Goodnight Godbless 1987 Review
Goodnight Godbless 1987
Directed by: John Eyres
Starring: Emma Sutton, Frank Rozelaar-Green, Jared Morgan
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
*An update from the review I posted on the IMDB in 2004. It was the first one there and I think that it is still online now…
This extremely rare and mostly unheard of slasher was actually the debut movie of British-born director John Eyres. Although his name may not immediately ring bells in the heads of most movie buffs, he did at least manage to carve himself a career out of directing mostly straight to video films, which include Monolith with Bill Paxton and the new age slasher flick, Ripper. The latter is most memorable for giving Kelly Brook – a hot British chica with dreamy lady lumps like mountains and little else – a stab at acting. Unfortunately, it also flopped and disappeared as soon as it was unleashed.
This time, we are back in killer priest territory, with a murderous Padre that shows people his rosary beads and then butchers them remorselessly. The plot kicks in when Detectives Joe Yamovitch (Frank Rozelaar Green) and John Brett (Jared Morgan) head up an investigation and go to interview the survivor of the maniacal clergyman’s first gruesome massacre that we saw in the opening. The witness is a young girl named Mandy (Jane Price) and before long Joe begins a relationship with her mother Lisa (Emma Sutton). Meanwhile the ruthless assassin has located the child and begins stalking the only person who could possibly identify him. Can Joe keep his promise and protect the petrified couple from the deranged madman……?
Goodnight Godbless is credited with one of the most shockingly effective openings that I’ve ever seen in a horror film. It’s so startling that I’m surprised that the movie wasn’t banned in the UK because of it. A churchman strolls leisurely past a school playground stroking his rosary beads. He is spotted by one of the many children who are playing behind a large spiked fence. As he reaches the gate, a teacher – who indeed seems bewildered to see a priest – approaches him. Suddenly he draws a large knife from within his jacket and stabs her, before reaching for a handgun and firing randomly at the fleeing kiddies. Soon after, we learn that he killed five juniors, which on reflection has horrible echoes of the Dunblane massacre even a few years before it happened. It’s a startling launch, made the more grim by the foggy photography and childlike and haunting score.
Now this sort of approach is usually well avoided by most slasher movies. Dumb fornicating teens getting slaughtered can be handled by the average viewer, but young innocent children getting shot doesn’t sit comfortably with Joe public and especially with the then cautious censors. Eyres certainly went all out on the exploitation for his opening and to be honest he manages to pull it off extremely well. It was certainly a brave attempt to shock the viewer and he really did unsettle me. But I knew that with a beginning that caught you off guard so surprisingly, he was going to have one hell of a job on his hands to make sure that the rest of the runtime lived up to the expectations.
Sadly from then on things don’t impress as much as they should have. In fact, they don’t impress much at all. The storyline chucks in all the usual clichés, but everything feels laboured and dull after such a drastic kick-off.The leads are likeable and accessible, although a little more character building certainly wouldn’t have gone a miss. In one part, young Mandy asks Joe to accompany her and her mother out on a date only five minutes after they first meet. The guy only says a few words and he’s found himself a microwave relationship. Who needs a storyline anyway? We then get a cheesy ‘couple in love’ montage as the threesome explore the ‘wonderful’ sights of Bird World, all accompanied by the most gawd awful soft rawk tune ever recorded (Sung by the director, no less). Add on top of this the fact that the photography is as grotty as an ancient underground prison and we really begin to feel uncontrollably sleepy.
The plot has difficulty making it’s mind up how it wants to play ball. None of the victims can give a positive description of the killer and we the viewer never get to see his face. Now in a slasher flick, this usually means that it’s one of the cast who’s slicing everyone up and it’s our job to guess who it is. But just when you think you’ve picked out the culprit, the inexplicable ending left me totally bewildered. It’s not so much shocking as it is lazy.
There’s the odd interesting shot from DP Alan Chow, but nothing to write home about and as I previously mentioned it is impossible to give credit when you feel like you are watching everything through a dense mist. This is most evident in the night scenes which must’ve been illuminated by a matchstick and throwaway lighter. We don’t get any gore and most of the murders are poorly filmed anyway and if you remove the opening massacre, then there’s not much of a body count either. Have you ever listened to a Walkman when the batteries are going dead? Well that would sum up the pace here for the most part and far too much time is wasted covering the silly liaison that ensued between the leads. More space should have been given to the nut job who certainly stole the show when he turned up.
In any walk of life, you should always play to your strengths and much like Ghostkeeper, Godbless had the potential to thrive on a unique feeling of uneasiness. It never manages to build a flow however and ends up laying, like a drunken hobo, in a mangled heap on your TV screen.
Unbelievably amateur with very little to warrant a purchase, aside from that shock-a-lock opening (and an awesome title, although it was released in the UK simply as Lucifer), I really don’t think that you’ll find enough here to keep you interested. I most definitely liked the admittedly creepy bogeyman, but aside from that we are really drinking the last saliva laden dregs from the filmmaking vodka bottle. Director John Eyres has his own website and guess what picture is missing from his online résumé…? That pretty much says it all.
Funnily enough I once showed this to a group of my friends when I was about seventeen and one of them absolutely loved it. In all my history of watching slasher films, he remains my only convert. Is that bad? I am not sure. Seeing London as a back drop was a laugh, especially when they compliment British tradition with stereotypical cups of tea and bags of chips. But aside from that, there’s nothing here to get you excited. Going to a four-hour long Sunday Mass and seeing a real priest recite in Latin would be more engrossing. Skip it.
Killer Guise: √√√
Final Girl: √