Tag Archives: 1980 Movie reviews

Prom Night-1980

Prom Night-1980

Director-Paul Lynch

Starring-Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen

Scott’s Review #1,025

Reviewed May 21, 2020

Grade: B

Released in the summer of 1980, Prom Night feels much more like a late 1970’s styled film than the plethora of carbon copy products that were churned out in the early part of its decade. To be clear, the film is a conventional slasher whodunit and does not reinvent the wheel, but small tidbits of stylized cinematography are nestled within its formulaic confines during what could be considered throwaway scenes. Prom Night might be forgotten if not for the casting of “Scream Queen” Jamie Lee Curtis who leads the charge, carrying the story.

The film is heavily influenced by two very popular motion pictures that preceded it. The most obvious comparison, also in the horror genre, is Carrie (1976), that has a gruesome finale set in the usually cheerful late spring high school gymnasium event, known as prom night. Surprisingly, Prom Night also capitalizes on the enormous success of Saturday Night Fever, a 1977 vehicle that made John Travolta and discotheque’s household names, to say nothing of making teenage girls swoon. Prom Night even copies a cheesy disco dance sequence.

The story begins, like many horror films do, with an incident that took place many years ago, paving the way for the current events. Youngsters, Wendy, Jude, Kelly, and Nick play hide-and-seek in an abandoned convent. When little Robin Hammond tries to join them, the group starts teasing her, repeating “Kill! Kill! Kill!”, over and over again, frightening her and causing her to accidentally fall to her death through a second story window. The children make a pact not to tell anyone what happened and keep the incident a secret. The shadow of an unseen person who witnessed Robin’s death emerges.

Flash-forward to present day when the children are now in high school and eagerly await a night of dancing, drinking and perhaps getting lucky, as they flirt and plan their partners for the night. Robin’s family, led by the stoic Mr. Hammond (Leslie Nielsen) memorializes her on the anniversary of her death as sister Kim (Curtis) and brother Alex (Michael Tough) ready themselves for the prom that night.

Meanwhile, Kelly, Nick, Jude, and Wendy begin to receive menacing phone calls. Could Mr. Hammond, Kim, or Alex be behind the calls, perhaps seeking to avenge Robin’s death, or is this too obvious an approach? As nightfall draws near the teenagers and their friends begin to fall victim to throat slitting’s, a decapitation, and a chase with an ax by crazed killer wearing a ski mask and black clothing. An ode to the Halloween franchise in the final act is delicious, but may or may not have been intentional.

The best part of Prom Night is the whodunit factor and most of the fun is trying to figure out who is offing the kids. We know the motivation but not the who. Red herrings are thrown directly to the audience like bones to a hungry dog. The creepy, alcoholic janitor, Sykes, leers at the teens and even witnesses one of the murders (spoiler alert- he is not the killer!) but his claims are dismissed as drunken rants. An escaped sex offender thought to be Robin’s killer, and an enemy of Kim’s are also thrown in to distract the viewer.

There is little character development (surprise, surprise) as standard stock character’s are on display. There is the jokester, the bitchy rich girl, the virginal girl, and the obnoxious boy, so diversity is not the ingredient of this film. A formula is clearly followed and we know the final reveal will be the be all, end all of a film like this. Despite being formulaic Prom Night is still enjoyable, never feeling mediocre. There is enough going on to please horror fans seeking thrills.

Not a bad effort, Prom Night (1980) captures the viewers attention immediately and never is dull. The one-hour and twenty-nine minutes of running time is a smart move as quick and easy can be described of the film. The surprise reveal genuinely does surprise when the masked killer is revealed. This is not Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980) or Black Christmas (1974), the cream of the crop in slasher films, but is worth the watch.



Director-Harold Ramis

Starring-Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield

Scott’s Review #353


Reviewed January 9,2016

Grade: A

Caddyshack is one of the funniest slapstick comedy films of the 1980’s, arguably the decade of the “mindless comedy”. Made in 1980, the cusp of the decade, it led the pack during a time when one after the other, comedy films were churned out-cookie cutter style- based largely on the success of Caddyshack.  While not every aspect of the film works, the parts that do are hysterical and its influence in film history is unquestionable. More than merely a “dumb comedy”, Caddyshack features funnymen of the day (Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and Rodney Dangerfield), and the talent and timing are spot on.

