I was a manager for Blockbuster Video during my last year of college. Still to this day I can say that it was probably my favorite job. I got paid to talk about movies all day long with the customers and got free movie rentals. Despite Blockbuster being a corporate bloodsucker and not carrying about its employees, it was something I was willing to overlook knowing that this wouldn’t be my certain future. In fact, It wouldn’t be anyone’s future because the corporation was all about the mighty dollar. Hence the failed business ventures with Direct TV and Radio Shack.
The final straw that showed me the rental company was in trouble was the relationship with Radio Shack. Each store would have to make room for a small kiosk. In order to make room, we had to shrink inventory. Each store was given a printed list of VHS tapes to pull off the wall and destroy. And yes, I do mean destroy. We were to take each tape and carry it to the back where we would take a hammer and smash it into pieces.
A lot of us employees didn’t agree with this tactic and raised questions why we couldn’t take certain titles that we wanted instead of crushing them. Corporate is going to corporate and said we were not to take any of them. Well, disrespected employees are going to disrespect and keep what we want anyway. And we did.
One of the titles that I took home with me to take care for was the 1986 horror flick, Spookies. Spookies isn’t the greatest horror movie. It has its flaws, but I love that cover art and couldn’t bring myself to destroying it. Here we are many years later and Vinegar Syndrome has dropped another bomb on us lucky celluloid swallowers and has released a two disc 4K restoration of the film complete with a documentary that features the original writer and director of the film explaining from their point of view how Twisted Souls, the original title of the film became the 80s cheese fest known as Spookies!
Spookies can be a task to explain, but also simplistic. The film begins with a wizard – or at least I’m going with wizard here. He wants to bring his wife back from the dead. He has a cat looking dude as a sidekick. This is important for later, but I won’t spoil it. There is also a 13-year-old boy running around in the woods on his birthday. He ends up at a large house where one of the rooms is clearly decorated for his birthday. He seems elated, but those upside balloons and raggedy looking cake tell me otherwise.
There are also two sets of friends traveling together. One set is of college age and the other is an older couple. They are out cruising around looking to party. How did they even meet up? There is a clear age gap, but we are going to keep rolling along without any clear explanation. So, we have a handful of characters with no specific goal or purpose, but they end up at the same house the teenage boy ventured into.
Ready for the simplistic part? The wizard has a goal! He wants to kill all the unwanted guests to grant his wife eternal life. Insert a creepy but stylistic Ouija board and a ton of creatures with delicious practical effects and make up and you have the 80s madness known as Spookies!
The actors do well enough with the script they are given. The clichés are here. We have a tough guy, the sensible one, the voluptuous vixen, the bossy b---h and more! The real star for me is the special effects. I love practical effects and the 80s were the best for that. Spookies has some incredible looking creatures. My favorite is the Grim Reaper. He looked creepy and would stalk his victims with a menacing look. The Muck Men are probably the more infamous monsters. They actually look really nasty and the costumes are well done. Then they start to fart and all the mystique is sucked right out of the scene. I would always scratch my head wondering “Who the hell thought this was a good idea?” You get your answer in the documentary “Twisted Tale – The Unmaking of Spookies.”
The documentary is easily worth the purchase of the disc alone. All the questions I had were answered and there were questions answered that I never even thought about! The documentary features interviews with director and writer Brendan Faulkner, writer Frank Farel, art director Cecilia Doran (director Thomas Doran’s wife), actors Nick Gionta, and Anthony Vabiro, cinematographer Ken Kelsch, and creature/makeup effects creators Gabe Bartalos, John Dods, and Vincent Guastini.
To hear what could have been if Twisted Souls didn’t morph into Spookies is both eye opening and disheartening. The change in directors, the extra footage that was shot as filler, the obscure ending all makes sense after watching the documentary. In fact, the next night I went back to watch Spookies again because I learned so much about what took place and I enjoyed it more.
Spookies is all sold out at Vinegar Syndrome. There were three versions for purchase; two with slipcovers that had beautiful artwork and a standard version. But they went fast! If you ever come across a copy; I highly recommend picking up a copy for your collection. Every 80’s horror fanatic should own this one!
• Region Free 2-disc Blu-ray Set
• Newly scanned & restored in 4k from its 35mm original camera negative
• “Twisted Tale – The Unmaking of Spookies” – a feature-length making-of documentary, including a commentary track with documentary co-directors Michael Gingold & Glen Baisley and extensive deleted scenes.
• “VIPCO – The Untold Story” – a feature-length documentary on the notorious UK home video label, including extended interview footage with Michael Lee (founder of VIPCO) and a trailer.
• 2015 Alamo Drafthouse screening introductions with Spookies director Thomas Doran and co-writer/producer Frank M. Farel.
• Q&A from a 2015 Hudson Horror Show screening with actor Peter Iasillo, actor Anthony Valbiro and production assistant Tom Sciacca
• Archival locations featurette with actor Peter Iasillo
• Pinreel outtakes and bloopers
• Behind the scenes still gallery
• Theatrical trailer
• Reversible cover artwork with new artwork by Gary Pullin
• English SDH subtitles