The Slumber Party Massacre is a campy onion of a movie born from the early 80s slasher boon ushered in by the likes of the Friday the 13th series. Don’t think onion in terms of cartoon stink lines, but rather in the Shrek usage. See, The Slumber Party Massacre, much like onions and ogres, has layers. Hidden under the purposefully evocative title, the ample, lingering nudity, and the plentiful gore is honest to god subtext, something lacking in many of its genre kin.
There’s a scene in 1988’s Maniac Cop that feels eerily prescient given the current relationship between some police departments and the communities they serve. In the film, New York City is held in the grip of mass panic as a mysterious stranger dressed as a cop stalks the streets, killing criminal and victim alike. During the scene in question, a woman, acting out of sheer panic and self-preservation, guns down a police officer as he approaches her stalled car, a cop who turns out to be of the non-maniac variety.
“They’ll get you in the end!” vows the poster for 1984’s satanically tinged quasi-creature feature Ghoulies. At first blush, this tagline appears to be merely a, shall we say, cheeky reference to the star of the poster: a small demonic creature (or “ghoulie”) popping out of a toilet, waiting to attack some unsuspecting victim’s “end.” However, it’s also a disappointingly accurate assessment of the ghoulies’ involvement – or lack thereof – in the film bearing their name.
For a guy who’s been, by all accounts, happily married for nearly half a century, Stephen King sure can paint a bleak portrait of the institution. The most recent adaption of one of his depictions of wedded woe, 1922, is Green Acres if the show had lasted long enough for the main characters to resent the hell out of each other. A country boy born and raised, Wilfred (Thomas Jane) sees city people as fools, and he’s passed this worldview on to his teenage son, Henry (Dylan Schmid).
Bride of Frankenstein, the 1935 sequel to the Universal monster classic, opens with a postmodern device undoubtedly familiar to lovers of horror literature. On a dark and stormy night, we find three of England’s most heralded writers: Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelly, and Mary Wollstonecraft, seated around a roaring fire discussing, among other topics, fear. It’s a scene reminiscent of the one that famously inspired the creation of the 1818 novel upon which the first film was based.
On the page and the screen, The Dark Half is Stephen King at what could be called his most stereotypically “Stephen King.” It’s a story those unfamiliar with the author are unknowingly referencing when they crack jokes about how all he does is write about authors in remote locations being besieged by the supernatural. While this reviewer happens to think King has more range than he’s credited with, this story is certainly in his wheelhouse and he mostly nails it.
Imagine if Viagra put Stephen King in charge of one of their ad campaigns and you have a starting position for Gerald’s Game. A husband, Gerald (a physically jacked and emotionally nuanced Bruce Greenwood), and wife, Jessie (Carla Gugino in a powerhouse performance), head to a secluded cabin to find the spark their relationship has been missing. Instead of a pair of bathtubs perched on a hill, Gerald decides the right accessories – besides his trusty blue pills – are police issue handcuffs.
There are a number of options open to parents should their child ever be run over by a gang of one-dimensional hooligans on dirt bikes. They could take said child to the hospital and hope, pray something can be done. They could report the incident to the police. Or, they could seek out a local witch and strike a murky bargain that involves her resurrecting a demon called Pumpkinhead to exact their revenge. It’s fairly easy to guess which option Ed Harley (the always entertaining Lance Henriksen) went with in 1988’s dark fantasy Pumpkinhead.