Friday, September 2, 2016

Stay Awake, The (1987)

... aka: Pánico en la residencia (Panic in the Residence)
... aka: Stay Awake - Nacht des Grauens (Stay Awake – Night of Horror)

Directed by:
"John Bernard" (Johan Barnard)

In 1969 in America, ponytail-sporting Satanist serial killer William John Brown (Lindsay Reardon) is convicted of murdering and sexually assaulting eleven young female victims and is sentenced to death. Before dying in the gas chamber he warns (in a demon voice) “You fools cannot kill me! I am the Angel of Darknessssss!” and promises to return one day in the near future to kill off all the children of everyone responsible for his demise. Nineteen years later at St. Mary's School for Girls in “Europe,” William's spirit arrives and causes all kinds of problems for a handful of young tootsies staying there. It slams doors, topples over furniture, turns lights on and off, kills lab rats and other animals outside, knocks a framed photo of the Virgin Mary off a wall and makes a boombox blow up and melt during aerobics class. Despite all of the weirdness, eight schoolgirls decide to carry on with plans to have a “stay awake” in the gymnasium where they will stay awake all night in order to raise money for their school.

Overseeing the evening's festivities is science teacher Trish Walton (Shirley Jane Harris), who's recently noticed some “vandalism” at the school and has elderly caretaker Mr. Stark (Ken Marshall) looking into it. At the sleepover, the girls watch horror movies, eat junk food, talk about boys, play volleyball, play a prank on their teacher by pretending to be dead, sneak in a few cigarettes (rebels!) and start exiting the gym for one reason or another, where they disappear after encountering the evil spirit. Said spirit sometimes takes regular human form and sometimes takes the form of a rat-headed rubber monster with large red eyes, claws and a long tongue it uses to grab or strangle victims with. In between monster sightings, there are gratuitous POV shots of the spirit floating around the school making weird noises, which include laughing, groaning, gurgling and mimicking a baby and a little girl. The sound mix on this film is loud and incredibly obnoxious, by the way.

Any time someone knocks the Slumber Party Massacre series, I always point them in the direction of something like this so they realize they didn't know how good they actually had it. The SPM movies are dumb but entertaining, fast paced, fairly well made for what they are and provide viewers with the blood and nudity they actually want to see. This movie provides viewers with absolutely nothing they want to see. None of the kills are memorable and most are bloodless, shot in dim light or take place completely off screen. Even worse, this has perhaps the all time worst group shower scene in history. The camera focuses on the girls' faces making sensuous looks, starts slowly panning down and then suddenly cuts away before revealing so much as a hint of cleavage. You can even see the top of a bikini an actress is wearing in one instance. And then there are shots of the camera tilting up from the floor showing a foot and then a leg before stopping mid thigh. We also have a girl opening her towel to flash her friends with her back turned to the camera. You either show the T&A or you don't even bother going there. And for God's sake, turn on a fucking light so we can at least see what's going on!

The mixture of awful writing / dialogue and amateur acting ensures we could care less about any of the characters. Though the ladies who populated the SPM movies were hardly budding Meryl Streeps, they at least managed to be likable and show a bit of character. The girls here are pretty enough but they're boring and almost completely devoid of personality. Since the film lists the stars in the opening credits but not in the end credits, I even had to waste an hour of my time online stalking some of these broads so I could match the actress to the role. So for what it's worth, Tanya Gordon plays Samantha, the snobby girl who says “You're fat! Gross!” to a girl who weighs about 90 pounds. Jayne Hutton (a former beauty queen and model) plays Carrie, the sweet girl. Heath Potter plays Debbie, the bookworm. Michelle Carey (not actress Michele Carey as falsely listed on IMDb) plays Toby, the black girl. Maxine John (also in HOWLING IV) plays Cheryl, the prankster. Christobel d'Orthez (also in the 1989 “remake” of The Masque of the Red Death) plays Allison, the slutty girl who invites her boyfriend and three of his friends over so they can raid the prop room for monkey masks and then quickly be dispatched. Rounding out the group are Heilie Oeschger as Amy and Joanna Rowlands as Jennifer. Both of them are just kind of there.

