While the preteen Unkle Lancifer spent his pale-skinned youth devouring every horror movie available at the local video shop, his older, more violent siblings lived on a steady diet of martial arts and action movies. In the early part of the 1980s, the slasher tide was so high that it couldn't help bleeding into these other genres. Lines blurred and soon throwing a showcase decapitation into a garden variety revenge flick was considered not only appropriate, but also a wise investment. That meant that some of the action movies that my brothers subjected me to were at least as violent as the horror flicks I was obsessed with and some, I must say, were even more so. The high school halls, small town homes and scenic wooded campsite locations of my beloved slashers were positively serene compared to the urban sleaze environments that most of these exploitation pictures took place in. Truth be told, they touched on similar issues of revenge, redemption and empowerment, but their moral compasses were almost always unreliable and sometimes completely M.I.A. Were people really accusing movies like HELL NIGHT where LINDA BLAIR as "Marty" repaired her own escape vehicle of misogyny when in the theater next door, an underage street prostitute was being tortured with a Vaseline dipped soldering iron? Go figure. Ironically some of these flicks had the power to disturb me far more than any of the horror movies I was watching at the time. Although both genres delighted in mayhem and leading the viewer into someplace dark, these guys sometimes left you there without a flashlight!
Directed by DEAD AND BURIED's GARY SHERMAN, VICE SQUAD rarely shows any actual violence but the inevitability of it hangs over all its proceedings like a heavy fog thanks to the tour de force career defining performance of WINGS HAUSER as psycho pimp Ramrod. Relentless, sick and brutal, Ramrod operates like a human terminator with his sites set on ho killing and not much else. Not many films can make the claim of producing their chills by one performance alone, but WINGS' efforts here are so unflinching and seamless that you can only tense up in recognition of his authenticity. He's that gym coach who's about to snap, your friend's abusive father, the weird gun collecting neighbor that keeps vigil at his window just waiting for some kid to step on his lawn, a true blue time bomb built to ignite. Filmed almost entirely on location, VICE SQUAD in general has a raw energy almost as vibrant as HAUSER's. It revels in the dog-eat-dog, kill-or-be-killed red light district nightlife whose denizens wake up knowing each day may be their last. The climax does sort of degenerate into a standard cops and robbers shoot out, but that in no way erases the unquestionable power of all that proceeded. Laced with highly quotable dialogue, ("Blink your eyes and you die in the dark!," a pre-SUDDEN IMPACT "Make my day!"), to die for cameos, (FRED "Rerun" BERRY, CHERYL RAINBEAUX SMITH and first-generation MTV V.J. NINA BLACKWOOD getting the wire hanger treatment!) and a rare opening and closing credits song sung by the movie's villain, (NEON SLIME, download it HERE). VICE SQUAD may not be horror but thanks to WINGS, it scared the crap out of me.
What's to be afraid of when the infallible multi-talented legend CHUCK NORRIS is around to save the day with a few karate chops? Well, thanks to one of the worst decisions in medical history, an insane, dead psychopath who just hacked to death two people with an axe is given a second shot at slaughter thanks to an under-explained experimental drug that makes him invulnerable. (SILENT doesn't insult your intelligence, it just ignores it completely). Cribbing left and right from HALLOWEEN, SILENT RAGE gives us a speechless maniac complete with coveralls and P.O.V. camera shots, and throws in a victim hanging on a door for good measure. By golly there's even a hypodermic needle kill a'la HALLOWEEN 2! Face it kids, this is more of a HALLOWEEN sequel than HALLOWEEN 3 (or 5 for that matter). The CARPENTER cribbing takes a momentary break when CHUCK clears out a local bar full of rowdy raping and pillaging bikers, but it isn't long before we're back in the hack-and-slash saddle again. As far as action horror hybrids go, this is pretty much the pinnacle. Why its formula was not repeated a dozen more times I will never understand. You're basically getting CHUCK NORRIS vs. MICHAEL MYERS here. If you want any more out of life, you're just being greedy. How does CHUCK get rid of this non-stop killing machine? Why he throws him down a well that looks an awful lot like the one our SHATNER-mugged buddy ended up in at the end of HALLOWEEN 4, which SILENT predates by a good six years. Now who's stealing from whom?
