July 13, 2011

Fear No Evil (1981)

"High school student turns out to be personification of Lucifer. Two arch angels in human form (as women) take him on."

I had very fond memories of "Fear No Evil" (even though I couldn't remember the name of it for the longest time) and so I'm sad to report that I have now ruined them all by rewatching this new Anchor Bay DVD.

It's hard to believe that the writer/director, Frank LaLoggia, was also responsible for one of my favourite ghost stories from the '80s, "Lady in White" (1988). There's not even a suggestion that he would have even been capable of such nostalgic brilliance in this lacklustre and confusing cheesefest.

Mitigating circumstances, including Frank LaLoggia's youth and the woefully inadequate budget for what he wanted to do, are no excuse for how lifeless the story actually turned out to be. If you pay close enough attention to the dialogue, it's all either contrived or somewhat pompous depending on which characters are involved. The high school students don't sound like any that you would have encountered in real life at that time and there's far too much "speechifying" (for lack of a better word) from the angels.

Aside from the exceptionally poor acting from a cast who were mostly too old to be real teenagers, "Fear No Evil" is notable for having a pretty good soundtrack full of late '70s and early '80s bands. I'm not going to list them as it would spoil the fun of playing "Name That Tune" should you ever rent this yourselves from Netflix. Even if you are too young to remember the '80s, you'll still recognise the songs as they are all very well known.

The thing which I remembered most from "Fear No Evil", though I'll freely admit that I remembered it wrongly, was the shower scene where the evil and effeminate Andrew got kissed by the school bully. Some people might think that a "gay kiss" in a horror movie was somewhat groundbreaking at the time but I think we should all know better than that. It may have been controversial in American movies but European filmmakers had been putting stuff like that in (and much worse) years before especially in the vampire genre. Although undoubtedly there are a lot of homoerotic moments in "Fear No Evil", it isn't a "gay" film as such and, even from my own heterosexual perspective, I think it fair to say that Andrew (Stefan Arngrim) was far too creepy and weird to be attractive in that way.

I actually falsely remembered the shower scene with Tony the bully turning into a woman during the whole snogging session. Obviously I couldn't have payed too much attention to it when I watched the film on VHS back in the day as that part came much later. Not to put too finer point on it, the macho John Travolta wannabe wasn't exactly thrilled with his free boob job.

As far as other horrific moments go, there wasn't anything particularly scary about "Fear No Evil" so it was appropriately named. There were a few gory moments here and there but they weren't all that realistic looking. A death by dodgeball defied even more laws of physics than the infamous basketball decapitation in "Deadly Friend" (1986).

The most annoying thing about "Fear No Evil" was the confusion caused by all the gender swapping archangels and how they were referred to by different names depending on who they were sharing a scene with. I could watch this film half a dozen times over and still not be able to tell you who played who or what their names were if quizzed on it afterwards though I can't say that I would even care to try to either.

The whole religious "devil versus angels" angle to this film was far too ambitious and not handled at all well. As much as I've moaned about "The Final Conflict" (1981) before now, all the Omen films were far superior to this. The final battle in "Fear No Evil" was a mixture of some of the worst effects since the end of "The Manitou" (1978) plus a ton of equally dated animation. Even worse than that, it was also a very lame anticlimax.

To say that I was disappointed by "Fear No Evil" is an understatement especially as I waited over 20 years to watch it again. Like so many '80s horror films which a lot of us look back on with rose-tinted glasses, "Fear No Evil" was actually quite a poor product even when it first came out but I just didn't realise it. I don't think that a modern audience would be capable of watching it without much beer-induced mockery and it's probably for the best. "Fear No Evil" wasn't a fun film at all and was far too serious in tone for something that dealt with such far-fetched subject matter.

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