80 - Spookies (1986)
The story behind Spookies (1986) - which we cover extensively in the podcast - is one of cult movie lore. A film gone wrong, very wrong, so wrong that it ended up having ADR’ed fart noises added to a scene that was supposed to be scary. It’s a classic example of why movies are such a difficult business.
Have you ever worked a job where someone who knew nothing about your position or skillset constantly offered unsolicited advice? They might not be a graphic designer by trade but suddenly they have an opinion on color schemes and layouts; their girlfriend once helped design a website 10 years ago, they are the true expert and you should listen to them! We’ve all been in similar situations, now imagine trying to make a movie like this.
From a fan perspective, the most overlooked aspect of the movie business is that it is a business. Film buffs analyze and critique anything coming out of a major or minor studio; constantly offering up reasons that films don’t succeed on a critical level. They rarely, if ever, look at films from the producer’s standpoint.
From a business perspective, a movie is there to make money. The quality of the film is secondary to the box office it generates. You don’t like superhero movies? Too bad! They make billions of dollars and until you stop buying tickets, they will continue to fill the cineplexes with them. Despite your hatred and vitriol for their products, film studios exist for one reason and one reason only, to make money. You want an example of the film buffs getting their way? How about the latest Blade Runner sequel (a sequel to a cult movie that bombed in its initial theatrical run) ended up being a huge financial disaster. The film nerds got their way, but nobody wanted to see it.
This is not to say that studios are always right, they rise and fall like any businesses and they will inevitably make that fatal mistake which causes them to shut their doors. The case of Spookies is one of these examples where a producer who knew nothing about movies tried and failed to make horror film to capitalize on a public hungry for horror. In a classic example of an untrained “expert” telling a skilled individual how to do their jobs, Spookies is a complete mess from start to finish and a great example of why a balance of business and creative needs to exist.
Originally filmed by a group of young filmmakers, Spookies (then called Twisted Souls), was a simple haunted house film where a group of misfits encounter a ouija board that brings out a slew of demons. What seemed like a simple movie ran into creative and legal differences during the editing stage and suddenly everyone was fired from the original production and a new production was started. Financiers who “knew better” hired a new director and writer to create new characters and scenes and cut them into the existing film. Fart noises were added, nonsensical subplots created, and two movies that shouldn’t have anything in common were combined into one. The title Twisted Souls was removed for the vaguely racist Spookies (trying to capitalize on the name Goonies) and this film - which should have never seen the light of day - was given a full theatrical release!
Filmmaking is a very difficult business and Spookies is a perfect example of why it requires real experts to make something that is both entertaining and financially successful. They should show this movie in film schools along with the Odessa Steps sequence as an example of how not to make a movie. If you’re curious on how bad filmmaking can get and a worse case scenario, check out Spookies.