Saturday, October 10, 2020

Hubrisween 2020 :: E is for Evil Laugh (1986)

We open on a lonely adobe house secluded on an isolated hill. You know, I once saw an adobe Wal-Mart in Taos, New Mexico. In fact, every building in Taos was seemingly made out of adobe. But I digress. Now where were we? Ah, yes. Next, we spy a sign in the yard, proclaiming this adobe abode to be For Sale; and closer inspection shows the sign has a 'Sold' snipe attached to it. Then, things take a bit of an ominous turn as we decipher what's also been sloppily painted across the placard: a scrawled warning to Stay Away!

Moving closer to the house, we see it also has been tagged with this cryptic warning, too -- multiple times. And when the realtor arrives, he threatens to fire the property’s caretaker for allowing these acts of vandalism -- only he can’t find him. On the verge of closing on the property, a frantic Mr. Burns (Weiss) moves quickly to remove all evidence of this graffiti before the new owner shows up.

A delivery boy arrives next with a load of food, who informs Burns they didn’t have some of the more exotic items -- like the bull’s heart, liver, or monkey brains, which the new homeowner had requested. Seems the buyer is a doctor and an amateur gourmet chef, who plans on turning this old house into a clinic and shelter for abandoned and abused children. He’s also invited his girlfriend and several of his fellow intern friends up for the weekend to whip the place into shape, according to a convenient plot dump. Too busy cleaning up, Burns says to just put the groceries in the kitchen and clear out.

Thus, by the time Jerry (Hays) arrives, Burns has removed all of the graffiti. Turning the keys over, he leaves Jerry alone to explore the old house. And just as the soundtrack warns us some dirty work is afoot already, the new owner enters the kitchen, where he finds those groceries left on the counter, takes stock, and then goes ballistic because his food order is incomplete. 

But while he rants, someone dressed in black, wearing a pair of blue latex living gloves, sneaks up behind him -- and then repeatedly stabs Jerry in the back! Rolling the body over, the killer starts to cackle (-- and this will have you cackling, too, because the killer's “evil laugh” sounds just like the chain-smoking Krusty the Clown from The Simpsons). And as this comical cackling crescendos, the killer gleefully guts Jerry, slicing him up from stem to stern, and deposits his internal organs into a porcelain basin by the rest of the groceries. Now, raise your hands if you all see where this is going...

While brother Scott Baio was leaving Happy Days behind and taking on feature films with Skatetown USA (1979) and Zapped! (1982), then veering back into TV with Joannie Loves Cha-Chi and Charles in Charge before inevitably becoming a bit of a Right Wing political punchline, and cousin Jimmy Baio was starring in SOAP and learning to pitch in the Astrodome for The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training (1977), the Baio known as Steven was eking out a living as a bit player, mostly riding on his more famous relatives’ coattails. 

Meantime, Dominick Brascia was another bit-player, who was also scraping together a living in Hollywood -- most notably as the chubby, mentally-challenged Joey, who liked to Bogart his chocolate bars before getting chopped to pieces with an axe in Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985) -- the one without Jason, if memory serves.

Now, Brascia and Baio initially met at an acting class; and with both being Italians from back East, they hit it off. And together, as most out-of-work actors are wont to do, they decided to make their own movie to star in; a comedy about two guys from Brooklyn called -- wait for it, Two Guys from Brooklyn, and began hitting up their friends and family for financing. When those efforts failed to raise enough money, Brascia hit upon a familiar plan to take what little seed money they had and invest it in a cheap horror movie for the booming home video market, and then make their dream project from the expected profits.

Alas, after hammering out a script together, when filming on Evil Laugh (1986) began there still wasn't enough money to finish the film; but the Brascia / Baio clans came through with enough for a demo reel -- and a little onset catering to boot. Brascia then screened what footage they had for a couple of video distributors, who were so impressed they ponied up the needed completion funds. And so, with the financing firmly set, filming began in earnest to finish Evil Laugh as the novice filmmakers did their best to hide the fact that they really didn't know what they were doing.

