Now calm yourselves, for I must give you a warning. This film is silly. Very, very silly. It’s very obviously being daft by making a mockery of a lot of what would have been popular movies at the start of the 80s, especially the so-called “video nasties”. Thankfully the cliches and styles that it rips into are still with us after 40 years, so you should be able to get the majority of the jokes. Especially those about boobs and willies, you filthy degenerates!
If you remember Kenny Everette then this is what you’d expect if one of his sketches were given a budget and wasn’t forced by Lord Thames or Auntie Beeb to have an obvious gag every 15 seconds. If you don’t remember Cuddly Ken, then here is a closeted comedian who thoroughly embraced the joys, and the shortcomings, of TV and film enough to make something a bit like an English Airplane!. Just with a lot more blood and Vincent Price in a perfectly thrown-away big villain role. Probably the same number of boobs and willy jokes though.
The premise is suitably bonkers and starts like all comedies do with a group of Satanic monks committing unspeakable acts of brutal violence. Several years later, and a group of eight paranormal investigators, headed by Lukas Mandeville (Kenny Everett) and Barbara Coyle (Pamela Stephenson) turn up to find out what caused it all. What’s caused it all was The Sinister Man (Vincent Price) running the cult (of which all the villagers, and their dogs, are a part of) that is in service of the lord and master, Satan; and Satan wants that house empty, so they need to get to murdering. Chop Chop.
As said, the events are very, very silly. If you aren’t prepared for some incredibly bad jokes told incredibly well, so as to make you laugh as they go past stupid and around the other side to genius, then find something else to watch. They are also extensively playing around with expectations of horror films, but nothing is too deep-geek as to leave you confused if you are a casual viewer of such things. Barry Cryer and Ray Cameron, which means a lot of sharp comedy and a lot of outright buffoonery, all delivered with the same care and attention.
Being that it was made as a vehicle for Kenny Everette, whom they had both written for before, there are many random sex jokes which have aged well to varying degrees. Most are funny, some are very “schoolyard” and still quite funny, and a couple may cause mild offense to modern viewers at the start but eventually play off well enough to be worth it. There’s even a couple of relatively progressive homosexuality jokes that are actually funny, and a gay couple who are treated with surprisingly great respect. Mostly though, it was in the 80s before Alternative Comedy, so you have been warned.
There is also quite a bit of gore, played both as a direct parody of the horror genre and completely straight to show just how silly the genre is. It’s mostly blood being sprayed on everything, rather than anything especially torturous, however, I was surprised by it being there. After viewing I found out it originally had an 18 certificate, but in these enlightened/debauched times, it’s down to a 15. Somewhere in there is a workable horror movie, with a premise and a delivery better than a lot of serious horrors from the era I’ve seen, but at no point does it move too far from its primary goal of giving you a giggle.
On that measure, some of its more aged-looking effects play into its favor, even if some of the more nuanced background gags will be hit and miss. Thankfully the primary jokes are timeless and surprisingly tasteful, so you’ll be laughing like a loon. The Vincent Price moments are worth mentioning and are an absolute treat for genre fans; he very clearly had a grand time sending up some of his most spectacular work and every moment with him in it is a love letter to his art. From quite a silly start to very silly end, we were laughing away; so, this is an undisputed Treasure of a film and it’s delightful to see such a work of high-camp back in rotation.