Clean-cut teenager Danny Noonan works as a caddy at a posh resort named Bushwood Country Club. An “underachiever”, he lacks direction in life while being pressured by his parents to attend college. While spending the summer at work pondering his future, high jinks ensue as a rivalry develops  between the club co-founder, Judge Smails (Ted Knight), and the outrageous Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield), who is a nouveau riche real estate developer. Meanwhile, bordering on psychotic, Bill Murray as groundskeeper Carl Spackler, is engrossed in his own feud with a gopher running rampant on the golf course. Mixed in with all of this are the standard teen romance themes, bathroom gags, and sexual jokes.

Caddyshack is not high art nor does it need to, or intend to be. It is simply pure juvenile fun. It is not even that well written, but it works. Interestingly, the portions that work so well do not even involve the caddies featured in the film- originally set to be the focal point. Rather, the real scene stealers are the two oldest members of the cast- Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight. The bickering and barbs traded between the two characters is delicious and downright funny. When Al mocks Smails hat, or dances with his snobbish wife, or crashes into his new boat, each scene is rich with goofy comic timing.

Without a doubt, my favorite scene is the “doody” scene in the resort pool. It is laugh out loud raucous as a candy bar tossed into the water is thought to be something else. The star of this scene is Lois Kibbee, who plays Judge Smails wife. Her comic mannerisms and upper-crust looks make her a perfect choice for the role and she arguably steals the show in her limited appearances. When Al jokes that she must have really been something before electricity, her facial expressions emit comic horror in a perfect way.

There are points of the film that really are unnecessary and do not work well- I have never understood Bill Murray’s character of Carl. Bordering on silly, with a stuffed animal as the gopher, Murray himself is fantastic- clearly improvising, but the role does not seem necessary to the rest of the film. More scenes between the Judge and Al, or more from Chevy Chase’s character of Ty, and of the Judge’s wife would have been preferable.

Also, the attempted teen triangle between Danny, Maggie, and Lacey is dullsville- plain Maggie cannot really compete with gorgeous and slutty Lacey.

These criticisms, however, are small gripes when compared to the hilarity and perfect timing of the rest of the film and that is why it certainly ranks among one of my favorites.

Caddyshack, along with Animal House, paved the way for the plethora of slapstick comedies to follow- a few good, most bad, but must be recognized as the influence that it was, and a must-see for fans of golf, sports, and good, clean fun. The elements of Caddyshack come together and work so well.

The Shining-1980

The Shining-1980

Director-Stanley Kubrick

Starring-Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall

Top 100 Films-#20     Top 20 Horror Films-#7

Scott’s Review #313


Reviewed December 31, 2015

Grade: A

The Shining is one of the great horror masterpieces of all time. Released in 1980 and atypical of the slasher craze that was running rampant at that time, the film is a psychological ghost story with frightening elements including musical score, long camera shots, and a haunting grandiose hotel in a deserted locale. Without the brilliant direction of Stanley Kubrick, The Shining would not be the masterpiece that it is- to say nothing of the talents of Nicholson and Duvall in the lead roles. Based on the popular horror novel by Stephen King.

Nicholson plays Jack Torrance, an author and alcoholic, who takes his wife Wendy (Duvall) and son Danny to serve as caretakers at the vast Overlook hotel- for the winter in snowy Colorado. The lavish hotel will be deserted for the season and Jack looks forward to months of peace and quite which will enable him to complete his novel. Unfortunately, the hotel is haunted by spirits of the past, and the added burden of the previous caretaker going mad and chopping his family to bits with an ax.

The real success of The Shining is that the hotel itself is really a character and has nuances of its own. The hotel is deathly quiet as the Torrances take over for the season as long hallways are featured and the forbidden Room 237 takes on a life of its own. Creepy images of two young girls and red blood gushing from the elevators take over. Young Danny is able to communicate with the chef without speaking to each other. Jack imagines a gorgeous nude woman in the bathtub only to discover she is really a shriveled old hag.

The films cinematography coupled with the looming, morose, musical score perfectly go hand in and hand and, in my opinion, are the reasons for the films success. Throughout the film there is a sense of dread and a forbidden presence that works beautifully. The very first scene is an aerial shot of the Torrances driving along a mountainous road to be interviewed for the caretaker position. The vast land and mountains as we eventually see the Overlook immediately reveal to us the feeling of isolation, which is really what the film is about. These exterior scenes are also gorgeous to marvel at.

The crisp, gloomy, winter scenes and the endless maze of animal shrubbery come into play during the films final act as Jack, now completely mad, chases Danny throughout the snowy paths that seemingly lead to nowhere. The catch phrase, “Here’s Johnny!”, that is uttered from an ax wielding Nicholson, is permanently ensconced in the relics of pop culture.

