Category Archives: 1986 Movie reviews

April Fool’s Day-1986

April Fool’s Day-1986

Director-Fred Walton

Starring-Amy Steel, Jay Baker

60024022

Reviewed October 24, 2016

Grade: B-

Emerging at the tale end of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s slasher film craze that encompassed that period in cinema (for better or worse), April Fool’s Day capitalized on the “holiday theme” marketing tool that escalated Halloween and Black Christmas to superstar ranks.

Unfortunately, for this film, it is not a traditional horror flick, in that is has plenty of comic elements, but also contains the standard slasher characteristics, thereby making it a blockbuster failure. Is does not know what its identity truly is. From a story perspective, the film has one great twist, but otherwise suffers from mediocre writing and unmemorable characters that nobody cares about.

We are treated to an ensemble of actors, mostly of the unknown variety, except for horror maven Amy Steel, (Friday the 13th Part 2), who portrays Kit, arguably the most relatable of the female characters . A clever facet, weaved by director Fred Walton, is the casting of eight principals in April Fool’s Day, all with similar amounts of screen time, rather than one obvious “final girl” surrounded by minor characters, who we know will be offed.

The set-up is all too familiar in the slasher genre- the group of college-aged kids escapes mundane life for a spring break weekend getaway at their wealthy classmates, Muffy St. John’s, island estate. Conveniently, her family is away- leaving the friends to have the run of the mansion, with a dinner party as part of the plan. Even more convenient is that the ferry the group takes does not run on weekends, so once they are dropped off at the island, there they stay until Monday. This sense of foreshadowing gets the anticipated peril and dread going.

We also sense that there is something very off with Muffy- despite being everyone’s friend. When Muffy finds a jack-in-the-box stored in her attic, and has a childhood recollection, we know this is the set-up to the mystery. Is she mentally unstable? Is someone out to get Muffy for a childhood prank or event that once occurred?

Since it is April Fool’s Day weekend, the groups spends most of the film playing pranks and amateurish jokes on each other (a whoopee cushion, an exploding cigar), mixed with a dash of intrigue- someone is leaving trails of past history as part of the jokes. One girl had an abortion, so the prankster leaves an audio tape of a baby crying. In another room, heroin paraphernalia is left for someone with a former drug habit. Slowly, one by one, the college kids disappear one by one, but is it just a hoax? Or is the hoax just a hoax?

The final twenty minutes or so is really the main reason to watch this film. As Kit and boyfriend Rob are the last remaining “alive” there is suddenly a startling twist that changes the entire dynamic of the film- in one moment everything the audience thinks of the story is turned upside down-this is wise writing, but comes too late in the game.

Sadly, some parts of the film are downright silly and most of the characters are of the stock variety- the flirtatious blonde, the obnoxious jocks, the stuck-up preppy, which ruins the creative twist that is aforementioned.

With glimpses of genius and striving for something more clever than the standard, run of the mill 1980’s horror film, April Fool’s Day has some potential, but ultimately winds up with something missing and heaps of unearthed potential.

Reform School Girls-1986

Reform School Girls-1986

Director-Tom DeSimone

Starring-Linda Carol, Wendy O. Williams

Top 100 Films-#100

60037139

Reviewed January 25, 2017

Grade: A

Let’s be honest here- Reform School Girls is neither a work of cinema art nor a particularly well-acted film. In fact, from a critic’s perspective it is riddled with stereotypes and objectifies women. Still, it is one of my favorite guilty pleasures and has an offbeat charm that makes me want to watch the film over and over again. I never tire of it. I also do not think it should be reviled, but rather, revered. There is a perverse magnificence to  the film and some similarities to another cult gem-Russ Myers Faster Pussycat, Kill!…Kill! Critics be damned- not every film needs to be high art!

One of my absolute favorite cult actresses, Pat Ast, famous for another cult gem, 1972’s Heat, stars in Reform School Girls as a vicious prison guard. Alongside punk rocker turned actress, Wendy O. Williams, they make the film a guilty masterpiece as both women bring their share of odd energy and humor to the flick. Sybil Danning co-stars as the corrupt Warden Sutter.

