Tuesday, April 26, 2011

EVIL LAUGH (1988) - Scream minus both a budget and Jaime Kennedy is a trade off I can live with

Here's the entire damn movie on Youtube. I don't know why I bother to track down rare VHS tapes.

Now that Scream 4 is exploding across America's multiplexes (maybe "explode" is a strong word), I think it's time to look back at a couple of so-called "postmodern" slasher films. The original Scream contained a much ballyhooed (at the time) "innovation" where characters would connect the dots around them, pointing out how their situation reminds them of slasher films they've seen, and commenting on slasher cliches while being stuck in these very cliches. However, Scream wasn't the first film to do this, beaten to the punch by a full seven years by Evil Laugh. There were probably earlier examples, but I'm too lazy to fiddle with research and what have you.

These type of self-aware slashers come out of the necessity in the marketplace for innovation. Audiences were, by 1988 (and especially by 1996), all too aware of the various forms and clichés at work, thereby perceiving the genre as a pile of redundant horseshit. The filmmakers therefore needed to feed the audience’s illusion that their money is being spent on a hi-tech, worthwhile venture, and not just the same old hullabaloo.

In case you weren’t aware, director Dominick Brascia is totally famous as the chocolate bar eating fat boy that gets axed in the beginning of Friday the 13th part 5, and someone is seen reading Fangoria with said movie on the cover. I guess he’s trying to impress us with his street cred (assuming we grew up in nerdsville).

ANYWAY, a house is available for lease, despite some spray paint on the wall intoning others to “stay away”. However, people love a deal, so a potential customer shows up, only to get his heart ripped out and placed in a dish by a mystery man in a black hoodie (that would be “open house heart surgery”…ho ho). The killer also kidnaps a surf punk poseur who, not so shockingly, delivers groceries for a “living”. He also wears one of those inexplicably trendy German army jackets, which possibly became hip after Eddie Vedder started wearing one (again, that would require research to find out, but I think the poseur was ahead of the curve).

Our “teens” are heading to the house to fix it up, but get sidetracked. Two shirtless guys have to change a flat tire ("can you lower the jack while I tighten the nuts?"). One of them not so subtly starts urinating on a hetero biker couple, as if to say “I piss on your traditional values!” (i.e. their non-homoness). Porn star Ashlyn Gere shows up, playing the strong willed, pre-silicone girl next door who, incredibly, refused to do nudity and uses a body double instead. She's accompanied by a dumb blonde, who cleverly uses her stupidity to her advantage. The jeep won’t start, so she smacks it because "it worked for Fonzy on Happy Days". I wonder how she would’ve fixed the car if she grew up watching BJ and the Bear.

They finally arrive, along with a real estate agent, who assures everyone that the creepy voices heard in the house “are probably just the foundation settling". Fucking salesmen. Someone else tries to comfort others by saying "I hope this place isn't haunted, or a guy named Jason shows up in a hockey mask", which is one of those amusing self-referential bits I was referencing earlier. Alas, there are other bits of amusing self-referential nonsense. One character says "it never makes any sense. Why does Michael Myers go after Jaimie lee Curtis? Why do those dumb kids keep going back to camp Crystal Lake where Jason chops them up?" Why? Because people pay good money to see this shit, that’s why. Oh…and fuck you.

Someone also says "I remember a movie called Ten Little Indians where people are killed off one by one". Well, the original Hollywood version directed by Rene Clair was called And Then There None. I hope he’s not referring to the version starring Frank Stallone. Oh Jesus Christ. There’s also an amusing tribute to The Haunting. The blonde takes the stud’s pants off in bed (“like unwrapping a Christmas present”, she says), while the joker asshole hiding underneath the bed plays with his buttock region. He is understandably surprised when the hand on his ass doesn’t belong to the hot blonde, and to make things even creepier, the joker is doing those Friday the 13th "kill kill" sounds (also, he’s a dude). I guess this scene also qualifies as a Friday the 13th tribute, but I don’t remember any of the Jason movies containing a sub-erotic game of grab ass.

The “plot” is that these “kids” have to clean the house, and clean they do, while some pretty damn good chick-synth pap pop plays in the background. The proof of its quality is the fact that someone shakes their ass to it while feather dusting, which is physically impossible to do unless the buttock motion is involuntary. They get slightly alarmed that their punk friend’s car is sitting in the driveway, but he is nowhere to be found. Someone proclaims that he “probably went in town for supplies”, but I bet this slacker is just picking up the new NOFX record…oh no, he was killed. That’s right. The dead punker’s car later disappears, and someone proclaims that “he probably went into town for even more supplies”. Now I’m starting to think it’s all a ruse to cover up a drug problem. Maybe he’s embarrassed to admit…oh wait, he’s still a corpse.

Over a fireplace (not literally over it, you’d burn your crotch) Ashlyn tells the back story while the money bags couple “hit the hay” (i.e. fucking). The house used to be a foster home, and eighteen-year-old Martin was hired as a helper, and was later accused of molesting the kids. Martin was found innocent after his dad hung himself, and, to get revenge, he slit the throat of the kid who lied about the “affair” (i.e. NAMBLA type funny stuff). He then set the house on fire before disappearing. Before things get too sordid and depressing, the blonde announces that she and others are going skinny dipping at midnight. Sweetie, I'm sorry I called you dumb earlier.

So basically, they all run around the house and get stabbed, occasionally throwing out snarky comments. Interestingly, the third twist ending involves the final porn star girl killing the perpetrator of the false scare second twist. Here is the final critique of these slasher conventions. It’s one thing to have a character point out that they’re in a slasher movie situation, but stabbing the shit out of a character responsible for one of these very clichés is probably the most direct way to voice your displeasure.


  1. Evil Laugh (1988)
    Cannot watch the film it is private????

  2. @Natalie
    I fixed it. It's also legally available to watch on Youtube.