In 1987, after struggling to work within the studio system and the unfortunate box-office performance of Big Trouble in Little China, John Carpenter decided to go rogue once again.
And rogue indeed, producing a straight-faced and strange (maybe even ahead of it’s time) film that I can’t imagine any major studio green-lighting. What emerged was an atmospheric, dread-drenched affair of Science converging with Religion to prove the existence of God.
Or perhaps more appropriately, the existence of Satan.
Sub-atomic. Moving within the atoms of things, where logic need not apply. Liquid evil. A green, putrid substance filled with all the abominations of the earth.
It was captured and sealed up long ago. A race of Humanoid Aliens, of which Jesus was a member, kept watch. But the truth was hidden. Wrapped in metaphor and buried under ritual.
Now, in light of our faithlessness, it has awoken, and it wants control.
I like Prince of Darkness. It’s a little talkie, sure, and maybe a tad slow, but I don’t mind. I could listen to Egg Shen spout off about theoretical physics all night. Donald Pleasence is solid, even if he feels like he’s just plugged in from The Devil’s Men, and A.J. Simon is only distracting if you actually used to watch Simon and Simon, which you probably didn’t. The supporting players do a fine in their respective roles, including Carpenter regulars like Victor Wong, Peter Jason and Dennis Dun.
And, once the scientists start being slowly absorbed by the evil and the hobos begin to gather, John turns on the gas a bit.
Speaking of the street people, Alice Cooper jumps in to play the pale-faced, beanie-rockin, head-hobo. He even kills a dude with a rusty, old bike. A dude who happens to be listening to this very song on his Walkman….meta.
Seems this bike was Alice’s own personal prop too, as he used to do this gag live during his stage show. Now thats pretty bitchin’.
Here’s reigning All-Star Alice Cooper rockin’ again with the patented Title Track Prince of Darkness.
Well, if you’re Halloween Shindig, you take a page outta Sam Raimi’s book (of the dead), use another death metal song, this time about Evil Dead 2, follow the same basic concept and style, and crank that shit the fuck up!
And with that spirit firmly in mind, Halloween Shindig presents Deicide’sDead By Dawn, or The Sequel to the Ultimate Experience in Grueling Metal!
From 1985’s made-for-TV Halloween bonanza The Midnight Hour comes this creepy curio with so much mid-80’s budget-pop pizazz it even features a Soundwave-styled vocorder performance. Radical!
Harry Belafonte’s daughter Shari (pops wasn’t big on creativity, I guess) stars in the film and sings this tune, perhaps fashioned after the recent mega-hit Thriller.
In fact, the whole project seems to be an attempt to cash-in on Michael’s occult success; semi-spooky, family friendly, monster-mash madness with a throwback, 50’s drive-in flare. And this tune, an ensemble dance number staged at a Halloween party, appears to be the piece de resistance.
Though clearly made for TV and a little toothless, The Midnight Hour is a pretty enjoyable and festive addition to anyone’s October line-up. It’s even a fair bit more creepy than something you’d imagine was just made for TV.
You’ll get some fun guest appearances too, from the likes of Spaceball’s King Roland, Clarence Boddicker, that one guy from 21 Jumpstreet, UHF’s R.J. Fletcher, Yori from Tron and The Reading Rainbow Dude who wore that bitchin’ visor on Star Trek. Studded.
Plus there’s tons of Halloween ambiance, creepy Thriller-Lite graveyard scenes, a lot of cool make-ups and FX, a bunch of fun Halloween costumes, more monsters than you can shake a stick at and this kickin’ ‘digger. What more could you want from an October evening’s Televison adventure?
Freddy Krueger: What can be said about the quintessential 80’s man-specter that hasn’t been said a thousands different times by a thousand different nerds? Who am I to pretend like I’ve got some groundbreaking shit to drop on you? I’m no one, and I don’t, so I won’t. I’m simply another nerd with a foolishly myopic blog, so I’ll just stick to the script.
Freddy (whether I’ve said this before or not I can’t recall) is the reigning champ of horror tunes. He owns the 80’s pop-music-via-monster-icon scene. The guy even cut his own album. He’s all over it.
Jason comes close, but the Friday people didn’t fully climb aboard this particular train until part 6, and they never really bought a ticket. Freddy was shoveling coal in it’s boiler room.
And from jump too, as even his first outing got its own little referentially inclusive tune in the form of 213’sNightmare.
