For the last four years, Alamo Drafthouse programmer Zack Carlson has hosted a late-night horror movie celebration called Terror Tuesday and if you are a lover of horror, both esoterically brilliantly and obscurely awful, this night was invented just for you. The Terror Tuesday Report will dissect the movie shown as well as provide a barometer for the audience's reaction; as many of these films demand to be seen with an audience, this proves a vital component to the evening.
This week's film: Fear No Evil, directed by Frank LaLoggia, 1981 The Film
Andrew is not well-liked by his classmates. His odd appearance is matched only by his off-putting personality. He is a straight-A student but even his teachers seem creeped out by him. Turns out this is one instance where judging a book by its cover is entirely justified because Andrew is Satan reincarnated. Once Andrew learns of his status as the Prince of Darkness, he uses his newfound black magic to exact revenge on those who tormented him. Meanwhile, the sister of a priest who fought back Lucifer when he first tried to return to Earth years before is on a quest to once again send him back to the fiery tomb of perdition.
It pains me to say this, but I hated Fear No Evil. It has officially unseated the original The Hills Have Eyes as my least favorite film of Terror Tuesday. It has all the necessary ingredients for a loony 80's horror film but it drowns in self-indulgent nonsense and wretched storytelling. Immediately the question turns to expectation and I can fully appreciate any of you reading this who are rolling your eyes at me. While I fully acknowledge that many a technically bad film has graced the screen for this event, the difference is that the vast majority of the bad films are at least entertaining. Fear No Evil is about as entertaining as holding a philosophical conversation with a jar of olives.
My biggest problem with the film is that it squanders its concept. What we have here is essentially a crossing of Carrie and The Omen with a social misfit who is routinely picked on learning that he is the devil and punishing those who wronged him with his satanic powers. Sounds awesome, right? I was so excited after seeing the trailer last week because it sold exactly that concept. But the actual film shoots itself in the foot by not being able to focus on the devil child and instead launching us into the middle of side stories we could not care less about. We get lengthy conversations between preachers and reporters who are never seen again and an old lady trying to keep a young girl from leaving her home because she is lonely which is incredibly creepy. All of this takes precedent over the high school angle and even the boy demon himself.
The high school stuff, what little we get, is also terribly inept and thoroughly uninteresting. The characters mumble most of their lines and the female bullies are nearly indistinguishable from one another. Also, the main bully's idea of tormenting Andrew is, shall we say, unorthodox. He pins him against the wall in the shower and kisses him full on the mouth. Yeah, that'll show him. The whole movie is laced with repressed homosexuality that never really works for the plot. By the end, when Andrew is in full Satan mode, he is dressed like a Cher impersonator who forgot his/her wig. I'm not opposed to the character being gay, but the way it's overtly demonstrated without ever being stated makes for a foul metaphor of sorts.
There were some cool moments and some so-bad-it's-good plot devices; zombies controlled by the devil! And I would be remiss if I failed to mention the killer soundtrack. The Ramones, The Talking Heads, and even the Sex Pistols show up. But when the film ventures away from the high school stuff, it tends to get insurmountably dull and dry as burnt toast. By the time we got to the finale, which was six new breeds of lame by the way, I was praying for it to end as quickly as possible. This is not a film I will be seeking out for purchase any time soon.
Another week, another crowd of Terror Tuesday regulars. As I looked around the room, I noticed folks asleep in their chairs and one guy even slumped over the row of tables in front of the seats. The final moments of magical nonsense briefly stirred the audience back to life, but I don't think I was alone in my boredom. This was one of the prints rescued from certain doom by our own Zack Carlson and although I wax vitreous about my distaste for it, I still respect the hell out of his salvage operation.