And this inexperience shows up pretty badly in just about every aspect of Evil Laugh. However, this ineptitude would prove somewhat fortuitous as a drum-machine and Casio-powered travelogue tune cranks up; and while a Cyndi Lauper wannabe warbles about being overworked, we meet our cast of cannon fodder, starting with three men stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire. But as Mark and Johnny (O’Brien, Baio) work to swap out the spare, an unhelpful Barney (Pearson) sits to the side on his ass and reads the latest issue of Fangoria Magazine.

Now, you may have noticed how much pleasure the shirtless Mark and Johnny enjoy flaunting their pecs. And while I think they were shooting for machismo, as this behavior continues throughout the film it all reads rather queer. Not an indictment. Just an observation on the obvious.

Here, we also get an inkling to the quality of Baio and Brascia’s script, when Barney replies to being chastised for not helping with, “Who are you calling an asshole, asshole?” That’s right, baton the hatches, Boils and Ghouls, it’s gonna be a long movie. And then things get even dumber when Johnny heads to the ditch to relieve himself, clumsily fighting off every natural instinct to look where he is whizzing, and winds up urinating all over a biker and his old lady, who decided to take a nap there for … reasons. And with that, Johnny rushes back to the car and Mark floors it out of there, mercifully bringing this introduction to an end.

Meanwhile, also stuck out on the road with a stalled-out Jeep are Jerry’s girlfriend, Connie (McKamy), and her friend, Tina (Gibson). And like any other mechanical illiterate, they pop the hood, hoping and praying just staring at the engine will somehow cause it to heal itself. When that doesn't work, Tina tries kicking the dashboard, magically bringing the engine to life. (Hey, it always worked for the Fonz).

Bringing up the rear and rounding out the group is the snobbish Sammy (Griffin) and his girlfriend, Betty (O’Bryan) -- and we know Sammy’s a rich douche-bag because he’s wearing a v-neck sweater, driving a Mercedes with a built in phone, and is using it to talk to his daddy -- and we gather that daddy has him on a pretty short leash. Betty is also upset with him because they’ve canceled a weekend in Palm Springs to go and help clean some stupid old house. Once again, Sammy explains he and Jerry are good friends and how he owes him a favor; besides, the house has an enormous swimming pool and Jerry is a first rate cook. And then we get some backstory when Sammy reveals a secret about the old house -- a secret Jerry didn't tell the others for fear it would scare them away. Seems around ten years ago, a terrible crime took place on the property: a murder -- lots of them, actually.

Meanwhile, back at the house, another murder is about to take place as we find that grocery boy tied to a chair. And as the killer circles him, we see the bad guy’s face is covered with a leather mask as he rummages through a tool box. Finding what he wants, the killer produces a power drill with a wide, wood boring bit locked in place; and then that evil laugh cackles-up again while he drives the drill into the other man’s guts, killing him not-so-instantly.

Later, arriving at the house first, Mark, Johnny and Barney find no one else home but do hear some kind of gibberish coming from somewhere (-- gibberish that sounds a lot like a Jawa in heat to me). When they trace this to a closet, you can almost make it out as a warning to get away, and something about the children. But when they open the door its *gasp* empty. But that’s enough for the paranoid Barney, who declares the house is haunted and, having seen this hypothetical horror movie before, says they should all leave immediately.

Then, Mr. Burns pops-up out of nowhere and scares them. (And where's he been?) He scoffs at their claim of phantom voices, saying his cousin once heard voices, too, and is now committed. (Mysterious disappearance and family history of mental illness? I think we’ve found a suspect.) As the realtor leaves, when the others ask where Jerry is, Burns claims he hasn’t seen him since he first arrived; but it’s a big house and surely he’s bound to be around somewhere.

Outside, Burns runs into Connie and Tina and introduces them to his wife, Sadie (Grant), anxiously waiting in their car, who can’t believe her idiot husband would ever set foot inside that evil house; and the sooner they can vacate the premises the better. Inside, Johnny does his best to calm Barney down, saying they can all go swimming later. When Mark mentions he has every intention of getting Tina naked and in the sack, Barney’s paranoia escalates even more; hyper-aware that their situation is starting to resemble a horror movie, he warns the others to knock that sex shit off before Jason Vorhees shows up and kills them all.

