Monday, August 24, 2009

Evil Laugh (1988)

Reviewed By: Billy

If we at Tower Farm are experts in anything, it’s sibling rivalry. Oh, sure…we may come off as friends and good collaborators, but the truth is that our relationship has been fraught with competitive tension from the very beginning. Take, for instance, the time JM was cast in a community theatre play and I wasn’t; the ensuing temper tantrum actually registered on area richter scales, causing massive panic throughout our small Indiana hometown. And then in high school, when I outswam my bother in a swim meet, he punched a locker so hard that he had to lay down under a cold shower for at least fifteen minutes to numb the pain. Of course, along with the competition comes the odd guilt trips from our mother about how “blood is thicker than water”…which has led JM and I to our current co-dependent nightmare of a relationship.

Anyway, the problem with us is that we’re like a teeter-totter; when one of us is up, the other is most likely down. And apparently in 1988, the Baio brothers were also doing the teeter-totter thing. As Scott was busy melting the hearts of young girls everywhere starring in the sitcom “Charles In Charge”…another Baio was also in front of the cameras. But instead of heading up a successful TV show of his own, Steven Baio somehow ended up as co-writer, producer, and star of Evil Laugh, a movie that kinda proves just how out-of-steam slashers were in the late-80s. Seriously, at this point filmmakers had exhausted every holiday and every sports mask and really had nothing original left to do, leaving fans in the kind of barren wasteland where Friday the 13th Part VII seemed like a good option.

Speaking of Jason…Evil Laugh is not only the brainchild of Scott Baio’s brother – it also comes via writer/producer/director Dominick Brascia. As an actor, Brascia got his head axed in Friday the 13th Part V…so that’s cool. It also explains why one of the first shots after the credits is a closeup of a “Fangoria” magazine with this cover…ah, nothing like a little subtlety:

So…Evil Laugh is about a group of med school students who gather for a weekend to fix up a rundown, secluded house that used to be some kind of orphanage. Now, before I go any further, I need to mention a few things. First of all, if these people are studying to be doctors, then I for the first time truly understand why our country’s health care system is in a shambles. There’s absolutely nothing I’d let Scott Baio’s brother do to me in a hospital with the exception of maybe holding open the door as I walk in…especially after hearing him utter dialogue like “I gotta go drain the lizard” as he heads off to go to the bathroom. Secondly, this former “orphanage” looks a little suspect. Is it me…or does it look more like some kind of tacky pioneer museum you’d find behind a highway rest stop in Idaho?

Anyway, once all the kids are together at the house, we get some wonderful scenes in which they dance around the house “cleaning” – giving director Brascia ample opportunity for gratuitous butt shots while filling the soundtrack with a Cyndi Lauper-esqe pop song that goes on FOREVER and will make you get down on your knees and thank God that the 80s are over. In fact, Evil Laugh may have set some sort of record for gratuitous butt shots, as one montage consists solely of the bouncing rear-ends of each one of the leading characters:

Meanwhile, a killer is hiding out in the house, trying to scare off the kids (with such “frightening” tactics as whispering through an air vent) and finally murdering them one by one. An early death scene involves a grocery delivery boy, who gets tied to a chair and proceeds to have an amazingly calm conversation with the killer while getting a drill shoved in his face. I mean, the kid actually says, “Are you sure you don’t want to reconsider this?” as the rotating drill is moving right for his throat! My own reaction might have been a little more emotional and involved words unprintable in an “adult content-free” zone such as this.

The one-by-one murder thing is an obvious reference to Ten Little Indians, which the characters actually discuss here (talking about how “the doctor” is the killer in the end…which, by the way, is completely inaccurate), and there also seems to be some April Fool’s Day influence. Actually, just about every slasher is referenced here…one girl actually says “See anything you like?” after losing her top a la Lynda in Halloween, and there’s a character named Freddy (who is, incidentally, played by Johnny Venocur of Savage Streets). Come to think of it, this movie is basically the original Scream…right down to the Randy-like character who reads horror magazines and talks about the rules of horror movies (he actually warns another character not to have sex, since it always leads to death in horror films!).

Anyway, blah blah blah…people get stalked and people die. Baio gets the best death, by the way, as his head is shoved in a microwave and cooked until it’s spurting blood (he also yells to the killer, “Kill Connie, she’s upstairs” – which is a much more realistic reaction than that of the grocery boy from earlier). Connie, meanwhile, is the final girl, who ends up running around the house while seemingly determined to make as much noise as possible. For those of you uninterested in the movie's constant homoerotic overtones (shirtless men...male-on-male ass rubbing...), Connie is played by Kim McKamy, apparently better known as 90s porno star Ashlyn Gere…though, sorry guys…no nudity from her here…except for a tacked on ending shower scene which clearly features a body double!

So…in the end, an hour and a half of Scott Baio’s shirtless brother wasn’t good…but it wasn’t that bad, either. The look and feel of Evil Laugh is extremely reminiscent of Sleepaway Camp 2, a movie I’m assuming was shot on a similar budget (a.k.a. none) and in a similar span of time (a.k.a. a free weekend). And while not quite as entertaining as that movie, Evil Laugh is endearingly cheap. And really, how can we at Tower Farm not root for the underdog brother who has a more-famous sibling? I mean, my own brother knows all about that.



  1. Tower Farm's reviews always make me smile, this movie sounds...terrible, at best. I'm fascinated with the microwave-head-death however, does his head explode a la the Last House on the Left remake?

  2. I love really awful slashers. Definitely seeking this one out.

  3. Ive been tempted to buy this one for years based on the friggin AWESOME cover art alone. It could seriously be the next Howling 7 and I will still love it for the sweet sweet cover art! Thanks for the review guys!

  4. Great review Billy! I love the butt shot montage thing. It reminds me of H.G. Lewis' obsession with dancing legs and feet.

    Oh and "endearingly cheap" is a wonderful phrase."

  5. This movie is sooo up my alley. I love bad Slasher films, well, bad films in general, but the Slasher genre makes for the best bad there is to be had! I'm definitely gonna have to check this film out!

    The real question I have, is Evil Laugh better than Zapped?

  6. Oh, yeah! All those great butt shots! I've got to see it.

  7. sounds awful but then you make awful seem so interesting. i don't know what to think. i might have to see it for the microwave scene though.

    great review.

  8. Zac,
    The head doesn't quite explode...don't think the budget was big enough for that. We just get some spurting blood! But it's still a great scene...the microwave has no problem working with the door open!

    Yes...the cover art is wonderful -- classic 80s for sure.

    I don't know...never seen Zapped! But this is definitely worth seeing!

  9. Billy,

    Am I to understand Johnny Venocur was riding the Baios' coattails back in 1988? 20 Years??!! Isn't this the guy who is Scott's best friend on VH1's "Scott Baio looks 62 and is marrying a flake"?