The Class of 1988

No year has produced as many movies set around Halloween as 1988.

1976, 1982, and 1985 all come closet, each offering 4 films.

The Hallowed Year of 1988 easily doubles their contributions producing 8 movies in total. I’m not sure what kind of cultural zeitgeist was taking place in the world of film in 1988, but it occurred never-the-less, and we were all thankful.

Perhaps it was the return of Michael Myers, who hadn’t seen the silver screen in 10 years, that inspired this resurgence. Maybe there’s something devilishly unholy about the year 1988. Who knows, but a bunch of filmmakers got on board.

Were these guys aware of what each other were doing? Were the screenwriters buddies? What’s the deal here?

The original 31 Days of Halloween Horror list contained 4 members. This year’s countdown features another 3.

The following is a list of all the known graduates of The Class of 1988 and their release dates.

and lastly…

The next 3 selections on our countdown here are all proud members of The Hallowed Class of 1988. Respect

Rock ‘N Roll Horror

I mentioned Rock ‘N Roll horror in my post about John Fasano, and all this Rock ‘N Roll Nightmare/ Black Roses business has got it on my mind. Let’s talk for a moment about this as both a concept and a genre.

Rock ‘N Roll Horror forms the very foundation of Halloween Shindig; it is its ethos. Wherever a monster is dancing, you will find us. Whenever a ghoul grabs a gitbox, we are there. Should The Cryptkeeper or Elvira decide to rap, Halloween Shindig is lying in wait, ready to post that song.

As a genre though, Rock ‘N Roll Horror (or Metalsplotation as you will sometimes find it referred to) leaves us wanting. It has a few things going against it.

Firstly, there just aren’t that many. It’s a pretty thin sub-genre. 22 titles, by my count. You could stretch that number to 30+ if you got real liberal with your criteria and included some misfires from the late 90’s of new millennium. But I’m calling 22.

Additionally, it’s a dead genre. It had its time and place, but its moment in the moonlight has passed. The world has moved on.

I’d say “I wish they still made ’em like this,” but I don’t. That ship has sailed. You try your hand at this game post millennium and you’ll wind up with a Queen of The Damned, or a Rock ‘N Roll Frankenstein. Naw, just leave it where it was. Let it rest in peace; a product of a decade that is gone.

On top of all that (and perhaps worst of all) it’s a pretty terrible sub-genre, and this breaks my shockem_guitardemonheart. Always eager for more of the bread and butter that bloats this blog, I’ve sat through most of them, waiting with bated breath for the next awesome addition to the playlist. I’m usually disappointed. There’s a couple hold-outs of which I’ve yet to get ahold of copies, so there’s still a little hope.

Of the 22 Rock ‘N Roll Horror films listed here, most of em aren’t worth a damn. They are time wasters of the highest order; not good enough to laud, not lousy enough to love. Somewhere in between they rest, trapped in a celluloid limbo of missed opportunities and boredom. It’s a genre after my own heart, and it consistently breaks it. Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I got too much expectation. Or maybe Trick Or Treat is just that damn good. Probably a combination.

Here’s a list of the most prominent offenders; the ones you’ll see listed elsewhere if you dig hard enough.

  1. Terror On Tour 1980
  2. New Years Evil 1980
  3. Shock: Diversão Diabólica 1984
  4. Rocktober Blood 1984
  5. Blöderan 1984
  6. Monster Dog 1984
  7. Blood Tracks 1985
  8. Trick Or Treat 1986
  9. Edge of Hell / Rock ‘N Roll Nightmare 1987
  10. Slumber Party Massacre 2 1987
  11. Slaughterhouse Rock 1988
  12. Hack-O-Lantern 1988
  13. Hard Rock Zombies 1988
  14. Lone Wolf 1988
  15. Black Roses 1988
  16. Hard Rock Nightmare 1988
  17. Scream Dream 1989
  18. Houseboat Horror 1989
  19. Paganini Horror 1989
  20. Rockula 1990
  21. Dead Girls 1990
  22. Shock Em Dead 1991

True, this list excludes overtly music themed horror outings such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Phantom Of The Paradise. But for me, those fall into the altogether separate category of the Horror Musical. Things like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes or Little Shop Of Horrors also fall in with that category.

