Film Review: Spookies (1986)

richard-corben_spookies-poster_1987Spookies harks back to that glorious time for American horror films – the mid to late 1980’s. It has the perfect mix of stereotypical teen characters (all played by actors that are well into their twenties, in line with horror tradition) and incredible special creature effects that still look good today. No CGI here – all the effects were done with puppets and models, giving them a solid, believable look that is sadly missing from today’s horror movies.

It’s your basic haunted house story, involving a group of youngsters who are driving their cars to a party (whilst drinking beer, of course!). They stray from the beaten track and chance upon an old mansion, that for some reason is built right inside a graveyard. They decide to explore the old house, which appears to be deserted. Once inside, they proceed to drink a few beers and get on each other’s nerves, before realising something isn’t quite right.

Unfortunately for the protagonists, the mansion is owned by Kreon (Felix Ward), a deranged occultist who is bent on reviving his dead girlfriend. She is reluctant to be revived, and repeatedly begs him to let her die, so you can imagine how much of a nice guy he is! He sends a small party of ghouls out to kill off each of the characters in turn, who obligingly spilt off into couples and occupy separate parts of the mansion just to make them easier to attack. This appears to be related with harvesting their life force to help him and his family of ghouls achieve immortality. Try as they might, the hapless victims cannot seem to leave the mansion and its grounds alive.

The soundtrack by James Calabrese and Kenneth Higgins is vintage ’80’s movie music, and gives John Carpenter and Alan Howarth a run for their money. Calabrese and Higgins are not well known names and they didn’t go on to set the world of soundtracks on fire. I put this down to the Spookies soundtrack being fairly generic for the time. It does sound like a lot of other movie soundtracks that were doing the rounds at that time – electric drums and synth-heavy instrumental soundtracks were a staple of the era. That said, it has stood the test of time really well. I would like to see a label like Death Waltz or One-Way Static release it on vinyl in the near future. I’m sure they could get the rights to it quite easily.

Look out for the farting zombies mid-way through the film (known as the ‘Muck men’) and a Japanese femme-fatale that morphs into a man eating spider towards the end. It’s disgusting to watch her transform, but the special effects used are awesome and make me want to ban CGI all together!

While the story is cheesy and predictable by today’s standards, Spookies does manage to capture the freewheeling heavy metal music and cold beer vibe of the 1980’s and will give a warm feeling of nostalgia to anyone old enough to remember that era. If you’re too young to remember the ’80’s, Spookies is a very cool example of what you missed out on.

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