Decent practical effects and makeup, plus an interesting story of how the film was saved from obscurity, make this one fun but nothing more.
A pop star is haunted by the evil ghost of a slave owner when she escapes to the country with her psychiatrist. Let’s dig into 1987’s SCARED STIFF, directed by Richard Friedman!
As I See It
It doesn’t make sense to me that the showrunner/co-creator of Twin Peaks, Mark Frost, could have such a range of output. From that legendary show to the mid-2000s film Fantastic Four to this film. I suppose the onus is on me to now hold anyone else to such specific standards.
I’m all for retro music and have a substantial collection of eighties music that I particularly dig. Everything from Berlin to The Art of Noise. But it takes a different ear to appreciate the theme song “Beat of the Heart” as much as film historian Robert Ellinger reportedly did.
He loved it enough to become obsessed with hunting down every physical, ephemeral, and bit of knowledge about this film he could find. He’s almost solely responsible for it being available in any form besides VHS.
That type of obsession I can get behind as I, myself, fall down those rabbit holes with niche films, music, and various forms of media. I’ve even kept a varied collection of old magazines about specific and sometimes esoteric topics.
The toy scene is a kid’s dream rather than a horror element. It’s like a micro machines commercial dropped into the film as all of the kid’s trucks and matchbox cars come to life and move around on their own.
The practical effects may trick you into feeling the nostalgia, but the one scene where we get a good, clean look at the monster made me laugh out loud, thinking he looked like a drippy, gooey T-Saint (Ice-T) from the live-action Tank Girl.
The zipped head gag is awesome, though.
Andrew Stevens (David) is known more as a producer than an actor. He’s produced, written, or directed hundreds of films, many of which were sequels of low-budget eighties horror, such as The Terror Within 2.
Of Gratuitous Nature
The slave trade angle is about as gratuitous as it gets. I can’t argue that it makes for a true “ancient evil” progenitor that sets the table for the haunting, but it wasn’t used as anything more than a device. That’s irresponsible.
I might have sold the practical effects short on this a bit by laughing at them. There are some really great gags and fabrications throughout. The superimposed effects are cheesy, but it was nineteen eighty-seven.
Ripe for a Remake
Let it decay.
No progeny to report.
Where to Watch
Arrow Video released a Blu-Ray, and it’s a ridiculous twenty-eight dollars at the time of publication, even with twelve dollars off. But maybe that’s because of the amount of elbow grease that went into resurrecting the film. You can stream it on Arrow’s proprietary streaming service.