Anchor Bay // 1981 // 99 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // September 6th, 2003
Alexandria High...Class of '81...all the students are going to hell, except Andrew...he sent them there!
Andrew Williams is one unbalanced boy. Aside from his Moon River moniker, he tends to bring about domestic strife in his mother and father, excellence in his schoolwork, and the gooey, life giving essence from the neighborhood pet population. Why his surname's not Dahmer is anyone's guess, but the cold hard fact is that he's really the reincarnation of Satan, the Antichrist rechristened on Earth as a complete dork. All his classmates find him freakish, except when they're in the gym showers together. Then he's a dreamy drain date, like Powder without the lust lessening albino thing going on. Apparently, as part of God's master plan for putting the Dark One back in his overheated place, the archangels Gabrielle and Mikhail are turned into Marcia Brady, complete with post-football nose issues and a crazy old woman who lives like a hermit and sent on one of those vague missions that only complete idiots would venture into, sight unseen. Together they must find the courage and strength to defeat Belezebubba and his legions of lazy living dead heads as the evil über nerd tries to take over the world, one juvenile delinquent and/or summer stock customer at a time. And remember, you can be frightened of a pasty priest who believes he is a champion cherub or a homoerotic grapple in the boy's locker room, but you should always Fear No Evil. Or is that never Fear No Evil? Whatever.
Fear No Evil is like an antique Russian religious icon doctored up with rhinestones and glue-on glitter in hopes of turning something mystic and profound into Porky's with the Antichrist in the Pee Wee role. It's a film bathed in religious prophecy that plays out its revelations over the soundtrack album from Times Square. It's painfully obvious that director Frank LaLoggia had bigger loaves and fishes to fry when he conceived this movie. Originally entitled Mark of the Beast, it was meant as an Omen homage to Satan's rebirth on the prone planet Earth, of the last great battle between the fallen one and the archangels. Utilizing doctrine and dramatics, it wants to terrify as it teaches, but this unholy alliance between Catholicism and the commercial does neither, and instead functions as a quirky, if occasionally quizzical, work of anxious ambiguous ambitions. For every three scenes of pious power that work, one howls with retarded rebels just asking for a pig bloodied Carrie White to open a can of telepathic whoopass on them. Throw in The Passion Play, a horde of rather polite zombies, and a weirdly androgynous whisper thin Lucifer-in-training looking like a cross between the Jamies -- Gumb and Gertz -- and you've got something suggesting Michael Tolkin's The Rapture if combined with one of those typical '80s teen terror trips like One Dark Night and starring Marc Almond.
This doesn't mean that Fear No Evil is a bad movie. Indeed, the opposite is true. It's a determined and thoroughly engaging work of imagination and atmosphere. But just like pineapple on a pizza, garlic in ice cream, or France in NATO, there are things about Fear No Evil that just don't fit, characters and situations that belong in another genre or even era.
As a director, LaLoggia is a big fan of over-stylization, using obvious filmmaker shortcuts and tricks to guide his vision. From the very beginning we see an over-reliance on such cinematic swindles. A montage of Man-goat Jr.'s boyhood abode shows time passing as a series of DYI refurbishing opportunities. His homestead bungalow of bedlam becomes more of a fixer-upper as the years stroll by. From the reliance on the surreal and psychedelic to exemplify the otherworldly aspects of the story to a ritualistic repetition of motifs (both the opening and closing cloven hoof chases are the same, shot for shot), LaLoggia is out to make a Satan movie unlike any other you've seen. From the set design to lack of gruesome gore effects, Fear No Evil rises to that challenge. The casting also helps make this movie decidedly idiosyncratic. Stefan Amgrim, who was last seen thwarting the advances of Kurt Kazner in another example of Irwin Allen's veiled profiles in pedophilia called Land of the Giants, plays the spawn of Scratch like a fey future serial killer with an eating disorder -- which means he is just perfect. The rest of the mostly unknown cast fluctuates between over-the-top line munching (as the heretic's henpecked step-pappy, Barry Cooper never met a scripted sentence he couldn't shout out like a drill sergeant) and vacant, soulless meandering (like Daniel Eden, whose effeminate delinquent Tony looks like a member of the DeFranco family gone to bathhouse seed). Still, the movie as a whole manages to cling together, even as the moments of weirdness (the final appearance of the Opposing-Christ in full mold muttonchops) and wackiness (death by dodge ball, homoerotic showers) threatens to turn this battle between Heaven and Hell into the softcore porn version of Ferris Bueller's Apocalyptic Day Off.
Anchor Bay's treatment of this obscure title is equally obtuse. They provide a bonus-laden disc filled with interesting additional content, yet seem to skimp a little in the sound and vision department. LaLoggia is definitely an artistic director, and it's good to see the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 preserved. It keeps intact the compositional integrity of many of his shots. But the image overall is soft and fuzzy. There is a great deal of compression grain in the darker scenes, which renders the gauzy lens choices of Fred Goodich that much hazier. Still, the movie does at least look new. Aurally, Fear No Evil has an ass-kicking old school punk soundtrack (Sex Pistols, Ramones, Talking Heads), which absolutely rocks -- no matter how LaLoggia feels about it (he hates it, the poor dope). But as for atmospheric immersion, the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround is rather weak. It boosts the beats, but can't crank up the creepiness. As for the aforementioned extras, they too are a mixed bag. The full-length audio commentary by LaLoggia and Goodich couldn't be anymore over-technical and boring. By the 14th discussion of lighting setups and film stock numbers, you wonder just what these creative people thought they were supposed to discuss. If you're into the absolute minutia of moviemaking (or the fact that Joel of the famous Coen Brothers was an assistant editor on the film), this track is for you. But film fans still wondering where the psycho gym coach or stage show stigmata came from will have to settle for listening to the sound of their own thoughts. Much better is the 20-minute video home movies taken during the film's production. Again we get a commentary, but this time it is bustling with anecdotes and insights. There is a massive gallery of stills and poster material and a nice collection of trailers and TV spots. And if you're really interested in LaLoggia's original vision, you can check out the screenplay in the DVD-ROM supplement.
Fear No Evil is like a laser light show version of the great lost Alan Parson Project album based on the Left Behind book series. It wants to open the seventh seal and send Satan and his legion of lost souls lumbering onto movie screens to scare the sacrilege out of you. But in the end, it's just a Blitz kid version of The Bible. Not even Steve Strange dressed like the Virgin Mary could explain this movie. It works, but so did Adam Ant at one time.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Frank LaLoggia and Director of Photography Frederic Goodich
* Rare Behind the Scenes Footage with Optional Commentary Track
* Theatrical Trailer
* TV Spots
* Poster and Still Gallery
* DVD-ROM Content: Screenplay