Sunday, April 5, 2009

Fear No Evil (1980)


Cast: Stefan Arngrim, Elizabeth Hoffman, Kathleen Rowe McAllen
Director: Frank LaLoggia
Studio/Label: Anchor Bay
Release Date: 2003

What do you get when you mix a rock and roll teen movie with devil horror? Of course, you get FEAR NO EVIL, Frank LaLoggia’s 1980 low budget drive-in masterpiece of young lust and a vengeful Satan.
For those of you unfamiliar with the movie it’s a simple tale of three angels, now in contemporary human forms, who must destroy a young satanic youth (played straight faced by uber-Goth looking Stefan Arngrim), possessed by an ancient Lucifer. The forms that the three defending angels take, an elderly priest, his aged serenely spirited sister, and a young innocent high school girl, are only slightly reminiscent of THE EXORCIST, but owe a great deal to the success of Friedken’s bigger budget devil scare. Thrown into the mix, we have teen sex, drinking, drugs, guns, fighting (even a fatal game of dodge ball), and lots of very cool 80s style alternative music. The soundtrack alone is worth the viewing.
But the strengths of the film lay mostly in the older actors’ strong performances, as they work hard to make the mostly silly plot believable. Arngrim also turns in a stark, maybe at times a bit overacted, performance as the reincarnated Lucifer. His reactions tend to pull us along with him, and make him a very sympathetic evil. The unfortunate casting of a talentless young Kathleen Rowe McAllen is the biggest detraction from the movie, as she looks woefully into the camera and tries hard to convince as a high school girl. But she does almost nothing to help the ailing plot, and seems almost an afterthought to the cast.
FEAR NO EVIL has a quick beginning, but lags in the middle, as it stumbles through a couple of wasted sub-plots that fall short of logic and emotion.
Don’t get me wrong: There are some fine creepy moments in FEAR NO EVIL, but most of them tale place in the last twenty minutes. I especially liked the Easter play gone awry. Bloody and surprisingly nasty.
The special effects are what you’d expect from a low budget drive-in flick. Nothing fancy, some explosive pre-green screen effects, and a great orchestral music to back it up. But what works best for the film is when the effects are low key; as when the dead workmen are resurrected by their unholy master.
LaLoggia chose his locations well for the climax, an eerie castle, punctuated by sparse lighting and lots of mid-frame camera work. He really makes the atmosphere work for the story. But one can only wish he had used it more throughout the film.
In 1980 this was considered quite a successful low budget film, and helped spawn even more EXORCIST ripoffs. The movie holds up as well for me as it did back then, and might just be considered classic status in this post-Scream UPN/FOX teen horror PG13 horror backlash.
If you like your devil films cheap and dirty, this is the one for you.

Nickolas Cook