80s in Kino Scala – a feast of Eighties classics!

Do you feel the need, the need for speed, etc? If so, the place for you on 21st April is Kino Scala, who are screening five classic movies from the Eighties – Gremlins, Top Gun, Videodrome, Sex, Lies and Videotape, and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

You can find the complete programme at the cinema’s webpage.

The popularity of the Eighties shows no sign of slowing down, and as many have already pointed out, pop culture’s fascination with the era has lasted far longer than the decade itself. Most pinpoint the early 2000s as the start of the current (almost two decade long) love-in with the Eighties, but in reality, it started far earlier than that – movies like Scream and The Wedding Singer got the retro party started in the second half of the Nineties.

So what is it about the Eighties which is so appealing? When it comes to film, home video played a major part. It was the first fully rewindable decade, which meant kids and teens could re-watch and geek out to their favourite movies at home, allowing people to form a really intimate bond with those films. It’s one thing watching a flick seven times at your local fleapit, and another watching it over and over in your bedroom – when you take a movie home with you, it becomes yours. I think this is why so many people forged such strong attachments to classic and cult films of the time.

The Nineties may have been when everyone became a film nerd, but for many people of my generation it was the Eighties when we fell in love with movies in the first place, and those childhood favourites get passed down like cherished heirlooms. I’ve already started with my three-year-old daughter – she’s probably watched Star Wars (she calls it “The Robot Film”) about ten times. Now I’m thinking, how old does she need to be for Raiders of the Lost Ark? Or Ghostbusters? Or The Thing?

Scala’s ’80s marathon opens with Joe Dante’s cheerfully nasty horror comedy, Gremlins. It’s the story of a nice kid who gets a cute exotic pet for Christmas – one that multiplies on contact with water, burns up in sunlight, and turns into a cackling monster if fed after midnight. Needless to say, all three things happen, unleashing merry havoc on the unsuspecting inhabitants of a small Bedford Falls-esque town. Gremlins is showing in a family friendly slot, and while it is probably a bit too scary for younger children, older kids should love the dark humour and splattery special effects.

Next up in Tony Scott’s bombastic, jingoistic Top Gun, one of the most obnoxious films of the Eighties – and I mean all that as a compliment. Top Gun is a movie where the smarmy protagonist, fighter pilot Maverick (Tom Cruise), thinks it’s fun to fly a jet plane upside down a couple of meters over the top of another jet so he can flip the rival pilot the bird – because he’s just that kind of guy. It’s all about the fastest planes, the biggest motorbikes, the coolest shades, the most neon-lit bars. It is overblown, self-serious and utterly ridiculous, in the most brazenly pumped up Eighties way. As such it’s compulsive viewing and should work an absolute treat on the big screen.

After an “80s Audiovisual Mix”, the event takes a change of pace and mood with David Cronenberg’s disturbing, prescient Videodrome. Sleazy James Woods is perfectly cast as a sleazy producer of a seedy TV channel, who’s always on the lookout for more violent and salacious material to titillate his audience. He discovers a mysterious channel called Videodrome that apparently shows real torture and murder, and gets hooked. He starts experiencing horrific hallucinations and gets drawn into a paranoid plot, with grim results. It’s undoubtedly an important film in Cronenberg’s body of work, but I’m not sure how it plays after two crowd pleasers like Gremlins and Top Gun – it’s the kind of movie you need a shower after watching, just to get the scumminess off you.

There’s another break for some Live Dubbing in the Scala Bar, then the program takes another sharp left turn with Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies and Videotape. It’s talky and a little rough around the edges, with none of the slick stylishness of Soderbergh’s later hits, but it is still refreshingly frank about sex and relationships. It is also hugely influential – the film won the Palm d’Or at Cannes and gave the whole American indie scene a massive boost, paving the way for the likes of Richard Linklater, Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith a few years later.

After another break for a Czech film from the ’80s, Bony a Klid, the event concludes with a bona fide classic, Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. A bunch of high school kids are stalked and murdered in their sleep by a hideously burned child killer sporting a fedora, a striped jumper, and a glove tipped with razor blades – Freddy Krueger. Krueger, along with Michael Myers (Halloween) and Jason Vorhees (Friday the 13th) was one of the titans of the Eighties horror phenomenon, with each franchise spawning endless inferior sequels.

The film deals in the same kind of horror tropes Craven would poke fun at twelve years later in Scream – dumb jump scares, characters wandering off into the dark to investigate strange sounds – and some of the effects are a little goofy, but the core conceit is timeless. Being preyed upon while you’re at your most vulnerable gives the film an almost mythic power, and some of the imagery is indelible. It’s brisk, brutal, genuinely frightening, and also great fun – a superb way to bring the event to a close.

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I’d love to see more Eighties movies on the big screen in Brno in future, maybe with some more leftfield choices – Killer Klowns from Outer Space, anyone? If you could choose five movies to best represent the decade, what would be your perfect line up?

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