Plot: Katie (Mary Page Keller) is a pop star who found a taste of fame with a hit song, but she hasn’t been able to build off that success. This is due to in part to some mental and emotional issues, but she has sought out help via therapy session. She also managed to fall in love with her therapist however, so now she and her son plan to begin a life with David (Andrew Stevens). The three are going to move into a spacious, if a little eerie old mansion and Katie hopes the stable lifestyle will solve her emotional troubles, as well as let her get her career back on track. This blissful new life is interrupted however, as Katie begins to experience some strange, perhaps even supernatural events within her new home. Is there some kind of paranormal presence on the prowl, or is this Katie’s mental issues surfacing once again?
Entertainment Value: As you’d likely expect from director Richard Friedman, Scared Stiff can be a wild ride and while some stretches are a little slow, the overall movie is a lot of fun and packed with bizarre moments. The narrative might sound a little “been there, done that,” but the premise goes in some odd directions and especially toward the finale, really comes unhinged. So while we have seen this basic concept explored often, Scared Stiff throws in some bursts of pure 80s horror chaos that ensure the movie always keep you hooked in. Of course, if you need coherent cinema, then perhaps you might be disappointed here, as this movie combines head scratching story choices, hilariously offbeat performances, and some technical shortcomings that allow Scared Stiff to radiate b movie appeal. So if you appreciate the weirder, more unconventional side of horror, then you will likely be entertained, but those after more serious, standard genre fare might just be left confused. As I said, some stretches can be a little on the slow end, but there’s a steady supply of strangeness here, including some surreal and often outright hilarious moments. The final is pure, balls to the wall insanity, more than enough to compensate for those few slower sequences. I’d recommend this to anyone with even a casual interest in horror movies, 80s genre films, or the wilder side of cinema in general.
No nakedness in this one. If you like deeply 80s music video shoots, perhaps you can find some erotic magic in Katie’s pop song routines, however. Scared Stiff has some blood on hand however, in the kind of oddball kills you’d expect from a movie as off the wall as this one. I love the uncomfortably long closeup on one victim’s face, as it lingers and lingers, almost luring you into a trance. The gore isn’t extreme or overly graphic here, but the kills are fun and beyond that, the creature effects are well crafted and add a lot to the movie. And the film doesn’t skimp on the creatures either, the finale alone is like an overload of monsters and wild special effects, from transformations to green lasers to some solid bloodshed. The dialogue here can be wacky at times, but it is the cast that elevates even the more mundane exchanges into b movie gold. The performances are all over the place, sometimes as stiff as a board, other times wildly over the top, but it is all outlandish and immense fun to watch. So even if you might not quote a lot of these lines, they deliver, thanks to the cast’s offbeat approaches. The finale alone would ratchet up the craziness scale, but combined with the performances, special effects, and mystifying narrative, some solid points are racked up here.
Overall Insanity: 7/10
The Disc: Scared Stiff has been given a new 2k restoration for this Arrow Video blu-ray and it looks phenomenal, so much cleaner and sharper than I expected. A few scenes look a little rougher than the rest, but that is due to the condition of the film elements, not this restoration or transfer. I found colors to be natural and contrast is on point, so I think Arrow has knocked this one out of the park. On the extras front, we have audio comments from director Richard Friedman and producer Dan Bacaner, which has some good behind the scenes information and anecdotes. A behind the scenes retrospective is also included, which runs just over half an hour and has some terrific, entertaining interviews with cast & crew. You can also check out an interview with composer Billy Barber, still photos, and the film’s trailer.