Dungeon Classics #26: The Running Man

FilmDungeon’s Chief Editor JK sorts through the Dungeon’s DVD-collection to look for old cult favorites….

The Running Man (1987, USA)

Director: Paul Michael Glaser
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Conchita Alonso, Yaphet Kotto
Running Time: 101 mins.

The Running Man is an adaptation from a book by Stephan King (published under his pseudonym Richard Bachman) and it’s another cult classic from Schwarzenegger’s golden years. It is about a futuristic game show (the film is set in 2017-2019) in which contestants have to escape violent hunters – who go by names such as Buzzsaw and Fireball – who try to kill them. Ben Richards (Schwarzenegger), who was framed by the totalitarian government for a mass killing at a protest, is forced to participate. That’s bad luck for the hunters! The film is shot as a typical American game show and it’s very enjoyable. Truth be told, the film didn’t age extremely well, but in Schwarz’s eighties/nineties action movie benchmark, it still manages to almost score a position in the top tier. And that is saying something! When Arnold Schwarzenegger ran for governor, he rode around in a campaign bus and named it after this film. Unfortunately, this was the final movie for Richard Dawson (who plays gameshow host Kilian) and Erland van Lidth (who plays hunter Dynamo).

Double Bill #03: The Terminator & Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Forget all the sequels for a minute, and consider the first two The Terminator movies as a diptych. As a diptych, they work perfectly. The first one is a hyper tense thriller, the second one a sensational action movie. The major downside of The Terminator movies, I always thought, is that you have to accept an extremely unlikely plot point. We’re supposed to buy that in the future, the resistance somehow found out about the machines’ new time travel capabilities, and destroyed their one and only time machine after they used it for the very first time. Not only that, the resistance also managed to send through one of their own soldiers before they blew it up. Since the humans are shown to be pretty much cannon fodder in their own environment, how would they be able to penetrate the machines’ base of operations? Anyway, this plot device was necessary to get a futuristic killer robot into the present to stalk the Conners (Sarah in the first, John in the second). Once you accept this unlikely scenario, the execution of both movies is pretty much perfect. In the first Terminator, Schwarz is truly scary as the ultimate hunter-killer. A great move by writer-director James Cameron is that Arnie’s T-800 joins the good team in part 2, but it is now technologically outdated. The new and improved terminator – the T-1000 – is perhaps the coolest non-human character ever created for a film. These movies have inspired countless others with their stories and special effects. The Matrix would never have happened if it wasn’t for these terminators. With more than a whiff of philosophy (“it is in your nature to destroy yourselves”), the two The Terminator movies also deliver deeper, underlying messages apart from just giving us the spectacle. Although there is more than enough from that. In T2, it even goes on pretty much non-stop. You could consider that another downside or just as a realistic screenplay measure following the unlikely time travel plot. After all, once you have a killer like the T-1000 on your tail, a non-stop rollercoaster is what you would get.

My 10 Favorite Horror Movies Ever

Checked and double checked. Darlings killed! This is it:

10. Bad Taste (1987)

Peter Jackson’s inventive low budget debut film is a delight in gory horror and awesome humor. It’s about aliens coming to New Zealand to set-up a supply chain in human flesh for their intergalactic fast food restaurants. What they didn’t count on was secret agent Derek (played by Jackson himself) and his team! Great to see that the visionary director behind The Lord of the Rings trilogy started his career with this hilarious B-movie.

Greatest Moment: The vomit scene: ‘ahhhh, l think the gruel is ready!!’

09. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Back at the old days, they made great films too, you know. And the Universal Monster Movies are not to be ignored when you’re rating your all-time favorite horrors. The beautiful gothic scenery, spot-on art direction, excellent make-up effects, the universal themes, the humor (the monster smoking a cigar!)… The Bride of Frankenstein is the best in its genre and at least as impressive in the time it was made as its contemporary counterparts. Ehhh, which contemporary counterparts by the way?

Greatest moment: The monster and the hermit.

