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Monday, April 9, 2018

Spellcaster (1988)




A bit of a history lesson before we get into the review. When MTV first hit cable television they played music videos. That is why they were called Music Television or MTV for short. I only mention this because the plot of Spellcaster has a cast of characters that are assembled for a weekend at a castle by a music channel. They get to spend it looking for a million-dollar check and hanging out with pop star Cassandra Castle! What they don’t realize is that the owner of the castle is really a demon/devil/sorcerer or something like that who is tempting them so he can take their souls to hell!

Each victim meets a fate catered to their failings as a person. The hunter meets a critter that gets her, the fat guy turns into a pig as he is making a pig of himself, and the sexy tease gets cornered by a demon who I guess teases her… Okay that one was confusing, but you get the idea. It comes down to a brother and sister from Cleveland who with the help of Cassandra fight it out with the big bad, played by Adam Ant. Who lives and who dies? Well that is a sore point for me. More on that later.

I’m a child of the ‘80s so a movie like Spellcaster pushes a lot of buttons for me. First it is a cheesy low budget horror movie from Empire Pictures (aka. Charles Band). It “stars” Adam Ant, who really just shows up for a few seconds at the end but is top billed on the poster and VHS. Also in the movie are William Butler who did a ton of work in the eighties and nineties, including the Night of the Living Dead remake. But what really got my attention was the fact that one of my favorite new wave DJs Richard Blade and the girl from the A-Ha video Bunty Bailey (had a huge crush on her!) are in the cast. Both get lots of screen time which was fun. This thing has nostalgia written all over it. But I don’t think that is the only reason I dig it.

The pacing of the movie is solid. The characters fit into the ‘80s horror archetypes so establishing who they are and where they fit into the story is done quickly. This allows the movie  to jump right into the action. After a couple of cameramen explode things slow down a bit as the characters look for the million-dollar check and our rocker Cassandra meets up with some zombies in the basement! The kills are evenly spaced out and include furniture coming alive, a demon popping off of a tapestry, some dog monster getting the great huntress, and my personal favorite the fat guy turning into a pig! The special effects work is excellent which isn’t surprising since John Carl Buechler, of Ghoulies fame, is responsible for them.

Richard Blade and Bunty Bailey!
This movie also has one of the best lines ever! Remember the brother and sister are from Cleveland. When he introduces himself to Cassandra the conversation goes like this.

“We are the winners from Cleveland.”

“No such thing kid.”

That is some funny stuff! Really the only downside is the ending. This is the sore point that I mentioned earlier. The movie is a big tease. The brother and sister are able to save themselves and when they do it hits the “reset” button. Everything rewinds, and all the characters live happily ever after. Well I guess except for the demon guy that missed out on all the souls. I still recommend Spellcaster as a wonderful example of ‘80s direct to video goodness. The fact that it has so many familiar faces and is from Charles Band’s Empire Pictures is just a bonus. Just wish that the ending was better.


© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

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