Chris Coffel is a writer from Phoenix, AZ now residing in Portland, OR. He has previously written and produced the feature film ON THE COUNT OF 3, which no one has ever heard of or seen, and currently he writes for Bloody Disgusting. When he’s not watching horror movies he’s probably watching basketball or listening to Paul Simon. In his spare time he runs the official Mission Hill Twitter account. You can follow him on Twitter @Chris_Coffel.
When I was asked to write something up for Underrated ’86, I was honored and very excited. 1986 was a big year for me, being my birth year and all. Much like I recently did, all the movies released in 1986 are turning 30, which I think is considered to be a fairly big deal. Obviously I don’t remember these movies from their initial release because I was, well a baby, but a number of films from ’86 have connected with me over the years for various reasons. Narrowing the list down to just five has been difficult, but I’ve done my best.
Before continuing on it’s important to know that I’m not saying these are the best films from 1986, but rather five I feel are underrated to some degree.
Released: February 14, 1986
Dir. Ted Nicolaou
Charles Band productions used to be a lot of fun. Operating under the Empire Pictures banner in the 80’s, Band and company released a slew of horror classics. One film that has sort of gone under the radar over the years is Ted Nicolaou’sTerrorVision.
The film is about an alien lifeform known as the Hungry Beast who gets zapped down to Earth through a family’s faulty television antenna while the family’s small son Sherman is watching horror host Medusa on TV with his grandpa. The Beast it’s the grandpa and then is able to mutate into the grandpa so only Sherman knows he’s an alien. Sherman does his best to notify authorities but they shrug him off and the Beast goes on a rampage through the house.
This is an incredible cheesy movie of course, like much of Empire’s catalogue but it features some pretty good practical effects and puppetry. Even if you don’t like the film, I think you’d be hard-pressed to say it’s not interesting.
The score for the film was mostly done by Richard Band, but LA rock band The Fibonaccis contributed 5 tracks including the film’s theme. The hope for the band was that the film would elevate them but unfortunately the movie ended up being a flop. I mention this because the film’s Wikipedia page has this amusing note about the soundtrack:
Now out of print, a copy of the soundtrack is considered to be slightly valuable.
TerrorVision has been released as a double feature Blu-ray along with The Video Dead from Scream Factory and can be purchased at Amazon.
Released: July 25, 1986
Dir. Stephen King
You likely hate Maximum Overdrive. Lots of people do. And I get it, it’s a faulty movie. But within this mess of a film, there is a lot of charm and a whole lotta fun. Seriously, there is. I am not joking.
You probably know the details, but in case you don’t I’ll get you caught up. After Earth passes through the tail of a comet, inanimate objects come to life. Unfortunately for humans the first thought these objects have is, “must kill humans!” It’s almost like if all the appliances in The Brave Little Toaster were the Air Conditioner before the Master repairs him.
I understand this movie has a ton of issues, but there are a lot of important things within and about the film that make it special. I’ve made a list:
1. It’s the only film to date directed by Stephen King. That seems important.
1a. King was apparently high on coke during filming, also important.
1b. King has a cameo in which an ATM machine calls him an asshole.
2. Emilio Estevez.
3. Death by vending machine.
4. Yeardley Smith. She’s Lisa Simpson for those that don’t know.
5. A semi-truck has wears a giant Green Goblin mask. That could never happen in a movie today!
Look, I get it, it’s stupid. But is an insane movie and it’s pretty unbelievable that this is a thing that exists. I will defend it until the day I die!
Maximum Overdrive has not received a Blu-ray release in the US but it has been released on Region B Blu-ray in Italy and can be purchased from Amazon in the US. An American DVD is available as part of a double feature with Raw Deal. You can also find that on Amazon.
Released: July 2, 1986
Dir. Anthony Perkins
I actually just watched Psycho III for the first time fairly recently as I tackled all the Psycho sequels for the first time ever. I have to say I’m shocked I don’t hear this film discussed more often because it’s awesome!
This movie takes one month after the events in Psycho II which took place 22 years after the events of the first film. Whereas the first sequel sort of took the film in a different direction making Norman the hero, this third entry gets back to the first film. Norman is once again living with the corpses of a dead woman but he’s more equipped to fight his urge to kill. It’s almost like Psycho III is the first two films combined into one.
This was one of two films Perkins directed and his debut behind the camera. He went in some really interesting directions. There’s one moment in particular where Duke (Jeff Fahey) is having a really bizarre sexual encounter with a woman he just met at a bar. Duke is completely naked and his holding out two lamps in front of him. It’s a visually striking scene to say the least. I think because this was Perkins first go at it, he tried a little of everything. It does make the film a little uneven at times, but it’s never not interesting.
Psycho III is available on Blu-ray as either a stand-alone release from Scream Factory or as part of the Psycho: The Complete Collection from Via Vision Entertainment.
Released: October 9, 1986
Dir. Lamberto Bava
Demons 2 was an uphill battle from the start. In my opinion Demons is the greatest party movie of all time, so how do you possibly follow that up with something good? Well LambertoBave and Dario Argento are no dummies! They just made the same exact movie except this time they moved it from a movie theatre to a high-rise apartment building! Genius.
In this sequel numerous residents in the apartment building are watching a film that depicts the events of Demons. One of the demons on the TV notices Sally and climbs through the TV and attacks her, turning her into a demon. She begins to attack others and it spreads throughout the apartment building sending the whole place into a mad panic.
This has all the gore-filled madness of the first film but with the addition of British new wave. So we still get all of the practical effects magic we had the first go around but this time we get to enjoy it while listening to The Smiths, The Cult, Peter Murphy and more. Oh and 10-year old Asia Argento makes her film debut.
Demons 2 is out on Blu-ray from Synapse and can be purchased at Amazon.
Released: August 22, 1986
Dir. Brian Trenchard-Smith
These five films are listed in no particular order however I did save Dead End Drive-In for last because it is my favorite of the bunch. I absolutely love this movie. I watched it for the first time about 8 years ago or so and immediately after I looked up the director. I saw it was Brian Trenchard-Smith and at the time that name didn’t mean anything to me. I looked up his other movies and realized I had seen a lot of this work (BMX Bandits, Night of the Demons 2, Leprechaun 3, Leprechaun 4: In Space) and just like that he became one of my favorite directors. Since then I’ve also managed to see The Man from Hong Kong, Turkey Shoot and The Siege of Firebase Gloria. With every new movie I become a bigger fan, but Dead End Drive-In has remained my favorite work of his.
The movie is about a couple of teens who get trapped in a drive-in that is actually a concentration camp for kids that are basically too locked in and obsessed with 80’s culture in a way. The drive-in becomes a prison and the kids become inmates, each one into new wave, junk food and bad action movies. Our hero wants to break out and not be confined to such things. It’s definitely a strange movie but the finale is a thing of beauty!
Much like Demons 2, Dead End Drive-In features a heavy dose of new wave music. The difference is here we have the Australian variety getting the likes of Kids in the Kitchen and Hunters and Collectors.
Dead End Drive-In is not only a film I would say is underrated from ’86 but also just one of the best movies to come out in 1986. Currently you can get it on DVD from Image Entertainment, but I’ve heard some rumors that a Blu-ray release from Arrow Video may be in the works! Figures crossed!