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Horror movies derive most of their power and enjoyment (you sicko) from a combination of novelty and surprise.The novelty: how the filmmakers will have this particular bad guy stalk and kill the good guys. The surprise: OHMYGODLOOKOUTBEHINDYOUDREWBARRYMORE! Nevertheless, because horror movies are eternally popular, Hollywood remakes

oz-the-great-and-powerful-poster-1Sputtering on the Yellow Brick Road more fruitfully explored by L. Frank Baum in books, The Wizard of Oz on film, and The Wiz and Wicked onstage is Oz The Great and Powerful. Director Sam Raimi and co-writers Mitchell Kapner (The Whole Nine Yards) and David Lindsay-Abaire (the Pulitzer-winning play Rabbit Hole, plus Broadway’s Shrek the Musical and the recent animated fantasy Rise of the Guardians) had an impossible task before them: Make an Oz movie for Disney that could only allude to beloved copyrighted elements held by others. So we have a brick road that’s more sallow than yellow, a wicked witch who’s green but not that precise green, flying baboons rather than flying monkeys, and so on. It’s a facsimile that, when we get to Oz, feels like one, inorganic, CGI-thick, neither its own thing or what we so vividly recall.

The opening act, however, has magic, and the promise of more. Filmed in black-and-white (not the Wizard of Oz sepia) we begin in Kansas, pre-Dorothy. Charlatan magician Oscar Diggs (James Franco), perpetually fleecing customers and

I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I am a huge fan of horror films and my favorite type of horror film is the 1980s slasher movie. While the slasher genre arguably got its start during the 1960s and 1970s with films like Peeping Tom (1960), Psycho (1960), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Black Christmas (1975) and Halloween (1978) — all of which make my list of the best horror films ever made — slasher movies had their peak in the 1980s, particularly the early ’80s. In my opinion, some of the genre’s best movies were released between 1980 and 1984.

With Halloween approaching, I thought it would be fun to share a list of some of my favorite 1980s slasher films. You’ll notice that this list doesn’t include any films from the biggest slasher franchises — Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Child’s Play. To me, those are obvious selections, so I left them out. Of course, you might think all of the movies on my list are obvious selections. But, c’est la vie.

Since I know you’re going to comment and tell me all the movies I forgot from my list and that my list is worthless without them, let me say that I’m not claiming these are the greatest ’80s slasher flicks, nor are these the only slasher films I love — I could easily make a list of 50. So, before you tell me how much I suck because I didn’t include your favorites, keep that in mind. That said, I’d love to know what some of your favorite ’80s slasher flicks are — what would your list look like.

OK, here we go — in no particular order. (And just to warn you — some of these trailers are NSFW).

Flashback: the UC Theater in Berkeley, circa 1985. The double feature that night was The Evil Dead and A Nightmare on Elm Street, neither of which I had seen, and the house was packed with exactly the “right” crowd for this kind of movie mayhem.

The group I went with that night was the Diablo Valley College Filmmakers Association, the president of which was my high school friend — and now Popdose colleague — Ted Asregadoo. He recalls our group giving The Evil Dead (1981) a standing ovation at the end. While I don’t specifically remember that detail, I do recall the entire evening being one of the most satisfying filmgoing experiences I’ve ever had.

The Evil Dead, directed by Sam Raimi (the Spider-Man series, A Simple Plan), was notorious in the early ’80s for being a relentless, gory, over-the-top horror film, but because it was unrated, it was difficult to find theaters willing to show it. The flick gained further notoriety when author Stephen King reviewed it in The Twilight Zone magazine and called it “the most ferociously original horror film of the year,” a quote smartly added to The Evil Dead‘s posters and newspaper ads.

I remember staring at the videocassette box in my local video store, wondering if I should rent it. I’m glad I held off, though, and that my first viewing was with the UC Theater crowd. Had I watched The Evil Dead alone, I’m not sure what I would have thought, as it’s ultimately a cheesy low-budget effort rife with some extraordinarily bad acting.

Now I embrace it for the iconic horror masterpiece that it is, and I’ve developed a true admiration for its star, Bruce Campbell. I highly recommend his book If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor (2002) if you’re at all interested in an account of a working actor trying to make a living.

"Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?" - Captain Oveur Only a creepy airline pilot could appreciate the epic television fart that is Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Yes, you will actually notice a bad smell coming from your television tonight as this new dramatic series from

“Hey, roll it, ’cause I’ll tell ya, you know, you’re listening to a guy who learned a lot about ripping off movies from watching laserdiscs with director commentary.” —Paul Thomas Anderson, from the Boogie Nights audio commentary

Okay, so I’m an audio commentary junkie. Sometimes I’ll buy a movie I don’t particularly like all that much just because it has a commentary track or other cool extras. It seems like I’m always repurchasing some movie I already own simply because the new version has extra features.

In the laserdisc days there was Criterion. The very first audio commentary track was done by film historian Ronald Haver on the 1984 Criterion laserdisc of King Kong (1933). Unfortunately, many of those Criterion tracks still haven’t made it to DVD, including Martin Scorsese’s commentaries for Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, and Terry Gilliam’s for The Fisher King (all worth checking out, provided you can find a working laserdisc player).

