Patrick Bromeley is Editor-in-chief at @fthismovie. Contributor at@dailydeadnews, Deadly Magazine and @aboutdotcom. Champion of the ambitious failure. Check him out on twitter at @PatrickBromley.
http://www.fthismovie.net/Also, Check out his Underrated '85 list from last year:
So many movies were released in 1986 that were staples not just of my youth but also a steady part of my balanced movie diet to this day: Aliens, Big Trouble in Little China, The Fly, Stand By Me, Night of the Creeps, Blue Velvet, Something Wild…the list goes on. But many of my favorite movies from this excellent year in film aren’t as popular or as well-regarded as others. These are the movies that need my love. These are my favorite underrated movies from 1986.
F/X (dir. Robert Mandel) A great little thriller about a movie special effects artist (Bryan Brown) hired to fake the death of a gangster turned government witness and getting embroiled in a murderous conspiracy. While other kids my age were busy looking up to professional athletes and rock stars growing up, I wanted to be Rollie Tyler. This might explain why I was always picked last for everything. Come to think of it, F/X probably isn’t that underrated, seeing as it was a big enough hit to warrant a sequel, F/X2: The Deadly Art of Illusion, in 1990. I like the first movie a lot better. Next!
Lucas (dir. David Seltzer) One of my favorite teen movies of the decade rarely gets mentioned in discussions of ‘80s teen movies. Corey Haim, full of early promise, plays a nerdy kid who falls in love with Maggie, the new girl in town (Kerri Greene, because who wouldn’t?), over the summer only to discover that everything changes once school starts. Charlie Sheen gives a really nice performance as the jock who starts dating Maggie but doesn’t want to hurt Lucas; the movie also marks the first role for a young Winona Ryder. Whereas most teen movies of the era would paint most of these characters in broad strokes — popular girl, football captain, band geek — director David Seltzer’s screenplay treats everyone like a real human beings. This is such a sweet, gentle and well-observed film about first loves in which real heartbreak is on the line.
Dangerously Close (dir. Albert Pyun) No list of underrated movies from the ’80s would be complete without at least one entry from my man Albert Pyun. This is one of his best efforts — a moody teen drama about a group of cool kids who go to any lengths to keep the unwanted riffraff out of their high school. Drenched in ’80s MTV visuals and new wave music, the film is one of Pyun’s most stylized and personal — a metaphor for his own career, with the villainous “cool” kids standing in for mainstream Hollywood and Pyun positioned as ever on the fringes. It’s fairly standard stuff as ‘80s teen movies go, but made with style and just enough of an edge to stand out despite being largely ignored for more well-known titles. I maintain that this is one of Pyun’s best movies.
Invaders from Mars (dir. Tobe Hooper) One of my favorite filmmakers made one of my favorite movies in 1986 when Tobe Hooper directed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, but that movie has finally found its audience and no longer really qualifies as “underrated.” Lucky for me he also released this remake of 1953’s Invaders from Mars (the second of his three-picture deal with Cannon Films) just a few months prior in ’86. Of the two movies, Invaders gets a lot less love. And sure, it’s clunky and more than a little silly, but it’s also a lot of fun. This is Tobe Hooper’s “kids’ movie,” told very much from the vantage point of young Hunter Carson (the son of co-star Karen Black and screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson, who wrote Texas Chainsaw 2) as a kid who begins to suspect that all of the adults in his small town have been taken over by aliens. The effects by John Dykstra and Stan Winston are a lot of fun, looking good for the ‘80s but capturing the spirit of ’50s sci-fi. It lacks the scary dread of the original movie, but Tobe Hooper doesn’t seem to be going for scares; he embraces the campier aspects and makes a film that has a sense of humor about itself. How can anyone not love a movie in which James Karen gets to say “Marines have no qualms about killing martians!”
Running Scared (dir. Peter Hyams) As both a lover and a student of the buddy cop movie, this is one of my all time favorites. It’s little surprise that Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal could play wisecracking police officers, but Running Scared even makes them convincing action heroes. Besides a supporting cast that includes Dan Hedaya, Jon Gries, Jimmy Smits, Joe Pantoliano and Steven Bauer, Running Scared boasts quotable dialogue, an incredible car chase on the L tracks and Michael McDonald’s “Sweet Freedom” as its theme song. As someone who has lived in Chicago his whole life, the movie even gets the city’s winters right. Peter Hyams is a filmmaker with a lot of underrated movies in his filmography, but I think this is my favorite of everything he’s made.
Dead End Drive-in (dir. Brian Trenchard-Smith) An Ozploitation classic from the godfather of Ozploitation. It presents a dystopian future in which teenagers have so terrorized Australia that they are rounded up and held in drive-ins that double as prison camps, given endless supplies of drugs, booze and snack bar food. Borrowing liberally from The Road Warrior and Class of 1984, Trenchard-Smith feverishly throws all the stuff he loves into a crazy blender and this is what comes out. It’s nice to know that exploitation filmmaking was still alive and well in 1986.
Avenging Force (dir. Sam Firstenberg) At one point I considered putting this entire list together with nothing but titles from my beloved Cannon Films, as it appears that 1986 was their peak year. Obviously I decided against it, but their output is still well represented here: Invaders from Mars, Dangerously Close and now Avenging Force are all Cannon productions. This one is supposed to be a sequel to 1985’s Invasion U.S.A., with Michael Dudikoff recast in the Matt Hunter role originated by Chuck Norris one year prior. Dudikoff takes on a shadowy organization called The Pentangle when his best friend (played by the great Steve James) is targeted. Plenty of kicking and stabbing ensues, directed with Sam Firstenberg’s usual style: straightforward to the point of artlessness and completely casual about the graphic violence on display. Aside from the use of the name Matt Hunter, there’s hardly anything to connect Invasion U.S.A. with Avenging Force, but that’s ok. Avenging Force is still awesome.
Let’s Get Harry (dir. Alan Smithee/Stuart Rosenberg) If you’ve never seen Let’s Get Harry — and there’s a good chance you haven’t, as it has never been released on DVD or Blu-ray — let me lay out a description of the movie that’s sure to move it to the top of your must-see list: Robert Duvall shaves his head and grows a goatee to play a badass mercenary hired by Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles, Biff Tannen from Back to the Future, Slider from Top Gun and the lead singer from The Eagles to rescue Mark Harmon in a film directed by Alan Smithee with a story by Sam Fuller. I know, I know…ONE, PLEASE. I haven’t even mentioned Gary Busey as a car salesman-turned-enthusiastic soldier or the cameo from Predator’s Elpidia Carillo and David Hess. The movie is utterly implausible but still super entertaining mostly thanks to the talent involved. It’s part Deer Hunter, part Missing in Action, part Red Dawn and even manages to sneak in a few surprise developments along the way. Supposedly director Rosenberg took his name off when the studio insisted on adding more scenes with Mark Harmon (playing the titular Harry), who was hot at the time thanks to his TV work. Studio tampering is evident — a key scene in which the boys turn to a government agent (played by Jere Burns!) for help has been reduced to being part of a musical montage — but the soul of movie is still intact. Brad Fiedel’s score helps class the movie up, too. I wish this would get a proper release.