Thursday, May 22, 2014

Pandemonium

During the early 1980s, cinemas suffered a spate of mad slasher films, many attempting to duplicate the eerie mastery of HALLOWEEN from 1978. Most were agonizingly bad and/or unintentionally hilarious (if you were lucky). The idea of creating send ups of these pieces of refuse was tricky for the latter reason; if the films were already funny, would a spoof be redundant? As Roger Ebert once asked, "Could you imagine a spoof of the National Lampoon?"

Nonetheless, several parodies were released in the wake of ashen faced shockers like FRIDAY THE 13th, THE BURNING, FINAL EXAM, THE UNSEEN, NIGHT SCHOOL, and the "DON'T..." pictures shortly thereafter. I've seen most of them, save WACKO, with B-movie stalwart Joe Don Baker playing a cop who goes after the "Lawnmower Killer." SATURDAY THE 14TH was lame. STUDENT BODIES was also lame but oddly endearing (Read). 1982's PANDEMONIUM may well be the best of this modest genre, a take-off that has more genuine laughs than expected, and certainly a game cast.

There's Tommy Smothers as a dedicated Royal Canadian Mountie, attempting to solve the murders of coeds at a cheerleading camp run by Candice Azzara, who was never popular enough to shake the pom poms during her own high school days (this of course automatically renders her a suspect). Carol Kane is the innocent, virginal lead heroine (Eileen Brennan has a cameo as her CARRIE-like mom).  Judge Reinhold, in one of his first parts, is goofily amusing as one of the cheerleaders, while future Pee-Wee Herman Paul Reubens is Smothers' eternally aggravated sidekick. There are other cameos by vets like Eve Arden, Kaye Ballard, and Donald O'Connor. Also, an early bit from Phil Hartman. 

You might find PANDEMONIUM a dubious choice for your limited, precious viewing time. Unless you're a fan of cheesy '80s offerings and/or a fan of old slashers, you'd probably be right. Amidst the groan worthy gags/lines (and there are many) are some really choice bits of comedy wrapped in what is essentially, yes, a lame killer-on-the-loose spoof. An unexpected romantic duet between Smothers and Kane, the world's worst restaurant, and the sequence with a victim and "Mr. Shiny Tooth" are hysterical and belong in some kind of low grade Hall of Fame.

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