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A Strange Take On Coeds In A Haunted House
on September 14, 2010
"Evil Toons" is a peculiar movie about coeds in a haunted house from the notorious Fred Olen Ray. The premise is simple: four coeds arrive to spend the weekend cleaning an old house; an evil spirit haunts them resulting in mayhem, bloodshed, and other typical debauchery. The acting is absolutely terrible even for this genre: the best of the girls is Monique Gabrielle who, believe it or not, plays the nerdy and reserved Megan.
The real gimmick here is the animated monster who is nefarious indeed. He's onscreen for precious little time due to budgetary concerns, but I have to admit, after listening to Ray describe the laborious process they went through to get the composite footage, it looks pretty good and is definitely an interesting change for movies of this ilk. Today the animation would be done with CGI of course, but when this was made that was in the future, and each cel was hand-painted in New York around the master shot. The stars of the film are David Carradine and Arte Johnson, who turn in perfectly adequate performances even though they are not onscreen very much. I was actually most creeped out by the footage of David Carradine tightening a noose around his own neck in light of his tragic death. I did like the talking book effect, and thought it was cleverly employed in the storyline.
While the movie is very predictable with little to recommend it other than the animation novelty, the DVD is great, and there are loads of extras. I always appreciate the Retromedia releases, and this time they gave us a director's commentary track, the original trailer, part of the editor's original work print of the movie, a brief "making of" feature, and the original "Nite Owl Theater" host segment starring Ray. By far the best of the extras is Fred Olen Ray's commentary: it is genuinely interesting and very enlightening about low budget filmmaking (I especially enjoyed the recounting of the film's origins with the weird but economical "Millennium Countdown" tie-in.) Ray isn't afraid of exposing flaws in his own films (note the long discussion of doorknob and door hinge mismatch issues,) and is quick to explain interesting technical points without getting bogged down in minutiae. The animation process details he gives are especially noteworthy. The "making of" feature is a bit of a letdown if you have already listened to the commentary as much of it is a rehash, although I did enjoy the segment of film dubbed into French. The trailer is a camp classic, but that makes sense because so is the movie. The original editor's work print is very interesting to compare to the finished product, although I would have liked to see this cut of the entire film instead of the brief section that the DVD shows.
"Evil Toons" was a very ambitious film, especially on a $140,000 budget. If you are a connoisseur of the "coeds in peril" genre, this is a unique film you won't want to miss.