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[Nightstream ’21] ‘Boardinghouse’ review: A look at early 80s decadence in a nonsensical slasher

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Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.

Listen to the latest episode of the AIPT Movies Podcast!

Boardinghouse is a supernatural slasher from 1982 that has the distinction of being the first horror movie shot on video. A group of young models and actresses move into a Los Angeles boarding house that was the site of a number of bizarre deaths. Before long, strange events begin to happen. Thankfully, their landlord may have the secret needed to protect them.

The slasher sub genre has never been known for having deep characters. Even the much celebrated Final Girl is just horror’s version of a Mary Sue. Boardinghouse makes sure to live up to these standards. The six women who live in the house have little personality aside from the clothes they are – and just as often, are not – wearing. Jim is the playboy with psychic powers who has to sleep with them all.

Being made in the early 1980s, the movie is a mix of the materialism the 80s would come to be known for and the decadence of the 1970s.  There are jokes about the best things being head and coke while there is a random mannequin head and a can of Coke on a table, an actor who seemed to be so embarrassed to be a part of Boardinghouse they came in a wig that even the producers of Samurai Cop would think was too much, and Jim is seen as often meditating in a thong as he is fully dressed. Things take place in the 80s world of Los Angeles where looking good and having lots of possessions was more important than having reliable income or a future.

[Nightstream '21] 'Boardinghouse' review: A look at early 80s decadence in a nonsensical slasher

The plot is so unimportant that it is basically ignored for the majority of Boardinghouse. There is some text accompanied by ear piercing beeping in the opening that sets a backstory that is not revisited until the last ten minutes. It still does not make much sense, but at least there is something that ties the seemingly random events of the past hour and a half together.

Despite everything the movie does wrong – or maybe because of them – there is a charm to the whole thing. Boardinghouse is a silly no-frills watch that can be watched with little thought. Things happen before being forgotten about in time for the next scene. Everyone alternates between acting like their scared and genuinely having fun.  It may not be perfect, but it sure is enjoyable

Nightstream takes place virtually from October 7 – October 13

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