When a film has a legacy; solidified in cinema history forever based on the followings they managed to gain, it’s usually down to one of two reasons. The first, well is simply because the film is good. Now being ‘good’ I suppose is subjective to the viewer, but there is an overall consensus when it comes to certain pictures. Films like The Godfather, Jaws, 2001: A Space Odyssey & The Terminator are just a few of the films you’ll find on pretty much every top 100 best films of all time lists, as well as receiving a lot of recognition for being cultural significant.
But then, you have the flip side of things. The sweet just isn’t as sweet without the sour after all, so we’re now talking about the films that have some sort of controversy around them, where something in the production attracts people to watch for what you could say are all the wrong reasons – but with film, as long as it’s being watched, right?
Films like The Room draw a crowd because of how notoriously poorly made they are; people have said they’ve watched The Crow due to the tragedy of Brandon Lee’s demise on set, while others may watch The True History of Puss ‘N Boots to watch William Shatner half-arse it through a creepy as hell animated film.
These are some of the famous ones, but there’s one that people aren’t nearly talking about enough, and that’s the 1986 gem, Spookies. A film that is what you get when one film is 90% made before the entire crew is fired, and then another film is made on top of it. This isn’t something new of course, directors use bits of other films in their own all the time, (in fact, directors such as Edward D Wood Jr. & Bruno Mattei (see last post) made careers out of it), but this isn’t like stock footage. This is literally one film spliced into another completely different film.
So what is Spookies? Well aside from a ridiculously lazy title, it’s on the one hand a haunted house film, and on the other it’s a Salem’s Lot-esque film about some old dude with a were-cat man servant, being borderline rapey to a dead bride he’s brought back against his will? I think? In all honesty, it’s hard to tell exactly what the overarching plot of the film is because this latter plot was the original film, and it serves as the foundations the second film builds on.
It’s a hard nut to crack, but within that nutshell Spookies is one film about a vampire/necromancer/Saville impersonator in his old, wayward mansion that’s inexplicably more colossal than any other house I’ve seen in a film, driving back the cliched invaders comprised of the usual suspects in the form of drunken eejits. They quip, they bicker and one by one they’re killed by one of the ‘monsters’ of the house I guess.
It doesn’t sound like anything spectacular, and in a lot of ways, it isn’t. If you were to watch this without any prior knowledge to the production troubles, you’d think this is just another run of the mill wacky 80’s horror that doesn’t offer up anything new except an incredible amount of plot-holes (it’s also not glaringly obvious this is two films, as the makers loosely tie the plots together). Yet, if you’re aware of this fact, there are some tell-tale signs that there are two completely films in here, most notably in the effects department.
The poorly accented master of the house segments feature only three other characters, two of which make up the villains list in the form of the previously mentioned were-cat, and his ‘son’, a vampire child in what is 90% blackface I swear, seriously one hue darker and they’ve reached that no-fly zone. The make-up on both of these guys is terrible, except for the gold waistcoat they gave catman because that is fetching. Point is, not much effort on the effects here, or anything else really.
The parts involving the group battling against the house’s other occupants is another story. Here, we get possessions akin to The Evil Dead, muck-men that continously fart as they move (or I guess they do, the sound effect that follows them would certainly suggest it, but no-one brings it up so who knows), a grim reaper statue coming to life gunning to cash-in some souls, as well as one of the best transformation scenes I’ve seen since American Werewolf in London.
This transformation scene is just wonderful, and considering it features a spooky Geisha transforming into a giant spider, which could’ve probably been done quickly and mostly off screen, it really goes the full mile and should be widely praised for the time and effort that went into such a short segment, if not for anything else.
Little side note about the death that follows this transformation: it’s kinda funny they give it to the comedy sidekick character, who would normally be let off lightly in a scenario like this, maybe a gruesome stabbing at most but nope, he gets spider-sucked to death.
I suppose it’s this part of the film’s production that I find the most fascinating, and the reason why I’m talking about what is relatively an unknown film to the masses. It’s not on DVD (in the UK at least) and the only way I’ve been able to watch it is through YouTube, but it’s effects have been mentioned by horror geeks everywhere, and then once you know about it’s background combined with how poorly done the end result is everywhere else, it really sticks it’s head out of the waves.
That is to say, I’ve seen some balls-ass horror films. I’ve seen efforts so sub-par that make absolutely no sense pretty much from the get-go, and while story isn’t always the main element that can make a horror film stand out, there are countless films that continue to fail in every department. Spookies is so close to being one of these films, but alas, no, it evolves and becomes something more.
It makes me wonder what they could have done if they’d centred the plot solely around a haunted house idea. The Ouji board which possess one of the group would still work, and from there, it could be a monster-driven fright fest that was a lot of fun to watch. I’m not saying this isn’t already a fun film, quite the opposite in fact, but most of the time, that’s because you’re laughing at it.
That being said, I really do think this is a stand-out film because it’s production is so obviously hasty, yet when it comes to a lot of the effects, it excels beyond even some of the greats of the genre. I’d certainly give it a watch if you’re in the mood for something a little bit different, and the good news is, you can watch it below!