The plot of the film is pretty straightforward and it screams late night fun. A virginal teenage girl named Jenny is sent to a reform school run by the sinister warden and her sadistic and abusive henchwoman, Edna (Ast). While there, Jenny is intimidated by Charlie (Williams), who rules the roost via bullying and threats. Jenny is accompanies by several other terrified girls, who are stripped and degraded by Edna. This leads to an attempted escape and protest scene by the girls and others as they try to remove themselves from their tormentors.

Reform School Girls is simply great fun. The poor acting is actually a strength of the film as one scantily clad female after another prances around the reform school. Wendy O. Williams regularly wears skimpy panties, bra, and heels and is laughable playing a teenager since the actress was pushing forty years old.

The culmination of the film is fantastic as a chase ends up by an enormous tower on the grounds of the prison, resulting in the deaths of Charlie and Edna in dramatic fashion. Edna’s charred remains are met by an uproar of cheers by the inmates- I half expected them to burst into a chorus of “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead”.  Reform School Girls is a perfect cult classic to enjoy on a late Saturday night.

Blue Velvet-1986

Blue Velvet-1986

Director-David Lynch

Starring-Kyle MacLachlan, Laura Dern

Top 100 Films-#62

319022

Reviewed February 19, 2017

Grade: A

Taken from a 1963 Bobby Vinton tune of the same name, Blue Velvet is an independent thriller noir film directed by the master of the weird and the unusual, David Lynch. It is surreal in look and so mysterious- almost a pre-cursor to Lynch’s fantastic television series, Twin Peaks. I adore the film and find new facets to it with each passing viewing. Though it is not an easy or mainstream watch- the pay off can be big and you know you are watching a deep, layered, film.

The story can be tough to completely understand with only one showing, but it goes something like this- Under the guise of a cheerful, suburban surface, evil is lurking somewhere. College student, Jeffrey (MacLachlan) discovers a severed human ear lying in an abandoned lot and delivers it to police detective John Williams and re-connects with the detective’s daughter, Sandy (Dern). Sandy, being privy to secret information about the case, reveals that a mysterious woman, Dorothy Valens (Isabella Rossellini) resides in an apartment key to the case. Jeffrey and Sandy decide to investigate further and get themselves in over their heads as the mystery deepens.

The dreamlike quality to the film is very compelling and intriguing. Layers upon layers come to the forefront as the story unfolds and very few answers are ever provided- this adds to the mystery and is really the point of the film. Many aspects are open to interpretation. The relationship between Jeffrey and the much older Dorothy is fascinating, but what about his chemistry with the innocent Sandy? And who is the Yellow man? When the youngsters see Dorothy perform “Blue Velvet” at her nightclub, it is a great moment in the film.

The character of Frank Booth, played by Dennis Hopper, must be one of the strangest in film history as the man is maniacal and bizarre beyond measure. With his unusual sexual tastes- he enjoys inhaling gas, and sadomasochism, he is a unique character. He is also quite abusive to Dorothy.

The film is a throwback to classic film noir from the 1950’s and a clear femme fatale in Dorothy is central to the film. I find the film so compelling since its subject matter is secrets. Many secrets and dark corruption or various forms of left of center dealings reside in this small North Carolina town- it is the audience’s challenge to put all the pieces of this puzzle together.

Aliens-1986

Aliens-1986

Director-James Cameron

Starring-Sigourney Weaver

60029358

Reviewed September 4, 2013

Grade: B+

Aliens takes away the rawness of the original Alien and infuses a glossier, slick look to the film franchise. The film was made 8 years later, but story-wise is set 57 years into the future when Ripley, played to perfection by Sigourney Weaver, awakens. To her horror, she discovers that the aliens have colonized and she is forced to return to prevent havoc. Militia is in tow, adding a helping of masculinity that supports the film throughout. This scenario perfectly sets up what is to become an excellent sci-fi adventure story.

There are wonderful special effects that were quite extraordinary for the time that the film was shot-1986. The tunnels and spacecraft are perfectly lit and designed, giving it a bright and fun setting and the audience knows that doom is lurking. The actual aliens are visually frightening and, compared to the original, are more plentiful. Sigourney Weaver takes center stage and leads this film successfully. I’m not sure many other actresses could pull off her level of authentic toughness and give no sex appeal in the process and successfully get away with it.

The only detraction to this film is it seems a bit dated in a purely 1980’s film way. It has an 80’s look to it and that’s not a positive. Certainly not on par with the superlative original Alien, but otherwise, a well-made, supernatural, thrill ride.