Spellcaster: the Nerfed Llamas Review – Don’t tread on an Ant, you’ll end up black and blue…
On occasion, rare though they may be, the depth of the Full Moon Features catalog holds a hidden treasure that until I see it, I didn’t even know it existed. I know the usual suspects: Trancers, Puppet Master, Evil Bong, Subspecies, etc., and I’ve traveled off the beaten path enough to see Head of the Family, Bad Channels, The Dead Want Women, and many more oddities… but it wasn’t until I scrolled through all of the available titles on the Full Moon Streaming service that I saw a film that I didn’t even know existed: Spellcaster starring rock icon Adam Ant. This highlights how much fun it can be to peruse through all of the available titles that Full Moon has to offer, because you never know what you might find hidden away in their exceptionally deep catalog. Simply another reason to love Full Moon Features!
What is Spellcaster: Filmed in 1987, yet released in 1992, Spellcaster is a dark comedy/supernatural horror film written by Dennis Paoli (From Beyond, Re-Animator), and directed by Rafal Zielinski (National Lampoon’s Last Resort, Screwballs). The film starred Adam Ant (Nomads, World Gone Wild), Gail O’Grady (American Dreams, NYPD Blue), Richard Blade (host of Video Beat, Girls Just Want to Have Fun), Harold Pruett (Embrace of the Vampire, Summer Camp Nightmare), Bunty Bailey (Dolls, “the Girl” in A-Ha’s “Take on Me” video), Kim Johnston Ulrich (Passions, Blood Ties), Michael Zorek (The Woman in Red, Private School), Traci Lind (The Handmaid’s Tale, Class of 1999), William Butler (Ghoulies II, Night of the Living Dead), and Michael Deak (Bad Channels, Little Nicky). The core story is that 7 lucky people have won a trip to an Italian castle and on top of that a secret prize. While trying to figure out what the secret prize may be, the winners start dying one by one. In a desperate attempt to stay alive, a handful of survivors band together to fight an evil presence that is controlling the castle. Also, there’s a lot of late 80’s style pop/rock music and visual cues… which is nice.
What I liked about Spellcaster: Clearly it must be stated: Adam Ant was awesome, because of course he was. You see, I find that there are only 2 types of people on this planet, those who love Adam Ant and those who are wrong. You have to wait until the 3rd act before he is fully revealed, but it is worth the wait. His character Diablo spends the first 2 acts behind the scenes, casting deadly magical hexes on those who choose to defile his castle and belongings. With a wave of his hand over a crystal ball, Diablo cackles as he mangles his victims. Once he takes center stage, Diablo keeps you glued to the screen for the 10 minutes that he occupies it. This is top notch b-movie ham acting and Adam Ant is chewing the hell out of the scenery.
Spellcaster has a certain 80’s pop culture fun movie charm, not unlike TapeHeads, Fright Night, or Better Off Dead. As such there is a lot of catchy music, fun visuals, silly characters, and tons of shenanigans. It’s fun in all the right ways. The stereotypes are all there: the preppy rich boy, the snobby foreign girl, the horny teenage boy, the young girl with a heart of gold, and the 80’s tropes continue on from there… and it makes the movie feel familiar and fun without being too derivative of other movies of the time. All in all, it adds up to a film experience that’ll put a nostalgic smile on your face.
The creature design, puppetry, and effects creativity is a blast to watch on screen. I mean, c’mon… there’s a fully animated vampiric lion’s head chair that comes to life drain the life out of unsuspecting people. Paintings come to life with gnarly creatures. A man transforms into a 6 foot tall pig monster! Seriously, there’s all sorts of amazing beasts and thingies bumping about in this movie! The creativity here is off the charts and exemplifies exactly why I love low budget movies. The limited budget forces the production team to get creative, and in the case of Spellcaster it pays off in spades.
What I didn’t like about Spellcaster: The only complaint I have is that the streaming copy of Spellcaster is bizarrely cropped. It’s not 16:9 or 4:3, it’s perfectly square. I’m not sure what TV or movie screen that this transfer was intended for, but it made watching the movie feel weird. I researched and found that the DVD is preserved in the original widescreen theatrical aspect ratio, so if you are going to watch this movie, you are likely better off watching it on DVD. Hopefully Full Moon Features will give Spellcaster the HD remaster treatment that it richly deserves!
Bottom Line: Spellcaster is a whole lot of fun. It is filled with all the creativity and hi-jinks that you could ever hope for in a supernatural horror comedy b-movie from the 80’s. In fact, if you want a movie that feels quintessentially 80’s, but is an all new experience for you (as I am certain most of you lovely readers have never heard of this movie either), than it is almost mandatory Spellcaster. There is a lot of character and personality to be found in this film and the quirkiness helps it stand out from the other films in the Full Moon/Empire catalog. This flick also has all manner of the bizarre monsters, animated furniture & decorations, and magical shenanigans happening to keep your b-movie needs satisfied. I highly recommend this movie to obscure music video fans and anyone else looking for a raucous 80’s dark comedy with monsters. Spellcaster can be viewed on Full Moon’s Streaming service, or purchased on DVD via Amazon.com.
Fun Fact: I would love to write a sequel to Spellcaster, with the intention of having Adam Ant reprise his role as Diablo, with a new group of Millennial contest winners who “can’t even” when they start to realize that some of their own have gone missing. Basically, a quintessential 10’s flick for people to discover in twenty years.
Watch the trailer for Spellcaster and see if you too would like to win an all expenses paid vacation to an Italian castle to spend time with good ol’ Diablo: