A.J.’s Big ’80s Horrorthon #1: “Spookies” (1986)

by A.J. Hakari


Y’know, I may have shot myself in the foot by starting off this month-long plunge into horror obscuria with Spookies. No matter what titles I take on next, I doubt that any can rival the cheesiness of this awfully-acted, practical effects-packed, hilariously-edited clustercuss of a monster mash. But what, praytell, is Spookies, you ask? From the title, I halfway expected a Gremlins take-off (a la Ghoulies, Munchies, etc.), but what I got was something much more ambitiously insane.

Spookies is the result of three different directors making two different movies years apart. The 85-minute mush that’s left over follows your standard group of “teenagers” (read: near-fortysomethings) randomly ending up at an old dark house to mingle and flex their stereotypes at each other. But this ominous abode is where some old magician/wizard/demon hunter is determined to resurrect his long lost love, by way of harvesting the youth of his newfound guests. Doing his dirty work is one of the greatest collections of creatures known to filmdom, with exploding grim reapers, farting dirt monsters, cackling witches, and, best of all, a hook-handed catman with a gold vest hunting down the humans one by one.

Spookies is like if Jim Henson directed The Evil Dead. The hand-made special effects are very memorable, if only for the huge variety of creations they bring to life. You get a poorly-constructed beastie every now and again, but even the ones that are obviously puppets look pretty damn cool. For a low-budget affair comprised of two separate productions chucked into a movie loaf, Spookies offers surprisingly spiffy production value, with shadowy hallways and underground caves housing all sorts of unspeakable evils ready to literally melt your face off.

Of course, Spookies can’t maintain its lunacy all of the time, as the erratic editing and lame performances make trudging through certain sections of the film a bitch and a half. For a truly consistent hunk of eye-catching horror psychedelia, the Criterion Collection’s release of 1977’s House is ready and waiting to drive you batty. Spookies is a bit more ungainly and unfocused, but there’s enough charm and drive to entertain here to preoccupy the stodgiest of monster kids.