Friday, April 13, 2012

B-Movie Review: "Wacko" (1982)

An Early 1980s Slasher Spoof Starring Andrew Dice Clay, George Kennedy and the voice of Tommy Pickles Getting Killed By A Lawnmower-Pushing, Pumpkin-Headed Serial Killer

Hey! It’s Friday the 13th, which means I am required by Internet Law to post something that pertains to a certain long-in-the-tooth, multimedia slasher series. That said, since I’ve already written more about the Jason Voorhees mythos than anyone in their right mind ever should, I’ve decided to take a little deviation from the norm and tackle an entirely different sort of film for the unluckiest day of the year (that isn’t called Tax Day, of course.)

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present unto you, “Wacko,” a 1982 horror spoof directed by a guy that’s probably best known for making Blaxploitation sleaze and at least one sex comedy about “Super Pac-Man.” On the surface, “Wacko” appears to be a pretty entertaining idea for a movie: a National Lampoon-style skewering of all the early ‘80s slasher flicks, like the first “Friday the 13th” movie and really crappy stuff like “Terror Train” and “Prom Night.” Things get even more appetizing when you look at the cast for this one, which includes such B-movie heavy hitters as Stella Stevens, Joe Don Baker and even the guy that played “Mr. Adventure” in the third Star Trek movie. That said, does “Wacko” have what it takes to make for truly endearing Friday the 13th viewing material? As it turns out…uh, yeah, not really.

Our film begins with the villain of the film (a dude with a Jack O Lantern on his head) revving up a huge-assed lawnmower while bathed in a spooky blue light. After that, we’re introduced to the virginal heroine of the film, Mary Graves, who was seriously messed up as a kid when her older sister got John Deer’d to death by the aforementioned fruit-head. As it turns out, it’s been 13 years to the day since Mary’s older sis got mowed down, and tonight is the night of the annual Halloween Pumpkin Drop/Prom Night Dance. From there, we’re introduced to the Dr. Loomis of the film, a bumbling homicide detective named, hilariously, “Detective Harbinger.” In the next scene, we’re informed that some nutzoid has escaped from the state mental hospital, and following some forced allusions to both “The Twilight Zone” and that old “Who’s on First?” Abbot and Costello routine, we catch up with Mary and her friends at school.

This is actually one of the more subtle jokes in the movie, believe it or not.

We’re introduced to Mary’s boyfriend, a character named Norman Bates (you know, because subtlety is so 1981, I suppose). After Mary tells him that she’s willing to give up her V (and I’m not talking about a shirt with a neckline shaped like a Roman Numeral 5), he starts making uncontrollable lawnmower noises, which I suppose partially explains why he hasn’t been able to bed her until this evening. At this juncture, we’re slowly introduced to the rest of the cast, and boy, is it ever an eclectic one: we’ve got Andrew Dice Clay playing a singing Guido named Tony Schlongini, Charles Napier playing the Chief of Police, and Elizabeth Daily (as in, the voice of Tommy freaking Pickles) as Bambi, your generic blonde bimbo with a thing for bald exhibitionists that sort of look like Uncle Fester from the Addams Family.

Andrew Dice Clay, seen here being his usual charming self.

By the time we get to the next scene, things are getting extremely sight-gag heavy. A subplot is introduced involving a “secret serum” that’s supposed to give the football team a leg-up for the night’s game, and we’re “rewarded” with a lengthy flashback sequence in which Detective Harbinger recollects that fateful night 13 years earlier (and he was dressed up like a clown at the time, in case you were wondering.) After that, the detective starts counting up all of the potential lunatics in the cast, and yeah, it’s pretty much everybody in the picture. And because this movie doesn’t have enough non-sequiturs in it, we’re introduced to yet another bit player, a televangelist-esque vice principal with a torture rack in his office named…get ready for the highbrow humor…Mr. Harry Palms.

Well, you can't accuse the filmmakers of being dishonest, I guess...

