chair for his grisly crimes. Unbeknownst to his executors, a deal with the devil allows him to come back from the dead as electricity. In his new form, Pinker has the ability to hunt down the detective that arrested him as well the cop’s adopted son.
The film opened second to Look Who’s Talking (1989) which was in its third week the numbers dropped off drastically for Pinker and his TV channel jumping ways in its second week. Even today, the film sits at rotten 24% over at Rotten Tomatoes. But, that’s cool because with a soundtrack featuring 80s metal bands such as Megadeth, Dangerous Toys and Bonfire plus a finale with enough special effects to choke, well, a Horace Pinker victim, there’s a reason Shocker is on this list.
NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984)
It’s a bird, it’s plane, it’s a comet crashing to earth to turn every one to dust… or into brain-eating zombies. Either way, that’s gotta suck! When teen sisters Regina and Samantha survive the impact of the comet, they partner with another survivor, Hector. But avoiding zombies is really hard and what’s worse, there are scientists who survived and are looking to use the sisters and Hector as experiments to find an antidote.
Night of the Comet stars Catherine Mary Stewart (The Nightflyers, 1987) and Kelli Maroney (Chopping Mall, 1986) as sisters Regina and Samantha respectively while Robert Beltran (Eating Raoul, 1982), Sharon Farrell (It’s Alive! 1974), Mary Woronov (Blood Theater, 1984) and the late Geoffrey Lewis (Salem’s Lot, 1979) round out the cast of characters.
Despite the film’s MPAA rating of PG-13, the first mainstream film to be rated as such, the film had a solid opening weekend, opening in third place and staying in theaters for a six-week run, grossing respectable $14+ million once the run was over. It seemed audiences got the tongue-in-cheek approach and we get it, too. It’s one of our favorites… employee favorites, that is.
Now, I know I’m probably going to catch heck for this but if you really sit down and watch David Cronenberg’s Scanners (1981) it’s not particularly well made. Now, whoa! Slow your roll! The effects are second to none and the acting is pretty solid for an early Cronenberg picture. The hot tub scene from Rabid (1977) comes immediately to mind if you need a reference for how bad the acting was in his early films. But the pace, editing, and tone of the movie have not aged well over the years. That doesn’t mean this classic isn’t, well, a classic. It just means it’s not the classic we all remember it as.
Scanners is about people born with telepathic and telekinetic powers. This works to the benefit society from those who wish to use their special gifts for good, but there are others who plan to create a race that will rule the world. The film stars Stephen Lack (Dead Ringers, 1988), Jennifer O’Neill (The Psychic, 1977), Patrick McGoohan (Braveheart, 1995), Lawrence Dane (Happy Birthday To Me, 1981) and Michael Ironside (Visiting Hours, 1982) and boasts one of the most memorable special effects moments in motion picture history… the head explosion.
Critically, Scanners didn’t fare well back in the day. Since then, things have changed exponentially. Today, the film is heralded as a metaphor for the hippie counterculture movement of the sixties with the Scanners playing the rebellious role of nascent political radicals and the film as a whole shows oblique echoing of said counterculture prevailing within society. Pretty heady stuff for a guilty pleasure list, but hey, it’s Cronenberg, its to be expected.
That’s it! There’s our Guilty Pleasure Staff Picks, films most of our staff toiled over for weeks. Most lost sleep, some lost their sanity – except for Martin, he thought about his pick for like, two seconds. Way to put in the effort, Marty! But enough about that maniac. What did you think of the picks? And be sure to share your guilty pleasure picks with the Nightmare on Film Street Community over on Twitter, Our Subreddit, and the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook. We’re dying to know!
See you all next time, fellow fiends! You’ll have to unlock the door before you leave. And if you could, raise the blinds. We usually leave Martin out there in the alley after he has one of his episodes and the last time, someone almost made it out of the alley… almost. We’ve placed bets on who gets the farthest. My money is on the fastest one. Good luck, kids!