10 TO MIDNIGHT
TRAUMAFESSIONS never lie and I have to agree with Richard from DOOMEDMOVIETHON that 10 TO MIDNIGHT really delivered the creeps, at least back in the day. CHARLES BRONSON stars as a cop on the hunt for a Ted Bundy like murderer (he drives a V.W.!) who's got some serious issues with women. Most of the ensuing savagery can be blamed on BRONSON's shoddy police work. Planting evidence is fine, but admitting to it so that the crazy killer is allowed back on the streets is just all kinds of dumb. 10's murders are particularly sadistic and focus on the victims' horror of what is about to happen to them. The scene that Richard cites in his TRAUMAFESSION is exactly the one that gets to me. I'm all for people getting murderized on screen, but when you have to hear them crying and begging for their lives before hand it really takes the fun out! But let's get down to brass tacks shall we? All of this is all the more disturbing because the killer insists on operating completely in the nude. Yes, even your Unkle Lancifer has some sense of propriety. Attacking coed nurses without a traditional mask on is forgivable, but at least put a towel on!
O.K., this vigilante DEATH WISH rip off is one that really got to me, and for the life of me I could not remember why. All I could remember was the gruesome beheading in the first scene that presumably spurs the EXTERMINATOR's revenge driven nature. Now I understand my brain in all its wisdom blocked out the rest because THE EXTERMINATOR is just one f'd up movie. Thankfully, my adult mind can also now decipher that it is also a highly ridiculous movie. That first beheading is still a doozy, credited to both our pal TOM BURMAN and the recently deceased STAN WINSTON, it's just about as realistic as it can get. The way the severed head just flops to the side? It's seriously twisted and it's made all the more grim because it's a war scene and the movie hasn't completely destroyed its credibility yet. I don't mean to be too harsh on THE EXTERMINATOR, but I can't help approaching it like a bully that I have suddenly grown taller than. All the sadistic gruesome kills are present and accounted for, including a death by lowering someone into a meat-grinder, but now that I see THE EXTERMINATOR's apartment I can only chuckle.
Who is his decorater? Henrietta Hippo from THE NEW ZOO REVIEW?
Granted it's still pretty harrowing when we have to witness a prostitute's torture by a fat balding New Jersey congressman or an old lady getting kicked in the stomach and her glasses stomped on, but it's all kind of tempered by the sight of CHRISTOPHER GEORGE cooking a hot dog with a MacGyver device he created out of a reading lamp and two forks. Have I told you lately how much I love CHRISTOPHER GEORGE (GRIZZLY, PIECES, GATES OF HELL)? If I had to see him paired up with someone (other than LYNDA DAY GEORGE and besides myself) SAMANTHA EGGAR (THE BROOD) would be my first choice. Well, here she is folks, but don't get too excited, she shows up to join GEORGE for a late night picnic in the park and to give some absurd medical advice and then she just up and disappears. I thought for sure she'd get tangled in THE EXTERMINATOR's web or at least put in harm's way in some capacity, but no dice. Did she wisely quit mid-production? It makes sense because this movie uses so many weird voice overs and drastic leaps forward in time that it seems they had to just make do with what little they had. Which brings me to my major beef with THE EXTERMINATOR, whenever he wants to kill someone, they just appear before him tied up in some warehouse and the movie never deigns to show you how he got them there. If it were that easy I'd try my hand at being a vigilante too. Ultimately, THE EXTERMINATOR is some pretty shoddy, poorly put together trash, but I have to give it credit for following its strong suits and keeping the shock devices coming at regular intervals. It also has one of the coolest movie posters ever made even though the guy never really uses a flame thrower in the movie…
I'm sorta disappointed that THE EXTERMINATOR over the years has somehow slid into camp. I was kinda hoping for that nauseated, itching-to-turn-the-damn-thing-off feeling that I hardly get any more unless I'm watching SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH reruns at seven in the morning. I was going to say they just don't make um' like these anymore, but then I remembered RAMBO was just in the multiplexes…I love you SLY but you're no CHRISTOPHER GEORGE!
What say you? Do you guys have any action flicks that gave you a trauma-wedgie? Let me know in the comments section and I'll get my big brothers to beat them up after school!