Oh, R.D, you’re a real pain in the posterior and a kick in the lower abdominal area this week with your ‘squeezin’ the Charmin’, SOV fanboydom. Yes, I am a self-aware man: a man that fights his life of monotony on the highway to mediocrity by binge-watching SOV films.
So, I’ve pretty much — with the other camcorder SOVs, as well as the 16mm-blown-to-35mm-backyard’ers-that-walk-and-quack-like-an-SOV that I’ve dovetailed into our “SOV Week” tribute — name dropped all the essential films and ramble-babbled as to the SOV “about” of it all. (If you click the “’80s SOV” tag at the end of this review — and all of this week’s reviews — you’ll populate all of our past and present reviews and chit-chat on the SOV/direct-to-video genre.) So, we’ll skip the SOV genre “plot points” and get right into the dual, shot-on-video careers of our camcorder auteurs behind these two flicks: writer Gerry Daly and director Deryn Warren.
Mirror of Death, aka Dead of Night in some quarters, was their joint direct-to-video feature debut. Bloodspell, aka The Boy From Hell, was their second film. Then came Black Magic Woman (1991), which was Deryn’s lone writing credit (and stars Mark Hamill and Apollonia, if that inspires a stream). Then Jerry Daly came to write Crystal Force (1990) (although it looks like one, it isn’t a repack of the Alien-rip, Star Crystal) and Witchcraft III: The Kiss of Death (1991)* — all of which fall under the SOV banner and populate-in-memory on many o’ fans SOV-genre lists. Apparently team Warren-Daly returned with the PG-13 comedy Sweet Tessie and Bags (2008), which is a barren IMDb page and Google quest to nowhere . . . with images of handbags and a child eating an Eggo waffle (which isn’t a film still, by the way).
Today, Deryn Warren is a noted L.A.-based acting coach and publisher on the film arts. As with my previous Google excursion: it’s another digital tundra quest to nowhere, with pictures of Tim and Tyne Daly — and an image of a guy that’s not our Jerry — noshin’ a Smuckers pastry.
Waffles, Smuckers, and damn Jerry’s too-common-of-a-name, oh, my! Where will this yellow-tainted, SOV road take me, now?
Mirror of Death
So, if the cover doesn’t sell it: this is a backyard possession opus. Hold the pea soup and the Lisa and the Devil thrown-up frogs, as we meet Sara. Sara is another one of those bullied mousy-to-hotties that goes from mousy-to-hottie after lighting a few candles and ramblin’ a voodoo incantation. But like Stanley Coopersmith in Evilspeak and those “no false metal” horndogs, Holy Moses, in Hard Rock Zombies: when you mess with Luciferette, you get the hornettes — wrong chants and mirrors cracked, be damned.
What the . . . hey, is this the same red-optical possession effect from Doh Dohler’s regional drive-in’er Fiend (1980; also reviewed this week, look for it)? So that answers all the questions of that film: our poor violin teacher in that film was possessed by Empress Sura from Egypt?
So, our fire from Cairo rises from the looking glass and makes Sarah beautiful, so as to more effectively cruise all the local bars and hotspots Sarah could never go to before. But like Angel Martin in Shock ’em Dead, who went from dorky pizza boy to buff rock star, Sarah — now Sura — needs to pick up men and feed off their souls. (So, just like the fat red worm, two-tentacled octopus-thingy in Dohler’s movie.) Throat rips, heart rips, and the ol’ ancient dagger-in-eye gag, ensues, but are cheaply done and not the least bit overly, well, gag-inducing — which is what we want in our SOVs: to gag. (Then puke our mirco’d-burrito and slightly micro’d Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food: Remember, you have to soften those Fudge Fish into the gooey marshmallow swirls and improve the mallow-to-caramel swirl ratio content in our stomachs.)
And that’s all I am gonna say about that, Forrest. Except that every time I watch Striking Distance, I wait for Bruce Willis to say, “Hey, Lt. Dan! I’m a shrimp boat captain on the mighty Three Rivers.”
This is where the trailer for Mirror of Death was embedded . . . until You Tube cancelled the uploader’s account.