Well, who the fuck is 213? Apparently they’re no ones, as no one seems to have any information on these guys. Well, aside from the painfully obviously “they were some local LA band that provided this track” or the goofier and obviously nonsensical “they were Johnny Deep’s band” theory.
Whoever they were, they’ll go down in the Shindig’s book as they guys who churned out that thoroughly apropos end credit song from the original Nightmare On Elm Street, and baby, that’s enough.
So, up yours with a twirling lawnmower,…whatever the hell that even means.
Speaking of Paul Williams, let’s take this moment to segue right into one of Horror’s most beloved rock operas, Brian DePalma’s 1974 pitch-perfect send-up of the entire recording industry, Phantom of the Paradise.
Elements of Faust, Phantom of the Opera,Frankenstein, Portrait of Dorian Gray and even a little Dr. Phibesare all fused together to tell a tale of love, betrayal, fame and revenge set to the backdrop of the doped-out, sinister 70’s music scene.
Williams scored the entire film for DePalma, and stars as Swan, the unscrupulous producer who collects talents and souls for his Death Records label.
Phantom of the Paradise is unique, visually arresting, kinetic and humorous all in equal measure. From DePalma’s active camera, to Gerritt Graham’s flamboyant Beef, to Winslow’s killer Phantom disguise, to Swan’s bitchin’ giant, record-shaped desk, to the parodist music, to the satire – everything here just works, and works so damn well.
Even getting Rod Serling himself to handle the opening narration is like a stroke of genius.
Here we have the film’s final track, a rocking little number played over the picture credits, that has all the seeming of Satan himself speaking directly to Swan.
If you’ve never seen Phantom of the Paradise, give this pop-rock-horror-satire a spin this October. And if you already love it, watch it again, just for the hell of it!
While fairly understated and never quite as rousing as it seems like it should be, The Devil’s Men is a somewhat worthwhile endeavor, if only to see card-carrying good guy Peter Cushing all cloaked out and evil, raising a 10 foot, fire-breathing Minotaur statue he calls “lord.”
Oh yeah and all the creepy , robed Minotaur worshipers.
Oh yeah and them all exploding at that end. That shit is pretty awesome.
But it’s mostly worth seeing for the grooviest title track this side of Scream and Scream Again, which incidentally, Cushing also appears.
Paul Williams, whom many of you may know well from his performance in and musical contributions to, Brian DePalma’s Phantom Of The Paradise, wrote and produced this shindigger. And props all around, cause it’s a doozy.
However, much like the last 2 cuts in this True Title Track block, someone had it out for The Devil’s Men, someone who sucked at their job.
They took it and retitled it Land Of The Minotaur. Which (while in and of itself is a cool title) seems pretty unnecessary, particularly during the 70’s satanic panic where one would imagine a film called The Devil’s Menmight play just fine.
They also saw fit to removed a bunch of violence and all the nudity. Seriously? What’s next? Did they cut out an awesome Title Track too?
Yes! That’s exactly what they did, and they should be tried and hung for the successive severity of their crimes.
So, if your gonna watch The Devil’s Men, make sure you watch The Devil’s Men, and not Land of the Minotaur, cause it doesn’t have a lot going for it to begin with, and the censored version removes just about every reason there is to watch it at all. For shame.
Here, now returned to its former glory, it’s Paul Williams with The Devil’s Men!
If there’s one thing The Shindig hates, it’s when foolish producers try to bench a perfectly good Title Track. The Shindig lives for Title Tracks and finds this practice to be an affront to both the films and their visionary creators.
A great example is our next digger, a song we absolutely love, Fall Break.
Now this is a Title Track; tailor made, vaguely referential, tonally incongruous and totally bizarre. It sounds like an 80’s sitcom theme and it’s awesome.
But somebody with a suit and a wallet thought no one would watch a movie called Fall Break.
He was probably right. It’s a strange title. Is Fall Break even a thing? I’ve never heard of it outside of this movie. We certainly never got one growing up. Fuck, the school year just started, they need a break already? It sounds like some lame version of Spring Break in New Hampshire with no bikinis. Who’s getting jazzed for Fall Break?
Nobody, that’s who, and the money guys know it. They want rentals at the local Video Stop, and that same nobody is renting Fall Fucking Break.
Enter: The Mutilator.
People wanna see The Mutilator. Hell, I wanna see The Mutilator, it sounds tough as shit. It’s direct, violet, unambiguous, and a hell of the lot more intriguing then whatever stupid shit is happening in, what did you say that title was again? Fall Break? Yeah, that’s gotta go.
