Spookies (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

Vinegar Syndrome brings one of the most notorious "so bad it's good" films to blu-ray for the first time and we do a deep dive to find everything we can about this blu-ray.

Studio: Vinegar Syndrome
Release Date: March 1986 (theatrical) / February 25th, 2020 (blu-ray)
Run Time: 85 mins
Region Code: FREE
Picture: 1080p (1.85:1 aspect ratio)
Sound: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH
Slipcover: No
Digital Copy: No
Starring: Felix Ward, Maria Pechukas, Dan Scott, Alec Nemser, A.J. Lowenthal, Pat Wesley Bryan
Written by Thomas Doran, Frank M. Farel, Brendan Faulkner (Twisted Souls scenes) / Ann Burgund (additional scenes)
Directed by Thomas Doran and Brendan Faulkner (Twisted Souls footage) / Eugenie Joseph (additional footage)
Rating: R (horror violence and gore)


A 13-year-old boy named Billy runs from home as his parents forget his birthday. Making his way through thick woods, he encounters a drifter who is violently slashed to death after Billy leaves. Billy stumbles on an old mansion where a room is decorated for birthday celebrations. Thinking it is a surprise by his parents, he opens a present to discover a severed head. Running away, he is attacked by the drifter's killer, a cat-like human with a hook on one hand, and subsequently buried alive. 
Meanwhile, a group of teenagers and some older adults come across the mansion intending to have a party, believing the mansion to be abandoned. However, a sorcerer named Kreon resides there, keeping watch over his bride who he has kept preserved for over 70 years using an unrevealed method, but it is known that he needs human victims in order to do it. He possesses one of teenagers in the group to use a Ouija board and summons a variety of monsters to pick off the group one by one. These include farting mud-men, small reptilian demons, giant spiders, an arachnid woman, an octopus-like creature with electric tentacles, a skeletal witch, a Grim Reaper statue, a vampiric boy in a monk's habit, and a large group of zombies.

SPOOKIES is a cult film through and through, but is it any good? There are plenty of cult films that aren’t even worth the time: THE ROOM, BIRDEMIC, and THE WICKER MAN (2006) are all films that people enjoy because they are so bad, but taken on their own merits, they are really bad films. SPOOKIES falls into this latter category.

SPOOKIES is a bad film, but it wasn’t always like that. The film was actually called TWISTED SOULS when it was shot in 1985, but the producer wanted something different, so he fired the filmmakers and hired another director to shoot different footage to be added to the Twisted Souls footage to make a brand new film. We will never know if TWISTED SOULS was going to be a good film, but if you judge that by the footage left in SPOOKIES, I would have to say that there was a very good chance it would have been pretty good.

Watching SPOOKIES, the first thing that popped into my head was “what the hell is going on?” This is a very valid question as the film is a muddled mess. The film begins with a kid in the woods, at night, complaining about how his family forgot his birthday. He then meets a stranger who asks the kid for a lighter because kids always carry lighters. The kid then leaves and something kills the stranger. The kid then happens upon the house the rest of the film will take place in and enters the house. He goes into a room where he finds all the trappings of a birthday party: balloons, festive decorations, and a cake with his name on it. This kid actually thinks that his family came to this house where the kid had never been before and set up a birthday party on the off chance that the kid would show up. Then the family splits before the kid shows up and the kid, being the Mensa member that he is, believes that his family did all of this for him.

That scene is from the new footage shot after the original filmmakers were fired. As you can tell, the added footage is terrible. The original footage is much better. This is where most of the monsters in the film come into play and the effects work is truly amazing. There is a scene where these creatures burst through the floor and start attacking our cast of characters. This is known as the “Muckmen scene”. The scene is almost perfect… and then the fart noises start. The film’s financier, Michael Lee, thought that the footage was boring and needed some pepping up, so he had the sound guys add in fart noises. Had the fart noises not been added, the scene would have been great. Hell, it might have actually been scary too, but the farts kill anything the scene was building

That's really what SPOOKIES is: a film that could have been. Most of the reshot footage is bland and boring, making us wonder what Michael Lee loved about this footage but hated with the real footage. I know bad movie lovers eat this film up but for me it is just bad. There are scenes that would have been so much better had they been edited right but we will never see that footage. What we are left with is a mess of a film that could have been.


