There’s a certain cache, a type of thrill if you will, when you’re a monster kid edging firmly into your awkward teen years. Running on the rocket fuel of exhiliratingly frightening hormones, you still have held on to your love of all things creature and shriek filled, but maybe that’s not quite cutting it anymore. You need a new thrill in addition to the blood and rubber masks. It’s an itch that only sheer nudity can fulfill. The more naked and ridiculous, all the better. And if it’s random bordering on “what the Hell???” Beautiful. But man can not survive on titties alone (no matter what “Married with Children” or “The Benny Hill Show” may have taught us). There’s gotta be something else. In some films, it’s creative substance and vision. In others, it is pretzel logic that makes you laugh out loud and want to show your friends. Not unlike a more lobotomized, hornier version of Ringu. There are few films that fit this bill tuxedo-tight like Mardi Rustam’s 1987 sci-fi/horror movie, Evils of the Night.
Evils of the Night is a film that is not only dumb, it is defiantly dumb. This is the perfect film for one’s inner Beavis. (And trust that my own inner Beavis is strong, so I know what I speak.) It is a carnival ride with wonders striking and strikingly missing the frontal lobe with an aging but insane cast, including John Carradine (veteran of eleventy films, ranging from 1939’s Grapes of Wrath to 1981’s The Nesting), Tina Louise (“Gilligan’s Island”), uber-frau Julie Newmar, Hollywood stalwart Aldo Ray ( the 1955 version of We’re No Angels) and the character actor juggernaut himself, Neville Brand (Tobe Hooper’s 1976 masterwork Eaten Alive). But that is only half of it. With a young cast of physically attractive campers whom might as well be named Blood Fodder One, Two, Three etc etc, save for two very special exceptions, which I will get to here in a minute, and a surprisingly fatalistic attitude towards ¾ of its characters, Evils of the Night is like a bare breasted human oddity in a Gill Man mask giving you the finger. But even more fun.
The plot centers on a minor but kind of, sort of potent alien invasion, led by Dr. Kozmar (Carradine) and aided by Dr. Zarma (Newmar) and Cora (Louise). They have invaded an abandoned hospital in a small rural Californian town, per the suggestion of their higher ups, with the sole purpose of draining the blood of humans between the ages of 16 to 24. (I like to think their commander is General Ted Nugent, judging by those ages.) Turns out that human blood can massively extend their species’ lifespan. Even better, there’s a number of young lovelies camping nearby who have the collective IQ of besotted grapefruit. The main crew includes Nancy (Karrie Emerson) and Billy (Tony O’Dell), two soon-to-be-wed-lovebirds, the semi-smart blonde Heather (Bridget Holloman), the mind-searingly ditzy blonde Connie (G.T. Taylor) and the horny and chode-extraordinaire Brian (David Hawk.) There are collectives of one celled organisms that have literally not evolved since the age of dinosaurs who possess more cognitive abilities of logic and reason than these “kids.”
Their days of fun, frolicking and poor attempts at the sensual arts end up becoming even more deadly and complicated, in addition to being stalked by aliens. Added to the mix are the two brutish small town car mechanics in the form of Fred (Ray) and Kurt (Brand.) Check this out. The extra terrestrials have an agreement with this middle-aged brain trust that in exchange for kidnapping nearby teens and young adults (though Cora at one point complains about them bringing specimens that were “too young,” which would have been effectively creepy in a more serious film), they give them metal coins. The duo are assuming that these kitten county looking dubloons are worth a fortune and are already mapping out their retirement plans once the mission is completed. Unlike their younger victims, Ray and especially Brand, hoot it up. These are two cats who are old school Hollywood and could bring gravitas to a burnt out Styrofoam beer cooler. This is how it is done. They know it’s dumb and instead of letting it be this depressive-woe-my-ego kind of thing, they absolutely revel in it. You should theoretically not be rooting for the two knuckle-dragging princes of sexual assault, but Ray and Brand make you go there because the film gets some real octane when they are onscreen. Ray is fantastic but it is Brand, in his final role before he passed away in 1992 from emphysema, that owns it, signed, sealed and motherfucking delivered.
The square-jawed veteran (both of the arts and American military, the Army during World War II to be exact), despite looking a little wan here, still possesses that spicy blend of menace and charm that makes you secretly hope for the most dastardly of occurrences, if only just to have more on air time with him. (The victims being terminally stupid doesn’t hurt. Seriously, there are multiple occurrences of three different female characters having the chance to mortally wound their attackers and miserably failing. The men don’t fare much better. It’s like a convention of physically attractive lemmings with retarded worms lodged into their front and back parts of their brains.) In a just world, there’s a pagan island out there with a giant statue of Neville Brand right in the center, surrounded by gifts of rich fruits and the bodies of sacrificial virgins.
There are two minor characters in the lakeside camping group that do stand out for more than just being the ones who did not potentially have brain damage at birth. We first meet Eddie (Jerry Butler, credited under a slight variation of his real name of Paul Siederman) and Joyce (Amber Lynn) when the latter catches him secretly ogling two girls doing some topless and fairly touchy-feely oiling up. Joyce tries to seduce her boyfriend right then and there, but he begs off in fear of public sex retribution. Instead, he sensibly offers the “deserted house by the highway” as an option for lovemaking. She immediately is horrified and mentions that it is “creepy.” This already puts Joyce in the Mensa-category compared to everyone who is not her boyfriend and under 40. Granted, the power of horny is strong and while they do still end up in the horror house for some fooling around, the minute things do legitimately feel off, they get the hell out and we never see them again. These are smart, non-red shirt characters, ladies and gents. The fact that they are played by two of the biggest stars from the waning days of the classic era of adult film makes it all the more sweet. Butler and Lynn both instantly out act everyone else whose last name isn’t Ray and Brand and out-act at least 2/3. Talent and charisma are both assets and these two have it. Their sudden and smart exit actually feels like the film itself acknowledging its own mutated form of Darwinism.
Vinegar Syndrome, who have fast become one of the absolute best companies, both in terms of titles and the high quality of their releases, have given Evils of the Night one sweet treatment. The film looks good and there are some nice extras including an interview with director Rustam and the television cut of the film that has additional footage and some different edits. (The latter sadly effects the Butler and Lynn footage, but what can you do about it?) Evils of the Night, while firmly residing outside the county line of classic, is one incredibly fun and lovably goony joyride that reminds one of the charm of recent past treats like the second feature at a local Drive In or the VHS rental weekend find. Grab a cheap six pack and some chips and forget about the real life bullshit pony show we all have to wade through and enjoy Evils of the Night.