Although it doesn’t happen very often, it’s always a nice surprise when it does. Joining “No Retreat, No Surrender 2”, and very very few others, we’re in “almost completely forgotten sequel which is much better than its part 1” territory. “Night Of The Demons” was sort of alright, but it was terribly slow and didn’t even bother lampshading its unoriginal concept – even by 1988, I feel horror fans had probably had enough of teens-in-a-haunted-house.
Part 2, on the other hand, brings in ISCFC regular Brian Trenchard-Smith (Dead End Drive In, the Leprechaun sequels, etc.) but keeps scriptwriter Joe Augustyn, and together the two of them spin base metals into gold. You even get the benefit of a curious visual, as soon-to-be mainstream star Christine Taylor (who married Ben Stiller in 2000 and appeared in many of his movies) is the blonde who doesn’t make it to the end – she’s great, though, and is very obviously on her way up.
But enough vague discussions of future comedy stars! We have a movie to discuss. It turns out that the story of Angela and Hull House has become an urban legend of sorts, with people in the know informing us that the rest of the bodies from the conflagration six years ago have been recovered – Angela, though, despite not being the first possessee from part 1, was never recovered and, so the story goes, was taken bodily down to hell. Eh, whatever.
“Fun” fact: the villain in this series of movies shares her name with the villain from the “Sleepaway Camp” series, which shows a severe lack of effort on someone’s part. The only two recurring female villains in horror, and they both have the same damn name?
Anyway, Angela’s parents committed suicide after receiving a card signed by her, a year after her death, and the only remaining family member is Melissa, aka “Mouse”, who’s a resident at a Catholic school which is a conveniently short drive away from Hull House. Of course, a group of horny people in their mid-20s masquerading as teens want to go visit the scene; but this is where the similarities between this and other spam-in-a-can movies end.
One might expect the Nun in charge of the school to be almost as evil as Angela, but even though she’s very strict, there’s a side to her character that’s way more decent than you’d expect, as when we first see her on her own she’s using her kid-smacking ruler as a fencing stick; she kicks arse for the Lord, indeed. There’s a demonology-obsessed nerd (I guess Catholic schools get their fair share of that sort of person, what with their sort-of acceptance of exorcism) who tries and succeeds in summoning Angela, but as we’ve already seen her slaughtering the two dumbest evangelists in history in the cold open, we know she’s still around? He’d be the hero, or have the smart idea, in a normal movie, but here he’s the super-annoying guy you’re just waiting for him to die.
The “teens” are a decent bunch of actors, and not just because one of them is Christine Taylor. The lead jock gets in a great chatup line, “they call me King Snake”, and even with Mouse doing nothing other than looking a bit sad all the time, there’s plenty of people who realise the tone the director was going for and really run with it. There’s even a sweet couple who have happy consensual sex (with the guy putting on a condom and stopping, immediately, when she asks him to. Amazing!)
What I like about part 2 is it doesn’t just stick to the haunted house. About halfway in, the teens all decide this house sucks and go back to the school, only to realise one of them brought back a demon-possessed tube of lipstick, crossing the boundary of the underground river (if you remember that plot point from the first movie, kudos) and freeing Angela up to do some badness. The scary / sexy boundary is played with here, as Angela does a dance for the assembled Catholic teens, which very definitely does not impress the Sister. The plot of Angela possessing a small army is carried on here, and it works well with the multiple locations and variety of cast – as well as the horny teens and the Nun, there’s a handful of local hoodlums who, to be fair, looked pretty gross before they were possessed.
I do want to say one thing, though, and that’s that these movies – all of them – grossly overestimate the amount of time teens are willing to spend in a completely ramshackle old house. When you’ve finished exploring it and found nothing, which’ll take you say half an hour, and then had a beer or two, you’ll be ready to go home or go somewhere with lights and comfortable places to sit and rooms to have sex in that aren’t covered with dust and the random detritus of decades of disuse. But horror movies tell us that teens are desperate to go to these places and party. I went to a pub once that had been shuttered for about a year, my friends and I broke in and went for an explore. About ten minutes later we were bored out of our minds and went home.
If you factor in how much this group appears to hate each other and how little reason they have to organise a party in a stinking run-down murder house, you’ve got a smart winner on your hands. Trenchard-Smith (who apparently provides a hilarious blu-ray commentary which I’ll be watching soon) knows exactly what he’s doing and lays bare the inner workings of the cheesy horror genre for all to see, without making it too obvious and just making what you could view as a bizarre, but fairly straight, horror-comedy.
Credit to the special effects, again, which are fantastically gross and inventive. The room full of …stuff? (you’ll know it when you see it) is “Society” levels of insanity and there’s stuff getting torn open and with stuff getting pierced with stuff and stuff disintegrating and all sorts.
This is an excellent movie with a fine sense of humour and a plot that actually goes places. Well worth watching, even if you haven’t seen part 1.
Rating: thumbs up