Monday, October 13, 2008

Girls Night Out (1984)

Back in the early eighties, budding horror fans like myself were either hooked on or curious about a television show called USA Up All Night, a late night cable show that showcased now-beloved slasher and obscure B-films. While some of us fans got to sneak into the living room while mum and dad were sleeping to catch rare glimpses of said slasher and B-films, I was not allowed to say up that late anyway, much less be allowed to watch a program of that nature. And I can safely say that all of us as a collective would give anything to have shows like that back on television, even in syndication.

I've actually spoken to a few horror fans who hold this film in high esteem and one thing we all concurred on was the wonderful memories we have of the television trailer:

"You know what really turns me on?"
The lone naked girl under the sheets in her bed smoking a cigarette in her dorm room as the thunder crashes outside. She narrates most of the plot of the film for us: I can still hear her voice as she tosses her curly brown hair behind her. I can still see some of the scenes of the film. I can still feel my heart beating rapidly and as I'm writing this, I'm smiling. But what we all remember the most fondly is the last spoken line of the trailer:

"But what can you expect...on a girls night out?"

Oh, the memories that come rushing back from my childhood when I think of that sentence. I'm living in Reedley, California on Pecan Street and I'm in the third grade. We'd just gotten cable from Group W and all of us were discovering the joys of USA and WGN. This was the time in my life when the 80's horror boom was well underway and my friends and I would gather inside the jungle gym and try to out do each other with some of the stories we could tell of those horror films we had "seen" over the weekend. It was a great time in my life - the only film I'd actually seen pieces of was the original Friday the 13th and even then it was hard to beat some of the other tall tales my friends were coming up with. The first time I saw the trailer to this one, I was sitting alone after nine o' clock and USA was on the television and as it came on, I realized that I was the only one in the living room. I sat there, terrified and at the same time, ecstatic. I sat through those thirty seconds of wonderful pleasure and as the title card came onto the screen, I wondered if I'd ever see it again. I did, several days later and that was all that remained of it: a memory. Man, do i miss the eighties.

Over the years, I hoped to somehow see this for rent somewhere and I never did. I actually didn't see this again until 1999, when one of the local (and last) mom and pops in Brownsville, Texas was closing and I stopped in to see what I could find for sale. I remember seeing the black cover and picking it up and all those wonderful memories came rushing back to me as I held the VHS cassette in my hands. I asked the owner of the store if he would be willing to part with it but sadly, he declined. I really doubt that he knew what he had and didn't want to sell it to me just because. Little did I know that I wouldn't see it again until 2003.

The age of the Digital Versatile Disc brought to light some of the rarest and most obscure - and forgotten - horror films of the break-dancing era and this was one I was happy to see get the special treatment. I saw this for the first time on DVD at Best Buy in Independence, Missouri and saw it only that one time. Why I didn't buy it is beyond me - I mean, the price tag was pretty reasonable for an obscure title as this was. I have this annoying habit of seeing a movie that's on my "Must have" list and letting it slip only to wait months and months to see it again and finally pick it up. This one was no exception. It wasn't until just last year that I saw it again on DVD at Video Liquidators in Fresno, and I didn't hesitate to take it home. Was I excited? Read the first few paragraphs of this review a second time and ask me again. I rushed home with my cousin and sat down to put this in. The first thing I looked for was the presence of either the original theatrical trailer or the TV spot and to my own surprise, the trailer was on there! And the exact one I remembered! I sat there in front of my cousin, gushing like a Japanese school girl, and watched it over and over again until he asked me *cough* politely to start the film. I was in hog heaven - but I do need to confess that I'd never seen the film in its entirety. Ever. So we pressed 'play'...

The movie has a simple and promising premise: After the big basketball game, some students at a local college participate in a campus-wide scavenger hunt and little do they know that a killer is on the loose wearing the same bear costume worn by Benson, the school mascot. But is the killer really Benson, or is it someone trying to wreak havoc on the school and blame Benson for all the mayhem? As exciting as it sounds, it starts off strong and, sadly, fizzles out as the film progresses, which was a real disappointment seeing as how long I'd waited to actually see it. The film does drag in places and the gore was very tame for my tastes seeing there were only a few on screen slashings. The cast wasn't much to make a fuss about, though it was great to see Laurie Marie-Taylor of Friday the 13th - Part 2 in another horror film. I really would like to sit here and tell you the course of how the events in the film transpire but this one ends up being one of those that you see once and put back on the shelf. The "twist ending" was a little predictable and honestly, it made the film all the more confusing.

I watched this again just last night for the sake of this review and still found it as tepid as it was the night I first viewed it. Even Teddy (James Ratliff) and Benson (Matthew Dunn), the "eye candy" of the film, weren't enough to keep my interest afloat - or anything else for that matter. The DVD print is gorgeous with little or no grain during the dark scenes and the soundtrack was clear. I've never seen the VHS edition so I can't tell you if that particular print was used as master for this release. I would actually only recommend this film to those 80's film purists who have a "Must see/have" list or are curious about the more obscure entries in the slasher genre. Sadly to say that the final verdict on this one is that the trailer has more panache than the actual film itself. Now I'm not saying that the movie is a total bust - I did mention the presence of "eye candy" - I'm only saying not to expect this to be one of those diamonds in the rough. That would just be too far-fetched. Stick to gems like Happy Birthday To Me, Burnt Offerings, or Curtains.

1 comment:

m morgan said...

Great blog. I love crazy films from this era, even some of the bad ones.