The Scaremaker 1982 Review
The Scaremaker 1982
aka Girls Nite Out aka Creando El Terror
Directed by Robert Deubel
Starring:Hal Holbrook, Julia Montgomery, James Carroll
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
This entry can best be described as the Ray Parlour of the slasher genre. If you think that sounds strange or don’t know who Ray Parlour is, then allow me to explain. He was a football (soccer) player; or more specifically, a hard working midfielder for Arsenal who never really got the recognition that he deserved. It was only after he was allowed to leave and then hung up his boots that his contribution was really noted. Looking back now, it’s easy to see that the Romford Pele was an energetic cog in the midfield engine room, who wasn’t flash or trendy and perhaps solely because of that, he never reached superstar status. He was recently voted as one of the most underrated players of all time, so now, post playing days, people think of him more fondly than they had when he was in the midst of his career.
The Scaremaker is a similar case, because it doesn’t have gore effects by Tom Savini, it doesn’t boast a soon to be superstar in its cast and it wasn’t banned or tortured by censors upon release. What it does offer however is a slick stalk and slash adventure with a few sublime touches.
In the opening, we discover that Dickie Cavanaugh, a lunatic who killed a college co-ed during the annual scavenger hunt is found dead in his room in an asylum. When his corpse is about to be buried, he seems to come alive and escape in to the night, killing the two orderlies on route. He returns to the same college of his previous crime, where as if by fate, they are preparing for the same yearly celebration. After a big party, a killer in the basketball team’s mascot bear suit begins to stalk the location and makes creepy calls to the campus disc jockey. Can they decipher his clues in time to prevent him from killing any more students?
In many ways, The Scaremaker is coincidentally similar to Small Town Massacre in the fact that it attempts to be somewhat retro in its approach. Whereas Michael Laughlin’s slasher works hard to provide a small town in peril vibe to its synopsis, this has a very good soundtrack of sixties music that must have cost the producers a small fortune to licence. It’s a really neat touch to hear the likes of The Lovin’ Spoonful playing in the background of a stalk and slash flick and it illustrates the strength that a yesteryear ambience can play in a film project and it definitely separates this from the multitude.
Key to the plot is the campy DJ who brings to mind Wolfman Jack from George Lucas’ American Graffiti. The only difference is that the guy spinning the tunes here is laughably cheesy in that he sports a fluorescent cap and Village People-like moustache whereas Wolfman was the epitome of cool; but it’s an interesting ingredient all the same. There’s also a wonderfully amusing fancy dress party scene, which again references the nostalgia of the sixties with its theme. I was hoping that we’d get another dancing sequence like the infamous Lightening Strikes piece from the aforementioned Small Town Massacre, but unfortunately we were left wanting what might have been.
The killer wears a bear mascot costume (?) and uses a bladed glove a la Freddy Krueger, but this was made at least two years earlier than Craven’s classic. I guess that makes this the first American entry that I can recall to use such a murderous device. Now this is an out and out slasher film and never tries to be anything other, but unlike the multitude of its category brethren it doesn’t steal directly from either Halloween or Friday the 13th. I certainly didn’t notice any real cut and pasted scenes and I guess the only major flick that this could be considered as being close to would be Prom Night, but again there’s nothing concrete to support any accusations of imitation.
When the psychopath strikes, the killings are impressively grim and eerie and the image of the big cuddly bear on a murderous rampage is one that manages to be disturbing and cheesy at the same time. He attacks his victims whilst mouthing obscenities such as, ‘Slut!”’ and ‘Whore!’ and it sets a really sleazy tone. There’s not much in terms of gore effects, but they at least had the budget for some suspiciously tomato-soup looking blood that is thrown over the corpses as they are stabbed. There are a couple of notable aftermath shots that show the bodies in a gruesome state, which make up for the lack of any truly graphic special effects. Director Robert Deubel has a fair few cracks at jump scares and there are a couple of neat moments of suspense. The best horror sequences are a couple that take place inside a gymnasium and a locker room and the whole feature is blessed with energetic and lush cinematography from Joe Rivers. During the parts when the track list takes a break from sixties hits and the tone switches away from the shenanigans of the youngsters (they were supposed to be teens, but as usual in these flicks are closer to their mid-thirties), the terror is neatly scored and the feature has good pacing and just about gets the mix of moods spot on.
The cast of mostly unknowns do a good enough job with the basic script and there’s no obvious signs of dramatic weakness. They all get a chance to shine during some intriguing interrogation scenes, which I thought were a neat addition. The only recognised actor, Hal Holbrook, looks to be the one who isn’t particularly motivated and it seems as if he is speaking his few lines over Skype rather than rising to the occasion. He only spent one day with the director and it’s easy to see by what he offers here that he wasn’t deeply involved or interested. He plays a rugged part that would have been perfect for Christopher George and at least George would have given his usual ham-feast delivery, which Holbrook never really captures. Holbrook was also involved in the weakest part of the runtime, which happens during the ‘unmasking’ conclusion. It is too easy to tell that it was filmed with the two actors on different sets at different times. There’s no cohesion in their verbal sparring and then the film ends a tad too suddenly for my liking. It’s also somewhat strange that the story lacks a real central character and even though there is a possible final girl (she’s the most morally superior and the maniac even passes up the chance to kill her), she isn’t the synopsis’ focus. The personas that get most of the screen time are her cheating boyfriend and his bit on the side. You would think that they would get their comeuppance in the usual fashion for their misdemeanors, but the rapid conclusion means that we never know for sure if they survived?
I have seen some negative reviews of this flick posted on other sites, but I enjoyed it – I mean, I can’t see what it is that people don’t like? It’s never tedious, the characters are fun, the tracks are outstanding, the killer costume is great and you’ll never guess who it is that’s murdering the teens. This was made in 1981, completed in ’82 and stayed on the shelves until 1984 and although I don’t have precise box office information on its performance, I doubt it recouped the amounts that were splashed on the soundtrack, let alone made a profit. That may explain the off-the-wall trailer that features a girl that doesn’t even appear in the movie. You can see it above – I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a slice of the highest pedigree of WTF? Yes this is no world beater but I think it deserves a larger following than it has. I prefer this to Prom Night for example in terms of slasher thrills and atmosphere.
Give this one a shot if you haven’t bothered with it. It’s deserving of your time.
Final Girl √√
Posted on November 22, 2011, in Pure Eighties Cheese, Slasher and tagged Girls Nite Out, masked killer, Rare Slasher, retro music, sixties, Slasher, Sorority Slasher, The Scaremaker, Whodunit?. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.