Sunday, January 16, 2011

Strange Behavior (1981) and Dead & Buried (1981)

I love finding hidden gems from the 80's.   One of my more recent discoveries is Strange Behavior, the 1981 horror/sci-fi/comedy/semi-musical from director Michael Laughlin and written by Bill (Gods and Monsters) Condon.  Dan Shor plays a young teenager living in a small town who takes part in a sinister mind control experiment carried out by the local university headed up by creepy doc Fiona Lewis.

The film has a wonderfully creepy atmosphere with its small town setting and pulpy fifties plot line. Director Laughlin and writer Condon brought a similarly effective vibe to 1983's Strange Invaders.  The story itself is a rather unfocused yet endlessly amusing tale of mind control, killer college students, a decades old incident concerning the university and the sheriff and oddly enough a fully choreographed musical number set to a sixties pop song.

Michael Murphy does good as the town sheriff and Fiona Lewis is her usual cool self but Louise Fletcher is somewhat wasted in a nothing role as his love interest.  This is one of the few movies that can take having a rather muddled narrative and come out just fine.  It's sort of cheesy and not always convincing but it's so darned good natured about itself that it's all but impossible to be mad at it.

When most folks think of zombie films, they generally think of George Romero's oddly sympathetic ghouls or Lucio Fulci's gore encrusted gut munchers.  One of my favorite zombie flicks is this little oddity written by Alien scribe, the late Dan O'Bannon.  James Farentino plays Dan Gillis, the sheriff of a small town on the coast of New England called Potter's Bluff.  As we see in the gripping opening, there is something very odd going on as a series of gruesome murders have been occurring.

The mystery revolves around the murders and the bizarre reappearances of the victims in the town as part of the general populace.  Dan, as tends to be the case with this sort of movie, gets a nasty shock at the end as it turns out that not only is the town mortician Dobbs (Jack Albertson) involved, but everyone in the town including his wife is a part of what's going on.

Ordinarily I'd spoil things a bit more but this movie should really be seen fresh.  The entire movie has this great spooky ambiance that covers the movie like a gloomy, overpowering blanket.  Performances are pretty good with Farentino and Albertson standing out (Robert Englund is entertaining in his bit role as well) and the f/x by Stan Winston are, for the most part very good.

This is a terrific little gem of a movie and one of the best 80's horror movies.

No comments:

Post a Comment

About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.