Sunday, May 28, 2023

USA UP ALL NIGHT WEEK: Night Life review by Richard Glenn Schmidt


Night Life by Richard Glenn Schmidt
Thanks Richard for contributing with this review, make sure you check out his website and read all of his books and reviews. Link here

Archie Melville, played by Scott Grimes of Critters (1986), is a smarty pants high school kid with his eyes on college. When Archie’s father passed away, he left the family funeral home business to his dickbagel Uncle Verlin (John Astin) with the stipulation that Archie has to work at the funeral home throughout high school. This way he can earn the money for his college tuition. Thanks, dad! Due to his creepy after school job and his already geeky persona, Archie is a pariah around town, and so a quartet of psycho popular kids are out to get him, but also, they’re just big meanies.

sign of quality?

Archie’s only friend is Charly (Cheryl Pollak), the local grease monkey that the bullies treat like crapola, because they’re just big (sexist) meanies (who don’t believe that girls can work on cars or something). When Charly and Archie dare to stand up to these cretins, the leader named Roger uses his own girlfriend Joanie (Lisa Fuller) as a sexy distraction so that he and his douche-bro can pull a sicko prank on Archie. The prank gets Archie fired from the funeral home, putting his whole future in jeopardy. The joke’s on good old Rog, because he and his crew die that very night in a horrific car accident. Due to Uncle Verlin’s gross incompetence at running the funeral home, this blessing/tragedy actually gets Archie get his job back! 

the laughs are on me!

The fun begins when it turns out that bullies’ car accident was with a tanker truck full of a mysterious gaseous substance (let’s just call it “Chemical X” for now) which, as you well know, means that all it will take to bring them back to life is one lightning bolt! Queue the freak thunderstorm and… Bam! We’ve got Night of the Living Buttholes. Now, Archie and Charly have to fight for their lives against these undead baddies in the feature film from Creative Movie Marketing and Wild Night Productions called Night Life. Rated R. 89 minutes. 

we hate you Scott Grimes!

Damn, that was a lot of plot! And that’s the short version. Anyway, Night Life (1989) is not to be confused with the vampire comedy called Nightlife (also 1989), but what if you did? What would be the actual crime in that, eh? Night Life also has its own identity crisis going on. After a solemn and grotesque opening sequence in the mortuary more appropriate for Joe D’Amato’s Beyond the Darkness (1979), you might think that you’ve got the wrong movie. But no, Night Life is as interested in the gritty realities of the mortuary business as it is in goofing off! 

it's a headlight bustin good time.

Director David Acomba’s big claim to fame is that he directed that cool and weird animated segment in The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978); but specifically catering to my niche interests, he also directed Andrea Martin… Together Again (1989) featuring Martin and some of her SCTV alums. Writer Keith Critchlow didn’t do a whole lot. His only other writing credit is Volunteers (1985), a Tom Hanks/John Candy dud that no one remembers but me. Producers Susan Nicoletti and Charles Lippincott would flush their careers down the toilet on Judge Dredd (1995). On a happier note, effects artist Ed French brought the splatter goods to films like C.H.U.D. (1985), The Stuff (1985), and Blood Rage (1987). 
only Richard remembers this film.

Grimes is very likeable in the lead and I imagine that in real life, he was only ever bullied by people who got mad that Will McCorkle didn’t get his own spin-off series. John Astin, of The Addams Family fame, is way, way too good at playing Uncle Shithead. Oh my God, I found myself yelling at his character when he was onscreen. His blustery blowhard bullslap is infuriating as hell, but at least he utters the immortal line: “Condensation?! Jesus D. God!” 

Lisa played the non virgin in Monster Squad as well.

One of my favorite members of this cast is Lisa Fuller. She was all over the place in the 80s, but it’s her pivotal role as the perky, popular, and perfect Randa in the masterpiece known as Teen Witch (1989) that really warm my heart. And then there’s Cheryl Pollak. The way she delivers dialogue with her nightmarish and whiny inflection is certainly unique, or maybe just bad. Pollak forever stole my soul as Darla Blake, the band-geeky love interest in My Best Friend is a Vampire (1987). Character actor extraordinaire, Alan Blumenfeld, is also here and he calls Archie “a pussy”. He’s always great.

is my hair OK?

Fans of Mortuary (1982) and One Dark Night (1981) would do well to check out Night Life, because this reminds me of those movies in a good way. There are plenty of spooky moments, show stopping gore gags, and cool action set pieces to keep things moving. The ghouls at the end get a bit Terminator-like with their unstoppability bullcarp, but I never get bored. Night Life is a weirdly satisfying film that feels as though it was tailor-made to be caught on cable in the middle of the night and leave you wondering, “What the heck did I just watch?” 

In the May 1989 issue of Fangoria, writer Larry Barsky has an article about his visit to the set of Night Life. He describes being wowed by the big explosive setpiece in the film and talks to members of the cast and crew. Publicist Steve Jones describes the early parts of the film as “pretty much like Ferris Bueller’s Day.” Yeah, I’m still trying to imagine Ferris Bueller dumping a bucket of blood or a severed arm into a dumpster. Sure. Grimes himself tells Barsky that “Night Life has a Lost Boys feel.” Now that I can totally agree with, except no, not at all.

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