Geeks A Gogo recently screened Red Serial Film's latest picture, The Bloody Man. This is a horror film set in the 80s, co-written and directed by He-Man enthusiast Daniel Benedict, and Casi Clark. The 80s nostalgia is palpable from the film's opening sequence, which pans around a dimly-lit child's room, full of He-Man, GI Joe, and Transformers action figures, set to the sound of synthesizers. It really sets the tone for the sort of horror/adventure film where kids are the protagonists. Just the sort of film to come out of the 80s that are still beloved today.
Though, it is a horror film, The Bloody Man pays homage to multiple genres and films from the era. The opening sequence shows our protagonist, Sam, running after the school bus in an homage to "Feris Bueller's Day Off". The comical wrestling enthusiast school principal could easily be a zany character out of a film like "Better off Dead" or "Revenge of the Nerds". We even get a few subtle references, such as the offhand comment about "not letting them get wet after midnight", which is a clear reference to "Gremlins". As well Sam's stepmother, Kim even delivers a line from Star Trek 3: the Search for Spock. And of course, everyone in the film is a Cub's fan, hinting that it's set somewhere in the Chicago suburbs, just like every John Hughes film!
The attention to detail is absolutely incredible, especially for a film made on a crowd-funded budget of $15,000. The clothing, hairstyles, the cars, and even the soda machines in the background make everything look like the 1980s. The only thing that gives away that the movie wasn't flimed 30-something years ago is the fact that the video quality is better, though the poster for Daniel's 2015 film Fall of Greyskull on Sam's wall is another hint.
As for the story, the protagonist, Sam, saddened by the death of his mother dabbles in magic that he finds in the back of a comic book. It's a quintessential 80s plotline, that leads to Sam and his family encountering a ghostly entity--The Bloody Man. The film is punctuated with callbacks to the Bloody Man's origin, which gives the villain something of a Candyman vibe. A good portion of the story is told in flashbacks and dream sequences, including the film's most memorable scene, in which Sam re-imagines the trauma of finding out about his mother's death while taking a standardized test in school. It's a chilling scene that probably makes the biggest impact of the movie.
Of course, it wouldn't be an 80s film if Sam and his siblings didn't band together to face the Bloody Man, following in the traditions of movies like the Goonies, the Lost Boys, or the Nightmare on Elm Street series. This is quite fitting given that the film prominently features Nightmare on Elm Street veteran actresses Tuesday Knight as Sam's stepmother, and Lisa Wilcox as Sam's mother. The two of them certainly bring a feel of authenticity to the film that strives so hard to emulate 80s horror. As well, the final confrontation is definitely fitting for the type of film, with the scrappy band of kids facing the Bloody Man himself, whose appearance brings to mind the cenobytes the Hellraiser series when we finally see him.
Overall, if you're an 80s horror fan, this film is for you. Just trying to catch all of the references to individual movies and the genres popularized in that decade made it a fun watch. It definitely is on the level of the sort of sometimes silly B horror films that many of us love to re-watch--and that's because it's trying to be. It does its job so well that I'll definitely slip it into one of my horror film marathons this Halloween.