With Jerry still absent, Connie steps up and thanks them all for coming. But the others aren’t very receptive when informed the unlikable Sammy is coming, too; but all promise to keep the peace for her sake just as the culprit in question shows up. And after Connie squares away the room assignments for the weekend, Jerry is still a no show. Odd, since his car is parked in the driveway. Assured Burns saw him earlier, Connie calls to see if Jerry might’ve mentioned where he was going. He didn’t, and the surly Burns reiterates how big the property is and has no doubt Jerry is there somewhere. 

With that, Connie gathers the troops and relates Jerry’s plan to convert the house into a shelter. And with a little elbow grease, she’s sure they can get it whipped into shape in no time.

Inspired by Connie’s pep talk, Mark cranks up his boom-box. And while the most obnoxious pop song ever recorded plays, men in short shorts start doing some rather disturbing things with brooms and dusters as a mind-numbing montage of sweeping and sliding down banisters ensues. And when they’re not cleaning, they’re dancing with an abandoned glee.

Uninspired by all this giddiness, the ever crabby Barney retires to the kitchen, comments on how fresh the meat is, and starts to cook it before it spoils while the others merrily clean. Then, while dusting around the fireplace, Mark finds a cassette tape wrapped in plastic, kills the music, and pops it into his player. This brings everybody together, complaining about the lack of tunes. Even Barney comes in from the kitchen, asking where Jerry went because his car just took off.

Confused, they all head outside just as the mystery tape queues up, and then a distressed voice screams that all the children are dead and to get out of the house or else. Alas, no one is there to hear these warnings and the tape is subsequently forgotten -- because after a hard day of musical montage cleaning most of the gathered guests have other things on their minds. If you know what I mean, and I think you do.

Cut to a bedroom, where we spy a large knife cutting through the mattress and boxspring from underneath the bed. Quickly, the hand and knife withdraw before the door opens and Mark and Tina spill into the bedroom. Tina, wanting to find out if what they say about urologists is true, tells Mark to strip down, promising she'll take care of the rest. (*zip* It's t'woo! It's t'woo!) Then, when they go for a roll on the sheets, he winds up on top; and as they start smooching and fondling, unknown to them, another hand emerges from underneath the bed, through the hole, and joins in on all that groping and fondling of Mark’s buttocks -- much to his delight, until Tina says it's not her doing it.

So who’s touching his butt? The killer? I don’t think so as they both jump off with a scream, bringing everyone else busting into the room only to see Barney come out from under the bed -- cackling away. He then apologizes to Mark, saying he was aiming for Tina. 

Now, I’d normally call the horror movie nut a suspect but he was with the other two while the first murder took place. So Barney’s in the clear as he returns to the kitchen. When dinner is finally served, Barney apologizes for not being as good a cook as Jerry. But the others compliment him on the liver -- not realizing they are actually eating Jerry’s liver.

Between bites, Sammy announces how his father pulled some strings and got him a prestigious internship at some high-ranking hospital. This really upsets Johnny because, due to a lack of money, he had to drop his dream of becoming a doctor and is now nothing more than a lowly X-Ray technician. Of course Sammy knows this and, being a prick, constantly rubs Johnny’s nose over it. 

But Connie steps in and makes peace before it comes to blows; and the situation is further defused when Mark compliments Barney on the fine potatoes he's been gorging on -- but they aren't potatoes; they're Rocky Mountain Oysters. Mark still doesn’t get it until Betty whispers the Oysters true origins into his ear, and then proceeds to spit out his last bite. (Ha-hah! Testicle humor! Wait. Maybe a couple of them were Jerry’s? *bleaaurrgh* Icky! Icky! Icky!)

Suddenly, their lively meal is interrupted by an abrupt knock on the front door. It’s the Sheriff, who’s out looking for the missing grocery boy. Told they haven’t seen him, and after looking around for a few silent moments, Sheriff Cash (Shafer) cackles a bit before declaring he never thought he’d set foot in this sinister house again. When Cash leaves, ever-paranoid Barney now goes really bonkers, demanding to know why everyone’s being so cryptic about this damned place. To help calm him down, Connie promises after they’ve finished dinner she'll reveal the whole sordid history of the house.

Meanwhile, Cash radios his deputy, who is stationed up on a hill overlooking the house. Now, Deputy Freddie (Venokur) definitely went to the Barney Fife Academy of Police Training as he struggles with a pair of binoculars to watch the property. Promising he’ll bust those pesky kids if they start smoking the pot, Cash says to leave them alone and just keep an eye out for the missing caretaker -- who they want to question about something. But as Freddie roger-wilco’s his orders, he trains his binoculars on the Sheriff’s patrol car, and then asks who’s that in there with him?

