Along with other horror spoofs of the 80s: Transylvania Twist, Saturday the 14th, National Lampoon’s Class Reunion, Student Bodies, Haunted Honeymoon, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark…there were 1982 goodies Pandemonium and Wacko.
They’re quite similar in that they both take on the most popular slashers of the era and are packed with familiar faces, from veteran actors to rising stars of the 80s. Randomly, they also both have a character named Bambi. But the most bummerific connection is that they are both in desperate need of a DVD release.
So why were these two films deserving of repeated viewings during the days of heavy-rotation on HBO back in the day?
This one comes to us from the director of the cult horror film Alice Sweet Alice.
After a killer takes out an entire cheerleading squad with one throw of a javelin, everyone is jumping at the chance to attend cheerleading camp, proving just how dumb kids are in these slasher films!
Carol Kane is a girl with special powers, and a religious fanatic mother (Eileen Brennan) who isn’t about to stop her from going to cheerleading camp, a place that has just reopened, much to the concerns of all the locals.
The cast of characters includes Judge Reinhold (Fast Times at Ridgemont High), Miles Chapin (The Funhouse), Marc McClure (Strange Behavior, Grim Prairie Tales), Squiggy of Laverne & Shirley, Pee-Wee Herman, and Tom Smothers of the Smothers Brothers. Not to mention, there’s a Grease 2 crossover, with appearances by Tab Hunter and Eve Arden!
There’s also an escaped mental patient…
While there are kills sprinkled throughout (trampoline explosion, toothbrush drilling, death by cookies and milk), the bulk of this film is very heavy on slapstick nonsense focused on the cheerleader camp kids with very little attention to spoofing the actual slasher elements.
Even the horror spoofs are absurd – like a Godzilla stewardess on a plane (they were called stewardesses back then).
Meanwhile, Smothers and Pee-Wee are the law enforcement team hunting down the escaped mental patient in a comedy duo side story that includes Pee-Wee doing a bit of his Pee-Wee shtick.
It’s not until after the kids play strip poker during a lightning storm and split up to have sex that it finally takes on traditional slasher formula pacing.
Carol Kane’s comic chase scene captures the horror comedy spirit that much of the movie is lacking.
Plus, the big killer reveal is like a special little gift for the queer crowd.
Wacko comes to us from the director of Satan’s Cheerleaders and Without Warning and is officially one my favorite slasher spoofs of the 1980s for various reasons. Hell, it revolves around a pumpkin-headed lawnmower killer offing teens on the night of the Halloween pumpkin prom!
13 years ago, Julia Duffy of Newhart witnessed the pumpkin-headed lawnmower killer chop up her sister. Now he’s escaped and he’s back to get her and all her friends, including 80s queen EG Daily, 80s pretty boy Scott McGinnis, and a young Andrew Dice Clay, trying his damnedest to do a Vinnie Barbarino impression.
Totally riffing on Halloween and Prom Night, this one sticks with the teen high school horror formula.
After an intro featuring the killer carving a pumpkin and then using it as a mask, we meet our quirky teens and are bombarded by horror references.
While the kills are pretty much all saved until the last half hour, Wacko has that classic 80s teen flick spirit and isn’t as goofy slapstick as Pandemonium. Aside from the teens and their drama, there’s the messed up detective on the case, who has strange flashbacks, like the time he got whipped by a dominatrix while dressed as a woman.
And the sex-hating principal that gets off on torturing lustful students.
EG Daily busts a move when chased by a creepy bald stalker.
And there are some fun moments between veteran actors George Kennedy and Stella Stevens as Julia Duffy’s parents.
Then comes the prom, set to the rockin’ early 80s power pop/new wave sounds of the never-was band Avalon.
This is an 80s gym dance scene at its purist (I’m pretty sure someone was dressed as the Cathy Lee Crosby 1974 Wonder Woman), and the kids start getting killed off in classic 80s slasher style.
But when our final girl gets a chase scene and body reveals, the scale tips—so much so that while it starts off just as strong as Carol Kane’s scene, it goes off the rails at the last minute, handing the win for best final girl ending to Pandemonium!