Frank LaLoggia appeared on the filmmaking scene seemingly out of nowhere in 1981 with Fear No Evil — a generically titled film that quickly became a minor favorite with admirers of the Son o’ Satan sub-genre of horror. Of course, he didn’t come out of nowhere, he came out of upstate New York, which actually played a part in the film getting made. You see, Fear No Evil was actually cobbled together around the existence of Boldt Castle in Alexandria Bay, New York — and there’s no denying that the decaying, never-completed castle is one hell of a setting. Plus, LaLoggia did cleverly remonkey the castle’s history so that it does give the appearance of being a logical part of them film — to the degree that an exploitative Son o’ Satan movie can be called logical. And the last thing I’d call Fear No Evil is logical. I lean more toward viewing it as a magnificently entertaining mess — with more imagination than good sense. It is not wholly unlike Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm (1979) — except that Fear No Evil is totally devoid of (conscious) humor. The similarity lies in the fact that it’s otherwise just about everything you could want in a schlocky drive-in movie, but very rarely actually get.
The film is a grab bag of influences. On the one hand, it’s your stock Lucifer, Jr. yarn, but since it places him high school, it opts to drag in elements of Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976) — right down to an ersatz, bargain-basement John Travolta character (Daniel Eden). It even has a very unusual take on Carrie‘s shower scene — a homoerotic one set in the boys’ showers. To say the least, there’s nothing else quite like it, and the film doesn’t seem too sure of it either, since the Travolta clone later kills himself in a fit of extreme homosexual panic that has to be seen to be believed. Then there are the movie’s singularly pointless zombies. Why are they there? Well, because the producer wanted them. They don’t actually do all that much other than shamble around. Probably their most important function turned out to be that they were the element that prompted Avco Embassy to pick the film up for distribution.
Speaking of things that writer-director LaLoggia had foisted on him, there’s the soundtrack. A friend of LaLoggia’s told me that LaLoggia was dead set against it — which combined with his resistance to the zombies makes one wonder if he actually knew what he was doing. The soundtrack with its doses of the Talking Heads, the Boomtown Rats, and the Sex Pistols is one of the most striking and memorable aspects of the film, even if it does firmly ground it to its era. The problem seems to be that — for all the explosive bad taste evidenced throughout the film — LaLoggia took the whole thing very seriously. OK, I guess that’s reasonable, but any such idea just doesn’t stack up against the often horrible acting (Barry Cooper as Lucifer’s earthly dad should have been forcibly restrained), wooden dialogue, strange characterizations, and overly ambitious (not very) special effects. It’s one thing to want your Big Climax to look like Altered States (1980). It’s another to have it turn out to look like Yellow Submarine (1968). But this is all part of the movie’s very wayward charm — and why it still exerts an appeal today. LaLoggia would go on to make the more effective (but still effects hampered) Lady in White(1988), and then resurfaced in 1995 with the almost unseen Mother, which went straight to video before disappearing. LaLoggia seems to have disappeared as well.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen Fear No Evil Thursday, April 17 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.