  Alas, Freddie's question comes too late; and when he hears Cash’s death-gurgle over the radio, our boy springs into action! Racing to the car, he finds Cash, dead, with a slashed throat. In turn, he's grabbed from behind, spun around, and stabbed repeatedly, effectively eliminating any outside help for those still inside.

Thus, blissfully unaware of the massacre that just took place in the driveway, Connie gathers everyone together in the living room to give them the sordid history of the house. Well, except for Sammy, who already knows the whole story. And so, he and Betty retreat upstairs for a promised "spanking." Here, finding the hot water is out, the indignant Sammy calls that no good real estate agent, who is at home in bed, where his wife disdainfully refuses his pitiful advances, claiming her first husband never had to beg for sex. Saved by the phone, Burns grumbles about firing that as of yet unseen caretaker as he gets dressed. But before he leaves, Sadie warns him to be careful because that house is evil.

Speaking of that "evil" house, Connie confesses that ten years ago this property used to be an orphanage. And when the owners hired a teenager named Martin to help out, he wound up being so cruel and nasty to the children several of them conspired to accuse him of molesting them. Thus, Martin was arrested on those charges but was later acquitted at trial. But during the trial, his father hung himself in shame. And so, after a not guilty verdict when the truth came to light, Martin snapped, returned to the orphanage, killed all the children, and then torched the place. And since his body was never recovered, it’s been said that Madman Martin still roams the woods around the apparently rebuilt house, killing whoever dares come near.

When Connie finishes, that’s the last straw for Barney, who announces he’s leaving. But the others hesitate, allowing Connie to convince her friends to stay and help her and Jerry make something good out of something evil. This works, and everybody decides to stay -- except Barney, only no one will give him a ride back into town. But I think they’d all leave with him if they knew a cackling POV-shot was stalking them right outside the window!

Anyhoo, as the others decide to go swimming, Barney wants to ask Sammy for a ride but is told to leave them alone because they’re probably already asleep. Only they’re not as Sammy and Betty are playing some kinky bondage games upstairs. Already tied to the bed, when Betty laughs at her lover's ridiculous S 'n' M outfit, he gags her. He then brings out a can of whipped cream but it quickly splurts empty. Cursing his luck, he says not to go anywhere 'cuz there’s more whipped cream in the kitchen. On the way, Sammy runs into Barney, who begs for that ride until he notices the get-up and grows even more paranoid, warning him not to have sex or he'll be killed -- just like in the movies.

As he raves on, Sammy believes Barney has finally lost it -- but the guy is asking some pretty logical questions: Like, Where’s Jerry? And the delivery boy? Convinced they’re both already dead, Barney warns they’ll all be dead, too, and soon, if they don’t get the hell out of there. But Sammy brushes him off and moves on to the kitchen, where Johnny and Mark are making plans for the pool party. Seems Mark wants Johnny to finally do something about his long time crush on Connie. And with Jerry’s notable absence, and a little prodding and coaching from Mark, Johnny’s willing to try and woo her away. Now, this coaching is just an insistence from Mark that Connie goes nuts for a man with a good body, who rubs himself seductively. (Uh ... Ho-kay.) And he somehow convinces his gullible friend to field test this theory later at the pool.

Meantime, ignoring their "compliments" on his outfit, whipped cream in hand, Sammy heads back to Betty -- where, unknown to him, the cackling killer has already entered the room; but due to the gag, Betty can't warn him properly when her lover returns. Thus, Sammy ignores her unintelligible cries, thinking she’s role-playing, allowing the killer to pounce with his machete, covering Betty in her boyfriend's gore. We cut away after this, but I’m going to assume the killer dispatched Betty, too.

Meanwhile, several rooms away and clearly out of earshot, I guess, Connie and Tina work in the old nursery, where Connie goes into all kinds of morbid details on how Madman Martin slit the throats of all the babies sleeping in the ward -- one even had its tongue cut out. Downstairs, Barney, armed with a baseball bat (-- and ya know, I’m really starting to like old Barney), cautiously answers the door. It's only Burns, who’s come to fix the hot water heater, and Barney is relieved when the realtor agrees to give him a lift back to town when he’s done.