Nicholson and Duvall have such dynamic and palpable on-screen chemistry that makes the film work from a character perspective. There is something slightly off with each of the characters, readily apparent from the outset, but that is more to do with each actor being rather non-traditional in appearance. I can imagine no other actors in these roles.

Author, Stephen King, who reportedly despised the film version of his novel, has since grown to respect the film and Kubrick’s direction, a great deal. The Shining is one of my favorite horror films in addition to being one of my favorite films of all time.



Director-John Cassavetes

Starring-Gena Rowlands

Top 100 Films-#23

Scott’s Review #166


Reviewed September 9, 2014

Grade: A

Gloria is an action/thriller film which features the standard action-crime thriller elements, the shoot ‘em up, guns blazing, clichéd fare, but contains an interesting, appealing leading character, a gritty atmosphere, and smart dialogue. It is a much better film than most indistinguishable films of the action genre. Directed and written by independent film master, John Cassavetes, who clearly wanted to make a more conventional, mainstream film than was typical for him- think the very left of center, brilliant  A Woman Under the Influence, also starring Gena Rowlands, and Gloria was the perfect film for him to create with Rowlands as the focal point.

Made in 1980, Gloria perfectly portrays New York City at the time. New York City was gritty, dirty, rough, crime infested, violent, and chaotic and the film travels throughout Manhattan, the Bronx, and New Jersey very often, with many scenes shot directly on the streets of New York. Several other scenes are set in dingy apartments, hotels, sleazy bars, and dumpy streets and are highly effective in portraying a gloomy atmosphere. The cinematography is perfect in the film. The heart of the film lies with Rowlands (Director Cassavetes wife) who gives a mesmerizing performance as a former mob girlfriend who, by circumstance, must protect a young Hispanic boy from execution by the mob because of an informant book he clings to for dear life. No other actress could have played this role of a tough-talking, brash New Yorker as well as Rowlands plays her. The boy’s father, played by Buck Henry, is a scared accountant with ties to a company fronted by the mob. He fears his entire family will be murdered and hands his kid over to Gloria. Julie Carmen gives a brief but effective performance as Phil’s frazzled mother. I wish Henry and Carmen had been given more screen time and fleshed out characters because both had huge potential. The film belongs to Rowlands- she is no nonsense, tough, and so convincing in the part. I also enjoyed the casting of John Adames as the kid, Phil. His performance was inexplicably panned by many critics and I’m not sure why. I also love the unique opening credits as intense folk/jazz music plays over watercolor portraits that turn into the skyline of New York City and the music has a melancholy and eeriness to it.

Amid the violence there is a sweet bond that develops between Gloria and Phil that is not too sentimental or cheesy. A great, compelling, late 1970’s/early 1980’s film that has some definite Godfather and Dirty Harry influences in texture and characters especially with some of the mobster characters. The appeal of the film is that it has heart, but never delves into schlock. Surprisingly rated only PG, it is gritty, but not lewd or harsh and seems dirtier than it actually is with barely any filthy language. The chemistry and heartfelt connection between Gloria and Phil is darling without being too sappy or safe. Gloria is a fast paced, action gem that is both appealing and tough.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actress-Gena Rowlands

Dressed to Kill-1980

Dressed to Kill-1980

Director-Brian De Palma

Starring-Angie Dickinson, Michael Caine

Top 100 Films-#13    Top 20 Horror Films-#5

Scott’s Review #164


Reviewed September 2, 2014

Grade: A

Dressed to Kill is Brian De Palma’s greatest work throughout his storied career. Set in New York City the film is essentially divided into two halves. The first half centers around Angie Dickinson, who plays a bored housewife named Kate. Kate is unhappy in her marriage and seeks therapy from a psychiatrist played by Michael Caine, whom she makes sexual advances towards. She is unfaithful to her husband, yet is a kind, intelligent, cultured woman. She adores her son, loves her husband, but is completely unfulfilled with life. Do we, the audience sympathize with her? Does she get what she deserves? Is she a victim? One powerful scene involves a wide-eyed little girl who cannot stop staring at Kate. Can she sense Kate’s shenanigans? Does she sense her conflict? Does Kate feel guilt? Kate is a complex character and brilliantly played by Dickinson who gives the character a sexiness, softness and appeal.

After a shocking event in a high rise elevator rivaled only by the shower scene in Psycho in its surprise and terror, the remainder of the film belongs to Nancy Allen, who plays a prostitute named Liz, determined to solve a mystery in order to clear her name. De Palma sets the dreamlike tone to the film with a sizzling opening shower scene sure to make the prudish blush in its explicitness, which I found deliciously sexy. A ten minute museum sequence speaks volumes without a bit of dialogue as Kate has a cat and mouse flirtation with a stranger.