”But the movies already been made, cut and released as Fall Break. We even have a song called Fall Break playing during the opening credits and everything!”
Yeah, whatever to that bullshit, it’s The Mutilator now.
And a Title Track died.
Except, technically the film was released as Fall Break, so here on The Shindig we’re keepin it real; resurrecting all Title Tracks and returning them to their rightful seats on the throne!
Fall Break, like its title, is a strange song. It’s a great fit for the playlist, inspiring autumnal images perfectly befitting our night of All Hallows. As a Title Track to the film however, it feels a little out of place.
As mentioned above, it seriously sounds like a sitcom theme, with a tone straight off the Silent Night, Deadly Night soundtrack. There’s nothing ominous here. In fact, it’s a rather nice love song of sorts, ringing with the hopeful promise of an Autumn getaway; beer, football, leaves, skinny dipping and fun at a beach house. In a way, I guess it’s like the beginning of a slasher movie. No fear, just fun. Maybe it’s not so out of place after all.
Speaking of the beach house, here’s a warning to all would-be college kids seeking a weekend getaway at a similar beach front condo…
If the man who owns the house has a framed picture of a guy he “accidentally” murdered with his ski boat – leave. That’s it. Just take off. Politely excuse yourself, and say “Nope. Not stayin’ here. I hope you understand, but that photo is just too much” and leave. I don’t care if dude’s there or not. Doesn’t matter. Just terminate your presence immediately.
Because this is not just any picture of the guy, mind you, it’s a photo of his actual corpse. Not the guy hanging out during better times, ya know, as a nice reminder of their friendship – it’s his dead fucking body, gore strewn, presumably only minutes after the incident.
This photo is crazy. Why does Big Ed have this picture,…and framed no less!? And why aren’t any of Ed Jr.’s friends even the least bit perturbed by this photo? It’s absolute madness.
As far as the movie is concerned, I’d say apart from a couple of pretty interesting murders staged by Anthony Show and Mark Shostrum (who would later go on to produce FX forDream Warriors and Evil Dead 2amongst other things) Fall Break is a rather throwaway mid-era slasher devoid of any laughs, intentional or otherwise.
There’s barely any skin and all the tension of an untied shoe, kind of like the prospect of a Fall Break. Essentially, this is a who-dun-it where you already know who-dun-it before they’ve even dun-it. What’s the point? I dunno, some cool gore scenes, I guess. Oh yeah, and an awesome title track.
Speaking of which, here it is, the best thing about Fall Break, its Peter Yellen and The Breakers with Fall Break!
Aerobicide/Woman On Fire by Mary Hylan/Jill Colucci
For a certain type of 80’s horror junkie, Aerobicide might be a wet dream come true.
There’s a formulaic and totally telegraphed whodunit plot. There’s an impractical and ridiculously oversized safety pin as a murder weapon. There’s an awesome hard-boiled detective. There’s even awesomer private investigator played by 80’s cheeseball-badass Ted Prior. There’s cheap karate, a rake fight, nudity and no shortage of 80’s babes in workout gear getting physical.
But above all, there’s the absolutely relentless 80’s synth-pop soundtrack.
However, there are a couple injustices besetting this soundtrack.
Namely, it was never officially released. Why? This thing is great. And why hasn’t anyone resurrected it yet? Where’s Death Waltz Records on this forgotten gem of a soundtrack?
There are rumors of promotional copies floating around that were release in ’84. It’s also said that all of the songs were released separately on 7″ vinyls by their various artists. Good luck finding any of those.
Secondly, and most unfortunately, the greatest of all these tracks is featured so briefly in the film it beggars belief. Worst of all, it’s the film’s Title Track. What? This isn’t the song played over the credits? This is the song that gets barely a minute of screen time so as we can’t even steal it properly? What cruel rouse is this?
Perhaps it can be explained by the inexplicable decision to retitle the film Killer Workout. Why would someone do such a thing? Is Aerobicide too high-concept? Too confusing? Similar to Land of the Minotaur, it’s not a bad title on its own, but when you compare it to Aerobicide, it’s no contest.
And because of that, this song should be all over this movie, or at the very least played during the credits. As a people, we need this whole song.
But, beggars can’t be choosers, so well provide what’s available of that track and just lead it into the aptly titled Woman on Fire by Jill Colucci, cause what else can we do?