Heading to the basement, Burns starts tinkering around with the furnace. (Hey, Einstein? The hot-water heater is over there in the other corner.) Suddenly, the lights mysteriously go out. And after turning on his flashlight, Burns quickly realizes he’s not alone down there. And then, from out of the darkness, the killer appears; and when he takes off the mask, Burns recognizes whoever this is before he takes a machete to the crotch, which skewers him all the way through and comes out between his buttocks!

Meantime, out at the pool, Mark pulls Connie aside and asks her to check on Johnny, claiming his friend has a bad skin rash and is too embarrassed to ask for help (-- that sneaky little matchmaker). Connie falls for this, and agrees to clandestinely examine Johnny more closely. Thus and so, when Johnny finally makes his move, rubbing his chest vigorously, he mistakes her close examination for that rash as being turned on. And when he gets invited up to her room, saying she has something for him, Johnny can’t believe his luck and is now expecting some action in the sheets already.

On the way to her bedroom, Barney informs he’s hitching a ride back to town with Burns and apologizes to Connie for this brazen act of cowardice. (And where’s your baseball bat son? Didn’t those horror movies teach you anything? Stay armed!) He then heads to the basement to see what’s taking Burns so long (-- again, son, where is your bat?!), but all Barney finds is the realtor’s discarded hairpiece. As he panics, the killer again springs from the shadows but only runs up the stairs and locks him in the basement. We’ll assume the killer didn't dispatch Barney because he couldn’t get that machete dislodged from Burns' nethers. Also, you should know by now, through a process of elimination, who the killer really is. Have you figured it out yet? Because I have.

Elsewhere, in Connie’s room, Johnny is still gleefully rubbing his pecs while Connie roots around for some ointment. Signals skewered, when he tries to kiss her, she quickly pulls away. She's very upset, and he’s very confused until they quickly figure out what Mark did to set them both up. Speaking of Mark, who is turning out to be an A-1 creep, he’s finally convinced the suddenly chaste Tina to jump back in the sack with him -- but only after he checks under the bed first. (And the myth of blue balls is just a myth, people.) But just as they really get going, Tina brings it all to a screeching halt, saying he forgot to check under the bed as promised.

Here, Mark pitches a fit, but she’s adamant. And so, he makes a big production out of this. Pulling the window curtains back next, and without even looking, he proclaims no one's there, either. He then moves on to the closet, opens the door and, again, without looking, is about to say no one’s in there as well when the killer comes out and plants an axe into his head.

Thinking it's Barney playing another morbid trick ( -- and that was some trick with the axe), Tina asks the killer if she's supposed to be scared. And if she is supposed to die next, fine, she’ll play the part and mocks in protest while the killer closes in and grabs her by the throat. And then Tina continues with these fake choking noises until the killer breaks her neck. And I do believe that final look on her face was genuine surprise.

Back in Connie’s room, she tells a mortified Johnny this wasn’t his fault and they were both duped. But Johnny is so embarrassed he beats a hasty retreat. Heading downstairs and into the kitchen, Johnny runs right into the killer. He, too, makes the mistake of thinking this is Barney and gets cold-conked with a hammer.

The killer then ties him up and -- get this, drags him over to a microwave oven that's sitting on the floor. Sticking the victim's head into the machine, over Johnny's protests, the killer sets it to cook on High for about five minutes and hits start. (With the door open? Will that even work?) And as his brain slowly cooks, Johnny starts flashbacking to his childhood until his head explodes. (Couple that with the fact his voice gets higher and higher as he’s being cooked alive, and that scene is just as ridiculous as it sounds.)

And so, there are only two people left alive to hear Johnny’s head go *pop* right before the microwave chimes -- well, three people if you include the killer, and you really should know who that is by now. With Barney’s still locked in the basement, Connie is free to investigate. And as we get the Final Girl’s tour of the carnage, her hysteria grows as she bounces from room to room filled with gore -- but no bodies.

