Wednesday, October 9, 2019

FEAR NO EVIL (1981) Blu-ray Review

Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 7
Total First Time Views: 2
Amount raised for AMAZON WATCH: $335.72

Fear No Evil (1981) d. Frank LaLoggia (USA) (99 min)

As the 1950s come to an end, Lucifer is found locked in mortal combat on Earth with Archangel Raphael – mortal in that both are residing in human form. The Dark One is vanquished, but Raphael, aka Father Tom Damon (John Holland), is sentenced to life in prison for murder. Not long after, a child is born to the kindly Williams couple, but his christening ceremony is marred by a strange rainstorm of blood, essentially sentencing his parents to a life of shameful exile. Eighteen years later, Andrew (Stefan Arngrim) becomes aware of his true identity, that of the reborn incarnation of Evil. Damon’s sister Margaret (Elizabeth Hoffman, in her screen debut at age 54), herself the Archangel Mikhail, seeks out the third of their heavenly party, that of Gabrielle… who turns out to be Andrew’s fellow high school student Julie (Kathleen Rowe McAllen). With all the holy and unholy pieces finally assembled on the board, the final game is about to be played….

Writer/director LaLoggia’s debut feature, which met with surprising critical acclaim upon its release in 1981, is by turns pretentious, schlocky, preachy, earnest, ambitious, scrappy, and clunky, which is also what sets it apart from its genre brethren of the time. Though it shares much in common with other religious-themed horror (of which there was no shortage in the wake of The Exorcist and The Omen), there is never any doubt that the young filmmaker has more on his mind than simple scares, shocks, and popcorn sales. While it’s true that he is occasionally unable to realize his ambitious visions (or perhaps it’s just that his aesthetic is not in keeping with polished Hollywood “product”), it’s clear we’re dealing with an artist trying to SAY SOMETHING as opposed to just another head-spinning, pea soup-spitting clone.

Yes, the uneven acting proves distracting (what is up with our gym teacher during the dodgeball game?), but it is in his striking visuals and audaciously ecclesiastical storyline that LaLoggia catches us off guard and earns our interest and respect. Sure, they might seem like the fevered dreams of a star Sunday school student, but they are executed with gusto and confidence. The expansive beachfront presentation of the Passion Play, for example, features unscripted and explosive stigmata from performers and audience members alike, while on the other side of town, reanimated corpses are shambling about and falling upon skinny dipping teens. (There’s actually a surprising/refreshing amount of male nudity on hand for an early '80s exploitation effort.)

It might all seem ridiculous (and perhaps a lot more conventional “fun”) if it wasn’t presented with such an absolutely straight face and with such a degree of professionalism. It’s earnest and heartfelt and awkward, not usually adjectives one applies to a low-budget offering about demon-and-angel-possessed teens.

LaLoggia’s soundtrack choices are also not what one might expect from a run-of-the-mill terror offering, with Boomtown Rats’ “I Don’t Like Mondays,” “Anarchy in the UK” by Sex Pistols, The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” and “Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads. The flashy-if-dated digital visuals were added by the studio in post-production against LaLoggia’s wishes, but they hardly detract from what was already a mind-melting mélange of mayhem.

Not-quite-perfect in nearly every way, yet somehow the refusal to play by anyone else’s rules is what makes Fear No Evil the special beast that it is. Definitely worth seeking out, as is LaLoggia’s only other feature, the 1988 classic ghost story Lady in White.


NEW 4K scan of the original film elements

NEW audio commentary with actor Stefan Arngrim and film historian Justin Beahm

NEW “On Giants and Feeding Darkness” with actor Stefan Arngrim (37 min)

NEW “Pyro, Gators, and the Devil” with special effects artist John Eggett (28 min)

Theatrical Trailer

TV Spots

Still Gallery

Trivia: Stefan Arngrim was the child star of TV’s Land of the Giants, and his mom is legendary voice-over artist Norma McMillian, the pipes behind Casper, Underdog’s Polly Purebread, and Davey in Davey and Goliath.

More Trivia: Future Oscar-winner Joel Coen (No Country For Old Men, Fargo) earned his first feature film credit here, serving as assistant editor.

Fear No Evil is available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:


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