Apart from a shapely nun who strips naked to reveal prominent bikini tan lines, SPIRITS has little new or interesting to offer.
It's an admitted rehash of THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, with avuncular Dr. Richard Wicks (Robert Quarry) engaged in the study of "post-life energy forms." He gathers some pals together for a jaunt to the nearby haunted Heron mansion. Expedition members include Amy Goldwyn (Brinke Stevens), a
no-nonsense psychic; Beth (Kathrin Lautner), a skeptic and self-proclaimed bitch; and lusty young Harry (Oliver Darrow), whose field may as well be occult gynecology, as he's bedded by a succubus the first night out.
Amy gets possessed and pulls the whole EXORCIST routine (an end credit gives special thanks to Father Merrin), pounding a nail into her hand and growling gutteral threats at the rest. The supernatural villain is the late Henri Picard, a fallen-priest-turned-serial-killer whose mummy abides in the
cellar. Picard declares he will destroy each researcher through his or her own hidden evil. Beth's "evil" turns out to be that she's a closet lesbian, a telling example of how old-style morality creeps into even the sleaziest of exploitation chillers.
So where does the nude nun fit in? She's one of the demons tormenting Father Anthony Vicci (Erik Estrada), a handsome clergyman who was seduced by the malevolence of Heron House years ago. Finally the padre summons the courage to go and rescue the researchers. Father Anthony confronts Picard's
reanimated skeleton with a psalmful of heavenly entreaties ("Go forth Christian soul! ... Be at peace!"), though it takes a lethal splash of holy water to stop the bony fiend. The melting ghoul makes the only really impressive special effect in the picture.
Estrada, best-known for TV's "CHiPs," bravely faces B-moviehood. Robert Quarry has become a real chairman-of-the-board in this genre and looks comfortable. Scream queen Brinke Stevens gives a welcome hard edge to the stock character of the medium to whom nobody listens until it's too late. But
SPIRITS is overall a horror hodgepodge of little import except that it's one of the more polished- looking productions of cheapie specialist Fred Olen Ray. This baron of low-budgetry has cranked out one potboiler after another over the past decade, and his filmmaking sense certainly has improved
with mileage, if this $130,000 effort is any indication. Now if Ray could only come up with a screenplay.
Ray's most significant contribution to cinema last year was actually a book The New Poverty Row: Independent Filmmakers as Distributors, a shapeless but readable broth of movie business history, behind-the-scenes trivia, filmography and opinion. Ray outlines the travails of several exploitation
mini-moguls, including Roger Corman, Jerry Warren, Al Adamson--and Fred Olen Ray himself. His autobiographical closing chapter runs down his own fraught Hollywood career, offers a spirited defense of his oeuvre and promises that he will never subject the world to his unreleased first feature, THE
BRAIN LEECHES. One wishes him well. (Violence, profanity, nudity, sexual situations, adult situations.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1992
- Rating: R
- Review: Apart from a shapely nun who strips naked to reveal prominent bikini tan lines, SPIRITS has little new or interesting to offer. It's an admitted rehash of THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, with avuncular Dr. Richard Wicks (Robert Quarry) engaged in the study of "… (more)