Monday, June 8, 2020

Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Permed

Have we come up with a name for the subgenre of shockingly relevant genre cinema that probably reads much deeper than it might have ever been intended to? I'm thinking first of Gone, the Amanda Seyfried thriller that thudded in theaters when it debuted in 2012, but took on wildly more significant meaning when I happened to watch it in the midst of Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings. Similarly, 1988's Necromancer seems at first glance like a simple rape revenge slasher, but proves to be an oddly prescient, timely tale.

Quick Plot: Julie is a scholarship student majoring in theater and having some romance problems: trying to break things off with her inappropriate acting professor while assuring her perfect boyfriend that he's the one. While staying on campus after hours, she spots a trio of her classmates trying to steal some test answers. Their response? Rape.

Poor Julie is too afraid to go to the police, since Paul, the ringleader, has evidence of her affair that might jeopardize her scholarship and destroy her relationship. Her best friend spots a classified ad for a necromancer, so naturally, they take the best option.

Turns out, the going rate for vengeance in 1988 was just $20 and it was performed fairly efficiently in a suburban garage by a young woman named, as far as I can tell, the mysteriously supernatural "Lisa". When Julie realizes just what she's paid for--Lisa taking on her form to seduce each of her attackers before violently tearing them apart--she learns the hard way that much like Buffy the Vampire's Anya, Lisa doesn't issue refunds.

Between her remorseless rapists, skeevy professor, and unsympathetic (whether the movie understands it or not) boyfriend, the men of Necromancer have a lot of devouring-by-starfished-handed-demon coming. Writer William T. Naud was onto something here, especially with Julie's reluctance to go to the authorities knowing her sexual history will render her an imperfect victim. 

As played by Silent Night, Deadly Night 2's Elizabeth Kaitan, Julie is the kind of sympathetic lead who, had I seen this movie in my youth, I might have dismissed as weak. We want our heroines to fight back, to show no mercy. We sometimes forget that they're 19-year-old girls unable to process the trauma they go through. 

It's easier, in a post-#metoo world, to see some things with more clarity. Whether Naud and director Dusty Nelson had grander intentions or just wanted to throw some bloody demon vengeance our way, the end result has weight. As Julie's horrible power-abusing professor, a permed Russ Tamblyn helps to really drive the point home. I kind of wish Necromancer dove a little deeper into the grayer men, as Necromancer ultimately pulls a few of its punches, giving in to Julie's demon fears and letting the men's crimes somewhat off the hook. 

High Points
As a former theater kid, nothing will ever entertain me more easily than seeing bad Romeo and Juliets

Low Points
The confusion of whether three men are actually dead might work for Necromancer's mystery, but it doesn't make sense in a world where, you know, these are college students whose deaths would be noticed

Lessons Learned
If people didn't live out their sexual fantasies, there wouldn't be any history. Think about it.

An arcade is no place to discuss last night's sexual assault

You don't need a garage door to enact lethal supernatural vengeance on rapists. A curtain will do just fine

Dudes, trust me: if you rape or assist in the rape of a woman and she shows up in your shower, she does not, in any way, have seduction on her mind

I expected a hefty dose of '80s cheese with Necromancer, but I was genuinely surprised at how much more it had to say. Time has been kind to this goofy little supernatural vengeance thriller, and while I wish it had committed a little harder to its concept, I still had a good time. Worth your eyeballs on Amazon Prime.


  1. This is crazy but I just watched this movie last week on YouTube!

    Random thoughts:
    -I agree about the Russ Tamblyn character. When he's first introduced he seems "nice" but somewhat "off". Then we learn about his past relationship with Julie and the movie then shows us what a disgusting creep he is. With how he treats Julie most definitely, but also how he gets handsy with the female student who is auditioning for him.
    - The actor playing the boyfriend looked too old to be a college student, which was distracting for me.
    -The late 80's fashion was fun to look at. But they dressed Julie's gal pal like she was somebody's mom instead of a college girl and Lisa's neighbor apparently only owned one outfit, poor guy.
    -80's horror soundtracks are very nostalgic (especially synth ones, no matter how bad or derivative).
    -Elizabeth Kaitan had great hair.

    I've been on a 80's horror/exploitation kick lately, here's a list of my most recent watches (you've reviewed a couple of these movies too, Emily):
    From Beyond, Dolls, Killer Party, Blood Salvage (with John Saxon!), Funeral Home, Sorority House Massacre, Robot Holocaust, Mirror Mirror (yes,I recognized Kristin Dattilo and my Another World crush, Ricky Paull Goldin), Mirror Mirror 2: Raven Dance (featuring Mark Ruffalo in his first film role!) and of course Necromancer.

    And I will also have to check out Nightmare at Noon. It's been on my radar for a little while now, and it's on my list of movies to watch :)

    1. Yes! Nightmare at Noon is pure joy. I didn't realize there was a Mirror Mirror sequel! I'll have to get on it!

      And seriously: I do love a solid synth score!

  2. There are actually 3 sequels to Mirror Mirror! Part 2 has Mr. Ruffalo as well as Roddy Mc Dowell, Sally Kellerman, Lois Nettleton AND Angela Cartwright! Oh and William Sanderson returns, playing a different character. It's an okay sequel, the first movie is much better. I haven't seen Part 3 or 4, but apparently they are supposed to be pretty crappy according to the IMDB reviews I read. Part 3 stars Billy Drago and Monique Parent and has an appearance from Mark Ruffalo and Part 4 has Billy Drago and a cameo from P.J. Soles. I don't think I'll seek out those last two sequels though.