Who: J. Lee Thompson, director of The Guns of Navarone (1961), Cape Fear (1962), and two of the better Planet of the Apes sequels. Columbia Pictures, who wanted a piece of the slasher pie from Paramount. Actors Melissa Sue Anderson (Little House on the Prairie) and Glenn Ford (The Big Heat), looking for a big break and a decent paycheck, respectively.

What: A bunch of snooty college kids are getting picked off one by one. Eventually a loony girl's birthday party has something to do with the plot.

When: May, 1981.

Where: Montreal. They made a lot of cheap horror movies there in 1981.

Why: Because slasher flicks were red hot in 1981 and the best Columbia Pictures could do was play copycat. The result is the unholy marriage between a really boring soap opera and a really perfunctory slasher movie.
The Good: Anderson and Ford are both appealing, albeit for decidedly different reasons. The screenwriters earn a few points for trying to mix a cluttered whodunit in with their soap opera slasher flick, but...

The Bad: ... at 110 minutes, they needed 12 more kills and perhaps a couple of commercial breaks. I know we were still way early in the slasher cycle back in 1981, but Happy Birthday to Me taught us one good lesson: no slasher film should ever have three digits in its running time.

The Ugly: This flick is remembered mainly for its clever advertising campaign. "Six of the most bizarre murders you will ever see," yelled the poster. By today's standards, the dispatches are quaintly tame ... heck, even for 1981 the kills weren't all that creative. For example, one guy gets his scarf tossed into a motorcycle engine. Big woop. (It's an early kill, sue me.) Oh, and I just love the top line on the poster: "John Will Never Eat Shish Kabob Again!" Not that the man has just been brutally murdered, but (specifically) that he'll never eat shish kabob again. Goofy.

The Verdict: It's a long slog through a slightly colorful collection of characters, but overall there's little to recommend here besides nostalgia value. Trim out the murder scenes and you would have yourself a nice little sleeping pill.

The '80s Archive is a project I came up with that will hopefully combine my affection for 1980s horror films with my love for bullet points, random trivia, and alleged wit. If there's a flick you'd like to see covered, find me on my Twitter page.
categories Reviews, Horror