BoogieNightsBoogie Nights (1997; director Paul Thomas Anderson). This is pretty much everything I look for in a commentary track, so it’s really too bad Anderson doesn’t seem to want to record them anymore (to date, this is the last one he’s done). There’s a lot of cool information here, including many anecdotes about the production of the film, but the real fun for me is hearing Anderson talk excitedly about how much he loves to write material for certain actors.

ANDERSON (on actor William H. Macy): And you know, everything you write, you better know what you’ve written, because he is going to say every single word exactly as you’ve written it. And he’ll sort of look at the punctuation, find out what it means. A dash means this, an ellipses means that. You know, this is in quotes, this has been underlined, this has been italicized … He’s all about finding out what the writer means, you know, and he studies the script clearly so well that as a director you don’t really have to do shit. You just have to watch him, because I feel like I did my job as a writer, so being a director was just being a fan.

Some horror film directors unnerve us with little ripples of tension that unexpectedly crescendo into waves of terror. Sam Raimi is not one of those horror film directors. Pauline Kael once said that Mel Brooks’ grab-you-by-the-lapels comedy wasn’t necessarily funny; it was the being grabbed by the lapels that made you laugh. So it goes with Raimi: His latest film in the genre, Drag Me to Hell, doesn’t have that much in the way of innovative shocks or surprises, but it’s always head-locking you and screaming “Boo!” in deafening Dolby Digital. “This is fucking stupid,” said the guy in back of me, at a raucous midweek showing. “But it’s kind of fun.”

The Brooks comparison is apt. Young Frankenstein (1974) is one of the very best horror comedies, not that it’s a terribly long list. Raimi doesn’t really make horror comedies, but outside of his killer debut, The Evil Dead (1983), he’s not a straight-up scaremeister, either. I remember the chill of anticipation when I went to see The Evil Dead; Stephen King loved it (back when I hung onto his every word), and it was released unrated, which in itself promised something subversive. I wasn’t disappointed. The infamous “tree rape” sequence was a bit much (his subsequent films have shied away almost entirely from sex—too grownup) but everything else was a satisfyingly scary part of a whole: The funhouse colors, the cranked soundtrack (I can still hear the creepy voices on the tape), and the basic style, a kind of retro-primitive. Plus Bruce Campbell, who came as part of the package (but is not in the new film, having gone from catch-as-catch-can cult star to a steady gig on Burn Notice.)

Cover of "My Name Is Bruce"I have to admit, I’ve always been more a fan of B-movie living legend Bruce Campbell‘s personality than I have any of his films. Like most celebrities, there are conflicting stories of whether Bruce is a duke or a douche, but from every interview I’ve ever seen or read concerning him, he seems to be a very down-to-earth guy who’s well aware of his place in the universe, and which in turn makes him appear to be a more affable guy than most…and in the long run, makes watching those few films I’ve seen him in(the big ones like the Evil Dead trilogy, and the seldom-seen like Terminal Invasion) easier to enjoy.

I love any actor who’s willing to poke fun at themselves and deflate their perceived image whenever possible, and in his newest flick, My Name Is Bruce, Campbell pokes long and hard, and does a whole lot of deflating. Playing a sleazy version of himself–jackass on set, living in a beat-up trailer and drinking Shemp Whiskey out of his dog Sam’nRob’s (one of the many homages within the film to friends, associates and others during his long and storied career) bowl–this Campbell is at the lowest point in his life, making a sequel to CaveAlien, the crappiest film in his crappy career. About to fire his agent (Ted Raimi, brother of Evil Dead and Spider-Man director Sam), Bruce is lulled into a false hope that his agent has bigger and better things in store for him when he’s told a big “surprise” awaits him on his birthday. Shortly thereafter, Bruce is approached by Jeff (Taylor Sharpe), a teenager who tries to convince him to come to the small town of Gold Lick, which is being menaced by a vengeful Chinese demon/warrior god named Guan-di (played by James Peck, and based on the actual legendary Chinese warrior/deity Guan Yu). When Bruce refuses, Jeff abducts him.

Finally let out of Jeff’s car trunk, Bruce is at first ready to sue the townsfolk, until he catches a glimpse of Jeff’s hottie mom, Kelly (Grace Thorsen). Thinking this whole Guan-di thing might be a more upscale flick set up by his agent (and very much wanting to get into Kelly’s pants), Bruce decides to play along…little knowing the menace of Guan-di is very real, and that the townsfolk–identifying him a bit too closely with his kick-ass Evil Dead character Ash–expect him to face down the warrior deity and save their town.

My Name Is Bruce proudly displays its B-movie pedigree on its sleeve–the blatant fake background behind cars when they drive, the obvious dummies attempting to pass for beheaded corpses, the fact that teenagers seeking sexual congress in graveyards are distinct wrongdoers who must be punished–and is more of a fun ride for it. In some ways, it has no choice: shot for a budget of just $1.5 million, and having its widest release in only four theaters (thus amassing not even $200,000 as of this writing), the guerilla-style nature which Campbell as director (he also produced the film) was forced to employ would do Ed Wood proud…and believe me, in this case that’s actually a compliment.