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Saturday, 24 March 2012

SPECTERS (1987)


Donald Pleasance had a wonderful knack of being able to make any old crap he was in seem far better than it was, and Specters is no exception. I found the film at one of my regular haunts (which is soon to be no more, which breaks my heart) in a very cool slipcase cover which echoes the covers to Bava's DEMONS and DEMONS 2, but that may just be the font used on the cover more than anything else.

During excavations in an unnamed place (looks like Rome to me), archaeologists (including Pleasance) accidentally open the gates of Hell, releasing an evil force upon the world. Well, they do eventually, as much of the film feels like a steady build-up rather than a fleshed-out story.

On the upside, there are absolutely bags of atmosphere to this thing, helped along by some clever sound design and an ominous score. The story does feel a tad incoherent (not helped much by most of the cast clearly having been dubbed over to hide the fact most of them were Italian), but it is far from a bad movie. It's a bit disjointed, yes, but on the whole it is a pleasingly old-school scare story which is light on gore and actual visceral horror, but heavy on sinister ambience.

Atmosphere alone doesn't make up for a lack of a story, but there's something about Specters I really enjoyed, even when the catacombs in which much of the action takes place are seemingly overrun with tour groups, explorers and more, all at the same time, just in time for weird shit to happen.

The edit on this copy is weird - there are a couple of scenes which literally cut out, sipping the end of lines of dialogue completely. The thing is, it doesn't appear to have been trimmed due to any issues of content - the scenes are two-headers with nothing sinister or questionable going on, so it just comes across as a drunk editor. In fact, a drunk editor may be the reason the film feels so fragmented. Still, it's worth watching if you're inclined towards oddly unnerving 80s horror. Specters isn't awful, but it's probably one for the completists.

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