Evil Laugh (1986)
"Ten years ago something terrible happened in this house... This weekend it's about to happen AGAIN."
A group of young medical students help out one of their friends by agreeing to clean up an old orphanage in the mountains. It was shut down ten years earlier when the custodian ran amuck and murdered the residents after being accused of being a child molester. The students are unaware of the horrible events that took place in the cursed house but their weekend of fun takes a deadly turn for the worst as they begin to mysteriously vanish one-by-one at the hands of a cloaked murderer.
Boy, I've seen cheesy films in my time but this one must be the ultimate cheddar of the bunch. Evil Laugh is a truly rare find. I'd not heard about it until I was flicking through the awesome slasher bible web site that is Hysteria Lives! but even then it's been almost impossible to get hold of in the UK It took me a while to find a copy from abroad but the hassle of importing over to the UK wasn't worth it in the end. For all that it's cracked up to be, Evil Laugh is simply another generic 80s slasher which by any other genre standards would be horrific. But this is the slasher genre after all and when a film is this intentionally goofy and cheerful, it's hard to really hate it. Director Dominick Brascia, fresh off appearing as Joey, the fat, chocolate-loving character killed from Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning, presumably thought he could do the job better and helms this late entry into the mid-80s slasher cycle, a time when the sub-genre had already been done to death.
Many people have labelled this as precursor to Scream for the fact it's quite self-referential and is happy to drop the names of films like Friday the 13th and Halloween. One guy appears to have been the prototype for Randy, the film geek from the Scream films. He's seen reading Fangoria early on in the film and his later insistence that no one has sex because it equals death falls on deaf ears (obviously!). His knowledge of horror films ensures that he survives longer than his annoying character has any right to do. He isn't the only one though and Evil Laugh is filled with annoying characters. There's a lot of silliness, juvenile acting and a general sense of people not graduating from acting classes throughout but this is being picky - how many 80s slashers could we say the same about? Evil Laugh rarely works as a serious horror film because of how daft everyone acts and behaves.
Kim McKamy, Steve Baio, Tony Griffin, Jody Gibson and co. must surely the most horrific cast ever assembled for a horror flick. They're truly the nadir of the acting profession. People so wooden in their delivery that there are guys putting varnish on them whilst they speak. People so cheesy that there are queues of wine connoisseurs waiting outside to eat them. I've not seen a cast look as dumbfounded to be acting as this. They fill the quintessential stereotypes to a tee - dumb, big breasted blonde, a jerky jock who spends half of the film with his shirt off, snobby rich kids, nerdy joker, etc. And they fill these roles with big 80s hair and bad 80s fashion (small tight shorts for the guys, bra-less vests for the ladies). Ironically enough, actress Ashlyn Gere, who was an adult film star, refused to do a nude scene in this. And if you think it couldn't get more 80s with the hair and clothes, then what about that 80s soundtrack? If you ever wanted a glimpse into the madness of 80s music then this film is for you. There's a prolonged ‘cleaning the house’ sequence in which all of the main characters dance around cleaning the house with this 80s pop pap blurting out in the background. It's time capsule stuff that people in the future will look back on and wonder what the hell we were doing in the 80s.
With so much goofing around really killing the mood, Evil Laugh was never going to fully work as a slasher. But they could have at least tried. The killer looks nothing like the creepy guy from the front cover either. He looks to have dressed up with whatever was left on the set: washing up gloves, a ski mask and a dirty hoodie. Added to the fact that the actor portraying the killer isn't the most physically imposing person to done a mask and kill teenagers and it adds up to a slasher who will more likely kill their victims through them dying of laughter than the blades they carry. It's fairly easy to pick out who the killer is early, as it's the only other character introduced in Evil Laugh that has yet to encounter the hooded horror. And to make sure that the title has some relevance to the film, the killer continually lets out this irritating, girly laugh. An ‘evil laugh’ if you will.
The murder sequences had potential to be brutal but Evil Laugh always cuts away from the nasty stuff at the wrong moment, most likely due to the rather limited budget. The highlight kill features the totally implausible dispatch of one of the group via the use of a microwave. The fact that microwaves can't work with the door open isn't lost on the unlucky chap who is only happy to remind the killer of that - but the damned microwave still works and fries his head anyway! If you're a fan of the gore then you'll be disappointed and I can't help but think that a few more over-the-top kills would have done wonders to add to the cheesy tone of the film.
Evil Laugh is silly slasher nonsense like you won't have seen before and will never see again. It's a timeless product of the 80s which shouldn't work on any level but it's too hard to resist its copious amounts of cheese.
Director(s): Dominick Brascia
Writer(s): Steven Baio, Dominick Brascia
Actor(s): Ashlyn Gere, Steven Baio, Tony Griffin, Jody Gibson, Jerold Pearson, Myles O'Brien, Howard Weiss
Duration: 87 mins