Stay Awake is so pathetic that it can't even set up a basic plot. At one point the spirit claims he's there to “ravage all the young girls” because he's looking for a “bride” so he can “plant the seed of evil deep within her.” That still doesn't explain the prologue or why the demonic spirit of an American serial killer would go all the way to Europe to possess a bunch of dull schoolgirls who are in no way connected to him, his capture or his execution. Having this all take place 19 years after his execution hints that at one point they were planning on linking at least one of the girls (or perhaps the teacher) to the killer but those dots are never once connected. I also probably won't be spoiling much here but none of the girls are actually shown being killed. They simply scream at the approaching demon and are later shown possessed. And the stupid ending leaves all of their fates completely up in the air as we never learn what happens to any of them. I'd like to think they all went straight to hell and took the director with them.

Home video distributors have done a good job keeping this turkey in circulation over the years. I couldn't find a theatrical poster for the film, but IMDb claims it had a very limited big screen release here in America through MPCA. It was then issued on VHS and laserdisc by Nelson and later given a DVD release through Image. It's also been released in South Africa (where it was filmed), the UK, Germany, Spain, Japan and numerous other countries. The only known name in the credits is executive producer Avi Lerner, who's still extremely busy to this day and has nearly 300 producing credits to his name.


Lord Crayak said...

Oh, hey, another to add to that oddly specific "electric chair-ed serial killer comes back for revenge" list I one day will maybe get around to making.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Ha! Except this one is gas chamber. I guess in the "executed serial killer comes back..." subgenre it doesn't really matter.

Lord Crayak said...

D'oh, I don't know how I skimmed that. XD

Ah, well, like you said, close enough.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Yeah, just a technicality but it's pretty much the exact same set up as the electric chair ones. This is probably the WORST of those. It may even be worse than Death Row Diner, which I can let off the hook for having no budget and being shot on video.

spookyx3 said...

stay away! THE STAY AWAKE put me in dreamland within 20 minutes. too many (unlit) demon-cam shots pad this awful thing out to feature length. after NIGHT OF THE DRIBBLER, you'd think i'd learn to be wary of movies filmed mostly in school gymnasiums.

and oy, the "eerie" recitation of 'jack and jill' that ends "jack fell down and broke his crown, and jill came down and chopped off his head . . ."

(far worse than POV-ROW DINER. at least that has some watchable names to carry it.)

Mark smith said...

Really very super blog and very outstanding layout and all information about the movies..really very interesting.
Alien Abduction - Red Light

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Oh yeah this is undoubtedly one of the worst. I recently got me a copy of Diner so I hope to give it a decent review here soon. I hated it the first time but I may get some more enjoyment out of it now that's I'm more used to SOV films.

DC said...

Haven't seen this since I was in High School (92/93..). Remember labeling it the worst I've ever seen. Fast forward to today, and I told my 13 year old son about it. So we pull it up on Prime and watch it. I'm sure he'll tell his kids one day about the worst horror movie he's ever seen. Jennifer in this one wasa hottie. My favorite. Despite her being "fat." LOL What was she, 90lbs?

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Poor boy. Making him watch this almost qualifies as child abuse!

spookyx3 said...

reminds me i've still to see THE CHAIR (1988).

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

The Chair may be the only 80s electric chair movie I haven't seen!

spookyx3 said...

PRISON (1987)
STAY AWAKE (1987) *
THE CHAIR (1988)
SHOCKER (1989)

any others?

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Dead Silence (1989) and Nightmare Beach (1989) to add to that. I think Death House aka Zombie Death House (1988) would also count!

spookyx3 said...

i thought maybe SLAUGHTERHOUSE ROCK (couldn't remember), but not according to various synopses.

DEATH HOUSE was on my to-do list. different premise from the others, but yeah, technically it fits -- zombified by experimental drugs, condemned survives the chair then kills a few guards. it's staged kinda sloppy. mini TENEBRE reunion with anthony franciosa & john saxon. warden's son is the kid from GRANDMOTHER'S HOUSE (1989). chuck cirino score. DKs "chemical warfare", both fred ray & david decoteau thanked in the credits.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Been ages since I saw Slaughterhouse Rock. It's set on Alcatraz Island but I don't remember an electric chair being used. I guess we'd then get into a generic area of prison-set horror, which would add some more movies to the list. Slaughterhouse Rock was financed by a rich Chicago car dealer (related to Mafia don Sam Giancana!) as a vehicle for his actor son.

Death House went in and came out and now I don't remember much about it. Three or four of the people in it were also in Death Row Diner and I think it was financed by the same people. Maybe they decided to shoot two movies there back-to-back since they had access to a closed down prison. It's clear which of the two got the higher budget! lol

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