Featured Post

Featured Post - Mystery Movie Marathon

I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Specters (1987)

Time for some Italian eighties horror that I’ve not seen before. The movie opens with some workers using a large boring machine to extend a subway tunnel. The vibration disturbs a nearby archaeological site which uncovers a hidden tomb beneath the ruins. This excites the leader of the expedition, Professor Lasky, who declares it as the mysterious pagan site they have been looking for. It predates even the Christian catacombs nearby. This all seems fine… right?

Well after meeting Alice, an actress working on a horror movie nearby, and her boyfriend Marcus, who works for Lasky, we then see something is wrong. There is some evil force that rises from beneath the ground terrorizing the locals. What is it and why does it start to kill? In a bit of a dialogue dump from Lasky we find out that the pagan site was a place where sacrifices were made to an ancient god of evil. So I’m figuring it is that guy getting up to bad stuff now that he has been released/disturbed. More bodies pile up, Alice is kidnapped by the god of evil, and Marcus saves the day by blowing up the site and rescuing Alice. Though it may not come as a surprise when someone tags along on their honeymoon… oh yeah I forgot to mention after saving her Marcus proposes to Alice because that is what you do in a horror flick.

Okay that sounded snarky, but I actually had fun with Specters. I mean the plot doesn’t make a ton of sense as this is your typical Italian horror movie leaning into stylistic visuals and sound design rather than a cohesive plot. Think Argento’s non Gialli efforts and some of Bava’s more esoteric movies, though I’d never say Specters is on that level. Those are the gold standard, but I’d say this one is a solid second tier example beneath them. I only mention those filmmakers as an easy comparison to let you know what you are in for if you sit down with this one. And to circle back around to the beginning there is a basic plot to follow. Dig a hole, let evil out, blow up the hole to seal it back in. There are just some hoops that you have to jump thru along the way for it to work and some of those can stretch the audience’s imagination to the breaking point. Hopefully that makes sense.

The kills in the movie are a bit tame but are creatively staged. We get a man falling thru stained glass with a throat cutting, a few folks getting ripped up by a claw appearing out of nowhere, another gets his heart ripped out, but my favorite has to be the dude in the wall. We see something grab him and later he is merged or hanging halfway out of a wall skinned. That is the best effect of the movie by far and will stick with me. We don’t see much of the evil god on screen other than the random clawed arm, but there is one reveal in backlight that hides much of the costume but gives enough for it to be satisfying. If you don’t have the budget for a creature be creative and let the audience fill in the blanks. They do that really well here.

Speaking of creative much of the tension is created with liberal use of industrial fans to create a creepy wind effect to let you know evil is present as well as some nifty sound design. The musical stingers as well as the odd sounds create an atmosphere that supports the ideas the story is attempting to sell to the audience. I like it when all the parts of a production work together like this. We also have some fun visuals including a nifty bit with the moon reflecting on the surface of water, the glowing yellow eyes to signify someone has seen something horrifying, as well as the way the tunnels and caverns are lit. Though the best is a Nightmare on Elm Street style bed attack on Alice. Yeah, I’ve seen it before but done this well it still works.

If I’m being honest the reason that I grabbed this VHS, and yes like all eighties oddities this was best watched on VHS, was the one recognizable name in the cast. Starring as Professor Lasky is the late great Donald Pleasence. I love the guy and mean no offense, but he did occasionally phone it is for a paycheck. Here in his limited screentime he is the highlight. Using his dialogue to help along the muddled plot makes a huge difference and the movie is way better when he is on screen. Unfortunately, he isn’t in much of the movie, which was a disappointment. But since I found myself on the fence with Specters his presence alone pushed it into the positives for me.

In conclusion if you dig Italian horror that leans into style (visuals, sound design) over substance (plot, narrative) then you might enjoy this movie. It certainly has that vibe and is worth a chance. On the other hand, if this sort of thing bugs you, I’d anticipate you hating Specters. Armed with this information I figure you can make your own decision. Personally, I’m glad to have watched it. Probably won’t need to ever revisit it, but still not a bad way to kill an hour and a half.


© Copyright 2024 John Shatzer

No comments:

Post a Comment