Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Outing aka The Lamp (Texas, 1987)

(Spoilers.) Nice poster, or? The Outing and The Lamp is one and the same flick: it was entitled The Lamp for its British release, and then when it later reached the US, where it was actually filmed in that state that is actually a nation within a nation, it gained its second title, The Outing, and was made to look like a generic dead-teenager movie instead of a supernatural dead-teenager movie. Supposedly the US version was shortened, which might explain some noticeably absent special effects scenes (e.g., one guy gets cut in two, but you only see the before, hear a sound, and then see the after) but really didn't stop the hokey movie from having a relatively dull mid-section.
What's interesting and telling about most posters and VHS covers is not that some falsely infer that the events occur amidst the wild outdoors, but rather that for all images, whether for The Lamp or The Outing,  of the six "teen-aged" friends doomed to terror and/or death, only the four white folks are deemed worthy of gracing the poster. The two Afro American students apparently don't meet the standards required to get onto a poster or VHS cover — not in England, the US, or in non-English-speaking lands. (Is this an example of white privilege or white washing?) But while this typical but obvious case of prejudice is noticeable, the token Blacks of the flick are for the most part treated and killed with equality, though the N-word does fly at one point — but not at them.

The Lamp is a typically terrible dead teenager movie from the 1980s which, unexpectedly, has a few things going for it that raises it above so much of the cookie-cut product of the day, the first and most obvious being that it features a definitely different killer offing the fodder: it is perhaps the first body-count movie to ever feature a killer jinni* (a good ten years before the killer quipster of Wishmaster [1997]). Not that the jinni looks very convincing once it finally takes its latex form, but at least it isn't another childhood-scarred man in a mask wielding an axe.**

* Grammar fascist here: please note that "jinn" is plural, while "jinni" is singular. This movie is about an evil jinni, not evil jinn. The plural of djinn, however, is djinns.
** Go ahead: imagine the jinni above with thin, piss-colored hair and wearing a tie. Easy, isn't it?
The Lamp is the only feature film directed by Tom Daly (28 Dec 1947 – 2014), and he handles his directorial chores possibly even better than expected in a movie this cornball. But when watched today, aspects of this movie are truly jaw-dropping in a way also reflected in Daly's only other directorial job of note, the music video to Julie Brown's cult song, The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun. (Julie, by the way, once played horror film fodder herself, in Bloody Birthday [1981 / trailer].)
Julie Brown's
The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun:
In other words, times have changed. And so much of what happens in The Lamp just wouldn't find its way into a movie today, or at least not with such casual disregard. But that, in turn, is another feature of this decidedly "B" B-movie that makes it all the more fun and entertaining to watch now, especially as a group. (Note: there were even women present when we screened it.)

The body count of The Lamp is amazingly high, even if the special effects are often extremely low tech. Alone the opening scene, on a docked boat in 1893, opens with about three or four dead deckhands; and while the first "live" kill (the Captain [Ron Shotola]) happens mostly off-screen, the ketchup that splatters all over the wall is not only almost burlesque in the amount, but also viscerally lumpy. By the end of The Lamp, we counted a total 17, maybe 18, dead — in one dead-teenager movie!

From 1893 and lumpy ketchup, The Lamp jumps forward to the present day of the time (1986), and follows three of Texas's finer citizens, two male rednecks and one female, as they break into a rural mansion and, in the course of the Three Stooges robbery, not only put an ax into the rubbery-face of the old woman living there but end up releasing the jinni, who seems to have been napping since the opening scene. The three deaths that follow are all enjoyably entertaining: tacky and not all that convincing, but pleasingly funny. (Special note must be made of how the death in the swimming pool is conveyed. Inspired!) And the relatively long scene of the Texan trailer-trash woman, Faylene (Michele Watkins), in nothing but panties, her [all-natural] breasts jiggling away as she runs around in shrieking terror, is something just not found in the cheesy horror movies made today. (That's her screaming below.)

From there, The Lamp goes through a relative dry period were it not for the over-the-top "teenage" antics of the movie's two assholes, alpha-jerk ex-boyfriend Mike (Red Mitchell [1 Aug 1961 – 11 Aug 1994*] of Forever Evil [1987 / trailer]) and his enabler buddy Tony (André Chimène). (Do the math: at the time the film is set, "high-schooler" Mike was a 26-year-old teenager.) Imagine, if you can, that a high-school student were, within a few hours, to do the following and afterwards just be sitting outside the school, fuming and pouting: try to run his ex-girlfriend and her new beau off the road, get arrested by the police, show up at school and start fistfight, pull and fight with a flip knife, physically attack a female teacher, both threaten the school principal (Christopher Wycliff of Getting Even / Inferno USA [1986 / full movie]) and call him the N-word, and then tell everyone in the school hall "You're all dead meat."

