It’s the other most wonderful time of the year. Oktoberfest beers, pumpkin spice lattes, leaves changing to beautiful colors, and of course, Halloween.
With the return of the spooky season, I’m going back to the world of B-movie horror and checking out what it has to offer. For this first installment, I’m going with a mix, with a UFO flick and a pair of slashers.
The McPherson Tape (1989)
There are two factors giving “The McPherson Tape,” also known as “UFO Abduction,” some notoriety. First is that it’s one of the first found footage horror films.
Before “The Blair Witch Project,” there was “Cannibal Holocaust” in 1980 and this movie about a decade later. While those films had budgets of $60,000 and $100,000 respectively, though, “McPherson Tape” had just $6,500. Despite this, it was a complete feature with found footage aspects still seen today.
The other factor is that some people actually thought this movie was a real abduction. When director Dean Alioto finished the film, it was picked up by a distributor, and it wasn’t long after that the warehouse where the company kept the film burned to the ground.
However, a few copies were sent out as previews to local rental shops. When that happened, someone out there chopped off the credits for the film, and that copy was then passed around as an authentic alien abduction caught on tape at UFO conventions.
UFOlogists bought it as completely real, and a retired U.S. Air Force official even came out and said it looked legitimate. A few years later, Alioto was contacted and informed about its fame.
He went on a television show to discuss how it was just a movie and he was later given the opportunity to remake the film with a bigger budget. Yet some still believed it was real and that Alioto was a disinformation agent.
How is the movie itself, though? It certainly does have a low budget charm, with the grainy camcorder look, and it certainly has that creepy factor that comes with secluded, cabin in the woods movies.
At the same time, it can be pretty rough in some spots, with a bunch of people shouting over each other and the film really dragging in between the dramatic moments. It’s clear that the found footage narrative blue print wasn’t really established at this point, so it can become directionless.
Still, this is a B-movie worth seeing because of its place in the found footage sub-genre and background in the UFO community.
2.5 out of 3 grey alien masks worn by little kids
Happy Birthday To Me (1981)
The poster of “Happy Birthday to Me” shows a guy getting stabbed in the mouth with a meat kebab skewer. It’s great when a slasher has creative kills and that certainly is a good one in this flick.
However, everything around that kill leaves a lot to be desired. None of the other kills match that one, which doesn’t help when the movie slows way down, especially in the second act.
It gets really damn boring, and the few kills here and there that do happen don’t make up for it. This isn’t one of those slashers that clocks in at a reasonable runtime, either, this thing pushes toward two hours.
There’s just so much meandering around with a bunch of teen characters who don’t have much depth anyway since it’s a slasher, so you just think ‘what’s the point?’ It’s a shame, too, because the film’s ending is alright.
The final 15 minutes of the movie are creepy and reveal an interesting twist, but it’s the definition of too little, too late.
1.5 out of 3 blood spattered cakes.
The Burning (1981)
A 180 from the film written about above, “The Burning” is pure 80s slasher goodness. A caretaker burned in a prank years ago at a summer camp comes back for revenge and attacks!
The film has a plethora of creative, bloody kills that are perfectly over the top. There’s an especially great moment of carnage with a group of campers on a canoe where the villain strikes.
The special effects team deserves credit for B-movie gore, and the makeup for the burned villain has a low budget charm, too. Unsurprisingly, the film used the talents of Tom Savini, who also did special effects or “Dawn of the Dead,” “Friday the 13th” and more.
There are a few great shots like the one above with the low angle that add to the movie as well.
It’s all put together in a tight 90-minute timeframe and includes all the other slasher shenanigans that the genre is well known for.
3 out of 3 chopped off fingers.