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JULY 24 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SPOOKIES (1986)
FROM PULSINGCINEMA.COM

According the BBFC's own website, Vipco's UK PAL DVD release of Spookies was passed uncut. Not that there's really anything to cut from this uneven mass of cinematic playdow, but some people would have you to believe that this movie can cause nightmares, epileptic siezure and all manner of abnormal muscle spasms. And those people are very much correct. This film gave me all kind of nightmares as a child when I watched it's numerous airing on the USA cable network (remember when USA didn't suck?). This movie combined with The Video Dead are probably the main culprits for my anti-social behavior as an adult, and in accordance with international law I've already filed charges against the makers of said film and all their associates and spouses. But before the subpoenas come down and my lips are sealed, let's take a trip through this scary bit of eighties no-budget horror and try to find out what messed me up so bad.

Spookies begins as an old-looking theater actor in bad age makeup presides over a big mansion full-o creatures as he struggles to re-animate his long-dead bride who rests peacefully in her coffin. As a young child I became fixated with the woman, leading to sexual dysfunction and possible urges to commit necrophilia as I was drawn girls who wore wedding gowns and liked to sleep in coffins. You don't find this stuff on every street corner, it's all special order. I was forced to improvise.

But enough of my personal agony; let's continue the story. This old bat of a "wizard" or warlock or whatnot needs some fresh bodies to die so he can give life to his sleeping beauty. The first to go is a runaway kid who stumbles onto the mansion grounds and meets a violent end at the hands of the wizard's henchman: a werewolf-looking fellow with a mechanical hand. The werewolf chases the chap through a darkened wood and then buries him alive! Eerie stuff indeed.

The fun doesn't end there. A couple car-loads full of stupid people end up at the house of the damned and in true Evil Dead-fashion they decide to go and play around with the fucking Oujia board. The next thing you know, the chick who first screwed with the Oujia is possessed in a sequence highly-reminiscent of Evil Dead. Before you know it the front lawn of the mansion erupts with zombies. The entire crew of idiots is now stuck inside the house.

From here you can pretty much figure it out. Everybody splits up, runs into a seperate room and gets killed by a seperate ghoul. And there are ghouls aplenty in this film: little ones, big skeletal ones, every kind you might want. There's even an impressive gigantic spider. According to the final director who re-shot most of the movie, the previous director's only usable footage came from the effects shots so she simply wrote an entirely new film based on all the incredible FX material! The makeup credits on the film read like a laundry list of low-budget New York and Jersey effects wunderkinds, with names like Jennifer Aspinell (Toxic Avenger) and Vincent Guastini.

Well anyway, the death of all the idiots awakens sleeping beauty but it turns out she wasn't too crazy about Mr. Wizard after all. She ganks the Wiz and escapes, but the zombies outside (who all call her "mommy) chase the girl around a bit until she eventually stumbles into the surpise ending with the werewolf henchman. Oops, I gave it away.

Overall I'd give Spookies a high grade when it comes to eighties nostalgia. It's true that that the picture warped my mind but my legal action against the makers of the film is in actually a scam, a foolish Tort designed to funnel the nickels and dimes produced from this movie into the pocket your humble (and very lonely) reviewers. For you see, I really dig this movie. There's an element of classic "haunted house" filmmaking which was sorely lacking in the decade which it was produced. Don't let the name fool you into lumping this movies into the Ghoulies/Munchies crowd; It's so much more than those other horrible films. Some children might latch on to Indiana Jones or Star Wars, but even that early age I knew those movies were all bullshit. Each day I would re-enact my favorite scene from Spookies or pretend I was a particular monster. This, of course, was before I discovered that outside was an imaginary and ultimately evil place. But I was young and innocent then, with only spooky thoughts.

For years I've awaited a proper digital release of Spookies which would allow me to retire my old dub of the fossil-like Sony pre-record. Unfortunately we've still heard zero about the film's release in the world of NTSC but Vipco's PAL release is just the thing for those adventurous souls who can play multi-format DVDs. It's not the best DVD, however; offering no extras and only 1.33:1 video. As with most Vipco productions, the packaging proudly boasts that the film has been "digitally remastered," yet the image is usually less-than-stellar. The picture quality is clean yet a bit on the dull side, with inconsistant black levels throughout. Swirling blocks of digital artifacts inhabits some of the darker shots but generally the film looks well-compressed. The DD 2.0 soundtrack is just as plain but at least it faithfully captures that eerie reverb effect on the wizard's voice, which remains one of the scariest aspects of the film. This DVD is a refreshing break from my old VHS but I still wonder what a fully remastered version in it's original theatrical aspect ratio would like. Close but no cigar.

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