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With: David Carradine, Arte Johnson, Dick Miller, Monique Gabrielle, Suzanne Ager, Madison Stone, "Stacey Nix," (Barbara Dare), Don Dowe, Michelle Bauer
Written by: Fred Olen Ray
Directed by: Fred Olen Ray
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 83
Date: 01/08/1992

Evil Toons (1992)

3 Stars (out of 4)

I Wanna Be Animated

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Fred Olen Ray's Evil Toons has been released in a 20th anniversary edition DVD, which may be confusing, since it may only be the 18th anniversary: to the best of my knowledge, the movie was copyrighted in 1990, first shown in 1991, and then released on video in 1992. No matter. This is one low-budget, no-brainer B-movie that more or less delivers on what it promises. Unless, that is, you're expecting to see a whole lot of high quality Roger Rabbit-type animation/live action crossover stuff. I'll tell you right now that the "evil toons" of the title translates to one, single "evil toon." It appears in cartoon form for just a minute or two, attacks a human character, and then does its evil business in borrowed human form for the rest of the film. It looks pretty rinky-dink, but the mood of the movie makes you want to laugh along.

The wonderfully ridiculous plot of the film introduces us to four pretty girls who get the job of cleaning a haunted house for its new owners. The job will take all weekend, which, of course, requires them to spend the night. The girls include the pretty nerd Megan (Monique Gabrielle), the promiscuous sexpot Roxanne (former porn star Madison), blonde Jan (another porn star, Barbara Dare, here credited as "Stacey Nix"), and redhead Terry (Suzanne Ager). Over the course of the night, all four girls manage to undress for the camera, as well as read some inscriptions from an ancient, mystical book. (It looks a lot like the "Book of the Dead" from the Evil Dead movies.) This brings the cartoon beastie to life.

Meanwhile, Gideon Fisk (David Carradine), wearing a cloak and a wide-brimmed hat, lurks about, waiting until the right moment to help out (which, coincidentally, happens just at the "exciting" climax). A creepy neighbor (Arte Johnson) shows up, and the guy who hired the girls, Burt (Dick Miller), drinks a little and complains a lot. Another famed scream queen, Michelle Bauer, turns up in one scene -- and removes her top.

Ray (Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers) is delightfully aware of how much fun all this is, and every scene is played with a self-referential wink. There are even a few Scream-style in-jokes several years before Scream was ever conceived. (The girls wonder aloud why there's always thunder and lightning when spending the night in a haunted house.) In another scene, Dick Miller sits enraptured, watching Roger Corman's A Bucket of Blood on television, which stars Dick Miller. Interrupted, he switches the movie off and mutters, "Why didn't this guy ever win an Academy Award?" The film's pacing isn't quite as brisk as it could be, as Ray either tries to cram too much information into too few set-ups, or includes too many cutaways to pad the running time. But at 83 minutes, the overall package goes down easily and smoothly. And best of all, it's happy, unpretentious fun.

The DVD, from Infinity and Retromedia, comes with a lot of good stuff. There's a commentary track with Ray, a making-of featurette (mostly Ray talking to the camera), and a trailer. We get a snippet of the editor's original work print, and an excerpt from Chuck Cirino's score, plus Ray's introduction from "Night Owl Theater." The film is mastered for widescreen televisions.

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