Another classic staple of horror retrospective, the “frankensteined” project that started as something specific, never got made and was later edited, injected with new footage, and eventually released as the obvious hodge potche it became. One that for years was quite elusive, not that well known, and was available on VHS only…. but this changed as it finally got a DVD release in the US and some european contries (surprisingly i didn’t even had to import it, since there’s an italian DVD release).
And of course the title is that kind of cheesy that bode wells for retronauts in search of cult sensations from the bowels of horror history.
Originally titled Twisted Souls, it was co-directed and co-written by Brendan Faulker and Thomas Doran, legal and financial issues eventually impeded the original team to work on the final post-production, so there was a lot of footage shot but no actual movie to release in 1984.
The following year the financial backer of the project hired Eugenie Joseph (who would direct Mind Benders in 1987 and then work mostly as a producer, even for stuff like Aztec Rex) to complete the film by shooting new footage and piecing it together with the finished one from the previous production team, so they could actually release the thing.
Not that you need much insight to tell right away this are two completely different movies stitched together, as the newly added scenes feature completely different actors that never interact with the ones in the old footage from Twisted Souls, which is about a group of partying teens that find an abandoned mansion, and new footage of a warlock (named Kreon) that wants to sacrifice them, as he needs their energy-vitality to keep his bride alive, aided by a were-cat and his vampire son.
It’s made even more obvious by the special effects basically fluctuating, with great fx work in some scenes, way cheesier and cheaper effects for monsters in another. But i guess it’s not as bad as what Godfrey Ho did back in the day with ninjas, if you went in without knowing the movie production story… you really wouldn’t be able to tell easily, they did their best to make the two strands of footage into a seamless single movie, at least from a visual prospective, the new footage has a different tone that doesn’t quite fit the one in the Twisted Souls portions.
And again, it becomes obvious once you notice the magician (or the were-cat) never directly interacts with the teens, because his footage was shot one year prior with different actors, but at the very least you can tell something it’s off, even if you can’t immediatly pin point what it is.
The plot it’s nonsensical, feels like a bargain Evil Dead rip-off with gothic romance elements ripped from Poe works (especially Ligeia, since there is a “resurrection” of a woman involved), but it has the undeniable appeal of being pretty much an haunted house tour where you get to see many rubber monsters and creatures, a horror candy pick n mix bag of sorts.
Sure as hell you won’t be served well with the characterization or acting, but if you want a lot of different monsters done with a lot of practical effects and using everything from animatronics to rubber suits to even stop-motion, this is an absolute treat as the selection of monsters it’s fairly creative, going from zombies to spider-ladies monsters to gremlin-gillmans, mudmen, tentacled abominations, even the Grim Reaper itself.
The plot it impenetrable non-sense, the acting is inane, the characters punchable stock idiots, but it’s incredibly entertaining and made worth a watch thanks to the monster roster and often great creature effects utilized, so in a way it’s a perfect movie to watch on Halloween or when you’re feeling a Halloweeny vibe, even more since it has a goofy and feels like an “accidental anthology” due to the history behind it. Indeed, quite the fun haunted box of tricks and treats.