08. Army of Darkness (1992)

You want some more Evil Dead? Come get some! Ash is back with a chainsaw attached to his wrist and a boomstick on his back. This time around he’s kicking Evil’s ass in medieval times. Isn’t it groovy? Well, yes it is. Besides Raimi’s action-packed script and trademark camera tricks, fans can enjoy a brilliant turn from B-Movie star Bruce Campbell. With his masterful comic timing, loads of one-liners and his lady man skills, he makes Ash a truly lovable hero. Not to mention a horror icon. Hail to the King baby!

Greatest moment: The pit.

07. Scream (1996)

This postmodern take on the slasher genre is both an incredible homage and superb addition to the genre. The screenplay by Kevin Williamson is masterfully written and director Wes Craven finds exactly the right balance between suspense, teenage stupidity, humor and extreme violence. Followed by three decent sequels (and a tv-show), but this first one is the best by far.

Greatest Moment: The revelation who the killer is.

06. Predator (1987)

The first Predator is an unique movie that holds a very special place in my heart. The concept is fairly simple (mysterious alien hunts and kills soldiers and mercenaries in South American jungle), the execution is flawless. It features the greatest team of warriors ever assembled that faces off against the greatest alien ever created for cinema. It’s just awesome in every way.

Greatest moment: There are many great scenes featuring the predator, but Schwarzenegger’s team butchering an entire guerrilla army is so bad-ass that I have to pick that one.

5. Dead Ringers (1988)

Two bodies. Two minds. One Soul. Separation can be a terrifying thing.
No monsters or killers are needed to make a creepy film. The human psyche can be terrifying enough by itself. Jeremy Irons gives an Oscar worthy double performance as a pair of twins who become mentally intertwined together. Brilliant psychological horror by master of bodily transformation, David Cronenberg.

Greatest Moment: The superbly creepy credit sequence and the unsettling ending.

04. Psycho (1960)

Psycho is such an inspirational film that it spawned an entire genre of slasher / serial killer movies. With its groundbreaking narrative techniques and tension building it’s hard to deny the importance of Hitchcock’s masterpiece in cinema history. Janet Leigh is a joy to watch and so is Anthony Perkins in his lunatic performance.

Greatest moment: The shower scene off course, which is completely shocking to this day.

03. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

The scariest horror movie of my childhood and frankly an almost traumatic experience. I recently saw it and even though the scare effect is weakened down somewhat, it is still a deeply chilling experience. Master of Horror Wes Craven takes all the terrible emotions the worst nightmares can cause and uses them to maximum effect.

Greatest moment: The protagonist Nancy has a number of terrifying dreams.

02. Evil Dead II (1987)

Groovy! Comedy and scares are effectively combined in this sequel to Raimi’s classic The Evil Dead*. Yes, it is a sequel, the beginning is just an altered summary of the first flick. Bruce Campbell makes Ash a true horror icon as he chops up his girlfriend and fight his own hand. Slapstick humor and rapid chainsaw action make this a true classic in the genre and Raimi’s best film. They don’t make ‘m like this anymore. Classic.

Greatest moment: In the cellar with sweet Henrietta. Complete madness.

01. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

This is it, my all-time favorite horror movie. What makes it so good? It is just a trip to become part of Romero’s apocalyptic zombie world for a couple of hours. When used properly as in Dawn of the Dead, zombies are really a marvelous invention. They can be sad, scary, or comical and at the same time serve as a metaphor for the consumerist society. The shopping mall as a zombie survivor stronghold works incredibly well. The movie features well written characters, appropriately disgusting special make-up effects by Tom Savini and great music. It is the most atmospheric horror film; very rich in ideas and horrific imagery. I love it.

Greatest moment: Going shopping off course!


The Evil Dead (1981)

In 1980 three friends went out to shoot a cheap horror movie that was destined to become a genre classic. The handsome one, Bruce Campbell, became the actor of the group. ‘He was the one that girls wanted to look at.’ Sam Raimi later became a top director in Hollywood (directing Spiderman). And finally, Rob Tapert became a successful producer. The Evil Dead is still a very effective horror flick to this day with many unforgettable moments, such as the tree rape scene and blood-soaked finale.

Greatest Moment: The gory climax in the cabin.