Naw, these are Rock ‘N Roll Horror movies. Movies where rocking has precedence. Movies where a rock band or singer takes the main stage and blows your doors off.

The most depressing aspect of it all, even more than the lack of entertainment factor, is that not  every one of these 22 films has made the cut for The Shindig. Some of them have music that’s just that wildly out of place, or just that bad. And The Shindig has some pretty terrible music on it, so that oughta give you an idea of what you’re up against.

I’ll talk about all of these films by degrees over time. But for now, lets take a few of these suckers that did make the cut, and lay out a full-on Rock ‘N Roll Horror block here in the late ’90’s, before busting headlong into one of my favorite stretches of the entire Shindig, just in time for Halloween.

Monster Talk: Horror Hosts

The Horror Host has been a beloved fixture of the genre for almost 60 years now. So ingrained are they in horror culture that even their parodies have slipped into iconography.

From a time when TV had no guide, DVRs and streaming video weren’t even the stuff of the B-grade sci-fi these horror hosts peddled. TV was a living thing, existing with or without your manifesting gaze. It was there, happening somewhere behind all the black. You needed only to turn it on an tune in to whatever it was offering, lest you miss out entirely.  So you waited.

Originally, Universal Studios offered a package of horror classics and worn out titles called Shock Theater to local TV stations for broadcast. The stations had weathermen, announcers and news anchors doubling as any number of ghoulish characters to present the frightening films.

The movies were often the subject of ridicule, and the focus became rather on the host themselves, their outlandishness and their skits. These shows found almost instant success, and America of the late 50’s, 60’s and 70’s loved these local fixtures. Many spawned several incarnations and are still remembered with great fondness in their hometowns.

As the Shindig enters its 2nd quarter, we’ll take a beat or two to pay tribute to those horror hosts immortalized in song.

Watch horror movies.

Keep America strong.

Stay sick

and Goodnight, whatever you are….

Pleasant nightmares and unpleasant dreams.

Monster Talk: 80’s Monster Comedies

Hands Off is the first musical selection of several from what I like to call 80’s Monster Comedies.

I guess in the 80’s, making silly comedies featuring werewolves, vampires and other monsters seemed like a good idea. And it was, at least I think it was, as this is perhaps my favorite sub-genre of film.

If I was ever handed the keys to a classroom at a University that didn’t particularly pride itself on their staff, I’d probably create the course “80’s Monster Comedies 101.” We’d sit around and watch these films, discuss them at length and then write needlessly analytical papers regarding their cultural context.

C’mon? You wouldn’t take that course? Fuck yeah you would. You mean I’d get college credit for writing a paper about Teen Wolf? Yes. Yes you would. But it better be a damn good paper, cause I ain’t gradin’ on no curve.

Here’s the course outline.

Week 1: Intro to Course / Full Moon High (1981)

  • Full Moon High bridges a gap between 70’s comedy and 80’s comedy. Discuss the elements of it’s 70’s sensibility. Does it make for a better or worse film in your opinion? Also, why is Alan Arkin so great? Oh he’s not? Please take this F with you on your way out the door.

Week 2: Teen Wolf (1985)

  • Would being a Werewolf actually make you a better basketball player? And if not, is there really any objection to one playing at a high school level? Bonus points for discussion of why Bobby Finnstock is the greatest coach ever to appear on film.

Week 3: Once Bitten (1985)

  • Fun tale of vampirism, or American morality play of underage/unprotected/anonymous sex during the AIDS era?

