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7 Brat Pack-Headlined Thrillers You Might Have Missed

Brat Pack Judd Nelson

Andrew McCarthy’s recent documentary Brats has re-awakened interest in ’80s stars who were saddled with the Brat Pack handle. Only a few films really qualify as true Brat Pack cinema, however. The stars zigged and zagged into other areas, at times working to shake the Brat Pack entanglement with varying results.

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That led to some dark thrillers, sometimes released as features but frequently shot for premium cable debuts. Here are a few flicks that might have slipped past you over the years. And while not perfect, they have some chills and thrills to offer.

Fear (1990)

Ally Sheedy headlines in this crisp psychological thriller that’s more engaging than you might think. Written and directed by Rockne S. O’Bannon (Evil), the flick does a lot by refurbishing the familiar. Sheedy is an amazingly efficient psychic who helps police until a serial killer proves equally gifted. He can detect her mental intrusions and sets out to terrorize her in return. She gets an assist from firefighter Michale O’Keefe and things build to an amusement park finale that’s sharp and effective. The shadowy killer proves a welcome presence since he has gone on to make a name for himself in the years since the picture’s release. We won’t spoil the reveal here. Try to blink during the credits.

Ally in Fear

The Courtyard (1995)

Andrew McCarthy is the Brat Packer in jeopardy in this Showtime telefilm. He’s Jonathan, an architect who just relocated to a Los Angeles apartment complex featuring the titular courtyard. Jonathan’s anonymous call to a noisy neighbor via an intercom system seemingly leads to the murder of another tenant.From there, things turn mildly Hitchcockian. Think just a shade of Rear Window with a hint of comedy. There’s also a decent touch of mystery. As Jonathan falls for the victim’s sister (Mädchen Amick) and becomes a suspect of homicide cop Cheech Marin, jeopardy escalates while he surreptitiously works to piece together clues. Director Fred Walton (When A Stranger Calls) serves up a few gruesome touches and a body count to boot.
Andrew at window in The Courtyard

Malicious (1995)

Molly Ringwald provides the menace in this one as Melissa Nelson. Think Fatal Attraction with Ringwald as the menacing lover. She’s a slightly older woman here, a teaching assistant in the college program of Patrick McGaw’s Doug Gordon. He’s a baseball star with a girlfriend. After a steamy encounter with Melissa, he hopes to move on. She becomes obsessed and stalker behavior and false accusations soon make Doug’s life more complicated than he ever imagined it could be.
Molly in Malicious

Half Light (2006)

Demi Moore encounters ghosts in this outing with a Scottish village providing the scenic backdrop. Henry Ian Cusick (Lost) co-stars. Moor is a novelist who has lost a child. Soon, she’s experiencing hauntings in her new home. Beautiful photography and atmosphere serve the film well, even if the plot can feel a little routine at times.

Demi at Window

Cabin by the Lake (2000)

Judd Nelson might have more thrillers on his resume than any other Brat Packer aside from Rob Lowe. He can bring the edgy menace. In this TV film that touched off a mini-franchise with its sequel, he’s a serial killing screenwriter. He writes in his house by the lake, and he uses the lake to sink and preserve his victims. The anchored underwater bodies offer some spooky visuals in and around the plot’s developments.
Judd Nelson

Masquerade (1988)

Rob Lowe is Tim Whalen, a scheming sailing expert in the Hamptons in this neo-noir. He sets his sights on Meg Tilly, playing heiress Olivia Lawrence. She is saddled with a drunken step-father. But Tim and the stepdad are actually planning to kill Olivia. Events twist and turn from there, and beautiful exteriors serve the film well as it winds toward a dark conclusion.
Masquerade still

Maximum Overdrive (1986)

In a blend of campy fun and gritty thrills, Emilio Estevez joins writer/first-time director Stephen King for the first adaptation of the horror author’s short story “Trucks.” Some consider it a so-bad-its-good flick. Regardless, it’s an interesting horror turn from the middle of the Brat Pack era. Estevez stars as a worker at the roadside Dixie Boy Diner. When mechanical devices turn against mankind, the establishment is overrun by 18-wheelers, rebelling electric knives, and more. Estevez’s Bill Robinson leads the resistance with rocket launchers and other efforts to repel the mechanical monsters, including a memorable tractor-trailer with a grinning Green Goblin face.

Emilio in Maximum Overdrive

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Written by Sidney Williams
Sidney Williams is an author and comics writer. He's a former full-time journalist and has conducted hundreds of celebrity interviews.
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