Thursday 14 March 2019

Evil Toons (Fred Olen Ray, 1992) Review...

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“Why do these things always have to start with young, beautiful Co-Eds going into the basement?” From Fred Olen Ray, the director of Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, comes Evil Toons: the saucier, spookier, and definitely cheaper alternative to Who Framed Roger Rabbit? But don't let the title deceive you with it's plural-based promises, because you only get one titular torrid toon! However, with a game cast – featuring support from a ham-tastic David Carradine (Kill Bill) and the late, ever-reliable Dick Miller (Gremlins, The 'Burbs, damn near everything else) – plus oodles of meta humour and a multitude of babes laid bare, this gleeful exploitationer from the VHS rental heyday has plenty to offer...

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“Remember, no funny business – I've got my reputation to think of.” A quartet of gorgeous college gals rock up at a dusty old mansion for a fun-filled weekend of … cleaning! For the princely sum of $100 – cheap labour by anyone's standards, especially when you consider the deadly history of the building which involves disappearances, murders, and the very recent suicide of a mysterious practitioner of the occult in possession of a talking book with a snarky attitude – it's time to knock up a baloney sandwich (no, not euphemistically) and whip off those dust sheets.

No phone, no TV, and no boys allowed? This weekend's really gonna be a snooze fest – so, where to start? The creepy, cobwebby cellar, of course! And no sooner have they half-assedly tossed a few empty boxes from one corner to another (they certainly won't be getting hired by Molly Maids any time soon!) than their leader Terry (Suzanne Ager, Evil Spawn) has stumbled upon an old chest containing a skull, a shroud, and a dagger.

“This house has a long history of mayhem and madness, pretty strange and unusual things have happened here.” Leaning hard into the knowing cheesiness and thinly-veiled riff on Sam Raimi's iconic DIY horror flick The Evil Dead, the film wastes no time in having the nefarious book hand-delivered to the girls by the weirdo Gideon Fisk (Carradine). Employing the skills of their resident sexless nerd Megan (Monique Gabrielle, Deathstalker II) – with her convenient affinity for ancient Latin – they read aloud from the book, and golly, wouldn't you know it but the warning not to read from it is written after the incantation. D'oh! Unleashed from the book and free to send souls to hell, the titular toon with a thing for nubile ladies quickly sets about slaying its way through the cast – but will the girls discover the monster in their midst before it's too late?

“That just about completes our tour of Doctor Satan's neighbourhood.” Shot in eight days on a budget of $140,000, Evil Toons certainly looks pretty slick thanks to the genre-inflected cinematography and gaudy horror comics-style lighting, but the severely scant amount of screen time afforded to the lustful demon is utterly conspicuous. There's only so much animation they could afford it seems, but even still … only this much? No wonder the beasty transforms into the convenient human form of Roxanne (Madison Stone) so readily. Still, what the film can't afford in effects (the kills are limited to miming and a bit of fake blood splashed about) it more than makes up for in a frequent procession of nudity and knowing jokes.

“Oh honey, you were great – you just reeked of sex!” Evil Toons knows its audience and, being a flick from the days before the World Wide Web, the gleefully gratuitous use of exploitation movie makers' favourite special effect (beauties with their kit off) is accompanied with a proudly blunt sense of butts-in-your-face silliness. Burt (Dick Miller) is a cigar-chomping curmudgeon who admonishes any notion of orgiastic mayhem (lest it tarnish his public reputation), but he's later seen rushing head first into infidelity – for which he pays a leg-crossing price. Similarly, when he rejects the advances of his lustful wife (a cameo appearance by 80s Scream Queen Michelle Bauer, Puppet Master III) she promptly retires to the bedroom to fire up what sounds like an industrial strength 'personal massager'. Toss in the ineffectual leering of Mr Hinchlow (Arte Johnson) and the vibe is like Benny Hill for the teen boys of the 1990s.

“You know one of those girls is a contortionist … yeah, it's a political party.” Chock-full with 90s fashion – dig those over-sized shirts, skin tight lycra shorts, and that none-more-90s neon hue of greenish-yellow – Evil Toons may skimp on its title promises, but the overwhelming sense of saucy fun still manages to win the viewer over. Slot this into a triple bill with Sorority Babes In The Slimeball Bowl-o-rama and Nightmare Sisters and you've got yourself a perfect night of VHS era fun.

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