Posted in Other Media

80s in August: 1987

The Gate

Year: 1987
Runtime: 1h 25m
Rated: PG-13

Director: Tibor Takács

Writers: Michael Nankin

Stars: Stephen Dorff, Christa Denton, Louis Tripp

Streaming on: Tubi (and quite a few other services)

Initial: I debated whether this film was more horror than fantasy, but decided to go with it because I wasn’t convinced that a proper horror film would have kid protagonists.

Production Notes: Film debut of Stephen Dorff.

What Did I Think:
My fantasy/horror instincts were correct. Though there are a great many spooky occurrences and quite a few monsters, The Gate side-steps any truly frightening situations or consequences. The film felt weirdly generic to me. The neighborhood is plainly suburban. The objects characters use are unbranded. The posters in Louis’s bedroom belong to anonymous rock bands. The peril summoned is vaguely demonic. It is one of many 80s movies that featured kid protagonists, though this one with a more fantasy/horror bent. Unfortunately, there is more of a sense of dread in Stand By Me (1986) which has no supernatural aspects at all.


Year: 1987
Runtime: 1h 42m
Rated: R

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Writers: Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner

Stars: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Kurtwood Smith

Streaming on: hoopla

Initial: I’d seen RoboCop a few times in the past, but as with many films I picked this month, probably not in more than a decade.

Production Notes: Set in a vaguely future Detroit. Shot in Dallas.

What Did I Think:
Oh, Paul Verhoven. The gun violence! The explosions! The group shower scenes! I kind of wish I had an 80s bingo card because there are so many very 80s things in it. Threat of nuclear war? Check. Corporations who care (but really don’t)? Check. Toxic waste? Check. (The toxic waste is featured in such a random WTF scene…)

RoboCop suffers from a few plot holes and some moments convenient incompetence, but has a lot of good points. Overall, the acting is what’s needed. Peter Weller is almost too good-looking for his face to be covered for over half the movie, but gives RoboCop a great physicality and pathos. Kurtwood Smith is menacing without being too over the top. After all, he’s only a middle-man villain. The pacing and editing are all good, but the world-building is where I think the film shines the brightest. I’m a sucker for science fiction movies that incorporate mundane things into its world. In RoboCop, it’s TV ads, the local news, and the inane TV show everyone is watching and seems to find funny.

RoboCop is as good as I remember. Don’t know why they decided a remake in 2014 was a good idea. (Haven’t seen it, but looking at the trailer, it doesn’t seem to bring anything to the table.)

The Stepfather

Year: 1987
Runtime: 1h 29m
Rated: R

Director: Joseph Ruben

Writers: Carolyn Lefcourt, Brian Garfield, Donald E. Westlake

Stars: Terry O’Quinn, Jill Schoelen, Shelley Hack

Streaming on: Tubi

Initial: Using my 80s in August criteria, I had the option of watching a horror movie I know I like (Hellraiser), one I’d like to rewatch (Angel Heart), and one I hadn’t seen before, The Stepfather.

Production Notes: Director Joseph Ruben’s second appearance during 80s in August. He also directed Dreamscape (1984).

What Did I Think:
Grand scheme, The Stepfather was on my to-watch list due to the reputation of Terry O’Quinn’s performance. It had probably gotten mention in Nightmare Movies among other places. That hype is warranted. Any good “slasher” film hangs on its villain. Michael Myers in Halloween (1978) has to be silent and menacing. Freddy in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) has to have a good quip and pun on hand in reaction to his victim’s dreams. And The Stepfather requires a subtly; anger repressed enough that Jerry Blake is an effective con man as well as a serial killer. And Terry O’Quinn delivers. In many ways, this is more of a thriller than a horror film—the situations are almost too grounded in the real world.

(There’s also been a remake of The Stepfather in 2009. I’m not absolutely opposed to remakes, and this is another that I haven’t seen, but again I have to wonder, why?)

Other Movies from 1987: Batteries Not Included, Harry and the Hendersons, Masters of the Universe, The Princess Bride, Innerspace, Predator, Spaceballs, Evil Dead II, Hellraiser, The Lost Boys, Near Dark.