SPOOKIES *** USA / Netherlands 1986 Dir: Eugenie Joseph, Thomas Doran, Brendan Faulkner. 85 mins
Starting life as TWISTED SOULS (two of the three credited directors helming the footage for this initial incarnation), this memorably muddled mainstay of the 80s video shelves was heavily impacted by the involvement of Vipco impresario Michael Lee. Striving to fill a demand for a custom-made genre film – albeit one with relatively muted gore and sex content for Video Nasties-era Britain – he helped turn it into a self-conscious attempt to cash in on THE EVIL DEAD, with added fart jokes and general incoherence when stitched together with the existing footage. SPOOKIES has the impressive location work, oddly disjointed performances, Gothic atmosphere and physical FX of some of the early 80s Italian genre films put out by Vipco – minus their overt nastiness.
It has great creature work courtesy of Jennifer Aspinall and Gabe Bartalos, an extended zombie uprising climax and the odd striking image, like the split “lightbulb” head. The story in the film’s final form inevitably makes little sense: something about a chess-playing sorcerer attempting to resurrect his Queen while an adolescent kid hangs around an adjacent graveyard and two cars worth of ill-matched young(ish) people ill-advisedly dabble with a Ouija board after getting stranded in the area. Most of them are interchangeable and dull, though leather-jacket sporting Duke (Nick Gionta) and obligatory jokester Peter Iasillo Jr (with hand puppet “Mook”) have some semblance of personality. Alongside literal skeletons in the closet, there are ELM STREET-era forays into rubber-reality surrealism (a laughing head in a box) and various nods to Sam Raimi. There’s a British character (Charlotte Seeley) who’s a total drag, and Iasillo Jr. turns out to be a snivelling coward, hysterically freaking out at everything including…an electrical cord. The humour is a little self-conscious but the ghouls (eyeballs hanging out of their heads on stalks), stop-motion meltdowns and bitey / tentacled / vagina-mouthed monsters are good fun. The highlight is Soo Paek turning into a giant spider.
Review by Steven West