Then again, maybe none of that is considered worthy of expulsion in Texas. In any event, since the two dicks are hanging out free & easy outside the school five minutes later, they too subsequently end up locked inside the local natural history museum where — and when — the jinni once again starts working on the body count.

* Seriously: in real life he died a Texas death when he drove across "a 'blind' rural railroad crossing — one without warning lights or barriers — at exactly the wrong time."
Here we must make mention of the said female teacher, Ms. Ferrell, played by Deborah Winters, who ten years earlier played the female lead alongside Zalman King in Jeff Lieberman's great cult film Blue Sunshine (1977 / trailer). In The Lamp, she not only plays the type of kick-ass teacher Donald "Dotard" Trump would want to give a gun, but the rubbery-faced old woman who gets axed early on (as well as a previously unmentioned woman who dies on the boat at the start of the flick). An associate producer of the movie, she sometimes looks as if she seriously has a few screws loose, particularly when she looks at her romantic interest Dr. Wallace (James Huston of Powder [1995 / trailer]). It's a shame that an actress as perky as she decided to leave the low budget horror movie biz and earn way more money as a real estate agent dealing in McMansions.
But to get back to the flick. In short, the magic lamp ends up at the natural history museum where, in search of it next caretaker, briefly possesses the final girl, Alex Winter (Andra St. Ivanyi, who's become a total MILF) and then, for no real reason other than to create a set-up for their deaths, convinces her friends to secretly spend the night in the museum for the most common of teenage debaucheries: drinking and having sex.

And you know that since they all really wanna do both, they all really gotta die. And so they do, some quicker than others, some more spectacular, some on-screen, some off-screen. In between, we see some more breastage and are subjected to a rape scene that, while cementing Mike and Tony's reps as assholes who deserve to die, really isn't needed. (Interestingly enough, the guy playing Mike must have found shooting the scene somewhat exciting, for if you freeze-frame the movie right about when the jinni twists off the head of his co-rapist buddy Tony, you can see the 25-year-old teenager sporting a noticeable if average-sized boner.)

Finally, it's up to Alex and Ms. Ferrell to destroy the jinni, and they do — though the concept that it would be written on the lamp how one can (easily) destroy the jinni is decidedly retarded, even if the language has supposedly been dead for thousands of years. That they even know that is thanks to a likeable minor pipe-sucking character, the Afro-American Dr. Theo Bressling (Danny Daniels [1 Nov 1927 - 4 Dec 2010]),* who managed to decipher the text before giving the office walls a new shade of red.
* Contrary to most sources, Daniels did not die in Inglewood, CA. Among his projects of note: Curse of the Voodoo aka Voodoo Blood Death (1965 / trailer), Prehistoric Women aka Slave Girls (1967 / trailer), Jack Cardiff's The Mercenaries aka Dark of the Sun (1968 / trailer), The Oblong Box (1969 / trailer), Cannon Film's Thunder Run (1986 / trailer) and Retribution (1987 / trailer).
Initially, we must say, we were fully prepared to hate The Lamp simply because of the obvious Final Girl: we still have a pronounced distaste, born of the 80s, of girls who wear Guess jeans and pastel, and regardless of how hot the actress playing her now looks, in the movie both her two female-fodder friends, Babs (Damon Merrill) and Gwen (Trayce Walker), look way more hickylicious and have a better wardrobe. (The guys, but for the assholes, are all pretty much generic and forgettable — why are there so few good-looking guys in the world?)
But despite all this and other major flaws — considering how much time is spent setting up the museum situation, the kills happen way too quickly; and we also really don't understand why a magic jinni has to bang his way through fire doors instead of magically appearing on the other side or simply repossessing the Guess Jeans Girl — The Lamp is bizarre and "bad" enough to be engaging. And, really: the jinni can magically make the spear impaling the guard move between scenes from the chest to the stomach, but can't move the magic lamp out of a furnace?

Yes, The Lamp is dorky and stupid and full of leaps in logic and plot holes, but it is also often enough a cheese factory of nonsensical laughs and fun. All the flaws manage to combine into the kind of amusing fromage mix that makes some movies a perfect accompaniment to beer and chips. (Weed would probably even make it more fun, as it gives you something to do during the slow spots.) And really, any movie with an opera-singing night guard can't be all that bad, or? (He even gets a post-credit scene.)
The Lamp: to enjoy it the fullest, watch it with friends.
Trailer to
The Lamp:

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