Managing to get to the phone, she calls the Sheriff and says to get there immediately because Madman Martin is back and running amok. (Waitaminute. Isn’t the Sheriff dead already?) Then suddenly, the line goes dead. Unfazed, Connie opens the nearest drawer and produces a .357 Magnum! Checking the chamber, she’s soon locked and loaded, and then Connie cautiously enters the kitchen, finds the smoking and bloody microwave, but Johnny’s body is gone, too.

Following the smeared blood trail to the basement door, she opens it up and peers into the darkness. Where’d Barney go, you ask? I don’t know, but he’s not the killer as we saw him still locked in the basement while Johnny was being microwaved. Pressing on, Connie gets to the bottom of the steps, turns the lights on, but finds the basement is empty -- except for several large tarps over in the corner. Pulling back the first tarp reveals several bodies, including Jerry’s. Connie then hears a familiar cackle behind her.

Turning to face the killer, Connie watches, frozen, as he quickly closes the gap between them. (Uhm, ma'am? You have a gun in your hand! It’s a .357 Magnum; the deadliest handgun ever invented! It could blow the killer's head clean off! Use it, you ninny!) Snapping out of it, our Final Girl raises the gun and puts two slugs into the killer, who falls to the floor. (Thank you.) But he quickly recovers and manages to knock the gun out of Connie’s hand. (You dope. I told you to shoot him in the head.) Pulling out a knife, the wounded killer backs Connie into a corner before finally removing the mask, revealing the killer was none other than -- all together now -- Sadie! Wait. Sadie?! Relax, let her explain.

Here, Sadie reveals she was Madman Martin’s mother. Remember? She said Burns was her second husband. This also might explain why she stabbed Burns through the crotch. Anyways, she also reveals it was she, not Martin, who killed all those orphans 10-years ago. And not wanting anyone in the house where her son was brought to shame, that's why she had to kill all the others. Thus, as Psycho Sadie closes in for the final kill -- wait! Who's that climbing out from underneath the other tarp? It's Barney! (Yeah, Barney!) Picking up the gun he puts two more bullets into Sadie, who finally falls dead.

The killer revealed and vanquished, Connie runs to him and he consoles her: like in all horror movies, Barney knew if he pretended to already be dead the killer would eventually reveal themselves to the final victim and then he’d spring into action. Hearing sirens approaching fast, the survivors rush upstairs. 

After they're gone, we do a slow pan back to Sadie -- and her eyes pop open! She lifts her head and starts cackling again, but it's her last laugh as she immediately falls back dead. For good. And you know what, I’ll say it right now: the movie should have ended right there. But nope, they had to tack on a really stupid twist ending. So take my advice and stop the DVD / tape / or streaming platform right now. No? Fine...

Some time later, Connie finishes a shower. On the radio, a couple of DJ's inform it's been almost a week since the mass murder spree at the old orphanage. And as the Morning Zoo Crew have some tasteless fun talking about the grisly nature of the killings, including how some of the bodies were eaten, Connie dries off until she hears a knock at the door. When she opens it up, expecting Barney, she instead comes face to face with the masked killer! As Connie screams and retreats back into the apartment, the killer stalks her all the way back to the bathroom; but when he stabs her, nothing happens; the knife is a fake. 

Then, the attacker takes off the mask; it's Barney. He leaves the bathroom, laughing hysterically at his own sick little joke; but Connie spies some scissors on the counter, and the look on her face says she definitely isn't joking. Snatching up the scissors, the screen goes black as we hear Barney scream as he's presumably stabbed to death.

Shot and slapped together within an inch of its life in just nine days, Evil Laugh's budget is lacking but the amateur filmmakers were amazingly up to the task to cover up that fact. A lot of carnage is implied but seldom seen. The deaths were gruesome, but not very graphic. Thus, they saved some more money on the FX with some quick editing and turning on the fake blood fountain on to full blast -- often with hilarious results.

And it is pretty funny -- unintentional or not. See, as the Slasher sub-genre was dying out, the deaths started to get more and more creative and elaborate to keep the audiences interested. Each successive film had to have a bigger and bloodier body count. Now, most of these latter efforts had the standard death by sharp objects, sure, but held their trump card for the last victim: a death that was so over the top that it would be the only thing the audience would remember. And Johnny’s death by microwave is one heck of a trump card for Evil Laugh and it was the only thing I really remembered about this movie after I saw it many, many years ago as a VHS rental. And so, that gonzo death is the main reason why you’re reading about it here.

