Castor’s Underrated Gems – Spookies (1986)

An ark of the covenant from the 80’s that bypassed a DVD release and was mostly an object of misbegotten legend, Spookies has been varnished with immaculate care by Vinegar Syndrome. Firstly, the 4k print is monumental achievement for the company. The werecat in the trees isn’t bleached of moonglow. Most of what transpires on screen is obfuscating from a storytelling point-of-view. The production was mongrelized when the producers mandated new footage after the Twisted Souls cut was too bereft of gelatinous crawlers.

The warlock Kreon (Felix Ward in powdery F. Murray Abraham-like makeup) is cloistered in his mansion and soliloquizes about resurrecting his bride for 80 years through human sacrifices. In his pursuit, Kreon summons muckmen (with flatulent sounds) that are susceptible to wine, the Grim Reaper, an Oriental arachnid woman, a shriveled witch, etc.

However, it must’ve been a conjunction with the reshoots because it feels disjointed from the rest of the film. 13-year-old Billy (Alec Nemser) could’ve been interwoven as the prey for Kreon but he is merely a wayward youth in a haunted house. On another perpendicular track, teenagers and their adult escorts are marooned near the manor.

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The party-seekers has a ‘Night of the Demons’ vibe but, plot-wise, it doesn’t throttle into a creosoting jamboree like that film. Nick Gionta’s Duke is a lummox Vinnie Barbarino doppelganger (He is worried about “wearing out the batteries” on a ouija board). The thespian talent oscillates from to-the-rafters incompetency (Anthony Valbiro is haplessly hammy) to copacetic adequacy (Charlotte Alexandra is a chain-smoking treat).

Wherein the 80’s were a lollapalooza of Tom Savini special effects, Spookies is a ghoulishly nutty, albeit amphigoric guilty pleasure for monstrosities on the caliber of John Carl Buechler. One nimble trick is a headstone that slowly emblazons Lewis’ name on it and then he is siphoned into the soil like quicksand. I especially loved the diminutive Gillman puppets. Down every corridor, the film unveils a new creation and they are all catnip for latex-marionette fans. Plus, it should be applauded for the temerity to slash a boy’s face and entomb him while he is writhing in an open grave.

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