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Monday, September 18, 2017

Spookies (1986)

My friend Tim Gross from Gross Movie Reviews (find him at https://grossmoviereviews.com/ for some killer reviews) loves Spookies. I like to give him shit about it but I honestly hadn’t watched the movie since the mid ‘90s. So, I figured that some twenty years since my last viewing I should give it another try. You know to see if I was wrong and Tim was right. So here we go.

There is a spooky old house where a Sorcerer has spent the last seventy years trapping and killing people in the hopes of bringing the woman he loves back to life. The latest batch of victims includes a couple car loads of people looking to party and a kid who wandered off in the woods because his parents forgot his 13th birthday. They end up at the house and the Sorcerer sends his “children” after them hoping to add their souls to his collection. As the killings start his bride wakes up and we find out that she isn’t thrilled and just wants to die. Seems she doesn’t actually love the guy. More death happens and eventually the object of the Sorcerers affections makes a break for it.

To start with I will admit that there are parts of this movie that are way better then I remember them being. Mostly the makeup effects work, which are top notch. I’ll talk about those in more detail in a second. Overall, I still think that the movie isn’t great. It feels like an audition reel for a special effects guy trying to get a job. The narrative is barely cohesive and feels like a random string of kills linked with the weak plot of the Sorcerer just wanting to kill people. The trapped in a house with a killer motif is very familiar to fans of the horror genre. Normally we get some sort of plot involving the killer that lets the characters and audience in on a way to defeat the big bad and save their lives. That doesn’t exist in this movie. It basically feels like the characters are screwed right from the start and have no chance. That is one of the reasons I find it hard to enjoy Spookies.

Another reason that the movie doesn’t work for me is the acting. Even for a low budget ‘80s horror flick it is pretty bad. The cast is utterly forgettable which sucks. You get a lot of the normal archetypes that you would expect including the tough guy punk, here named Duke, as well as some annoying comic relief. The actor that plays Duke almost isn’t bad enough. I wanted him to chew up some scenery and be over the top. He is way too subdued. Oh, and my God the comic relief… Not only do we get bad jokes but there is a puppet. You know the more I think about it the more I appreciate this character. At least I remembered it after the end credits rolled.

If I want puppets in my horror movie I'll watch Puppetmaster
The one positive thing that Spookies has going for it are the special effects work. Again, as I mentioned it feels like an audition reel. We get splashes of all kinds of genre creatures in the movie and they are all done well. There is a wolf man that looks nice, a Grim Reaper statue that comes to life that is also a decent creature effect, and a horde of zombies that claw out of the grave to attack! But that isn’t all. We have a woman that turns into a spider and has a familiar looking minion that shall we say likes to grab onto one’s face. There are bloated creatures that come out in the basement that fart and are killed by wine, which leads to a cool melting effect. Speaking of melting one character is attacked and melts ala the ending of the original Evil Dead, stop motion style. Any one of these creatures would have made for a great movie villain, but all of them together don’t work. Too much of a good thing.

As an avowed lover of practical effects work I can’t hate Spookies. I still have problems with the lousy narrative, uninteresting characters, and terribly uneven pacing. But there are some fun things to enjoy as well. I can’t imagine needing to watch this movie again for at least another twenty years, but I didn’t hate it. The best part is you can watch it on YouTube so it will only cost you an hour and a half of your time. I think that is worth it.

© Copyright 2017 John Shatzer

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