Featuring a brand new scan and remastered in 4K from the original camera negative, and presented in the film’s original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this transfer of SPOOKIES is nothing short of jawdropping. We see all levels of transfers, from terrible to amazing, and Vinegar Syndrome’s work on SPOOKIES surpasses the majority of them all. The first thing that you will notice is that this looks like a film. Film grain is there to remind us that this was shot on film and there is a nice amount of depth to the picture throughout the film. Colors and skin tones look great and black levels are just so deep. There has been nothing applied to the picture that will detract from the picture itself. This is just an amazing transfer that Vinegar Syndrome should be proud of and something the studios should use as a benchmark of what a transfer should look like.

The English track is presented as a DTS-HD Master Audio track and it sounds great. Dialogue is clear and the score, which is a highlight of the film, comes through nice and clear.


Both discs are REGION FREE





DISC 1: THE FILM (1H 25M 22S, HD)

2015 Alamo Drafthouse Screening Introductions

     -with director Thomas Doran (1m 7s, HD)

     -with co-writer/prodcuer Frank Farel (4m 7s, HD, 1.33:1)

                Q&A From a 2015 Hudson Horror Show Screening (20m 21s, HD) actors
                Peter Iasillo and Anthony Valbrio, and production assistant Tom Sciacca are
                on hand to introduce SPOOKIES and then do a Q&A afterward. The answers to
                the questions are all found in the making of doc on disc 2, so there really isn’t
                much here that isn’t told elsewhere. Still, it is nice to see a crowd turnout for
                a film like SPOOKIES.

                Archival Locations Featurette with actor Peter Iasillo (5m 34s, HD, 1.33:1)
                Iasillo takes us on a tour of the property which houses everything that we see
                in SPOOKIES. He never goes inside the house but shows us everything there is
                on the outside of the house.

                Pinreel Outtakes and Bloopers (12m 3s, HD) I had no idea what a
                “pinreel” was until I watched the making of doc on the second disc
                where they explain that anyone who messed up while on set had to
                wear clothespins on their head for the rest of the day and appear on
                 film doing so. This reel also shows that everyone was working hard
                 and having a really good time. This whole reel is silent.

                 Behind the Scenes Still Gallery (15m 26s, HD) The gallery autoplay
                 while selections from the film’s score, by James Calabrese and Kenneth Higgins.

                 Theatrical Trailer (1m 34s, HD)


                 Twisted Tale: The Unmaking of Spookies (1h 40m, HD) The story
                 behind the making of SPOOKIES belongs up there with the likes ALIEN 3 and
                 THE ISLAND OF DR MOREAU when it comes to films that saw many
                 problems on their way to release. Only those films saw releases that
                 were fairly close to what the filmmakers had in mind (maybe not MOREAU
                 because Richard Stanley got replaced BEFORE production began, but
                 I know you see my point) whereas SPOOKIES barely resembles the film
                 the original filmmakers shot. The story, better told in this doc, is a
                 whopper of a story and something that all filmmakers should be required
                 to learn about. This doc covers everything about the story and does it really well.

     -Commentary with co-directors Michael Gingold and Glen Baisley
     -Deleted Scenes (13m 5s, HD)

                 Vipco: The Untold Story (2h 12m, HD) The other doc on disc 2, this
                  one covers the story of VIPCO, the most notorious of all U.K. video
                  distributors. I was really looking forward to this doc as I love stories
                  like this, but I can not recommend this. The story is told in a scattershot
                  way with no real focus other than telling the stories. The problem with
                  this approach lies in the fact that there are many people out there who do
                  not know anything about VIPCO and thus the stories being told out of
                  order will confuse many. I know a bit about VIPCO and I was still kind
                  of lost trying to follow all the different paths this doc takes. Some will
                  love this doc, others will hate it.

     -Extended Interview Footage with Michael Lee (26m 4s, HD)
     -Trailer (1m 35s, HD)


SPOOKIES is a bad film. There are so many unnecessary scenes and the scenes that do work aren't edited right. This leaves you with a film that has no idea what it wants to be and that is bad for any film. Still, the film does have its charms even if they are earned through laughs at the wrong things. Vinegar Syndrome has done a wonderful job bringing SPOOKIES to blu-ray. The making of doc is a must giving SPOOKIES the advantage above other bad films. Even if you get this release as a curiosity, it will have been worth it once you are done.


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