Pandemonium Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Vinegar Syndrome
Directed by Alfred Sole
Written by Jamie Klein and Richard Whitley
1982, 81 minutes, Rated PG
Released on September 29th, 2020
Carol Kane as Candy
Tom Smothers as Cooper
Judge Reinhold as Glenn
Miles Chapin as Andy
Marc McClure as Randy
Debralee Scott as Sandy
Candy Azzara as Bambi
Twenty years ago, in the small town of It Had To Be, Indiana, following a win of the big game, five cheerleaders were brutally murdered by a mysterious killer with a javelin. Over the next few years, the local cheerleader camp was plagued with a series of mishaps that led to many rumors and fears and its untimely closure. Now, the camp is being re-opened under the leadership of a gung-ho woman named Bambi, a former student who was present at the massacre back in the day. She is eager to put the past behind her and bring back the positive power of cheerleading.
The new crop of campers arrives full of energy and hormones ready to work hard and have a good time. Candy is a sheltered teen looking to step out of her mother’s shadow and experience a normal life. Andy and Randy are horny male cheerleaders looking to score, while Sandy is a high-maintenance bitch who is used to getting what she wants. Mandy is a beauty queen obsessed with oral hygiene and the potential love interest of Glenn, an awkward yet determined loveable goofball. The group is not alone, however, as the mysterious “Cheerleader Killer” lurks in the shadows ready to strike without mercy. Could he be the recently escaped prisoner known for turning his victims into furniture – or maybe the inmate that fled the local asylum? Canadian Mounted Officer Reginald Cooper and his horse are on the job, but always seems one step behind once the campus murders begin again.
Slasher movies dominated cinema screens in the early 1980s, with new releases coming on a weekly basis. Countless teenagers lined up for slaughter at the hands of masked maniacs who kill in creative fashion at most school functions (Prom Night, Graduation Day), summer camps (The Burning, Sleepaway Camp) or on national holidays (My Bloody Valentine, Silent Night, Deadly Night). By 1981, the formula was recognizable and the endless stream of titles was relentless, leading naturally to parody. Comedies like Student Bodies, Saturday the 14th and Wacko (all 1981) took swipes at the familiar tropes and trappings of the popular genre.
Pandemonium approaches the material with a playful tone that frequently succeeds with its steady stream of jokes and sight gags and its briskly-paced script. Written by Jamie Klein (Annabelle’s Wish) and Richard Whitley (Rock n’ Roll High School) and directed by Alfred Sole (Alice, Sweet Alice), the picture follows the blueprint of the original Friday the 13th but happily replaces the seriousness with dopey humor and juvenile punchlines. The ensemble cast is made up of familiar faces, including Carol Kane (When a Stranger Calls Back) as Candy, the telekinetic virgin and Judge Reinhold (Gremlins) as Glenn. Comedian Tom Smothers (The Smothers Brothers Show) co-stars as Cooper and shares most of his scenes opposite Paul Reubens (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure) as his put-upon assistant Johnson.
Miles Chapin (The Funhouse) and Marc McClure (Superman) are Andy and Randy respectively and Debralee Scott (Police Academy) is Sandy. Teri Landrum (The Devil and Max Devlin) and Candy Azzara (Fatso) complete the core lineup as Mandy and Bambi. Sole loads his supporting cast with even more surprises, including Eileen Brennan (Jeepers Creepers) as Candy’s religious mother (credited here as “A Friend”); Eve Arden (Grease) as Warden June; the legendary Donald O’Connor (Singin’ in the Rain) as Glenn’s dad; Tab Hunter (Polyester) as football hero Blue Grange; Edie McClurg (Elvira: Mistress of the Dark) as his mother; David Lander (Laverne & Shirley) as Pepe the groundskeeper; and Phil Hartman (Saturday Night Live) as a reporter.
Pandemonium is a serious guilty pleasure of mine, so I am more inclined to overlook its inherent stupidity. While I never laughed out loud watching the film for the first time in decades, I still found it entertaining. With its constant string of one-liners and non-sequiturs, it plays closer to something from the Marx Brothers. The film is improved with a group of friends with cocktails, so if we are ever allowed to formally socialize again, this is a fun choice for a Friday night!
Video and Audio:
The original 35mm interpositive has received a 2K scan and restoration and is presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Previously available in a fuzzy and washed-out full-frame VHS, this new transfer is a gigantic leap forward. Colors are well-saturated and striking while black levels are rich. Image clarity is sharp and there is plenty of small-object detail missing from the earlier release.
The original mono recording is presented in a lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0 track that has been remastered and gets the job done. Dialogue is always understandable and music cues are prominent without being intrusive. Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Director Alfred Sole sits for the newly-filmed interview Dying of Laughter (15 minutes) in which he discusses his approach to directing comedy and reveals some of his inspirations. Much of the talk focuses on the impressive cast of new faces and classic stars. He also talks about working with a robotic horse puppet!
A still gallery (37 seconds) offers a small collection of promotional photographs.
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