Friday, June 26

Spasms (1983)

pardon the Betamax cover

Directed by William Fruet
92 Minutes / Thorn EMI Video / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen


Wealthy explorer Jason Kinclaid (Oliver Reed) enlists the knowledge of a doctor who specializes in telepathy, Tom Brasilian (Peter Fonda), to examine a mythical snake captured in a small tribal island. Kinclaid is troubled by horrible experiences of feeling the surrounding turmoil and killings by the serpent and believes Dr. Brasilian can lead to an answer, but a sect of Californian snake-worshipping cultists are also aware of the discovery. The snake arrives and is interned at a local college, but that night men working for the cult break in with one getting totally fucked up when the beast escapes from its pen. The survivor (Al Waxman) informs the cult leader who demands he not fail again in his recovery mission.

At this point, authorities are alerted and the search begins as the snake randomly kills in its slithery trail. Waxman gets spasmed real good during an attack and Kinclaid travels to his summer home armed with an AK to finally face down the creature after getting a track on its whereabouts through a controlled telepathic session with Brasilian.

I had put off watching this one given the generally negative reviews, however; it's not nearly as bad as some make it out to be. This doesn't mean it's void of several crippling problems. First, the whole telepathy angle is a device of convenience being only used to give some connection between the protagonists and the snake. There's also a glut of blue tinted snake POV shots which might sound like a trivial detail, though it's so ridiculous the whole film is cheapened by a noticeable degree whenever we see victims facing the menace of a shaky camera. Worst of all, the editing is sloppy particularly derailing at the climax. After enduring some delirium inside the summer home; Kinclaid confronts the snake, gets killed, Brasilian with love interest Keane arrive, machine gun the snake, walk off, the slain serpent catches ablaze, and the credits roll. All this in under five minutes. It's as if Fruet and company simply said "fuck this" and ended it. Before I forget, the cultist aspect is completely dumped after the phone call at the end of the first paragraph above.

There are a scant few redeeming qualities. Despite there being only one real entire body spasmodic "bloating" (Waxman), it's pretty disgusting and horrifying with the spongy final shot illustrated on the cover art. The other attacks involve no spasms, but are surprisingly brutal and fast-paced. When the men break in to the college lab the resulting attack is furious with one of them torn up and thrown around the room like a ragdoll from ceiling to floor. In another a woman is savaged in midair in her home, thrown through a bathroom door, and bloodily strikes a glass shower door much to the terror of the nude girl on the other side. The performances are decent enough as well, with the pleasant and learned British-accented Reed faring the best. We don't see much of Fonda.

The cover art is so promising, oh well. I believe Code Red has the rights, so maybe we'll see an uncut DVD release in the future.

VHS Picture: 6/10
VHS Sound: 4/10


Anonymous said...

I couldn't wait for a DVD release so I picked up a bootleg. I thought it was fairly disappointing. I love Oliver Reed and had read about the makeup effects in an old issue of Fangoria so I had to check it out. Other than that, I thought the movie sucked.

venoms5 said...

I enjoyed this one quite a bit seeing the first time years ago and being curious about the choppy nature of the film. Apparently it ran into production problems. I believe it was shot in 1981 but not released until a couple years later.

BCI was supposed to have released this, but then they went under. If Code Red has it, no doubt there'll be something on there about the history of the film. I'd be curious to know about its making.

I thought what there was had some potential and a lot of the scenes in the film are well done and suspenseful. I thought the bits with the snake were some of the best for this type of film.

The snake cult aspect could have been great had it been fleshed out, but I suspect the production problems had something to do with this unresolved part of the script.

Despite its flaws, I would watch SPASMS again before I'd watch Fruet's KILLER PARTY (1986). I saw that one in the theater and was wondering just how in the hell that one got made.

Anonymous said...


Tower Farm said...

Oh, how this VHS cover tantalized my brother and I as kids...we never made a trip to the video store without staring at it for a good 5 minutes.

Unfortunately, I rented it and was totally bored.

Oh, well...we'll always have that box.


Unknown said...

I was also quite mesmerized by the VHS cover as a kid...but never did check it out. I must of had a sexith sense about it's lameness. I still want to see it though.

Anonymous said...

I hope that other horror film guys will make a several new "SPASMS" movies as Sequels, and they should do at least from eight to thirteen more of the face and body inflating makeup bladders effects and other creature effects. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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