The Outing (aka The Lamp) (1987) d. Tom Daley (USA)
The Godsend (1980) d. Gabrielle Beaumont (UK)
If you’ve been paying attention at all, you know Shout! Factory’s specialty arm Scream Factory has been making a name for itself among horror fans over the last few years, giving many genre films their first Blu-ray and/or DVD releases, ranging from big-name franchises to obscure gems. Some of the latter have found their way onto double feature discs, most of which have an overt theme in common: the recent double feature of Italian “haunted house” films GhostHouse and Witchery, or the “nature’s revenge” discs of Food of the Gods / Frogs and Empire of the Ants / Jaws of Satan. This month’s S!F double feature, however, pairs two films, The Outing and The Godsend, that appear to have nothing in common whatsoever thematically, tonally, or otherwise.
In The Outing, a trio of young criminals breaks into the home of an old woman to steal her “piles of money,” but instead accidentally free an ancient and powerful evil from what looks to be a bona-fide magic lamp. Some of the old woman’s belongings make their way to a museum curated by Dr. Wallace (James Huston). Wallace’s daughter Alex (Andra St. Ivanyi) interrupts the examination of the lamp and puts on a mysterious bracelet decorated with the same blood-red jewels found on the lamp, only to find she cannot remove it.
Alex and her friends decide to sneak into the museum after hours following a field trip, but Alex’s violently jealous ex-boyfriend Mike (Red Mitchell) and his friend also manage to get back in. Locked in the museum overnight, the kids come face-to-face with the creature from the lamp, an evil genie hellbent on carrying out its master’s wishes and only too happy to kill anyone else in its path.
While it’s not hard to see why The Outing is something of a cult favorite, it’s also not surprising that it hasn’t had any previous high-profile home video releases. For such a goofy setup, the film is oddly mean-spirited. In particular, the character of Mike goes beyond “hateful ex-boyfriend” to “this guy should be in jail” about a minute after he’s introduced. He tries to run Alex’s new boyfriend off the road, pulls a knife on a fellow student in school, attacks a teacher, spits racial slurs and rapes one of Alex’s female friends. That last scene is particularly unpleasant and sticks out badly in that it’s out of keeping with everything that’s gone before.
Overall, The Outing is pretty solid if needlessly cruel; a fairly standard slice of ’80s-horror fun, with embarrassing clothes, bad life choices, and some really good practical effects. Best of all is the genie itself, a towering beast shrouded in mist that delivers a bizarre, hilarious bunch of exposition before the climactic showdown.
Brit horror offering The Godsend could not be more different. Illustrator Alan Marlowe (Malcolm Stoddard) and his wife Kate (Cyd Hayman) live an idyllic life in a rural cottage with their five children. One day Kate meets a strange young woman (Angela Pleasence, Donald’s daughter) who is heavily pregnant. Kate invites her to their cottage for a visit, where she gives birth to a little girl and then promptly disappears. Alan and Kate assume responsibility for the baby and raise her as their own, naming her Bonnie (Wilhelmina Green).
But Alan suspects something is off, and before long the Marlowe children begin meeting tragic, seemingly accidental ends. Is the family just cursed with bad luck, or is little Bonnie not the innocent angel she seems to be? And if she’s a killer, can Alan convince Kate that something must be done before it’s too late?
The comparatively heavy parental horror of The Godsend is a huge departure from the genie-based antics of The Outing. The lead performances by Stoddard and Hayman are good, but their characters feel like dated caricatures. Alan is The Man, seemingly barely fazed by the deaths of his children, while Kate regularly descends into a screaming, weeping wreck. Aside from its blatant gender stereotypes, the film is built on a solid, genuinely unsettling concept. Director Gabrielle Beaumont plays on this concept effectively, investing several scenes with queasy tension.
Pleasence makes a strong impression in her small part as the creepy stranger, using little but her deliberate movement (or lack thereof) and wide eyes to create a memorable “monster.” Green, on the other hand, is just not scary in the least, mostly because the film tries very hard to make her seem that way. By the nth time she furrows her little brow, it’s become more of a punchline than a sign of ominous portent.
Both films have been given a “new HD transfer” for this Blu-ray release, and the result is something of a mixed bag. The Outing is very dark and grainy, and the picture frequently has noticeable smearing likely due to digital noise reduction. The Godsend has a little of this, but as it mostly takes place during daytime in bright sunlight, the picture is much cleaner. Neither film is unwatchable, of course, and this is apparently the first time The Outing has been released on home video in the States in its correct widescreen aspect ratio.
The disc’s sole extra is the theatrical trailer for The Godsend, a two-minute highlight reel of spoilers depicting every kill in the movie, transferred from what looks to have been a well-worn 35mm print. Sound mix on both films is fine, and it’s nice to have optional English (and English SDH) subtitles. Despite the transfer issues, it’s highly likely that this is the best presentation that will ever be available on physical media; fans of either film will find this disc a more-than-worthy addition to their video library.
The Outing and The Godsend are available Tuesday, July 14 from Shout! Factory and can be pre-ordered HERE:
--Review by Jason Coffman
Check out more of Jason’s movie musings at https://medium.com/@rabbitroom