Ever since I was a small child, I have had a fascination with monster movies. They bring back nostalgic memories of sitting for hours on end, watching black and white monster movies and being mesmerized by the obscure stories and practical special effects, helping form my strong love for them both in later life. Being quite knowledgeable in the genre, I was excited to find a creature feature I had heard very little about.
Spookies is a 1986 horror comedy, comprised of the mostly finished film Twisted Souls. The film was written and directed by Bredan Faulkner and Thomas Doran with additional writing from Frank M. Farel. During the editing stage of production, creative and legal issues ensued and after the cast and crew refused to return, additional scenes were filmed months after original filming had wrapped up. These scenes were written by Ann Burgund and directed by Eugenie Joseph in an effort to complete the film. 101 Films is bringing Spookies into the new age with an amazing special edition Blu-ray in full HD glory for the first time. I was excited to get the chance to get access to their Black Label special edition version of Spookies.
What Is It?
After their car breaks down, a group of travellers find themselves stranded in a remote part of New England. Proceeding to take shelter in a spooky old mansion, complete with a graveyard, they discover a Ouija board and decide to spend the night attempting to summon some spirits. But, the group soon learns that playing with dark forces of black magic isn’t fun and games, and it’s not long before they’re head-to-head with all sorts of demonic creatures, shape-shifters, and other forms of evil – all of whom are more than happy to pick them off in the most gruesome of ways.
What Did I Like About The Film
Spookies has an incredibly atmospheric soundtrack. Featuring a heavy focus on synthesizers, it is very reminiscent of 1970 Italian horror such as the works of the influential Lucio Fulci. Consequently, the pacing and intensity perfectly match the scenes it accompanies. James Calabrese and Kenneth Higgins provide most of the work on the soundtrack on the original production, additional work also provided by Diane Bulgarelli.
With cast and crew living and bonding on set of the spooky mansion for the several month long production, the cast had a real connection with each other that showed in chemistry of their performance. Everyone has amazing synergy in the cast and it amazingly provides the glue holding this crazy story together.
The real star of the show are the practical special effects featured in Spookies. The incredible creature design was left in the hands of John Dods, one of cinema’s foremost make-up and special effects designers. His are all truly unique and are astonishingly detailed. From muck-men, small reptilian demons, giant spiders, an arachnid woman, an octopus-like creature with electric tentacles , a skeletal witch and a grim reaper statue. John was in charge of all their designs, with the creatures being ingeniously brought to life by Ken Walker and Ken Brilliant.
The heart of Spookies is based in historical cinema with many different, observable influences in the composition. From classic horrors like Evil Dead, to the time-honoured stop motion techniques of the legendary Ray Harryhausen, Spookies pays all due respect, choosing to innovate its own style rather than just imitating them.
What Didn’t I Like About the Film
Due to creative and legal disputes between the crew and the financial backing, Michael Lee of UK based company Vipco, the entire cast and crew walked out during the editing process and refused to come back to complete production. As the film was mostly completed, a new crew and cast members were enlisted to finish the final scenes. This change inevitably makes the story feel disjointed and the addition of a strange framing device doesn’t fit the same tone as the original footage.
A lot of creative additions made by Michael Lee really lower the tone of the film dramatically. Lacking knowledge of making films at the time, he had an unfair amount of creative control over the film (much to the disdain of the crew), completely butchering scenes with his editing ideas and refusal to compromise. For example, the addition of fart sounds over the muck men feel completely unnecessary and something a child would add if left unattended.
Where Can I Find It?
Spookies is available to pre-order (available 26/04/21) on special edition Blu-ray at 101 Films webstore. Special features in this release include:
- New audio commentary with FrightFest’s Paul McEvoy and film maker Sean Hogan.
- Limited edition booklet: Includes A Twisted History: Vipco, VHS and Spookies by Scott Harrison and Your Future Belongs to Us: Reaganite Terrors in Spookies by Liam Hathaway.
- Twisted Tale – The Unmaking of Spookies – a feature-length making-of documentary, including a commentary track with documentary co-directors Michael Gingold and Glen Baisley and extensive deleted scenes.
- VIPCO: The Untold Story – a brand new, extended version of the feature length documentary on much-loved UK film distributor VIPCO.
- 2015 Alamo Drafthouse screening introductions with Spookies director Thomas Doran and co-writer/producer Frank M. Farel.
- Archival locations featurette with actor Peter Iasillo.
- Outtakes and bloopers.
- Behind the scenes stills gallery.
- Theatrical trailer.
The fact that Spookies is as good as it is, is a real testament to the skill and dedication of every member of production. If it wasn’t for the butting of heads between directors and the financial backer, this film would of been an absolute hit, making far more than the measly $13,000 it made for a small theatrical release. Because of its problematic production, Spookies is only just starting to receive the attention and recognition it deserves. If you enjoy creature features, astounding special effects, whacky acting and a story to match, I recommend picking up this film.