Rating: The Good – 64.8 Genre: Horror Duration: 92 mins Director: Paul Lynch Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, Casey Stevens
Jamie Lee Curtis stars as the prom queen whose friends have been hiding a dark secret concerning the death of her younger sister years earlier. And now on her big night, it’s all going to boil over in nightmarish style. With its low production values and somewhat derivative story, prom night has been misjudged and unfairly criticised over the years. Yes, those two criticisms are fair but there is a strong screenplay driving this movie (kudos William Gray) which employs some clever structuring and original scenarios. Moreover, Paul Lynch’s taught direction gives it the room and time to breathe before unleashing the axe-wielding maniac. When the violence does begin, it must be said that Lynch captures much of it in memorable and innovative fashion.
There are of course some problems with Prom Night. Jamie Lee is competent in the lead but her character could’ve been given a little more to do (particularly during the final act) and the movie certainly does attempt to copy too many movies which were popular at the time (worst of which includes that cringe-worthy Saturday Night Fever inspired dance sequence). However, if watched with a forgiving eye there are plenty of strengths also to be appreciated.
Rating: The Good – 77.9 Genre: Horror Duration: 91 mins Director: John Carpenter Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Tony Moran
The teen slasher movie which (along with the earlier Black Christmas) defined the genre, sees Jamie Lee Curtis fleeing for her life against knife-wielding maniac Michael Myers. Donald Pleasence scores well as the psychiatrist who takes it upon himself to track down the escaped mental patient who he believes is an incarnation of pure evil. In Halloween, John Carpenter expands on what Black Christmas gave us to establish the formula for most (if not all) of the 80’s slasher films and in reality those imitations never came close to the quality of this film. Carpenter was also intelligent enough to give the horror a tint of the supernatural with the resulting ambiguity significantly heightening the sense of terror. And not content with creating one of the all time great horror stories, he goes and gives us one of the genre’s best and most distinctive scores. A genuine classic.
Rating: The Ugly – 60.1 Genre: Thriller, Crime Duration: 102 mins Director: Kathryn Bigelow Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, Ron Silver, Clancy Brown
Kathryn Bigelow and Eric Red teamed up so perfectly on Near Dark that it seemed a cinch they’d do it again but unfortunately this uneven story about a female police office who is targeted by a deranged stalker falls well short of the mark. There are too many sub-plots most of which are rushed and some of which are laughably realised and at times Ron Silver really hams it up as the bad guy. However, the main story which pits Jamie Lee Curtis and the always excellent Clancy Brown against Silver’s lunatic obsessive is actually quite interesting. Furthermore, it’s a wonderfully shot movie with some brilliantly staged night time sequences adding significantly to the atmosphere. Thus, despite some considerable failings, one feels strangely compelled to forgive it – but only barely.
Rating: The Good – 78.2 Genre: Horror Duration: 89 mins Director: John Carpenter Stars: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh
A classic ghost story about a town which, on its hundred year anniversary, is visited by the specter of a ship and its crew who were murdered by the town’s founders a century earlier. Director John Carpenter’s perfectly paced chiller has yet to be matched in the sense of sinister momentum it generates from the first reel to the close. The scares are actually basic enough but with Carpenter’s unorthodox and unsettling style and a variety of interesting characters on show the movie really does take on a life of its own and, as such, it has gone down as one of the most compelling horror movies of the last 30 years. Jamie Lee Curtis heads the cast as the hitchhiker passing through the sleepy coastal town just as things start to get strange and she adds a playful tone to the earlier sequences. The remainder of the cast is a who’s who of Carpenter regulars with the exception of the very first “scream queen” and Jamie’s mother, Janet Leigh, who puts in an excellent turn as the town’s mother figure.
James Cameron at his best: rip-roaring story, tremendous special effects, spellbinding action, effortless humour, and no cloy token adolescent messages about world peace or saving the environment. Arnold Schwarzenegger is also at his best in by far his wittiest role as a smooth talking secret agent battling boo-hissable terrorists. Kevin Arnold is terrific in support and really raises the humour quotient and Jamie Lee Curtis excels as Arnie’s bored unsuspecting wife. The action is breath taking even to this day and all the characters work off each other perfectly. And on top of all that, Cameron’s old mate Bill Paxton cameos once more, this time to hysterical effect as a used car salesman who spends his nights pretending to be a secret agent to enchant bored housewives. You see where this one is going.
Rating: The Good – 65.9 Genre: Horror Duration: 97mins Director: Roger Spottiswoode Stars: Ben Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Hart Bochner
Starring in three slasher films in one year, all of which went on to become cult favourites, earned the already star of Halloween, Jamie Lee Curtis, the deserved tag of “scream queen”. One was an outright classic (The Fog), the other two (Terror Train and Prom Night) were proper b-movie material but with plenty of high points and even made with touches of skill. Terror Train is certainly less cheesy than Prom Night and with Roger Spottiswoode directing it’s relatively slickly made compared to most other b-grade slashers too.
Curtis stars as one of six college kids whose New Year’s Eve party on board a party train is crashed by a fellow student left deranged by one of their previous pranks. As one of the only sober bodies on board, Ben Johnson’s seasoned old train conductor is burdened with the task of tracking down the maniac before his murderous revenge is complete. Terror Train has a nice polished feel to it. It moves smoothly through the gears building the pretext to the killings and establishing the characters reasonably well as it does so. There are some nice ideas threaded into the story like the presence of a pre-megastardom David Copperfield playing a disgruntled and sinister magician hired for the party. Better still is the party’s fancy dress theme which allows the killer to walk among his prey and also assume the identity of his most recent victims. This last device is particularly effective because the creepiness of some of the costumes adds to the killers’ overall menace.
The acting is above par for the sub-genre too with Curtis proving even more comfortable with the role than in any of the aforementioned appearances, with the exception of The Fog. Johnson is sturdy in his duties too and provides a terrific foil to the wild partying kids he’s minding. Hart Bochner (eight years before he found action cult status as Ellis) also throws in with a deliciously nasty performance as the gang’s arrogant ringleader.
Unfortunately, despite all this, Terror Train falls rather flat in the scares department. The closed atmosphere of the train is used to good effect and the set design provides many a decent setting for solid potential thrills but they just never seem to click. Perhaps the relative lack of gore is at fault but it’s probably more tied to the pacing which though nicely maintained for the majority of the film, fails to accelerate during the scarier moments. Therefore, Terror Train just misses out on classic b-movie status but due to the nice vibe it gives off, it retains a solid appeal.