Color, 1981, 99 mins. 53 sec.
Directed by Frank LaLoggia
Starring Stefan Arngrim, Elizabeth Hoffman, Kathleen Rowe McAllen, Frank Birney, Daniel Eden, John Holland
Scream Factory (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Anchor Bay (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1)

Imagine, Fear No Evilif you will, a cross between Fear No EvilThe Omen, Carrie, Rock 'n' Roll High School, and a Christian scare film. Well, you don't have to thanks to the existence of Fear No Evil, a low budget indie horror film shot in late 1979 in Rochester, New York and unleashed at the start of 1981 on an unsuspecting public by Avco Embassy. Complete with a ridiculously good rock soundtrack and a flood of startling story elements way out of the norm for a teen horror movie, it made for a strong calling card for young filmmaker Frank LaLoggia; unfortunately he turned down a deal to make more horror films and spent a while in the cinematic wilderness before helming his second (and, to date, last) feature, Lady in White.

A lengthy prologue begins in the middle of a showdown between Lucifer and an elderly priest who ends up vanquishing the devil against a tree. However, chatter about rebirths and an ongoing spiritual conflict segue to the birth of Andrew, who spells trouble as a baby when he causes a baptismal font to start spewing blood in the middle of church service. Eighteen years later he's the best student in high school (and now played by Land of the Giants' Arngrim) but a total social outcast bullied by most of his peers, causing him to strike back using his demonic telekinetic powers. As it turns out Andrew's secret identity as the Antichrist is triggered by his birthday and passage into adulthood, so it's time for a nearby archangel (Hoffman) to recruit one of Andrew's classmates to go on a holy crusade to stop him from setting the world on fire.

Filled with plenty of purple religious prose about the cosmic conflict between good and evil, creepy interludes like Andrew's retribution against his parents and a graphic canine blood-drinking ceremony, and more than a dash of gay panic including the horror genre's craziest gym shower scene, Fear No Evil is definitely a film like no other even if Fear No Evilsome elements gel better than others. LaLoggia himself provides the pounding choral music score but that's easily overshadowed by the selection of songs (made available once the film Fear No Evilwas picked up and additional funds were secured to finish the visual effects) including The Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop," The Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK," The Boomtown Rats' "I Don't Like Mondays," and multiple Talking Heads tunes. The acting is mostly community theater level at best but gets the job done well enough; instead this is mainly a showcase for the production team with a slew of striking visuals that ramp up to a truly nutso final half hour complete with a blood-spraying Passion Play and a supernatural showdown light show that must have been a real stunner at the drive-in.

Never quite the cult film it seemed like it should be, Fear No Evil was still a regular staple on VHS back in the '80s thanks to the Embassy Video tape. After that it dropped out of sight for quite a while but hit DVD in 2003 from Anchor Bay courtesy of a licensing deal with Studio Canal, featuring the first widescreen transfer and, rather than the theatrical mono track, a middling Dolby Digital 5.1 track or 2.0 surround option that pushes the score and a few sound effects out in a mostly undramatic fashion to the outer speakers. The biggest extra on the DVD is an audio commentary by LaLoggia and director of photography Frederic Goodich, which kicks off with an odd Francis Ford Coppola joke before launching into a solid account of the production focusing on the location scouting based around that great Bolt Castle, Fear No Evilbudget scrounging, the influence of Hammer classics and Douglas Slocombe, and the demands of crafting a horror film at the time. Also included is a reel of behind-the-scenes footage Fear No Evil(19m37s) with optional LaLoggia/Goodich commentary, which includes the unforgettable dodge ball scene as well as an ultimately deleted sequence involving 11-year-old Andrew and an ill-fated bunny. Also included are the trailer, 8 TV spots, an image gallery, and a pdf screenplay.

In 2019, Fear No Evil made the leap to Blu-ray with a much-needed upgrade that advances considerably over the paler, flatter looking DVD with deeper blacks and much more impressive colors. The formerly blown-out whites are also kept in check here, and detail is better all around by a wide margin. Audio this time is the standard theatrical mono mix (for the first time in ages) as a DTS-HD MA track, which is just as well, with optional English SDH subtitles. Not surprisingly, LaLoggia is absent from the disc given his past disparaging comments related to the earlier Lady in White release. Instead you get a new audio commentary with Arngrim in conversation with Justin Beahm, and it's a fascinating one as he recalls the awkward first scene he had to shoot during production, the "little cocaine problem" that caused all the dialogue to be ADR-ed after the fact, the mostly positive but sometimes turbulent relationship he had with LaLoggia on the set, and some of the changes made along the way including the scrapping of some scenes and effects shots for budgetary reasons. A new video interview with Angrim, "On Giants and Feeding Darkness" (37m12s), features an in-depth discussion of his path to acting in the footsteps of his mother before launching into an account of this film, essentially recapping and condensing his stories from the commentary. He also touches on his other big cult film, Class of 1984, and his eventual decision to start doing convention appearances not too long ago. Next up is "Pyro, Gators & the Devil," a new video interview with special effects supervisor John Eggett (28m23s), who's full of stories about the production ranging from a sutured injury he had to hide during the dodge ball scene to the gruesome truth behind the hanging dead animals at the beginning. He also chats quite a bit about the real castle location, the rest of his career (including Gas Pump Girls), and lots more. The theatrical trailer is also included along with a generous batch of TV spots (3m25s) and an image gallery.


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Reviewed on September 7, 2019.