Friday, July 24, 2009

Hide and Go Shriek (1988)

The end of the eighties brought the downward spiral of the slasher film.

There were alot of factors that contributed to this: Maybe many of the low budget studios that were churning these out were finally seeing that their fruits were no longer profitable? Maybe there was a growing lack of un-interest in these types of films and studios didn't see the need to give out out hordes of cash to have less-than-Hollywood movie makers churn these out by the dozen? I have always wanted to know what really caused the fall of the slasher film by the time the greatest decade in history came to a close. But, if you paid any attention, some films were made at the end of this golden era that surpassed many of its predecessors in both style and content.

I'm walking through the isles of the H-E-B grocery store on Old Highway 83 in Weslaco, Texas. It's a hot Saturday during the summer of 1989 and I'm heading to the front of the store to where the videos were all lined up nicely in a attempt to get away from my parents for a while. The Dream Academy's "Life In A Northern Town" is playing above me on the muzak and I'm walking like I'm a big 'ol badass just because I'm sporting a pair of hand-me-down British Knights. You know what's even funnier? I can hear you, the reader, laughing to yourself as you read that last sentence. Not because you're laughing at me, but because you probably did the exact same thing back then. At any rate, this particular store introduced me to slasher favorites Sleepaway Camp, Terror Vision and The Last House on the Left. But the box on the left (in VHS form, mind you) brings back the fondest memories of that store.

I remember picking it up and being fascinated by the film's clever title. That's one thing that - sadly - I'm a sucker for. A clever title, a warning that the footage contained in the video you're distributing is "too shocking for theatrical release" and you've pretty much have got me sold. About a year or two later, this film disappeared off the shelf of this store and then, the store disappeared altogether in favor of a much larger store with a larger video rental area that was propped on the other side of the city. Sadly, I don't remember seeing this title again until 1999, when a Brownsville, Texas mom and pop video rental that still charged for memberships had this on its horror roster. One night, my then significant other and I were browsing the shelves and I picked this one up, eager for him to take it home for me. He instantly shot me down, stating that my love for eighties horror was "childish and unbecoming of me" and that was that: The movie was going to be left there on the shelf just as I'd found it. Not that it really mattered, but I had this feeling that I was never going to see this particular title in print ever again. And I didn't see it again, until 2006 when I snagged a copy up on ebay and finally added it to my collection. I 'oohed' and 'ahhed' when I finally held it in my hands again and unless you are like myself, a die hard slasher buff with fond memories of the days of the mom and pop video store, you wouldn't even to begin to understand my happiness as I popped it into the my third of six Videocassette Recorders that I own and sat back to watch. After years of waiting, this was the night.

Before I begin with the film's actual review, let me say that when you boast on your cover that you are similar to Friday the 13th and Halloween, you're really not setting your viewers up for much. Well, it's not fair that you're tell your viewers exactly what to expect. If you are a non-horror fan, or at least not a fan enough to seek out slasher obscurities such as this, you would pretty much, without even thinking about it, instantly classify the film as another run-of-the-mill slasher. I mean everyone has seen Friday the 13th and Halloween so why would your little film be any different than those two blockbusters and definers of the genre in those days? But I digress. The film opens up with a group of teens who have just graduated from high school and who are going to celebrate their new-found freedom in the annals of a furniture store belonging to the parents of John Robbins, the obvious jock and leader of the group. As they sneak in and the store closes, all hell begins to break loose as the kids are picked off one by one by an unseen killer. Seriously, this is pretty much Friday the 13th in a furniture store. But, don't dismiss the film just yet.

The film oozes eighties charm from the very beginning. The clothes, the hairstyles, the way the kids interact with each other - the music. It's wonderful in its own right and not to sound cheesy, but it reminds me of when I was a kid and when times were just much more simpler. While on the surface the film seems to appear just like the rest of them - which in reality, it is with a few exceptions - you've got to take the whole "furniture store" bit into consideration. Since this film, there has never been another horror film set in a furniture store so just for that, the film gets an instant twenty points. The (obvious) lackluster gore that could have made the film that much better is compensated with some genuine moments of suspense and terror that you don't find in many movies of that time period. The mood is sometimes very claustrophobic (the scene in the bathroom!!) and very tense in some parts and that's what makes this one stand out. If you just shut up and give the film a chance, you will end up liking it and wonder why it didn't have much more of a following back then. All the actors are "eye candy" (especially extreme hottie Sean Kanan) and they're presented to us as a group of honest kids who were just trying to have some fun and do nobody harm.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, let us discuss the film's extremely bizarre and even more unexpected plot twist:

Shit, even I didn't see that train wreck coming.

I won't give it away but I will go on record that this is one of the most bizarre and out-of-left-field endings I've ever seen. Four Words: Gay Romance Gone Bad. That's all I will say. I sat there with my mouth agape, jaw almost hitting the floor at the weirdness of how the whole plot took the exit off the highway and didn't bother to come back. It was about as strange as the ending of Sleepaway Camp minus the nudity, of course. As strange as this "revelation" is at the film's close, it gave the film a trademark of its own, which is something that 80's films were all about at one point: Who could give the audience something they'd never seen before and let me tell you, even I as a horror aficionado would have never expected what transpired during the last ten minutes. And for that bizarreness alone it gets two thumbs up. It's ends up being one of those slasher films that flew under the the radar during its theatrical run and got its audience on video. If you see this one lying around on VHS (as there hasn't been an official U.S. DVD release - and there may never be one), grab it and check it out. It's worth looking at once. The VHS claims to be "unrated" but I didn't see anything over the top that I hadn't seen in other films. But overall, the film is great in its own ways and at some points manages to top some of its competitors and counterparts of that time period.


Tower Farm said...

I, too, was mesmerized by this movie's box and title...and have yet to actually watch it (though the old, battered VHS box is still at my local rental place). I think it's finally time.

Oh...and if a significant other of mine ever told me that my love of horror was childish, I would EASILY choose the VHS box over him!


LeonelB said...

You really need to give this one a once-over. It's gonna surprise you in parts and it's one of the better stalk and slash films of the 80's heyday. It doesn't take itself too seriously and that's one of it's redeeming qualities. LOL And if you end up liking it and would like a copy of it, let me know. =)

and p.s., he was gone a few months later so it all worked out for the better. Now, 10 years later he says my love for horror was the one thing he remembered most about me. How do ya like them apples? Sheesh!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, since this probably isn't the best place to write this, but I was wondering if you could increase the size of the text font of your reviews/articles. The size it is right now is kind of too small for me to read comfortably.

Great blog!

LeonelB said...

I will definitely take that into consideration. =) Thanks for letting me know, glad you're enjoying the blog!