COOL STUFF: SPOOKIES on BLU-RAY!

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SPOOKIES on BLU-RAY!

Spookies (full review HERE) is an 80s haunted house horror that has been one of the most sought after titles for a decent release, after only being available back in it’s day in bad quality VHS tapes and for years as a bootleg or on Youtube. Now, thanks to the great folks at Vinegar Syndrome, this guilty pleasure is finally available in a special edition 2 disc Blu-ray set. Spookies is not without controversy, as the extras portray. Originally shot as Twisted Souls, the film was taken over by it’s producer who brought in a new director for extensive re-shoots. Was a great movie destroyed by an overzealous producer?…or an un-releasable mess saved by a new director? Without seeing the original cut of Twisted Souls we may never know.

As for the disc itself….

The transfer of this 80s horror rarity is absolutely beautiful. It’s finally shown in it’s original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, possibly for the first time since it’s brief theatrical release in the 80s. It is over three decades old, so there is some grain in the picture, but the colors are bright and vibrant. The sound is in crisp Dolby Digital and DTS 2.0 and considering it was a low budget 35mm production filmed in the 80s and previously only available on VHS, it probably sounds better than it ever has. This Blu-ray release was initially available with a choice of 2 different slipcovers and a reversible case cover, so, either way, you’ll have both versions of the artwork. The presentation alone is worth having this for.

 

Now on to the generous extras….

The first disc extras include some fun stuff and are also where we see there is still, decades later, animosity between the original cast and crew and producer Michael Lee, along with his replacement writer/director, Genie Joseph. We first see it in comments during the two intros from a 2015 Alamo Drafthouse screening by original co-director, the late Thomas Doran and co-writer Frank Farel. Following that is a Q & A from a 2015 Hudson Horror Show screening with actors Anthony Valbiro, the late Peter Iasillo Jr and production assistant Tom Sciacca. This segment certainly illustrates not only the fond memories of making the project, but the bitterness of the post production events. Rounding out these extras is a fun location featurette at The Jay Estate with Iasillo, an outtakes and bloopers reel, a production still gallery and the theatrical trailer.

The second disc is where the real meat of the Spookies controversy lies. There is a lengthy documentary, Twisted Tale: The Unmaking of Spookies, with the original cast and crew, where we are painted a story of some passionate film nerds wanting to make a horror movie, the journey of its production and of a first time producer/financier interfering and eventually, in their opinion, destroying what they set out to do. As producer/financier Michael Lee and writer/director Genie Joseph could not be found, or refused to take part, we only get one side of the story. Unfortunately, it’s a story filled with bitterness and anger, still brewing three decades later, as Twisted Souls was taken away from it’s makers in post production, after rough cuts failed to satisfy Lee, and the film was turned over to Joseph to “fix” and thus became Spookies. There are also deleted scenes included for the documentary, too. Unmaking is followed by Vipco: The Untold Story, Jason Impey’s documentary about British film pirate turned video nasty distributor, Michael Lee, who was Spookies infamous producer. The documentary features extensive interview footage with the elusive Lee, who is surprisingly candid and unapologetic about his nefarious operations as a movie bootlegger. Was he really the bad guy, or just wanting to make money back on something he thought was unreleasable? Watch both documentaries and draw your own conclusions.

Whether you love Spookies as the curiosity it is, or yearn to see Twisted Souls in it’s intended form, is up to you. Either way, Spookies is finally getting the respect and release it deserves…a release that all flicks like this should get.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SPOOKIES (1986)

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SPOOKIES (1986)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Spookies may not be a good movie from a traditional standpoint, but it is a creepy and atmospheric 80s chiller with a variety of prosthetic creatures and gore to keep us entertained. The film tells of an evil sorcerer (Felix Ward) who lives in a spooky old house in the middle of a cemetery. He lures in and murders innocent victims to keep his reluctant bride young and pretty with black magic. A runaway boy and a group of party goers become lost and find themselves in the sorcerer’s layer and soon, one by one, he sends them to their dooms via his legion of demons and creatures. Will anyone escape alive?

This flick is written and directed by three people, Genie Joseph, Brendan Faulkner and Thomas Doran with ‘additional material’ by Frank M. Farel. As such, it is a bit of a mess with some very choppy editing and a tone that sways back and forth between serious and a bit silly (farting zombies, anyone?). This is most likely due to production issues which had director Genie Joseph coming in to add additional material after the film was initially finished. Regardless, the acting across the boards is terrible and it’s remarkable the film is as effective as it is…and it is still a spooky little flick. Despite the hodgepodge scene structuring and awful dialogue and acting, the film is still quite atmospheric and taken individually, certain scenes are quite chilling, such as the demise of the runaway boy. There is a whole bevy of creatures, demons and zombies that populate the film and are very well rendered by New Jersey’s own Vincent Gaustini and the rest of the SPFX make-up crew. The creepy atmosphere and cinematography, by Robert Chappell and Ken Kelsch, the spooky score, by James Calabrese and Kenneth Higgins, along with the abundant and well-rendered creatures and gore, help make this flick an entertaining curiosity. Despite the shortcomings on the filmmakers’ and actors’ part in delivering a better structured and acted story…or more cohesively adding the new material…it still works somewhat. The flick does have spooky charm, if nothing else.

So, despite the bad acting, weak direction and hatchet editing job, Spookies overcomes it’s production woes to still be a fairly effective little horror. The look of the film oozes atmosphere and it is a creepy flick with it’s array of creatures and gore FX which are very well carried out. It’s not a great movie by any stretch, but does overcome some heavy flaws and post production changes to still give one some chills and thrills…and there are definitely some unintentional laughs, too! Worth a look especially if you like horror from this era and haven’t seen it.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 (out of 4) various Spookies.

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