How do you top one of the most influential and punk rock horror movies of the eighties? You—uh—follow it up with a sequel that repeats everything we saw from the first film. It’s as if someone said “Let’s make “Return of the Living Dead” again, but crappy this time.” To say “Return of the Living Dead II” is bad is pretty much an understatement as it’s only mostly acknowledged for being the poorer brother to the highly superior and excellent original. That’s ironically also part of its appeal, too, as it takes some twists and turns that’ll leave you laughing in disbelief and confusion.
By 1993, Robocop had turned from a Christ allegory with a vicious blood streak to a bonafide kids’ mascot who was appearing on lunch boxes and Saturday morning cartoons. Thus was the weird period of the eighties and nineties where even folks like Conan, Rambo, Chuck Norris, and heck, even Freddy Krueger became kiddie fodder. The official final go around for Robocop is a tame and pretty dull 1993 film that director Fred Dekker is saddled with, that takes Robocop in to more family friendly territory right down to having a spunky child sidekick. Not much has happened for Robocop and Detroit since the first two films, as the city is still very much under the death grip of crime, while OCP still controls every going on. Dekker has a lot of catching up to do and sadly doesn’t deliver much in the way of a great sequel, as “Robocop 3” essentially repeats a lot of the same beats from the first two films.
Irvin Kershner has a knack for taking original films and amplifying what makes them work initially. With “RoboCop 2,” Kershner takes the RoboCop mythology to new heights creating a film that’s significantly more memorable than the original and arguably better. That’s a controversial statement for sure but when a lot of fans think of RoboCop, they think about the RoboCop 2 unit which becomes something of a parallel to Alex Murphy. Where in Alex is still grasping with bits and pieces of his humanity and consciousness, our villain Cain fully embraces the technological shell he is transplanted in and begins to wreak absolute havoc.
I would love to have been a fly on the wall during the pitch meeting for “Red Dawn.” Let’s take some of the most popular all-American teen stars, some of whom are from the Brat Pack and pit them against foreign invaders trying to take over America. Imagine! The All-American brat pack fighting terrorism! No one would dare fuck with Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen! People will come in droves! That said, “Red Dawn” is a childhood favorite and one my brother and I watched over and over whenever it was on television. Yes, it’s goofy, and violent, and a jingoistic fantasy, but it’s also a fun, action packed, and interesting concept with its “Rah Rah America!” patriotism heavily steeped in a “What If?” narrative.
I guess if you’re going to try to spoof a hit horror movie, you might as well bring with you the star of said film. For better and for worse, Linda Blair is now and will always be associated with her star making turn as Regan in “The Exorcist.” Sadly, she’s more known for the movie, than being a strong actress who gave a strong and compelling performance. Blair uses the chance starring in “Repossessed” to burn the whole motherfucking kit and caboodle to the ground hamming it up big time in a role that’s basically Regan 2.0 if Regan became a doting housewife revisited by Pazuzu. This time, though, she’s named Nancy. Get it? Nancy Regan?
“Raiders!” is easily one of the best films of 2016. It’s a compelling and incredibly emotional tale of how one movie influenced a trio of young boys, and how that piece of art not only paved the road for their future, but also save them in many ways. What becomes incredibly evident throughout the duration of “Raiders!” that makes what unfolds before our eyes a truly gut wrenching journey is that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were men influenced by movies. Thanks to their love for serials and Westerns, they were motivated to make “Raiders of the Lost Ark” as a means of confronting their love for classic serial adventurers. After seeing “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in theaters, young Eric Zala sought out to remake of “Raiders” but with teenagers in place of the adult actors.
Your enjoyment of “Queen of Plagues” will depend on your love for motion comic books. Shout Factory has shown a love for the format of motion comics in the past, and they continue that trend with adapting Gail Simone’s miniseries from Dynamite! Despite the draw back of animating certain panels that just look awkward in motion, “Queen of Plagues” is an engrossing adventure where we meet Sonja once again in battle. After the noble King Dimath raids and conquers a kingdom in a bloody battle, he enters a dungeon and decides to free the two remaining prisoners and let them go without trial. One of them is Sonja.
I’m not ashamed to admit that “Red Sonja” is a childhood favorite. As a TV junkie, I spent a lot of my childhood watching movies on network TV and I constantly tuned in to “Red Sonja.” It was such a departure from the normal movies I watched as it sported a female heroine, Ernie Reyes Jr. trying his best to kick ass, and an unusual narrative that feels like a mix of “Barbarella” and “Wizard of Oz.” Of course this being 1985, you can sense Dino DiLaurentiis also trying to build his own movie series a la “Star Wars,” even featuring a battle with an underwater monster in a cave. I never caught on to it before, but this is also one of the rare action movies from the eighties where there is a heavily implied sexual affair between heroine Sonja and villainous Queen Gedren.