The Children (1980)

Despite it being a victim of the dark picture quality felled by many horror films at the time, the Children makes up for it with an original story, oddball dialogue and effective music. If you have seen the early Friday the 13ths enough, you may do a double take for the musical score. Turns out that it was by Harry Manfredini, fresh off the first Friday the 13th that same year. In fact it wouldn’t be a surprise if segments of his score were used for both films. The music works chillingly for this eerie film about robot-zombie-like kids with black finger nails frying the townsfolk and their own parents after their school bus passes through a cloud leaked from a nuclear plant. Awesome concept, though the Children falls just short of being a cornerstone of horror. Too many questions are left unanswered. Why do the children have a desire to kill? How are they able to sizzle people by hugging them? Why is there a nuclear plant nearby? Why aren’t the parents more concerned when their kids are missing? And many more. The conversations also have some explaining to do: “Is Janet home? / Aren’t you a little old for her sheriff? She’s only nine.” Ha! Why would a parent even be THINKING THAT, even if jokingly!? Best part is when they realize how to stop the kids, cause bullets sure as hell don’t work! [rating: $6] –Kenyon

April Fool’s Day (1986)

April Fool’s Day (1986) One of several slasher films from the early 80s that uses a day of the year as a gimmick, April Fool’s Day features an all-star cast of actors who have been seen elsewhere in movies that were more memorable. This includes Thomas Wilson (Biff from Back to the Future), Deborah Foreman (Valley Girl) and Amy Steele (essentially reprising her role as a heroine from Friday the 13th Part 2). Unfortunately, their combined forces aren’t able to help this tongue in cheek horror flick stand out from its peers, even with it’s April Fool’s “twist.” A group of college kids are invited to a secluded home of a mutual friend, who has set up all sorts of tricks, like dribble glasses and chairs with faulty legs. Before you can say “formulaic” the kids start disappearing and heads and body parts are found. It wouldn’t be half-bad if the movie continued on a safe, well-traveled path. Instead, its effort to manipulate the viewer (and two lead characters) disregards important scenes in the movie’s plot development, as if the movie itself doesn’t know which way to go. Once the surprise ending sucks the life out of the party, April Fool’s has more in common with the mystery comedy Clue than an average and more honest vintage slasher. [rating: $3] –Kenyon