Man, for an early ’80’s horror movie, I honestly expected more. It’s not super campy, not violent or sexual to an almost cartoonish degree, and it’s just… fine. It’s fine. Everyone in it was fine.
The story follows Stanley Coopersmith (played by the youngest Mr. Clint Howard I’ve seen outside of Star Trek) who is constantly picked on by his fellow military cadets, so he pledges his soul to the Devil via his computer in exchange for revenge. We’ve all been there. But Clint Howard is playing one of the weirdest roles I’ve seen him in: a relatively normal nerd. He doesn’t play the twisted weirdo who you instantly know you should stay away from, but instead a computer nerd who still has baby fat on his face (Clint, you’re 22 here, what the hell?). He’s the least threatening person ever. Hell, even the tagline from the trailer is hilariously non-threatening: “Remember the little kid you used to pick on? Well, he’s a big boy now.”
I guess that’s kind of the point, though? He’s weak and picked on until he snaps, but so many movies have done that story better over the years, and that kind of sums up my thoughts on this movie in general. I don’t go into a horror movie actively seeking buckets of blood and tits as far as the eye can see, but the movie plays it safe on both those fronts (well, as safe as an R-rated horror movie can be). Hell, I’m pretty sure the most blood we see is the aftermath of Stanley’s puppy being killed. Off screen, of course, we don’t want to condone animal cruelty. This movie is one of the infamous “video nasties,” but apparently mostly for the Satanism.
Well, that and the ending, but that’s absolutely the best part. Bonded with the evil spirit of Father Esteban (played by a criminally underused and underacting Richard Moll), Stanley bursts through the floor of a chapel, hovering mid-air with a sword and some Eraserhead hair. Heads get chopped off left and right, savage pigs devour a couple people, the pastor dies when a nail from the crucified Jesus statue flies directly into his forehead, and the lead bully gets his heart ripped out by a zombie. It’s pretty great! Just a shame we had to sit through a movie that was otherwise… fine. Just fine. It’s fine.
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