8. The Killing of Satan (Efren C. Pinon, 1983, Philippines)
Screenplay by Joe Mari Avellana
I was first turned on to this film by my dear friend the late great exploitation film writer Andy Copp (you can check out his blog Exploitation Nation 2 here) who sent me a VHS copy many moons ago. I was delighted to see The Killing of Satan getting its due in the pages of Bleeding Skull and was inspired to watch it again.
Two men use magic to combat evil supernatural forces and wind up in a face to face showdown with Satan himself. Yes, Satan is portrayed as a man in a tuxedo with horns on his head. This is a low-budget Filipino production, surely you weren’t expecting Tim Curry from Legend.
Prolific director Pinon, not given enough attention in Mark Hartley’s eminently re-watchable documentary on Filipino exploitation cinema Machete Maidens Unleashed (2010), makes the most of his limited resources and creates some unique and memorable moments like the black magic attack that makes an opponent’s head spin (literally) at the beginning of the film and a great battle later on between one of the film’s protagonists and a snake boy that takes place inside a cave.
Put this one on a double feature with the previously mentioned Mystics in Bali. Pinon also directed a number of films with lesser known martial arts action star/very bad actor Leo Fong including a heist film about a gang of sightless thieves called Blind Rage (1978) and The Enforcer from Death Row (1978) co-directed by Marshall M. Borden.
9. The Devil’s Sword (Ratno Timoer, 1984, Indonesia)
Screenplay by Imam Tantowi
A warrior must face mortal and supernatural obstacles in his quest to retrieve the titular weapon and destroy a powerful sorceress known as the Alligator Queen.
The protagonist Mandala is played by Barry Prima, best known for starring in the Warrior action film trilogy that made him a big star.
The Devil’s Sword contains absolutely stunning sequences including an insane battle between Mandala’s enemies and an attack on a ferry by alligator/human hybrids.
Do the effects live up to the tantalizing scene descriptions? This is an Indonesian film from the 1980s. You know the answer to that question. Indonesian filmmakers of this period never let budgetary restrictions prevent them from attempting very ambitious sequences and The Devil’s Sword is no different but the film separates itself from the sword & sorcery pack of its day with creativity and wild energy.
10. Wild Beasts (Franco Prosperi, 1984, Italy)
Screenplay by Prosperi & Antonio Accolla
Contaminated water causes captive animals to escape from a zoo and start a wave of bestial destruction in this late entry in the Revolt of Nature horror film cycle that began in the early 1970s and kicked into high gear after the massive success of Jaws in 1975.
Wild Beasts lacks the narrative drive of the William Girdler classics Grizzly (1976) and Day of the Animals (1977) but its urban setting allows for scenes very rarely seen in the subgenre such as a cheetah chasing a speeding car, a tiger attack in a subway train and the almost surreal image of a polar bear breaking through a mirror as it unleashes an assault on a dance school.
Through these unique sequences and gruesome moments such as the death by head-crushing elephant stomp, the film delivers the kind of animal mayhem only hinted at in Peter R. Hunt’s similar but far more subdued TV movie The Beasts Are On The Streets (1978).
Wild Beasts suggests an even more disturbing apocalypse in the film’s final moments as children who drank the contaminated water start to go murderously insane. Instead of expanding on this narrative idea that would very likely have resulted in a better film, Wild Beasts instead simply gives the audience an abrupt ending.
Wild Beasts is a rare foray into narrative filmmaking from notorious filmmaker Prosperi who is best known as the maker of the “mondo” documentaries Mondo Cane (1962), Mondo Cane 2 (1963) and Africa Addio (aka Africa Blood & Guts, 1966) along with his directing partner Gualtiero Jacopetti.
11. Mr. Vampire (Ricky Lau, 1985, Hong Kong)
Screenplay by Lau, Cheuk-Hon Szeto, Barry Wong & Ying Wong
The late Lam Ching Ying stars as Master Kau, a Taoist priest who finds himself in a battle with a powerful hopping vampire. Sporting superbly executed action sequences, this film is part of that very rare breed of horror-comedies that actually work and is much more memorable than other similar Hong Kong films such as Sammo Hung’s Encounters of the Spooky Kind (1980).
One of the great films of this important era of Hong Kong genre filmmaking, Mr. Vampire was highly influential, spawning both a series of unsatisfying sequels and number of imitators. The talented Lam Ching Ying would play similar Savant-type characters in such films as Wei Tung’s enjoyable Magic Cop (1990) before his death from cancer in 1997.
12. A Chinese Ghost Story (Ching Siu Tung, 1987, Hong Kong)
Screenplay by Gai Chi Yuen based on the Songling Pu novel
A tax collector falls in love with a beautiful ghost then is aided by a Taoist warrior-priest in a battle with a tree demon to free the ghost’s soul in this classic of the 1980s golden age of Hong Kong filmmaking.
A Chinese Ghost Story, a film too often credited to producer Tsui Hark and not director Ching Siu Tung, features great action sequences and a tremendous climax that takes place in Hell.
