In Search of Darkness, Part II (2020, dir. David Weiner)

A continuation of the documentary exploration of 1980s-made (mostly) US horror. Much more (4.5 hours) of the same, though with some deeper cuts this time around. Depth is sacrificed for breadth, and the pattern of trailer clip plus talking head per movie gets repetitive, but there’s affection on display for the genre throughout.

Here’s the trailer.

The Evil Dead (1982, dir. Sam Raimi)

Five students spend the weekend in a remote shack: demons are unwittingly raised. Gleeful no-holds-barred horror. What’s most striking is the sheer confidence on display, plus Raimi’s grasp of camerawork and the spectrum of lo-fi practical effects possibilities. Sequels, a remake, and a TV series followed, each taking a more comic route through the core material.

Here’s the trailer.

C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. (1989, dir. David Irving)

Teenagers steal a cadaver, and unwittingly cause a zombie outbreak. Generally sprightly loose sequel, played squarely for laughs this time out. A surprising amount of it works, even if the loose plot is little more than a frame for gag sequences. Contains one of the few John Huston jokes in horror cinema.

Here’s the trailer.

C.H.U.D. (1984, dir. Douglas Cheek)

A cop, a photographer, and a charity worker each investigate the disappearances of New York street people. Quirky horror-comedy with an anti-authoritarian streak. Benefits from location shooting and a solid cast in depth, even if the story is slight. A sequel followed.

Here’s the trailer.

Death Ship (1980, dir. Alvin Rakoff)

A cruise vessel sinks after a collision: survivors find shelter on a ship that may be haunted by Nazi ghosts. Clumsy, dull, and poorly-directed horror/disaster hybrid. A couple of strong ideas lurk, but this is lumpen stuff that doesn’t have much in the way of focus or story.

Here’s the trailer.

Terror Train (1980, dir. Roger Spottiswoode)

A chartered train hosting a student fancy dress party has a vengeful killer on board. Okay though somewhat tepid slasher pic, enlivened by excellent photography, a decent Jamie Lee Curtis performance, and a sense of production value. A young David Copperfield performs tricks in support.

Here’s the trailer.

The Monster Squad (1987, dir. Fred Dekker)

A group of monster-obsessed pre-teens have to face off against a gallery of Universal Studios villains. Straightforward and very contrived sub-Spielbergian kid adventure post-ET/The Goonies. Some of it works well, and the creature effects evidence love, but too much is perfunctory tick-box stuff that’s being rushed through.

Here’s the trailer.

Class Action Park (2020, dir. Seth Porges & Chris Charles Scott III)

A documentary on Action Park, a notoriously dangerous New Jersey amusement park, and on its charismatic criminal owner. A straightforward and largely enjoyable overview, though one that struggles to balance the human impact of negligence with fond and at times gung-ho 80s nostalgia.

Here’s the trailer.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989, dir. Stephen Herek)

A slacker high-school garage band duo are lent a time machine so the future can be saved by their rock music. Affable time travel comedy with likeable leads, some wit and finesse in the writing, and lightness and clarity of purpose throughout. Two sequels followed.

Here’s the trailer.