SPOOKIES (1986) – Halloween month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with a look at a bad movie classic that deserves a Plan 9-sized cult. I mean who does this movie have to sleep with in order to be better known?
Spookies is loaded with laughable and outrageous monsters, acting that porn stars would dismiss as amateurish and gore effects that go from wincingly realistic to childishly weak and back again throughout the flick.
The reason for the uneven tone is that Spookies is yet another example of a bad film that was not completed and then was later combined with new footage to slap together a movie with a long enough running time for theatrical release. They Saved Hitler’s Brain, Monster A Go-Go, The Pink Angels plus Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny are four of the best-known examples of these hybrid monstrosities.
For obvious reasons the characters in the original footage and the completion footage can never interact in the film and part of the fun for lovers of bad movies lies in the awkward lengths the filmmakers go to to try to hide the cut-and- paste nature of their movie.
In the case of Spookies it started out as a horror film titled Twisted Souls and was later edited together with unrelated footage that, as these hybrids go, is fairly competently combined with the original material. I repeat … as these hybrids go.
Twisted Souls dealt with two carloads of party-goers of such wide-ranging ages, personalities and backgrounds that the movie I would PREFER to see would be the one about the party these disparate figures were all invited to. We’re told these annoying oddballs were thrown out of that party because of “Duke”(Nick Gionta), a stereotypical Italian greaseball street-punk straight out of Sha Na Na. And that’s despite the fact that the movie takes place in the 1980’s.
Duke is the real standout of the group but also along for the ride are:
a) Duke’s big-boobed big boob of a girlfriend,
b) a formally dressed man and woman who are old enough to be the parents of all the other characters
c) a hoity-toity British babe and her hen-pecked American spouse
d) “Rich” a comic-relief dork who often speaks through a puppet, wears a t-shirt with his own picture on it and whose attempts at humor are so over-the- top that even Jim Carrey would tell him to tone it down a little
e) A guy I’ll just call Dead Meat since he’s in the movie just to panic and run to an early death
and f) Carol, whose real personality we never get to see because she is almost immediately possessed by a dead spirit early in the movie.
Twisted Souls depicted these losers that you long to see die making the inexplicable decision to stop and party in a seemingly deserted mansion surrounded by graves and tombstones. Even for a horror film that is an incredibly moronic move.
Once inside the creepy mansion our main characters compound their stupidity by playing with a ouija board. This releases a spirit which possesses Carol and turns her into an Evil Dead-ish monster who starts attacking her former friends. The others attempt to flee but their escape is cut off by zombies rising from the dozens of graves outside the mansion.
Dead Meat foolishly tries to make it to his car but falls down on the grass, prompting a tombstone with his name (Lewis Wilson) on it to pop out of the lawn while he is sucked screaming into the ground in front of it like a man sinking in quicksand. This is a nice visual and it sets the tone for the rest of the movie. It’s always FUN bad, never boring bad. There’s always something new and acid-trip-level weird going on so you can’t take your eyes off the screen.
Not daring to leave the mansion our “heroes” split up (naturally) hoping to find some alternate means of escape or a supernatural weapon to use against the zombies outside and/or Carol, who is still possessed and still at large in the eerie, palatial house.
I’ll return to this group of characters and the deliriously demented monsters they battle in a few moments. For now I’ll throw in the wraparound and filler footage that stretched Twisted Souls‘ incomplete material out to feature length as Spookies.
The completed project opens with Billy, a little boy running away in the dead of night just because his parents forgot his 13th birthday. He meets a weird drifter who I guess was supposed to be a red herring menace since Billy goes unmolested by him. Instead the drifter is slashed to death by a cat-man creature who has a hook-hand for good measure. Between the cat-man and the zombies this flick will come across at times like Thriller: The Motion Picture.
The cat-man (Dan Scott) buries the drifter in one of the graves in front of what is supposed to be the same mansion from the original footage, albeit from a different angle. Billy wanders into that mansion, which has been laid out as a birthday celebration for him. The kid moronically thinks his parents engineered this elaborate surprise party but is eventually frightened and chased from the mansion by Kreon (Felix Ward) a blue-skinned sorceror who is the main villain of the combined footage.
Billy runs outside where he is slashed up by the claws and hook of the cat-man then buried alive in a grave alongside the drifter. Kreon, who looks like F Murray Abraham playing the Tall Man from the Phantasm movies now takes center stage. His rambling monologues let viewers know that he will use the life-force of the two carloads of our “heroes” to restore life to the preserved corpse of his true love Isabelle (Maria Pechukas).
We eventually learn that Isabelle wants nothing to do with the obsessed Kreon, who has apparently been preying on visitors to the creepy mansion for seventy years. He periodically succeeds in reviving Isabelle, who commits suicide to escape the fiend, only to have him resurrect her over and over again. Talk about a guy who won’t take “no” for an answer!
Okay, both sets of footage are now established, and it’s a LOT of fun watching Kreon, Isabelle, the cat-man and Kreon’s vampiric son pretending that they’re in the same movie with the two carloads of party-goers from the Twisted Souls material. At one point Kreon looks out the window to pretend he sees their cars coming and mutters “Welcome, fools”. I imagine those words were also used to greet them at the party they got thrown out of earlier.
The real claim to fame of Spookies is the oddball, asinine, yet thoroughly watchable menagerie of monsters the party-goers encounter. They get killed off one by one by those monsters in scenes of astonishing ineptitude while Kreon and company gamely keep up the pretense that they are part of the same story while never actually sharing a scene with any of those characters.
There are mud-monsters who rise from the dirt-floor of the mansion’s wine cellar. These mud-monsters’ murky bodies make ooshing, gooshing sounds as they shamble around and unfortunately (or fortunately, if you like to laugh) this makes them sound like they are constantly experiencing eruptions of flatulence.
There are lizard-like gargoyle beasts who lurk in one of the bedrooms, waiting to chew people’s faces off.
There is an octopoid woman who slithers around the hallways and can shoot electrical charges through her tentacles.
There is a sexy Asian woman (Soo Paek) who is really a human-sized spider-creature whose young hatch out of eggs and attach themselves to people like the face-huggers from Alien.
There’s an emaciated witch who is as ridiculous looking as she is ineffectual.
And there is a Grim Reaper statue that comes to life and attacks people with its scythe. Helpful Hint: Don’t miss the scene where this creature proves to be as explosive as that one dead Santa in Do Not Open Til Christmas was flammable.
Spookies deserves to be a Midnight Movie sensation, from its thrown-together opening all the way to its downbeat – albeit ridiculous – finale.
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