THE SCAREMAKER (VTC- UK pre-cert video cover)
2 star   Cheese Rating: 75% Feirce Fondue!

" One by one he killed them until he was trapped in his own game."

directed by: Robert Deubel
starring: Julie Montgomery, James Carroll, Rutyana Alda, Suzanne Barnes, David Holbrook

(back of video blurb):

       "A group of college kids are out on a scavenger hunt that takes them from graveyards to bellfrys and from beds to bathtubes. a sadistic maniac is out on a killing spree eventually trapped in his own game.

       Set in a small midwestern university in the U.S., the film features some great sound tracks of the 60's such as The Lovin' Spoonful, 1910 Fruiygum Co., John Fred & The Playboy Band and many more.

       Sensuous girls adorn the screen from start to finish."

choice dialogue:

"We're just typical victims of a society gone beserk!"

slash with panache?

       Well, a movie where the killer wears a dancing bear mascot costume to carry out the mayhem canít be all bad- can it?....No, but this movie is one schizoid mother; it just doesnít know whether it wants to be cheesy or sleazy.

       A man is found hanging in his room at the Weston Hill Sanitarium; it turns out to be a certain Dicky Kavanaugh who had been committed there, some years before, after murdering the daughter of the chief of security up at Dewit College It's the end of Dicky Kavanaugh... or is it!?during the annual scavenger hunt. Meanwhile, at the nearby college, and as these things have a habit of taking place on anniversaries, the students are preparing for the next nights scavenger hunt; where sorority sisters will split up and wander off into dark places armed only with a flash light (natch). Dickieís body is collected from the sanitarium and is driven to a midnight graveyard by two reprobates who, overcome with the emotion of the event, mutter "Letís plant this nut and get outta here!"; they find death at the end of a shovel , a figure emerging from the dark and stabbing them both with it- (can you get stabbed with a shovel? I donít know, but I canít think of a better descriptive term!)....Again, meanwhile back on campus (and Iím aware this is beginning to sound like one of those 1940ís serials!), the kids hold a ĎBig Golden Oldiesí party at the Gamma House, where go-go dancers; Jack Daniels; strip poker; fancy dress and soft raaawk are the order of the day. It also provides freshers discuss the legend of Dicky Kavanaugh at the golden oldies party.... Dig those hats!the setting for the two campus jokers to scare the bejesus out of some freshers with stories of the college boogeyman, Dicky Kavanaugh; "One night they took olí Dicky out into the woods....Dicky came back, but.. his mind just kinda stayed there!". The party goes on, providing a backdrop to the petty teen soap opera of flirting and fart humour (and it goes on and on and on...), until finally grinding to a halt when a fat kid with a nasty mullet hair do(nít) gets slapped by his girlfriend (who has been necking a boy, dressed as the teamís bear mascot),and storms out shouting, "Youíre all whores!... I wonít forget this!".... I could go on, but this preamble is convoluted enough as it is, suffice to say the scavenger hunt does go ahead and, sure enough,Its one of those 'I'm not who you think I am' moments... sorority sisters in legwarmers split up and skip off into the darkness to isolated locations like lakeside lodges and chapel attics. And someone takes the bear costume, hissing to its deceased owner "Sorry, but I need this more than you do" (see, good manners cost you nothing- even if you are a homicidal maniac); adjusting one of the paws to conceal five serrated edged knives and then wandering off to revel in a night of bloody murder....

