ALL NIGHT HORROR MARATHON: “THE OUTING” (Scream Factory DVD Review)
In the early 80s, the slasher was king. So much so that studios were barely making any other kinds of horror movies. But as with all trends, it died out thanks to the resurgence of monster and supernaturally-tinged movies that offered big budget, state of the art FX, and leaving producers without the money to compete with the likes of THE FLY and The LOST BOYS little choice but to stick to the (cheaper) slasher movie template. But in many of these mid/late 80s cases, such as THE OUTING (aka THE LAMP, more on that soon), they would toss in a monster or some sort of possession angle to stick out a bit and avoid being just another “outdated” slasher movie, even while sticking rigidly to its formula: a bunch of kids being picked off one by one, leaving the smartest girl to face off and defeat the villain.
So instead of a guy in a mask, here our antagonist is an evil genie, released from his lamp after a long, dormant period. After a lot of setup (too much, in fact), our heroine (Andra St. Ivanyi) and five of her pals—plus two asshole bullies for good measure—opt to stay behind during a class trip to the local museum. Naturally, they get trapped inside and fall victim to the angry genie, who despite being all powerful is still kind enough to wait until they go off in pairs (to have sex, of course) before murdering them in a variety of ways. On paper, that all sounds great, but what I’ve just described is only the last 30 minutes of the movie. It takes forever for them to even go on the titular “Outing” (to be fair, not the original title), and even once there, there’s still a lot of mucking about until the fun starts.
Granted, there are a couple of isolated kills along the way (including the trio of robbers who set the thing free in the first place), but anyone can see that such moments are only there to jolt the audience awake until the real carnage begins. A better script would more or less start with the field trip and let whatever plot elements are necessary (such as the fact that the heroine’s father works at the museum, or why the group finds themselves targeted by the bullies) reveal themselves there, but the field trip is basically Act Two. In Act One, we spend a lot of time at the girl’s home, in the high school (in scenes with some wholly unnecessary racial slurs), etc. All the while, knowing perfectly well that nothing’s going to happen until everyone else leaves and they’re in the (closed) museum. Say what you will about JASON TAKES MANHATTAN’s lengthy boat portion, but at least Jason’s in full action mode while he’s there. This makes you wait for the real fun. Even if nothing happened until the final half hour, the movie could wring some minor tension just from being in the right location for some carnage; the hall of the high school doesn’t quite cut it (it’s kind of like PROM NIGHT in that regard, get to the goddamn prom!).
That said, it does have some bizarre charm to it, making for a fun viewing at this time of the year (particularly if you have friends over to talk through the slower parts). This being 1987 there’s no digital blood to ruin everything, making the kills (seemingly left alone when the film was re-edited) effective highlights, and the setting , while not utilized enough, is at least a lot more interesting than the usual suburban homes or summer camps that you find in 90% of the era’s slashers. The genie monster itself wouldn’t win any awards, but there’s something kind of novel about this kind of movie ending with what looks like a giant Battle Beast speaking with a death metal voice (“NOW YOU BELONG TO MEEEEEEEE!”), as the scene occurs right around the point where we’d usually have to be listening to the unmasked killer explaining why he just killed everyone except for the heroine (often the one he had the most beef with to boot). And it’s got the most hilarious use of a Pepsi bottle in horror movie history, so there’s something.
The film is part of Scream Factory’s new 4-movie All Night Horror Marathon set, which also includes the goofy Bill Paxton horror-comedy THE VAGRANT, 1970’s melodrama/thriller WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH HELEN?, and (the best of the lot) 1980’s OMEN ripoff THE GODSEND, which runs a bit slow but is shockingly grim and makes for a fine addition to the mean-spirited evil child sub-genre that was popular at the time. The transfers aren’t great and there are no bonus features of any sort, but if you’re looking for a bunch of obscure movies to throw on in the background at your party, or have an affinity for one of the titles (most available on DVD for the first time), it’s worth picking up. A second, more promising volume (including the batshit CONTAMINATION .7) is on the way, so maybe it’s just a rough start to what will be a fun series of releases that shine a light on some forgotten curios.