Week 4: My Best Friend Is A Vampire (1987)

  • Interesting addition to the legacy, or sub-par knock-off of Once Bitten? Extra points for a comparison of lifted elements appearing in Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

Week 5: Teen Wolf Too (1987)

  • Is it morally objectionable to pit a college-aged student against a creature of the night in a combat based sport like boxing?

Week 6: Vampire’s Kiss (1988)

  • Nicholas Cage is absolutely fucking crazy in this film. It may very well be his most insane performance ever. So, here’s a Nicholas Cage wild card – make your argument as to which decade is best for Mr. Cage: The 80’s, The 90’s or The ‘00’s. Make the argument as to which is the worst. Then argue which film contains your favorite/best performance (note: those 2 distinctions might not be the same for you.)

Week 7: Monster High (1989)

  • Holy shit! This movie is utter garbage. Explain exactly why this movie is so god-awful and disappointing. Then detail how it could have been a great example of an 80’s Monster Comedy.

Week 8: Rockula (1990) and Final

  • Though technically released in February of 1990, Rockula was clearly filmed during the 80’s and feels like a 80’s monster comedy through and through. Discussion of the music, Dean Cameron’s Awesomeness or the opening title sequence will all be accepted.
  • Final: Discuss 80’s Monster Comedies as a genre using examples from the entire course. Why are they great? Oh they’re not? Then why do you hate them? Why couldn’t these movies really work in any other decade?

As extra credit, I’ll accept papers on Love At First Bite (1979) being so close to making the cut, and Monster Squad (1987) which I don’t consider a 80’s Monster Comedy, but will certainly earn you an A for writing.

And make sure to join us next semester for the follow-up course 80’s Party Monsters.

tl;dr crowd….apologies.

Monster Talk: Monster Rap?

At some point during the early 80’s rap started coming into its own as a musical genre, at least in terms of pop culture. However, any amount of popularity eventually begets bastardization. So, some yahoos thought it’d be a swell idea if everyone, and everything, began rapping. And for about 15 years or so, they did. Now, while musically and tastefully that was probably the whackest decision possible, in terms of Halloween Shindig, it’s meant gold. Solid gold.

The first shindig incarnation had 3 rap songs on it. Not a bad showing for only 700 megs. Over the years however, that amount has more than quadrupled. Hell, you could make a whole CD of just these monster raps (hmm, note to self: make monster rap mix CD for car.)

Everything it seems was fair game for the money mill; the Ghostbuster’s are coming hard with 3 entries, haunted houses seem equitable and the Universal Monsters are heavily represented. Even the fiends themselves started grabbing mics; Dracula has rapped; Elvira, The Crypt Keeper and Frankenstein’s Monster, all spittin’ lyrics. Hell, Freddy’s rapped twice, and one of those times was actually Robert England.

Now, these songs may seem corny, ridiculously conceived, goofy as fuck, or just plain terrible, and who knows, maybe they are. But, while they may not be well respected or liked amongst the general population, much love and respect is given to them from the Shindig, where they will always have a non-ironic home.

Monster Talk: Shock Monster

So what the hell is a Shock Monster anyway? Here’s a little back story on this fiend:

The Shock Monster was an old Topstone mask that was advertised in the rag Famous Monsters of Filmland. Essentially a generic zombie mask, it was supposedly named as such to cash in on the then popularity of Shock! Theater.

He was notorious for looking totally badass in the magazine,

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and looking totally less badass when he arrived at your door.

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Now, while this mask is pretty awesome and horrifying in its own right, I could imagine being pretty disappointed if I was expecting something akin to the former, particularly if I was a 10 year old and I’d been waiting for this thing for a few weeks.

Over the years many people have re-sculpted the Shock Monster to better capture the essence of its original ad, or to put their own spin on it. My favorite incarnation of Shock was created by a buddy of mine named Adam Dougherty. Recently, he displayed it at 2012’s Monsterpalooza convention in Burbank, CA. It’s 7 and a 1/2 feet tall, totally badass, and not at all disappointing.

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