#4. Kiss of the Spider Woman
I was convinced that Kiss of the Spider Woman was about either A) a ghost-faced monster lady who catches people in a giant spider web and eats them to death, or B) a superheroine with powers comparable to Spider Woman breaking up cartel supply rings in the South American jungle. I'm pretty sure one of my parents patiently tried to correct my thunderous inaccuracy, but I didn't give one scalding Red Lobster shit because I'd already decided I was right. In my defense, it says "Spider Woman" in the title. You can't call your movie Handshake of the Batman unless motherfucking Batman shows up to congratulate somebody or accept an award. Hollywood marketing depends on this kind of preteen logic, so based on that righteous poster, I felt entirely justified in expecting either Spider Woman or a spider woman.
As anyone with a duck's buttfeather more cultural awareness than I have probably already knows, Kiss of the Spider Woman is actually a powerful drama about two political prisoners sharing a cell in Brazil and eventually falling in love with each other.
Honestly, it's a pretty good movie (unlike everything else on this list), and I'm not here to make fun of it, but if you study that picture for a moment, you'll notice that there isn't a spider woman anywhere in sight. Nobody gets fed to a spider woman by evil jailers, and no domino-masked super lady comes punching through the wall to stage a daring rescue. Those two dudes pretty much sit there telling each other stories for the entire movie until one of them gets shot. I will admit that if that had been on the poster instead, they probably would've sold a lot less tickets.
Because no one wants to go out of their way to see William Hurt in earrings and makeup.
#3. DeepStar Six
I figured DeepStar Six was about sea monsters from space, because I was a child of the 1980s with more enthusiasm than sense. Unspeakable deep-ocean beasts and screaming interdimensional massacre lizards were two things that I always felt should join forces, and this poster seemed to indicate that someone in Hollywood agreed with me. The tagline virtually declares that DeepStar Six is about aliens who crash landed at the bottom of the ocean and are now wreaking havoc on humanity. There's even a brilliant bright light blazing up from the ocean floor, which I assumed to be the "Door Ajar" lamp on the aliens' submerged spacecraft. Also, that dive suit totally looks like an astronaut. There are so many outer space references on this poster that the ocean seems incidental to the story, sort of like Cocoon, or Sphere, or Jamie Lee Curtis' Virus.
However, DeepStar Six is really just about a giant shrimp terrorizing a group of deep sea researchers and Miguel Ferrer.
Especially Miguel Ferrer.
And I'm not being reductive for the purpose of hilarious comedy -- it is literally a giant prehistoric shrimp. There are no aliens, no spaceship, and no flaring underwater spotlight. Just an angry dinosauric crustacean. Somebody does get bitten in half while wearing a dive suit, so I guess the poster isn't totally lying, but that doesn't happen until the last 20 minutes of the film, and it is not the central thesis of the work like the poster would have you believe. Also, that doesn't excuse all the blatant space bullshit. The tagline should read "Not all aliens come from space. But every sea monster comes from the sea. And that's what this movie is about. That second thing. Boy, it's kind of weird we even mentioned space, huh? DEEPSTAR SIX. CATCH IT."
#2. Dinosaur Island
Video stores throughout the 1980s were full of things like this:
MGM, Universal Studios, MGM
So when I saw Dinosaur Island sitting on the shelf, I assumed it was another barbarian movie, only with dinosaurs instead of fantasy monsters, and the standard amount of busty women in bear fur bikinis struggling heroically to keep their breasts from exploding outward like self-inflating emergency rafts. One of the main characters' parents almost certainly gets killed in a village raid, there will be hilarious amounts of gore to compensate for the terrible special effects, and the dinosaurs may or may not be at the whim of an evil sorcerer. In other words, I believed it was the greatest film of my generation, and that watching it as many times as possible was my cultural duty.
In actuality, Dinosaur Island is one of the most gratuitous soft-core pornos in the history of elaborate masturbation. Four bumbling soldiers get marooned on a mysterious island full of sexually insatiable cavewomen who worship a depressing tyrannosaurus with some sort of skeletal deformity.
Battling the tyrannosaurus is the only thing any of the characters do that doesn't involve flapping, sweaty nudity. Every other scene plays out like a word problem written by a sexually frustrated geometry teacher.
"The bullets aren't working! Should we try having sex with it?"
Seriously, Dinosaur Island contains the most simulated sexual acts I have ever seen in a single movie. It should have been called Nipple Island, and Also There's a Dinosaur.
#1. Silent Night, Deadly Night
This is the movie I most wanted to watch when I was a kid, for reasons that I can't really explain and elementary school guidance counselors are probably still discussing. Suffice it to say that I always liked horror movies, and something about Santa coming down the chimney to beef people with an ax really appealed to me. In my mind, it was the right combination of terrifying and hilarious, and the box art is truly a masterpiece of simplicity. The tagline is irrelevant -- I know what this movie is about, Tinseltown. No need to try to sell me on the details.
As you might have guessed, I was wrong. Somefuckinghow, I was totally wrong about Silent Night, Deadly Night. The first hour of the film is devoted to a meticulously detailed character study of a little boy who witnesses his parents get murdered by an armed robber in a Santa suit. I'm not kidding -- it begins with the incident, and then you watch the little boy gradually grow up in an orphanage and continue to suffer emotional and physical abuse at the hands of the nuns in charge. It's like a Darren Aronofsky film, only more disquieting and horrible.
"I'll beat that rage and hostile resentment out of you yet!"
He turns 18 and moves out to get a job at a toy store, and when the store manager asks him to play Santa, he finally snaps and goes on a killing spree with about 30 minutes left in the movie.
The box art wasn't totally misleading, because a man does dress up like Santa and go around killing people, but I was expecting Friday the 13th with Santa Claus instead of Jason. This is more like Taxi Driver if Travis Bickle had worked for the Salvation Army. It's this super intense psychological horror movie that randomly becomes a slasher film for the final third of its runtime.
And the guy never goes down anyone's chimney.