The brilliance of Dressed to Kill is its versatility and complexity and contains one surprise after another from the elevator scene to the final reveal to the final scene itself. It is part horror film part thriller and always stylish. The film was surprisingly not well regarded upon its release, but over the years has achieved respect due to its creativity and excellent mood. Many scenes are shot in slow motion adding effect to them. Dressed to Kill is simply brilliant on every level.

Friday the 13th- 1980

Friday the 13th-1980

Director-Sean S. Cunningham

Starring-Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King

Top 100 Films-#18     Top 20 Horror Films-#6

Scott’s Review #115


Reviewed July 17, 2014

Grade: A

Friday the 13th is one of my favorite films (horror and otherwise) of all time as I have such fond and scary memories of watching at too young an age! My personal highlight is in later years watching this film alongside star Betsy Palmer herself in a movie theater. I can watch this film countless times and never tire of it. Is it high art? Hardly. Is it brilliant film making? Not a chance. But for whatever reason, this film is very close to my heart and I love it.

The premise involves seven young adults, all squeaky clean and All-American looking, who flock to Camp Crystal Lake for a summer involving counseling, partying, and frolicking around the lake. They engage in strip poker, smoke pot, and play jokes on each other, but share a good spirits.

Through flashbacks we learn that two brutal camp counselor killings occurred years ago and the camp has been unsuccessful at reopening since that time due to strange events like bad water. The residents of the town are convinced that there is a curse involving the lake and warn the teenagers to stay far away, specifically one loony townsperson named Ralph, who frequently shows up proclaiming messages from god and other rants of doom. Inevitably, the teens begin to be systematically hacked to bits one by one in creative fashion such as a slit throat, axe to the head, a dagger through the neck, and other good, old fashioned horror kills.

The film has many standard horror elements- a dark, ominous storm, a mysterious hidden killer lurking in the shadows, giving first time viewers a suspenseful whodunit. Could the killer be crazy Ralph, one of the counselors? Or Steve Christie, the man opening the camp? As each victim is killed one begins to narrow down the remaining suspects to the crimes and at least one red herring comes into play, which leads us trying to figure out the conclusion, which, critically speaking, is an enormous surprise. The looming killer, whose feet and arms/hands are really the only parts shown throughout is successfully ominous. As the killer angrily watches the counselors swim and goof around, one of them gets a sixth sense of being watches and is sure she sees someone in the trees, but quickly shrugs it off. Another ominous scene involves one counselor setting up an archery game for the kids as another counselor jokingly shoots an arrow near by. They both laugh, but the foreshadowing of what is to come is fantastic.

Betsy Palmer and Adrienne King add so much to this film, which would not be nearly as good if not for them. The conclusion involving a knock down drag out, mud fight is my favorite sequence, in addition to the final thirty minute chase scene around the camp and its vicinity. The final character hides in closets, store rooms, bushes and a cat and mouse game climaxes. Great stuff. The big twist at the end almost rivals, and is very similar to, the shocking ending to the 1976 horror classic Carrie.

The sound effects are spectacular- the distant loons and the creepy sound effects add a ton to making Friday the 13th a classic fright-fest. The line “kill her mommy, she can’t hide” is undoubtedly permanently etched in horror fan’s minds.

Friday the 13th has successfully held the test of time and is now a highly regarded classic within the horror genre. A highly entertaining, mainstream, cut above the rest, and a fun must see for all horror fans.

Altered States-1980

Altered States-1980

Director-Ken Russell

Starring-William Hurt

Scott’s Review #82


Reviewed July 1, 2014

Grade: B-

Altered States is a trippy, strange horror/sci-fi hybrid film (William Hurt’s debut film) that is visually quite impressive, but the story is too far-fetched and implausible to be taken seriously. It feels like an earlier version of The Fly, but inferior to that particular film. Hurt plays an abnormal psychology professor obsessed with experimental schizophrenic hallucinatory drugs, which he takes, causing him to ultimately experience episodes of being half man, half ape through the use of a sensory deprivation tank and a strange Indian tribe comes into play. It’s a very silly premise, but somehow is believable to a point, especially in the first act. The ending of the movie proved ridiculous and uninteresting to me and seemed extremely disjointed as an entire film.

Apparently, there were lots of behind the scenes troubles with this film, which could explain the unbalanced feeling. Otherwise, the sporadic weird colors and patterns during the scientist’s episodes were effective. Drew Barrymore’s first film (she plays a toddler).

Oscar Nominations: Best Original Score, Best Sound