The film spawned 2 sequels that fail to capture the charm of the original, an animated feature film and a 2011 remake along with many imitators.
It’s worth noting that A Chinese Ghost Story, despite some light-hearted moments during the film including the warrior-priest’s out of the blue performance of a song about Taoism, actually has a very downbeat ending that isn’t commented on very much when this film is discussed.
13. Zombi 3 (Lucio Fulci & Bruno Mattei, 1988, Italy)
Screenplay by Claudio Fragasso
Who says Italian horror cinema was in severe decline by the late 1980s? Okay, everybody. And they’re right. However, there were some very enjoyable films made in the latter part of the Italian horror wave. As you may know, George Romero’s landmark 1978 Dawn of the Dead, was released in Italy under the title Zombi. Lucio Fulci’s 1979 cult favorite Zombie was also known as Zombi 2 in an effort to present the film as a sequel to Romero’s hit.
This led to Zombi 3 which was shot in the Philippines. The film follows a trio of soldiers fighting the undead following an epidemic initiated by the cremation of an infected man’s body.
The film features some wild sequences including an attack by reanimated birds and an assault by an undead machete-wielding assailant that almost comically redefines the phrase “fast zombie”.
Director Lucio Fulci left Zombi 3 during production and Bruno Mattei completed the film which, despite being a bit of a mess, is actually quite entertaining and remains a better film than Mattei’s more frequently sought out and discussed zombie film Hell of the Living Dead (1980).
14. Shocking Dark (Bruno Mattei, 1989, Italy)
Screenplay by Claudio Fragasso
Anyone who thinks Enzo Castellari’s The Last Shark (aka Great White, 1981) is the pinnacle of Italian genre movie rip-offs has yet to see this film. Shocking Dark, also known as Terminator II, shows the Italian cinematic exploitation machine at its most blatantly plagiaristic in this tale of a group of soldiers attacked by monsters in an underground research station in futuristic Venice.
Scenes from James Cameron’s sci-fi action classics The Terminator (1984) and Aliens (1986) are very poorly recreated in this low-budget film from director Mattei of Hell of the Living Dead (1980) and Rats: Night of Terror (1984) cult fame.
Is this film absurd? Absolutely. Ridiculous? Almost stunningly so. But if you know what you are getting into before watching Shocking Dark, the film is actually very entertaining in its own strange, almost inexplicable way.
15. Maniac Cop 2 (William Lustig, 1990, USA)
Screenplay by Larry Cohen
Robert Z’Dar returns to play the homicidal disfigured Matt Cordell as director Lustig and screenwriter Cohen reunite for this sequel to their 1987 hit Maniac Cop. Cordell forms a strange partnership with a serial murderer as police detectives attempt to stop the former peace officer’s deadly rampage.
At one point the titular villain attacks a police station in a superbly directed sequence that easily rivals if not tops the police station assault in James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984).
Maniac Cop 2 is superior to the original and features some truly incredible analog era stunt work including a very long full body burn during the film’s prison break climax.
The film also includes the same flashback scene from the first Maniac Cop film showing Cordell being attacked by knife-wielding assailants in a prison shower. This scene stood as the greatest naked shower/bathhouse fight scene in cinema history until David Cronenberg topped it with the incredible Viggo Mortensen battle in Eastern Promises (2007).
William Lustig may be best known as the director of the notoriously grimy 1980 psychopath film Maniac but Maniac Cop 2 is his masterpiece. The thoroughly disappointing troubled production Maniac Cop 3 was made in 1993.
This article was inspired by the work of the Bleeding Skull crew Joseph Ziemba, Dan Budnik, Annie Choi and Zack Carlson. Bleeding Skull began life in 2004 as a film review site. In 2013 Joseph and Dan co-authored the must-read book Bleeding Skull: A 1980’s Trash-Horror Odyssey and in 2014 Joseph and Zack launched Bleeding Skull Video which currently offers the obscure oddities Card of Death, The Soultangler and Run Coyote Run. You can check out all these incarnations at http://bleedingskull.com/.
As their releases might suggest, there’s going deep into the genre film catalogue then there’s what these guys do. From hard to find horror and action films to shot-on-video mind-benders, these fearless archaeologists of the arcane put no limits on their cinematic exploration as they take their readers from the darkest depths of the backwoods to the surreal netherworlds of Indonesia to the far reaches of the Quadead Zone.
If you are the kind of cinephile who loves to debate the merits of various killer Santa Claus movies or are struggling with what order to put your best Bigfoot films list in, hit the digital and printed pages of Bleeding Skull and enhance your own exploration into the world of lesser known genre cinema of a bygone era.
Author Bio: Terek Puckett is an actor, screenwriter and film writer based in Los Angeles. He is a graduate of Wright State University in Ohio and his areas of film expertise include horror cinema and neo-film noir. More of his film writing can be seen here: http://www.soundonsight.org/author/terek-puckett/.