... aka: Stay Awake - Nacht des Grauens (Stay Awake – Night of Horror)
"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.