To keep the parade of slasher film tropes a going, we have an extremely long nightmare sequence in which Mary dreams she’s being trampled to death by the high school marching band (whom, notably, can’t seem to play anything other than the theme song from “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.”) I guess now is a pretty good time to bring up the fact that film has a habit of repeating the same old jokes over and over again, including a bit involving a groundskeeper named Zeke that keeps popping up whenever a word that rhymes with his forename is uttered and an absolutely hilarious subplot about Mary’s dad (played by, of all people, GEORGE KENNEDY) spying on her while she sleeps. After Mary finds a miniature lawnmower in her locker, we’re treated to an extended car chase scene involving Detective Harbinger and the escaped mental patient…which ends with the car being driven by Harbinger flying off into the clouds. Hell, why bother with a coherent plot, I say? 

A Picture of the New Orleans Saints locker room (pre-bounty-boycott, apparently.)

Following a couple of nods to “The Omen” and “The Exorcist”, we have a scene in which the high school football players sip the aforementioned serum and quite literally turn into animals. It’s a dumb scene, to be sure, but I will give the film maker at least half a point for making the dude in a Los Angeles Rams jersey turn into an actual ram. From there, we have THREE separate dinner scenes to plow through, which conclude, respectively, with 1.) Andrew Dice Clay knocking over a table with his boner, 2.) Detective Harbinger eating a giant Twinkie with his all-black family (seriously dude, just don’t ask) and 3.) Mary’s boyfriend bringing his mother over in a scene so painfully forced that it’ll probably make your toes explode out of your sneakers. 

Looks like this Norman Bates happens to be a severe "mama's boy," too.

In keeping with contemporary slasher styling, we really don’t get our first glimpse of the killer in action until damn near the one hour mark of the movie. First off the list is the vice principal, who gets his via his own torture rack. Next up, Bambi gets axed while your generic ‘80s crap-rock band plays through a song called “Rumour Has It”  (but, uh, not THIS “Rumor Has It,” of course.) The Diceman and his date get processed to death while trying to make the sign of the three toed antelope in the lunchroom, while Mary’s parents – presumably, high on something – shoot the breeze in probably the best scene of the entire movie. 

What's next, a movie about a psychotic, murderous CGI snowman?

The film, of course, ends with the killer chasing after Mary, who manages to temporarily thwart him with both a flagpole and an assault rifle that was conveniently left just lying around the place…you know, sort of like how in the Jason movies, people just have harpoons laying out on the front lawn, even though they live in the middle of Suburbia and shit. Following an extended cat-and-mouse sequence that almost matches up with the final flight of the first “Halloween” movie scene-for-scene, we have the grand finale in which the pumpkin-headed killer crashes the party. But, uh, before that, we have to have a scene in which the escaped lunatic does a Johnny Carson monologue and the original killer struts into the place, riding a talking gay elephant. No, really

My crossover "Rambo" / "Clay Fighter" slash fiction has just become a cinematic reality...

So, anyway, the “real killer” is revealed to be (of course), Detective Harbinger, who says he was just killing people to let them know that the original killer could come back to town at any moment and just start killing them all over again. After that, Mary and Norman finally have their magical, cherry-popping evening…that is, until a lawnmower pops out of Norman’s chest, “Alien” style. Obviously, that last scene was revealed to be a dream sequence, as Norman and Mary have been married for 13 months now…concluding with a scene in which Mary’s dad storms into their bedroom, with a lawnmower en tow. Cue a hastily put-together fake PSA about lawnmower safety, your standard end credits, and a bonus scene at the very end of the film (which implies that Detective Harbinger ain’t quite dead yet), and that folks, is all she wrote.

All in all, “Wacko” is a pretty substandard movie by all accounts, but admittedly, you’ve seen way, way, WAY worse. For the most part, the movie gets most of the slasher movie tropes right, but it’s clear that the film makers couldn’t turn this thing into an “Airplane!” or even an “Airplane! 2” if they were given a million years to crank out a script.

All in all, it’s far from being the ultimate slasher parody, but it’s not really the worst the sub-genre has to offer either.

Two and a quarter stars out of four. Jimbo says check it out.

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