       Like I said before, THE SCAREMAKER doesnít know if itís Arthur or Martha. Sure, thereís a plethora of cheesy thrills to be had; the campus DJ for a start, who sports a nasty moustache and wears some really baaad disco fashion,'s just as well that his audience can't see him. including a fluorescent silk jacket and cap -(IMDB swears this was made in 1984, but it looks a fair few years older to me). And also the, unintentionally, hilarious series of police interviews with surviving students where they all gurn earnestly- this being their only one true moment to shine as thespians, before spluttering " donít think I had anything to do with it?...Do you?!". But the movie goes quite a few shades darker at times. The killer, who does look pretty ridiculous in the bear costume, comes across as being fairly disturbing; if only for the scenes where the girls are being murdered. While the blood flows the killer hisses "Slut! Bitch! Whore!", and it adds a real sleazy edge to the proceedings. But what really jars is the filmís ending. Obviously I wouldnít reveal it here, but lets just say it is scary, eh?genuinely creepy and is all the more so because of the workman-like 90 minutes that precede it. If youíve seen the denouement to NIGHTMARE VACATION (aka SLEEPAWAY CAMP)(1983), youíll have some kind of idea of the schlock intensity I mean; thematically the endings are completely different but they both have the same freaky resonance....What else can I say about it? Well, itís gory, in-so-much that a ton of ketchup poured on somebody is gory; and thatís precisely what the special effects run to.....Perhaps of more interest is the killerís modus operandi- the deadly, five bladed bear claw; which clearly pre-dates Wes Cravenís slasher maniac, Freddy, in his A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)- (like I mentioned before, THE SCAREMAKER is listed as a 1984 production, but it looks at least two years ...those lethal claws in full!earlier- anyone know?). But thatís all academic really as, wouldnít you know, it had already been done by the Italians , first in Mario Bavaís BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964) and later in Luciano Ercoliís CRY OUT IN TERROR (1972).

       THE SCAREMAKER differs from a lot of other slasher movies of the times in-as-much that it doesnít have a final girl. However that probably wasnít any attempt by the film makers to do something different. There are in-fact no central characters in the movie. People drift in and out; get killed or not, but the viewer isnít really given anyone to identify with long enough and that kinda means there isnít really anyone to empathise with. If it had been more linearly structured it would have probably worked better, but as it is it is really only a mildly diverting dorm slasher; all-be-it one with a memorably off-beat ending.

       Of minor interest; well to saddoes like me and thee (and I include you dear reader, as if you have got this far in the review you must be as mildly twisted as my goodself when it comes to largely forgotten slasher shlock like this); I was Alternate artwork for the VTC UK video release of THE SCAREMAKER; notice the inclusion of the paw instead of the serated knife...saying, of minor interest is the cover artwork. I havenít seen the US artwork for the film when it was released as GIRLíS NITE OUT, but the UK design is gloriously lurid; and delightfully inept! The main picture on the box shows three girls legging it; behind them, looming, a huge serrated knife. On the video itself it has the same picture, but this time the knife is replaced by a giant bear paw; complete with knife claws. Which one was the original design? I donít know. Maybe somebody thought that a looming bear paw just wasnít damn scary enough; and they may have had a point! Also, donít watch it expecting bikini clad sorority girls running around; the film is set in Winter and, bar the go-go dancer, it is firmly a display of early 80ís knitwear!

       The back-of-video-blurb and tagline are also worthy of a mention. Firstly the tagline, "One by one he killed them until he was trapped in his own game"; donít you just hate it when the person who comes up with a tagline hasnít even seen the film; thatís whatís happened here! The Ďone by oneí bit is correct, but the rest? It bears (no pun intended), absolutely no relation to the film! This gleeful disregard for accuracy continues with the sleazy declaration, on the back of the box, that, "Sensuous girls adorn the screen from start to finish"; which is especially amusing as the first Ďgirlí to Ďadorní the screen is an elderly psychiatric nurse!

       So there you have it, a perfect example of early 80ís exploitation packaging. Donít you just love it!

BODYCOUNT 9  bodycount!   female:4 / male:5

       1) Male found hanging
       2 & 3) Two males 'stabbed' to death with shovel!
       4) Male teen stabbed in chest with knife
       5) Female teen has neck gouged with killers multi-knife paw
       6) Female teen killed (offscreen)
       7) Female teen has neck gouged with killers multi-knife paw  to screen captures of this scene...
       8) Female teen killed (offscreen)
       9) Male teen stabbed in back