FEAR NO EVIL is another first-time, independent horror film by a very young filmmaker, in this case, 20-something producer/director/writer Frank LaLoggia who went on to make the highly revered LADY IN WHITE nearly a decade later. Shot in 1979 and released in 1981 by the now-defunct AVCO Embassy, the film's Antichrist content owes much to THE OMEN (1976) and even CARRIE (1976), but its advertising (complete with high school yearbook poster ads) tried to cash in on the rampant teen horror craze of the period. Though hailed by some critics at the time of its release, FEAR NO EVIL remains a jumbled, dated mess, but an unusual one at that.
The pre-credit sequence has an old priest (Jack Holland) hunting down and destroying Lucifer who allows himself to perish as a mortal. The priest is later charged with murder and dies in an asylum. Jump ahead to 1963, and a baby is born, showing off some splatter-hemorrhaging antics at his church baptism. We then see him grown up as Andrew Williams (Stefan Arngrim, a former child actor from the 60's "Land of the Giants" series), a weird, effeminate teen with an A+ school average who also happens to be an Antichrist with telepathic and other unworldly powers. On his 18th birthday, Andrew causes an accident that leaves his mother paralyzed in a wheelchair and dad a depressed drunk.
In the meantime, an older Archangel on earth (Elizabeth Hoffman) teams up with a teenage girl (Kathleen Rowe McAllen) who also becomes holy after her boyfriend is killed as a result of Andrew's evil. After drinking the blood of a sacrificed dog, Andrew (now looking like an extra from a Billy Idol music video) goes to a nearby castle on an island to perform a demonic ceremony and causes bloody chaos at a community play about Jesus' death. People start bleeding from the head, an army of the dead rise from ground, and Andrew mutes into an ugly demon while our two lady angels conflict him in a "good vs. evil" show-off climax.
Definitely ambitious and intentionally stylish for a first-timer with very little money, FEAR NO EVIL boasts some clever scenes (Andrew's descending shadow, death by a propelled volley ball, a male teen suddenly develops female breasts, etc.) and most of the camera work and lighting is well-handled. However, bad local theater group type acting (over and under) prevails, the "Thriller" video type make-up and horror value are not bad but not very scary either, there's too many silly optical effects, and the whole show suffers from having an 80s TV movie look, much like the ones Wes Craven did at the time. The soundtrack music (recently issued on CD) by David Spear is not menacing enough, and songs by punk and new wave acts like The Ramones, The Boomtown Rats, The Sex Pistols and others add some flavor but are unfortunately bunched together in snippets during an earlier part of the film and not spread out throughout.
Anchor Bay has done a fine job releasing this cult oddity on DVD, giving it a new transfer and loading it with extras. Letterboxed in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio with Anamorphic enhancement, the transfer is taken from a pristine source and looks as good as possible for a low budget film of this type. Grain and picture softness are evident occasionally, but on a whole, colors are nicely saturated and show off the various lighting set-ups to good effect. Solid audio tracks are available in either Dolby Surround 5.1 or Dolby Surround 2.0, giving the film a real boost when played loud.
An audio commentary is included with LaLoggia and director of photography Frederic Goodich. Their memories of making a low budget horror film in Upstate New York in the late 70s are enjoyable to listen to. LaLoggia comes off as a really nice guy who had his heart in this project, and he explains how outside demands forced him to make changes he was against. He relays several times how he wanted the film to have a look of the Hammer films which he admired so much. Goodich is obviously very serious about his craft, and the way he explains some of the camera and lighting set-ups in the film, shows that he greatly cared about what he was doing as well.
Also included is 20 minutes of
video footage, shot on the set while the film was being made. The footage gives
us a great behind-the-scenes glimpse at FEAR NO EVIL, and documents several
sequences that were omitted from the final cut. A still gallery, theatrical
trailer, eight(!) different TV spots, and a DVD-ROM version of the script are
included as well. Liner notes by Jay Marks are in a booklet enclosed inside
the disc's packaging. (George R. Reis)
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