Heerlijk nostalgisch: Actiefilms uit de jaren 80/90

Toen ik opgroeide in de jaren 80’ en 90’, de tijd dat we films nog huurden op VHS-tapes bij videotheken, was ik verslaafd aan hersenloze actiefilms. Schwarzenegger, Willis, Stallone, Van Damme en Seagal waren mijn voornaamste helden toen.

Dan was er ook nog de B-klasse waar oa. Dolph Lundgren en Chuck Norris deel van uitmaakte. Of C-klassers zoals Michael Dudikoff (je weet wel. die dude van ‘American Ninja‘). En dan waren er nog Bruce Lee, zijn zoon Brandon Lee, Wesley Snipes, Keanu Reeves, Mel Gibson, Kurt Russell en nog een paar die ik nu vergeet.

Maria Shriver kan hem wel schieten.

De films waren meestal slecht, maar als ze een aantal ingrediënten bevatte was ik blij, namelijk;
1. Een vermakelijke schurk;
2. Minstens om het kwartier een actiescène of moord;
3. Lijken bij bosjes;
4. Humor (eventueel).

Van de week werd mijn lust voor dit genre weer opgewekt door een artikel dat ik las op filmwebsite Empire. Hier worden veel van mijn favoriete actiefilms besproken, zoals ‘Predator’ en ‘Commando’. De meeste hiervan heb ik sinds mijn jeugd nog minstens één keer gezien, maar eentje was ik bijna compleet vergeten. Ik heb het over één van mijn favoriete films uit die tijd. Een film die uitblinkt in stompzinnige actiescènes en explosies, geen verhaal bevat, maar wel enorm slecht acteerwerk. Ik heb het over ‘Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection‘.

Ik kreeg zo’n verschrikkelijke zin om deze film weer te zien, dat ik direct het winkelcentrum ben in gerend om hem aan te schaffen. Bij Intertoys had ik geluk en voor drie miezerige euro’s was ik eigenaar van Delta Force 2, die ook nog eens geleverd werd in een fantastische box, waar ook de toppers ‘Delta Force 1’ en ‘Logan’s War’ bij zaten.

Die tagline! Dat doet gewoon iets met je.

Zo geschiedde. Afgelopen weekend keek ik naar fucking ‘Delta Force 2’. In de eerste ‘Delta Force’ namen Scott McCoy en zijn collega ijzervreters het op tegen Libanese terroristen. In deel 2 zijn de drugskartels in Zuid Amerika aan de beurt. Aan het hoofd hiervan staat de ultieme smeerlap Ramon Cota, die zelfs baby’s laat vermoorden. McCoy weet hem te arresteren, maar hij komt weer vrij en ontvoerd wat DEA collega’s van hem. Tijd voor McCoy’s team om met grof geweld het hele kartel om zeep te helpen. Oh yeah.

Hoe voldoet de film aan de criteria?
1. Goed! Billy Drago (wie? Zie IMDb) speelt een gluiperige drugsbaas, een rol die hem op zijn lijf is geschreven. Veel beter kun je het niet krijgen.
2. De actie zit vooral in de tweede helft, waarin de missie ‘vernietig alles’ plaatsvindt. Zodra de actie arriveert, is het het wachten meer dan waard geweest.
3. Circa 75 lijken. Lang niet slecht dus.
4. Humor zit er ook nog in. Het overdreven Amerikaanse militaire machogedoe lijkt bijna een parodie op zichzelf. Een soort ‘Team America: World Police‘. Vrij hilarisch.

Vrijetijdskleding is niet echt zijn ding.

Tijdens de opname zijn trouwens vijf cast & crewmembers om het leven gekomen bij een helikopterongeluk. GESTORVEN-VOOR-FUCKING-DELTA-FORCE-2!! Maar, het is het zeker waard geweest, mannen. Ik had deze film voor geen goud willen missen. Het gevoel van nostalgie heeft me erg goed gedaan.

And remember kids: Don’t fuck with Chuck!

Zie ook mijn IMDb-lijst: 50 Nostalgic Action Movies From My Childhood – 1980-1993