To gain entrance to a sorority, four girls have to spend the night in the local haunted house, where a monster making scientist used to live. Their boyfriends drop them off but they intend to return later and scare the bejeezus out of them. Unfortunately, the mad doctor and his monsters are still hanging out in the basement.
The ‘Spook Show’ was an american phenomenon now sadly consigned to a small footnote in cultural history. By the mid-1960s, it was already on its last legs. What was a ‘Spook Show’? Well, the entertainment took place over an evening at your local small town picture house. What audiences got was mostly live theatre, but not the highbrow kind. Instead, it was ghosts, ghoulies and other horrors. A typical programme would feature a magician creating gory stage illusions; buckets of blood, supposed decapitations and cannibalism. There might be a fake seance with phantom apparitions or psychopaths running through the audience brandishing rubber kitchen knives. And, as well as all that, sometimes you got a short movie.
‘Monsters Crash the Pajama Party’ (1965) is just such a beast. A 30 minute short comedy directed by bad movie legend David L Hewitt. He’d already created probably the dullest science fiction film of all time with ‘The Wizard of Mars’ (1964) and went on to direct the abysmal – but hilarious – ‘Dr Terror’s Gallery of Horrors’ (1967). Here, he delivers another example of tatty, inept filmmaking; courtesy of flimsy sets, dreadful performances and a story so slight that it’s almost invisible.
The fun is introduced by an old guy in a white lab coat lab labelled ‘Mad Doctor.’ All the girls decide to sleep in the dirty old house wearing nighties so short, they’d qualify as fluffy t-shirts. The ape costume is probably the crappiest of all time. The werewolf’s trousers fall down, revealing his spotty underpants! Near the end of the movie, all the monsters walk directly into the camera, cueing other ‘actors’ (probably local teenagers) to come out from behind the movie screen dressed in the same costumes. They would terrorise the audience and ‘kidnap’ a pretty girl (a stooge) and ‘take her back into the film’ for the stupid climax.
Yes, it’s dreadful. Really dreadful. But is any level of criticism really that valid? For a start, the film was made on a shoestring budget and shown as a part of a much wider experience that simply no longer exists. Also it’s a hopelessly cheap horror movie that is trying to send up hopelessly cheap horror movies; so, in a way, it’s supposed to be this bad. Having said all that, the humour is infantile and really quite painful!
But in the end, the movie does its job; to provide a half hour diversion on a night when popcorn was thrown, jocks laughed at the stupidity of it all and their girlfriends screamed the place down. All in (fairly) innocent fun. And what’s wrong with that? Bring back the Spook Show!