Dead of Night

D: Alberto Cavalcanti, Basil Dearden, Robert Hamer, Charles Crichton; with Mervyn Jones, Michael Redgrave, Sally Ann Howes, Miles Malleson, Googie Withers, Basil Radford.
VHS Home Video

If you're looking for Halloween gore, you won't find it here in this nightmare anthology film. This 1945 classic chiller hails from Great Britain, a land renowned for restraint, so it's not surprising it packs more of a mental than a visceral punch. The beginning, in which various travelers are led by their dreams to a spooky house in the country, borders on self-parody, but Michael Redgrave's role as a disbelieved and disbelieving ventriloquist, whose dummy turns into a nasty human (but only in Redgrave's presence, of course), is memorable enough to dispel any gloomy presentiments about the rest of the film. -- Clay Smith

Dario Argento: Master of Horror

D: Lewis Coates; with Dario Argento.
VHS Home Video
I Luv Video, 4631 Airport Blvd.

Italian exploitation filmmaker "Lewis Coates" (aka Luigi Cozzi, the fellow who brought you the fun Alien rip-off Alien Contamination) is the man behind this disappointing follow-up to Michele Soavi's excellent Dario Argento's World of Horror, which covered the career of the celebrated horror director with a combination of bizarre wit and stylish visuals appropriately similar to the maestro's own unique filmmaking style. The same cannot be said of this workmanlike effort, in which badly matted film clips from Argento's more recent movies mingle with shot-on-video interviews with his peers, critics, and, of course, the man himself. Although this isn't going to convert unbelievers into the Argento cult, it might be worth a look for die-hard fans, who won't want to miss the intriguing behind-the-scenes footage from Two Evil Eyes, Trauma, and the masterful Opera. -- Joey O'Bryan

The Slumber Party Massacre

D: Amy Jones; with Michele Michaels, Robin Stille, Jennifer Meyers, Michael Villela.
VHS Home Video
I Luv Video, 4631 Airport

Faced with adversity and challenge, a group of strong, like-minded women band together for a common cause, share intimate moments and soap, and stick together, do or die! Everything's Relative? Not quite.... But since this 1982 masterpiece of modern post-feminism was penned by Rita Mae Brown, the lesbo subtext rages for those who wish to see it. And for the less high-minded, there's plenty of T&A to go around. Director Amy Jones takes Brown's deviously subtle script -- from the prophetic call letters of the radio station in the film's opening (KDED!!!) to the symbolic castration of the perp at the end (sorry, don't mean to ruin the climax) -- and wends the finest portrayal of teengirls in the Seventies this side of Linklater's bathroom scene in Dazed and Confused. And like that modern classic, the smiley faces, tube socks, hotpants, Izods, and clingy, midnight blue Jordaches only tighten the mise-en-scene. In this case though, the body count's a lot higher (11 by our count...). -- Kate X Messer

Future Kill

D: Ronald Moore; with Edwin Neal, Marilyn Burns, Craig Kanne,
Alice Villareal.
VHS Home Video
I Luv Video, 4631 Airport

Re-matching Edwin Neal and Marilyn Burns (of Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame) on the bleak streets of mid-Eighties bust-town Austin, 1985's Future Kill should've set the post-apocalyptic tone for the last generation of dilapidated drive-in flicks. It didn't. Instead, what it delivered was a lame Porky's meets The Warriors with the Terminator at the helm, in a sort of unHoly Trinity of camp film genres of the time. Neal stars as Splatter, the craven product of a nuclear accident, and violent arm of an otherwise peaceful anti-nuke group called The Mutants. Hellbent on an undefined and random revenge, Splatter for some reason kills the leader of the peaceniks and blames a group of dopey frat geeks who happen to be on the wrong side of town and witness the crime. It gets worse as the fugitive boys hook up with sexy mutant Julie and she takes them to a real live punk club to show those stuffed shirts how the other half lives. The music of the Big Boys and the character of Austin's decrepit warehouse district are totally wasted. The high point is at the beginning: The film debut of the Chron's own Robert Faires, whose portrayal of Sig Ep frat prez is positively Shakespearean, including and up to the point at which he is tarred and feathered. Rent it for that and to see if you can pick out the streets and sights and a few other familiar faces, but for no other reason, okay? -- Kate X Messer

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