STRANGE BEHAVIOR (1981)
A must-see for John Carpenter fans, Michael Laughlin’s Strange Behavior is part comedy, part slasher, part homage to 50s sci-fi-horror, generously slathered in ennui and paced accordingly. Michael Murphy plays an policeman, widower, and single dad who spends most of his time sighing and collapsing into chairs. Until a string of high school kids are murdered, and his son (Dan Shor) starts acting spooky. Academy Award winner Louise Fletcher lends a hand. The pensive T. Dream score matches the wallpaper and keeps us on our toes by omitting conventional cues:
Michael Mann’s first movie, Thief (1981), set the bar for his career. His signature is already stamped on every frame: macho melodrama, neon lights, spectacular set pieces, slow-mo battles, cutting to music and so on. Frank (James Caan) is a safe cracker eager to exit the criminal underworld and start a family with his newest wife (Tuesday Weld). Willie Nelson plays Frank’s mentor, and Dennis Farina, in his first movie role, has non-speaking part as a hired goon.
Spoiler alert. Things don’t work out for Frank. Yet, thanks to Tangerine Dream, his ultimate rampage of destruction feels like a triumph.
THE KEEP (1983)
Michael Mann’s stoner movie. What if the Nazis had won? What if they invaded a haunted fortress in the Carpathian Alps in 1961? Can a motorcyle-riding mystery man protect Romania from the Nazis and the black magic they’ve unleashed? The Keep’s plot is a stretch, but the soundtrack fit. Turns out dark, windy corridors are a perfect spot for space rock.
NEAR DARK (1987)
Kathryn Bigelow’s first movie is a Western with redneck vampires. Well, technically, vampires can’t be rednecks. but these bloodsucking Winnebago-dwellers come pretty close. Wafting among the tumbleweeds is electronic music of the extreme 80s variety, Tangerine Dream’s contribution to this gonzo experiment in genre.