And team Daly-Warren are back with another ne’er-do-well SOV demon and a put-upon yoot (know your Joe Pesci references) by a dickhead of a dad who’s a dicksicle of a dad because a dickhead of a demon possessed dad, you got that? But, etc., and so on, in a tale that doesn’t not ensue in the “tradition” of The Fury or The Shining, no matter what the copywriters at Marketing Media Corporation and Vista Street Productions tell you. So the demon ditches dad and nestles into junior, so our resident supernatural terror may knock off the student body of the Ed Wood School of Non-Thespin’, aka the St. Boniface Group Home for Bullies.
Yeah, it’s the ol’ Stanley Coopersmith-hold-the-Tranya (know your Star Trek; don’t make us go all-Corbomite on your ass) bit as one too many practical jokes on ol’ Danny boy has sounded the pipes to summon our demon. And, once Danny-not-Torrence turns 18th, the demon will be cast inside not-the-son-of-Jack-and-Wendy, forever.
Is Bloodspell an improvement over Mirror of Death? Yep. Is it still a gore-deprived backyard’er? Yep, and more so than the prior. But at least we have a demon with a woodchipper fetish (but sadly, not for corkscrews, as in our this-week-reviewed SOV’er, The Brainsucker). Then there’s the errant, mind-controlled pigeon into the window that cuts up a bully’s face and a spontaneous-burnt-to-crisp stunt by-mind. And a showstopping (sarcasm) dad-gets-a-metal-pipe-impaling-so-lighting-can-strike gag lifted out of one of the Friday the 13th sequels (it was VI, but Jason was revived and didn’t die from the gag). Oh, and Danny, well, the demon, kidnaps Jenny (Theodora Louise), the girlfriend of Charlie, Danny’s only and now-not friend. Why? Well, to celebrate his birthday because, Danny the Demon is 18 and he likes it. And we wished Alice Cooper came up with another “The Man Behind the Mask” Friday the 13th theme song (again, Part VI: Jason Lives) to make blood worth spillin’ . . . and spellin’.
In the end: Bloodspell isn’t just a film with not-special-special effects: there are no special effects. And no blood of the kill-by-E.S.P variety. And acting so inept-inert that, if Larry “Seinfeld the Soup Nazi” Thomas starred in Bloodspell (or Mirror of Death), he’d apologize for it, as he did with his involvement in Terror on Tour — but, amazing, not for his involvement in an even worse SOV, known as Night Ripper!, so what gives, Lawrence? But hey, Bloodspell — but not Mirror of Death — filled out a programming block on USA’s Saturday Nightmares** — which is how most of us saw it, in lieu of VHS.
This is where the trailer for Bloodspell was embedded . . . until You Tube cancelled the uploader’s account.
Now, why did I make that earlier, off-the-cuff Bruce Willis/Pittsburgh reference?
Well, as is the case with most of these backyard’ers of the 16mm (or 8mm formats, even) or SOV variety, the film’s IMDb pages aren’t complete — with blank actor profiles of thesp’ers who never appeared in another film. However, our resident damsel-in-distress at St. Boniface is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-born and bred Twink Caplan, aka Theodora Louise back then, who does have a profile — because she’s still in the business.
Remember when Jim Belushi was a comedy-thing? Well, Caplan produced Curly Sue (1991), as well as the Gen-X comedy Clueless (1995) and its related TV series, as well as Amy Heckerling’s follow up, Loser (2000). Acting wise, before Bloodspell, Caplan co-starred in Underground Aces (a pretty awful, 1981 comedy that I only watched because of its Dirk Benedict-Battlestar Galactica connection; it’s not “Animal House in a car parking garage,” trust me), as well as guest-starring on such ’80s series as L.A. Law, Who’s the Boss, and Valerie (aka The Hogan Family). Caplan still picks up parts in indie films and cable-streaming series.
Meanwhile, Ray Quiroga, the producer of Dead of Night, Bloodspell, and Black Magic Woman, continues to produce indie films.
* Witchcraft III (1991) was preceded by Witchcraft II: The Kiss of Death (1989). It all began with the Italian-produced but shot in Massachusetts Witchcraft (1988), aka Witchery, aka La casa 4, aka Ghosthouse II.
** Check out our “Drive-In Friday” featurette honoring USA’s Night Flight programming blocks. And speaking of Animal House and ’80s comedies: we examine those films with our “Drive-In Friday” Slobs. vs. Snobs and Teen Sex Comedy Nights.
Our thanks to Paul Zamarelli of VHS Collector.com.
What would we do without his preservation efforts of all things analog —
be it SOV or 16mm backyard?
Seriously, Paul is the king of clean .jepg images of the lost classics of the home video-era.