Join film writer Vince Leo of qwipster.net as he takes a look back at the classics, cult films, foreign cinema and obscurities of one of the great decades for film lovers, the 1980s.
The Changeling (1980) | Peter Medak
The Changeling concerns an esteemed New York pianist/composer named John Russell (George C. Scott) who accepts a lectureship position in Seattle for solitude and restoration following the deaths of his wife and daughter in a roadside accident. Claire Norman (Trish Van Devere), a volunteer at the local Historical Preservation Society, moves him into a massive old Victorian-Gothic mansion located outside the city that hasn't had anyone living in it in at least twelve years. Russell soon discovers that the house isn't as uninhabited as he thought, as things begin to occur (banging noises, bathroom water taps, a boy's image is glimpsed within the water) though it could also be his grief-fueled imagination. He's told that the house has a history and doesn't want people living in it.
Later, Russell senses the house wants to tell him something. He discovers a locked secret room that resembles a nursery, containing a rusty wheelchair and an antique music box that plays a song he'd been composing since he entered the house. Claire tries to help, digging into the sordid history of the house, including a revealing seance that leads them to make contact with the spirit within who provides more clues to the 70-year-old mystery that must be solved to find peace.
House II: The Second Story (1987)
House II opens in the early 1950s, where we find Charles and Judith McLaughlin handing away their baby Jesse to adoption. This is to protect their child from retribution by a powerful ghost named Slim Razor, who has appeared in the couple's mansion demanding they hand over a crystal skull. After the couple confronts Slim to reveal that they don't have it or know where it is, Slim kills them.
Flash forward twenty-five years, and their aspiring artist son Jesse is all grown up, Jesse moves into his inherited but long-dormant home with his girlfriend Kate. Odd artifacts about, including a one that is obviously missing from a mantelpiece. Jesse and Kate are soon visited by Jesse's rambunctious friend Charlie and his pop-singer girlfriend Lana, aka Puce Glitz.
While looking through the family's photo albums in the home, Jesse spies pictures of his namesake, his great-great-grandfather Jesse, who was an outlaw from the old West who earned his keep finding lost treasure, including a crystal skull with giant jewels in its eye sockets. Slim Razor also factors into the pictures, elder Jesse's partner, and details of their falling out over the ownership of the skull are revealed.
An old book on Mexican legends tells more stories about the skull that will unlock the mysteries of the universe and grant everlasting life to those who possess it, as well as the ancient Aztec practice of burial with one's jewels. Jesse and Charlie determine to dig up the grave of elder Jesse to find the skull. Unearthed, they find the elder Jesse reanimated to life, preserved by the skull's magical powers, though looking quite old. However, it also returns the spirits of others who've been looking for the skull from various times and dimensions, including Slim Razor, who is out to claim what Jesse stole from him prior to abandoning him into the Mojave desert to die.
House (1986) | Steve Miner
An elderly artist named Elizabeth Hopper (Susan French) is found having hanged herself in the three-story Victorian house in Marin County, California, that she claimed is haunted. Hopper's nephew, a famous horror novelist named Roger Cobb (William Katt), inherits the house and decides to move in so that he can have the solitude necessary to write his next book, a memoir of his harrowing time as an American soldier in Vietnam. His publisher as well as his fans don't want him to write but he finds something is compelling him to get it down on paper.
Cobb underwent several traumatic experiences: his son Jimmy (Eric & Mark Silver) disappeared a year ago at his aunt's home and is presumed dead. The ordeal resulted in a separation from his television soap opera actress wife Sandy (Kay Lenz). In the home at night, Roger begins seeing things, unnerving things, around the house. They include harrowing flashbacks to his Vietnam War days where he let down a fellow troop named Big Ben (Richard Moll). Ben vowed revenge against Roger for abandoning him to be tortured by the Viet Cong. Harold (George Wendt), the next-door neighbor, is a bit nosy and keeps coming around as Roger tries to catch these apparitions in the act. Roger is sure that his son is still around the house somewhere and that finding him will redeem what has happened to his life since his disappearance.
The Horror Show (aka House III) (1989) | James Isaac
After viciously murdering over 110 people, the serial killer known as 'Meat Cleaver Max' Jenke (Brion James) gets the death penalty, sentenced to fry in the electric chair. Max doesn't go easily, staying alive for nearly ten minutes as they zap him with everything they have before expiring. However, something happens in the process of electrocution that allows Jenke to live on as a supernatural entity of electricity - one that seeks revenge on the cop that arrested him, Lucas McCarthy (Lance Henriksen). McCarthy suffers from PTSD, forced into a leave of absence while seeing a psychologist until well enough to return as a detective. However, despite seeing Jenke executed with his own eyes, McCarthy sees him everywhere - in his dreams, on his TV, and popping up whenever he's out and about. Either Jenke truly is a supernatural being taking up residence in McCarthy's furnace, or McCarthy's delusional and putting his family in grave danger.
Erratum: Once again, I refer to composer Harry Manfredini as Henry Manfredini, likely because of the composer Henry Mancini.
Shocker (1989) | Wes Craven
A college football star named Jonathan (Peter Berg) experiences horrifically vivid hallucinations following a concussive collision with a goal post. His first vision depicts the murder of his foster mother and siblings. When he awakes, he finds that his dream actually happened. He's an eyewitness, but wasn't physically there, leaving the cops skeptical. Jonathan realizes his visions are a telepathic link to the murderer, Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi), which he uses to thwart the next murder in the Midwestern town of Maryville before he kills again. Pinker gets caught and his verdict is death by electrocution. Before Pinker sits in the electric chair, he makes a Faustian deal his jail cell to a television set that allows him to live on after the experience as an entity of electricity that can channel into any electrical network, including people's bodies, the power grid, and anything plugged into a wall socket, including televisions from coast to coast. After he reveals himself to b Jonathan's biological father, Pinker makes a violent escape, only this time, he can be anywhere - or anyone - and only his son's psychic powers might be able to stop his rampage. Wes Craven writes and directs.
Pulse (1988) | Paul Golding
Electricity lines between the houses in a suburban Los Angeles neighborhood allow an unseen but powerful malevolent force to enter homes, where it begins twisting the house's wiring and everything that is plugged into it to its liking. Eventually, it begins using the home's appliances to torture the inhabitants within. In one home on a cul-de-sac, the father went crazy and began destroying his home. Now it seems to be threatening the home across the street, where an 11-year-old boy named David (Joey Lawrence) is visiting his divorced father (Cliff De Young) for the summer. David seems to know what's going on, but he can't leave until he convinces his skeptical father before they're stuck in a high-voltage death trap.
Roxanne Hart and Matthew Lawrence also appear in this 1988 eerie story written and directed by Paul Golding.
Brian Scott. Horror movie fanboy on Twitter giving a giant 5 stars to this podcast. I love that he gives tons of behind them scenes facts on the production and development of each movie. Very well thought out podcast. The Thing 1982 episode was fantastic and I’m hooked now.
A wonderful combination of information and fun!
Vince knows his stuff. He gives you the perfect amount of “I NEVER KNEW THAT” with pitch perfect reviews of all the 80s classics. Listen and love it!
Entertaining and Informative
Well-researched and concise, filled with great trivia and background on the various films discussed.