“A demonic game of hide-and-seek… a night of unrelenting terror…”
Few obscure independent horror flicks have tickled the tongue of horror aficionados quite like the 1986 creature feature aptly entitled SPOOKIES. Aside from its playful sibilance and strategic title similarity to the hugely successful GOONIES, a simple mention of this film is likely to inspire excitable and intriguing discourse between those already familiar with its creature-driven charms and subtly scandalous, controversy-laden history. But before we dig into that heaping helping of SPOOKIES-centric dirt, let’s first take a look at what this film has to offer the casual consumer of cinema.
SPOOKIES’ uneven, but entertaining plotline centers around a group of twenty-somethings looking to party in a presumably deserted mansion, who break and enter only to find an ornate and latently ominous Ouija board which expedites the arrival of a menagerie of malevolent monsters. This fairly straightforward haunted-house bogey buffet is strangely paired with a shaky sub-story of a decrepit sorcerer who uses the creatures to help him harvest the foolish invaders’ souls in order to revive his dormant (but once awakened, apparently unwilling) bride. There’s also a separate segment featuring a runaway birthday boy who’s treated to sinister surprise party that eventually leads to his live burial.
Sound a bit disconnected? Once you learn the hairy history of this fragmented flick, it should start to make a little more sense.
See, the original title of this film was TWISTED SOULS, and solely consisted of the haunted house plot, lensed by the director duo of Brendan Faulkner and Thomas Doran — who worked on a little horror film you might know called IGOR AND THE LUNATICS. When TWISTED SOULS was nearly completed, financier and UK home video company VIPCO main-brain Michael Lee wasn’t exactly pleased with the result, and decided to bring in someone from the pornosphere named Eugenie Joseph to revamp the edit and write more scenes using the same set… but an entirely different cast. These scenes ended up becoming the sorcerer subplot and birthday boy segment. Anger erupted between the original crew and Lee as they were essentially dismissed, and their work on TWISTED SOULS was clumsily connected with Joseph’s new scenes, creating what we know today as SPOOKIES.
There’s a lot more depth to this incredibly complex and undeniably scandalous history of the film, and if you’re looking to explore an intimately detailed and insightful rundown on the entirety of the ordeal, I solemnly suggest soaking in “The Strange Saga of Spookies” piece found on The Dissolve, which offers verbatim accounts of the extended debacle — including a heady case of megalomania, mind-melting micro-management, a devastating on-set crib death and even current hopes of releasing TWISTED SOULS in its original form. It’s some heavy stuff indeed, man.
The ongoing (and frankly fascinating) controversy aside, the most entertaining on-screen aspects of SPOOKIES are undoubtedly the copious amount of killer creature effects, a fun and effective score, and the entertaining bits of comedy peppered throughout the production. Effects man Al Magliochetti (who also plays the character of Lewis) and his crew of monster-makers conjured up furiously flatulent muck-men, an oozing, electrifying hallway demon, a super-bitchin’ spider woman transformation and an exploding Grim Reaper that rivals any ludicrous on-screen detonation you can imagine.
Alongside the impressive array of man-made monsters, a performance from Peter Iasillo, Jr. as a beer-guzzling jokester — with a hand puppet named Mookie — offers up some cheap, albeit charming chuckles. If his T-shirt featuring a picture of himself grinning with old Mook doesn’t make you crack a smile, the short, but sweet appearance of Duke the Horny Ghost will certainly get your belly shakin’. Ultimately, SPOOKIES offers up an orgy of ooey-gooey, effects-driven ’80s horror and enough honest laughs to appease every fan of the genre.
SPOOKIES has received a Region 2 DVD release produced from a VHS master, but has yet to be officially unleashed on DVD in Region 1 territories. The NTSC Sony Video Software VHS version is liable to run you anywhere from 20 to 50 bones (depending on your third-party auction luck), but if you’re of the inclination to enter the rewind wild, this is one flick you’re apt to uncover as a former rental for the much nicer price of about 2 bucks.
Sure, you can take a peek at this effects-rich slab of ’80s obscurity among the seemingly endless offerings of YouTube, but once you get your hands on this Sony home video housed in the spectacular slipcase cover art from Richard Corben of Heavy Metal fame and feed it to your VCR, you’re sure to VHSee that ingesting it through the true analog aesthetic experience is only way to get party-time excellent with SPOOKIES!
SPOOKIES fans might still be waiting on a definitive HD release, but at least for now they can pick up a copy of the original soundtrack, which is now available on LP and Cassette from Terror Vision. (There’s also a T-shirt!)