For this list, I really wanted to focus in on movies that didn’t have a big following. In some cases, that means there’s still no official DVD or digital release, but for the post part, you can view all of these with relative ease. As to whether or not you’re as delighted by them as I was is another story. Most of this list is recommended purely due to joie de vivre, as opposed to any level of measurable quality.
Charlie Sheen as a resurrected dead teenager who battles Nick Cassevetes with a badass Turbo Interceptor with Sherilyn Fenn as his girlfriend and Randy Quaid as the sheriff, and even some Clint Howard action, and yet this flick never really gained midnight movie status. It’s maybe because it’s never quite sure as to whether it’s a love story, revenge flick, or car racing actioner, being neither sweet enough, violent enough, or shot particularly well. You can’t help but wonder if the soundtrack had been released with the good tracks on it -- Billy Idol, Motley Crue -- as opposed to the also-rans -- Lion, Bonnie Tyler -- the film might have done somewhat better, just on the strength of its songs. The car’s singularly amazing, however, and The Wraith’s a very fun viewing on a Saturday night.
Never Too Young to Die
How this didn’t get some sort of resurrection when Full House took off is beyond me. John Stamos as the son of Bond should’ve been the sort of thing every adolescent girl would further drool over. Granted, it’s pretty hokey and weird, and the “Bond” that’s his dead dad isn’t even Roger Moore, but instead George Lazenby, but still -- Vanity! Gene Simmons plays the villain, a hermaphrodite named Velvet Von Ragner who performs burlesque for his cadre of soldiers. That particular aspect might be why there’s been no official DVD release of this, despite the continued interest raised with every new Stamos project. That aspect is really cringeworthy when viewed through modern eyes, and even Simmons probably couldn’t figure out a way to spin it.
For some reason, this hardly ever gets mentioned when discussing Wes Craven’s filmography. The backstory of its production indicates that the final product was far different than what Craven originally intended, and despite a heaping helping of gore added by the studio after the success of A Nightmare on Elm Street, it just seems to sit there as a novelty, appreciated only by those in the know. It was Kristy Swanson’s first film, and she’s really the highlight of the whole thing (not counting the infamous “basketball head smash,” which makes Scanners look restrained). Were it not for her, this would probably be another cheesy sci-fi horror flick about a killer robot, but Swanson really lends the picture a sense of humanity which would otherwise be missing.
This one, on the other hand -- all killer robots, minimal acting chops. Still, we do get Kelli Maroney kicking ass in a mall once again and Barbara Crampton’s in it, as well. The score’s a synthy bit of awesome that really lends the whole affair a really intensely forward-moving momentum. It takes a few minutes to get started, but once it’s going, it’s a full-tilt boogie for the entirety of the picture. While the concept of arming security robots for a mall with lazers seems absurd, at least the acting is decent and the kills grandiose. It’s not great, but it’s efficient and pretty damn entertaining.
The most underrated film on this list, bar none. The others have been overlooked for what are fairly justifiable reasons -- bad acting, ridiculous premise, et al -- but Night of the Creeps is the sort of movie I appreciate more and more every time I watch it. Tom Atkins’ performance is the like of which should have spawned a series of spin-offs, featuring him battling strange creatures in the night like Carl Kolchak. Sadly, such was not to be the case. Still, the lines which come out of this are absolutely immortal, and damned if it’s just not the sort of movie that you’ll watch and wonder where it’s been. The DVD release has an absolutely horrid cover that gives no hint of what glorious ridiculous lies within -- aliens, zombies, and ressurected killers, amongst others -- and makes it seem so very stupid. It’s not: despite cramming the film with every ridiculous ‘50 and ‘60s b-movie cliche possible, writer and director Fred Dekker made a movie which is joyous and loving, and in every way the sort of thing you should be watching right now.
Honorable Mentions: April Fool’s Day, Class of Nuke ‘Em High, Killer Workout, Slaughter High, Gung Ho, Armed & Dangerous.