Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Spirits (1990)

Directed by:
Fred Olen Ray

Call it LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, Fred Olen Ray style. Or basically just call it out for being crap; a cut-rate, boring haunted house programmer with nothing to really recommend. Four researchers (parapsychologist Robert Quarry, controversial psychic Brinke Stevens, skeptical journalist Kathrin Lautner and male chauvinist pig Oliver Darrow) decide to investigate a supposedly haunted mansion with a history of murders that may have been committed by former rapist and mass murderer Andre Picard. Children's voices are heard, stuff starts flying around and an evil spirit eventually possesses them one by one, leading to such things as Brinke hammering a nail through her own hand and Darrow having a sex dream with a redheaded succubus (played by Kaitlin Hopkins, the daughter of Shirley Knight). Carol Lynley is completely wasted as a compassionate nun in two brief scenes and Erik Estrada is downright awful as a priest struggling with his faith who must eventually come to the rescue a la THE EXORCIST. It's very badly written (by Ray and the suspiciously named "R.U. King") and the contrived plot is made damn near unbearable by the lack of on-screen gore, interesting characters, credible dialogue or anything else to make it worth watching.
The demon/possession make-up is very minor, but there's a pretty good John Vulich/Everett Burrell-designed skeleton-demon creature at the very end. The only other good part is Michelle Bauer, who shows up in a cameo as a demoness, strips out of her nun costume and tries to seduce Estrada by reminding him, "You knew your way around a pussy pretty good for a priest!" As a matter of fact, though the majority of the actors don't really embarrass themselves here, Bauer and Quarry (best known for playing COUNT YORGA in two popular early 70s drive-in vampire films) are the only two to bring any kind of personality to the film and also the only two who don't seem to be sleepwalking through their respective roles in a complete daze.

Look for a very obvious boom shadow on Brinke's face during the kitchen scene. Fred's son Christopher Ray (now a director) plays a dead kid, special effects man Earl Ellis plays a demon and former G.L.O.W. ("Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling") star and adult film actress Sandra Margot aka Tiffany Mellon aka Tyffany Million (who's now married, has two kids and works as a private eye in Los Angeles) is also here covered in demon make-up so you can't even tell it's her.


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