On a side note, if you happen to find the voice of Jill Colucci sounds a bit familiar to you, it may be because she’s responsible for the theme to America’s Funniest Home Videos. Ok, that’s pretty weird.
For now, take what you can get and try to grab a copy of Aerobicide for yourself, which was finally made a whole lot easier last year when Slasher//Video released both a DVD and Blu-Ray of a video transfer.
Oh, and keep and eye out for this spray paint, which predates the film Death Spaby about 3 years.
Coincidence? I dunno, but these 2 would make for one heaving, sweaty double-feature.
There’s an 80’s horror fan reading this right now. Aerobicide is their favorite movie, they just don’t know it yet.
What better place to bring our Haunted House Rockin’ block to an end than here, at the Berber House with Hauntedween, a Haunted House Halloween Title Track?
While not a real haunted house, The Berber House is just a festive Haunted House, or rather a Haunt, which has hitherto but unrepresented in our block.
A staple of the season since well before I was brought to this plane of existence, The Haunted House is as much a part of Halloween as Trick-or-Treating, Jack-O-Lanterns and slutty costumes.
High school kids in rubber masks weave through a thick mist of dangling limbs and fake fog, looking for their next mark.
Disorienting lights strobe to the beat of pneumatic pistons firing foam jump scares.
A chainsaw is perpetually chugging somewhere, sometimes roaring to life, but from where, you couldn’t say.
Grown adults tip-toe around dark corners, weary of things they know aren’t really out to get them.
The nervous shriek, the tough guys almost instinctively punch and the weirdos laugh uneasily.
Some are good and some are terrible, but they all have that same smell, that same vibe, the same excitement, and you should always treat yourself to at least one visit a season.
If you live around Southern California, I highly recommend Reign of Terror in Thousand Oaks. Skip Universal, Knotts and The Griffith Park Hayride, and check that place out.
Hauntedween is a low budget affair filled with that same sort of passionate home-town charm and love for the holiday you find in local Haunted Houses, and it features a killer lying in wait at just such a local Haunt. You can read The Shindig’s write-up here!
This Title Track (which it is gracious enough to give us) plays over a montage of the Sigma Phi frat boys rebuilding the old local Haunt in preparation for a holiday fundraiser to save their fraternity!
It may be awkward to say, and it may not make one bit of sense, but here it is all the same…it’s Hauntedween!
Alright, so now that we’re all on the same page, we can hash this thing out.
I’m not sure how much Ghost Fever you actually came down with but chances are it wasn’t enough that you’ll be requiring any antibiotics.
That being said, I love Ghost Fever. It has the distinction of being the only movie where Sherman Hemsley plays corner man to Luis Ávalos as he boxes Smoking Joe Fraizer with the assistance of Southern ghosts. Well, the only one that I’ve seen anyway.
It’s also the only movie I’ve ever seen with a break-dancing mummy.
Now, that’s pretty awesome.
All of this however does not make Ghost Fever a good movie, it just makes Ghost Fever a singular thing, and that’s worth something. Admittedly, it’s a little more than hard to sit through but if you can get behind a poor idea executed in the poorest possible fashion with the most eye-rolling bafoonery this side of Pandemonium, it’s a certain kind of treat.
James Ross at Badmovienite.com probably puts it best in his humorous review:
“At times it’s like a live action episode of Scooby-Doo meets the Harlem Globetrotters. Except it’s not really fun, or funny, and there are no talking dogs.”
Well, there’s definitely no talking dogs, I’ll give him that. But I’m laughing (kind of), particularly when it decides to get all batshit crazy toward the end. It’s not always the kind of laugh Alan Smithee is intending, but a laughs a laugh, right?
Oh yeah, did I mention Ghost Fever is an Alan Smithee film? That oughta give you an idea of what’s going on here.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Smithee, he’s a pseudonym the Director’s Guild of America allows a filmmaker to use if he feels too embarrassed with the final product and can demonstrate a lack of artistic control.
Yeah, so even actual director Lee Madden disavowed this pile. I’m not quite sure it’s exactly so bad it’s good material but it’s definitely bad, that much I can say with confidence. But, dear Weeners, it’s not without its moments and with the right amount of intoxicants and the right amount of friends with the right sensibilities, it could be the right movie.
Of course, here on The Shindig, we don’t talk about this kind of nonsense without merit or a cause célèbre and Ghost Fever (as you might imagine) has a fucking doozy.
Submitted for your Halloween enjoyment, here’s George Jefferson himself spiriting his way through a disco title track of supernatural proportions.