Monday, May 4, 2009

The Devil Wears Gym Shorts

I don't know how to say this, so I'm just going to throw it out: Fear No Evil boasts not one but two of the greatest kills ever put on screen.

I'm lying:

One of the greatest kills and THE best absurd trigger for teenage suicide. Ever.

If you don't believe me, then clearly one of the following statements is true:

1) You've never questioned the ethics of high school dodgeball.
2) You are thoroughly fascinated and possibly a tad titillated by male breasts.

Aaah, Fear No Evil, a 1981 homoerotic Omen-inspired teen thriller I learned about via Kim Newman's excellent cinematic study, Nightmare Movies. This is the kind of earnestly made indie smart enough to know that an ambitious low budget horror should combine proven formula, a unique spin, and talent. Fear No Evil doesn't have a lot of any, but somehow, there's enough creativity and simple bizarreness to make it work by amusement, if not terror.

The antichrist is gayer than South Park's Satan, the school bully's most badass move is to spin his history teacher's globe and an old priest that resembles Malcolm McDowell's hobbitized cousin can outrun Lucifer while stumbling with a scythe and bad knee. Do you really need to know any more?

Quick Plot: Somewhere in the depths of upstate New York, baby Andrew's baptism erupts into a splattering (yet apparently harmless) bloodbath, leaving his parents to spend all of 45 seconds worth of voiceover bickering and demonstrating their 18 years of marital strife. 

Now a moody teen with Chuck Bass's cheekbones and a talent for making heavy objects fall non-fatally on older women's heads, Andrew has accepted his status as the human incarnation of Lucifer with little qualms or instruction. Meanwhile, a gleefully ridiculous collection of high school stereotypes perform what seems to be a non-musical adaptation of Grease! and a dull angel hopes to stop Andrew from ruining the town's annual beach pageant of an Easter Passion Play. Oh yeah. And there are zombies. Kinda.

Let's be clear: Fear No Evil is not a good film. The acting ranges from blankly empty to bigger than Nicolas Cage's burning Wicker Man shouting. Plotlines die quieter deaths than a 21st century Meg Ryan movie and the final special effect looks like the Hall of Fame background on an 80s arcade game.

So no, it's not good, but it's a helluva lot more fun than Casablanca and more rewatchable than The Omen. You won't find Gregory Peck wearing Frank N Furter's hotpants or an Italian Stalliony bully picking on the antichrist by kissing him in the shower during gym class, now will you.

High Points
There's no groundbreaking story here, but I'll give writer/director Frank LaLoggia credit for not connecting what could be cliche plot dots to tell the same old tale

I don't want to know what body parts the producers sold to get some actual good--albeit at times, too literal to the onscreen action--songs like the Talking Heads' Psycho Killer

Death. By. Dodgeball.

Low Points
While I wouldn't dream of losing dad's "My son's THE DEVIL!" pub tirade, it's frustrating that he has no real resolution

Having reincarnated angels is interesting enough, but good girl Hulie lacks any of the weird (okay, cheesy) energy of the rest of the film

Does Andrew want to be Lucifer? Would he choose a different life? Is there any internal strife going on there? Based on the script and lead performance, I have absolutely no idea.

Lessons Learned
Like many an acting gig, playing Jesus Christ has its highs (adoration from the town children) and lows (crucifixion)

Smoking pot does not make your breasts grow, but slipping the tongue to Satan's son will

Upstate NY bullies have very unrealistic definitions of small breasts

Do not assign the antichrist 50 pushups unless you're really good at dodgeball

Stray Observations
The Rhea Perlmen-esque leader of the Pink Ladies--I mean B's--wears a knit beret and peacock feather that prove for a fourth time that Season 5's Kenley really wasn't that original.

I've managed to cite Gossip Girl and Project Runway in this review, proving, in fact, that I am female. Or maybe I'm just a man who's made out with Lucifer a few too many times

My enthusiasm seems to point you towards a buy, but that's really reserved for those fans that treasure lovably bad horror. In terms of actual quality, I'd rank Fear No Evil somewhere above Sleepaway Camp and well, Black Roses. Those with a low tolerance for lactose should probably take a straight shot of The Omen II and move on, while for casual old school horror fans, a rental should suffice. The DVD includes some behind-the-scenes footage and commentary by cinematographer and writer/director Frank LaLoggia, who offers some enlightening editing info that somewhat justifies the inclusion of misplaced zombies. This isn't the worst or best bad movie of all time, but I don't know of any others that dispose of school bullies and nagging mothers with such ridiculous creativity.


  1. Whoa, this sounds awesome. I want.

  2. I chose this over Omen 3:Final Conflict on opening weekend. I'm still okay with it but my oldest brother still resents me as I was still too young to get into an R by myself.

  3. TheMike: I kid you not when I say this will change your life (though it's apparently been a year and I'd like to know if that held up!)

    Anonymous, you may have made the best decision of your life that day. Sure, seeing Sam Neill as the Antichrist has its charms, but it ain't no death by dodgeball!