Celebrity Home Entertainment, who helped finance the film, were also impressed with Baio and Brascia’s finished product and, after a few mandated additions, Evil Laugh even garnered itself a limited theatrical release through Cinevest Entertainment Group, which was a big deal at the time. Most slasher films by 1986 went straight to video. Even the bigger franchises, like Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween -- even Friday the 13th, were running on fumes for their respective studios; the end of the Stalk 'n' Slash boom was near. And by the time Evil Laugh came out, the genre had all but run its course and was starting to fall into parody. It didn’t matter whodunit, but how they dunit, how many they dunit to, and, most importantly, with what unique gardening implements.

And while their script tries hard to throw you off the trail of who the killer really is, it has a bad habit of killing off suspects as soon as they’re introduced! There are a lot of red herrings here, but unless this is a Raymond Chandler novel, where the killer is killed by someone, who is then killed off by someone else etc., then it’s obvious that Sadie has to be the killer because she’s the only one we've met who wasn't dead or accounted for yet, making the deduction rather simple … Waitasecond? A slasher movie with multiple slashers who keep bumping each other off with only one innocent bystander in the whole bunch? Someone get my agent on the line!

But the movie doesn’t bog down in these details as director Brascia was smart enough to keep the murder and mayhem coming by introducing auxiliary characters to get bumped-off to keep the audience interested until the final bloodbath starts. It should also be noted that Barney’s rants and being self aware of horror clichés, and his pathological need to follow these rules for any hope of survival, predates Kevin Williamson’s notions in Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) by over a decade. And Tina's death scene is stolen almost verbatim by Rose McGowan's character in that film, too. And the whole death-by-microwave gag was stolen later in the remake of Last House on the Left (2009).

But just like with Randy, no one listened to Barney, either, and see what happened? I actually cheered when Barney appeared and off'd the killer, after patiently waiting for her to reveal herself, as he knows she will, beating Sadie at her own game. But then they had to stick on that stupid ending, which, according to Brascia, was one of those additions the distributor demanded that didn't make a whole lot of sense.

A couple funny notes on the casting, too. Actress Kim McKamy used a body double for her nude shower scene. Why is this funny? Well, McKamy later adopted the stage name Ashlyn Gere and went on to quite a career in the softcore porn market. So at some point, she lost her bashfulness for starring roles in Sexual Instincts (1992), Sorority Sex Kittens I, II and III (1993, 1994, 1997), Tasty Treats (1994), and the unforgettable Stripper Wives (1999). Also of note, co-star Jody Gibson stepped up to fill the void as the new Hollywood Madame when Heidi Fleiss got busted.

Brascia and Baio would team-up again for Hard Rock Nightmare (1989), another body count movie with a demonic twist, but while that was entertaining enough it doesn't quite live up to what they concocted for their inaugural effort, which was a nice little parody on the Stalk 'n' Slash genre. Thus, the question remains: Was this what they had originally intended? Or was this some kind of divine cinematic accident? Regardless of the answer, Evil Laugh isn’t the greatest thing you’ll ever see, and it’s kind of obnoxious, to be honest, but should still be tracked down and watched; for it marks a distinct paradigm shift in the slasher genre as it needled toward self-awareness that deserves to be better recognized in the fossil record of such things.

Well, if you don't know what Hubrisween is by now, Boils and Ghouls, I don't think I can help you. Anyhoo, that's FIVE films down with 23 yet to go. Up next, It's the End of the World as We Knew It, and No One Feels Fine. 

Evil Laugh (1986) Baio-Brascia-Venokur Productions :: Wildfire Productions :: Cinevest Entertainment Group / EP: Arthur Schweitzer, Krishna Shah / P: Johnny Venocur, Steven Baio, Dominick Brascia / D: Dominick Brascia / W: Steven Baio, Dominick Brascia / C: Stephen Sealy / E: Brion McIntosh, Michael Scott / M: David Shapiro / S: Kim McKamy, Steven Baio, Tony Griffin, Jody Gibson, Jerold Pearson, Myles O’Brien, Harold Weiss, Kathryn O’Bryan, Gary Hays, Hal Shafer, Johnny Venokur, Tom Shell, Susan Grant

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...