Horror 365 Movie 216: Full Moon Friday, The Evil Clergyman

Ah, The Evil Clergyman. I was very anxious to get to this one. First of all, it comes with a ton of backstory that may well be as interesting, sometimes even more, as the actual feature. See, back before there was Full Moon, there was Empire International Pictures (which, let’s be serious, had to be a callback to API). Subscribing to the “while the iron is hot” theory, Charles Band put together an anthology film called Pulse Pounders.

Pulse Pounders consisted of 3 follow-ups (they weren’t really all sequels as such) running about 30 minutes each. One of those was to reunite the Crampton/Combs team-up from Re-Animator. Band seems to love these two together which is great for me since I’ve had kind of a crush on Barbara Crampton since Chopping Mall. Even better, the bulk of The Evil Clergyman rests pretty squarely on Crampton’s 80s padded shoulders.

I like what folks like Charles Band, Stuart Gordon, and Brian Yuzna try to do in terms of Lovecraft and cosmic horror. I’ve said on numerous occasions that Lovecraft is risky film making. The Elder Gods, the beings that drive people into despair and madness just by seeing them or even finding out they exist is something you can’t really hope to do justice to on the screen. But some of the quieter horrors and/or their implications, that’s another matter.

What makes me twitchy, as always, is the handling of source material. Sometimes it bothers me very little, like the Kubrick’s liberty-taking with A Clockwork Orange and The Shining. But sometimes things go a bit too far. Band, Gordon, and Yuzna often take Lovecraft as a jumping off point rather than an adaptation. I might not always understand, agree with, or even like some of their choices, but it’s usually pretty entertaining to see what the take out and what they add.

Re_Animator, for instance, has surprisingly little to do with some of the events that take place in Lovecraft’s story. First off, it’s modern-day which is more bothersome to me than it is to most people. Ultimately, it’s fine and seldom takes much away from the source. And to be fair, Gordon also dispensed, thankfully, with the story’s overt racism.

The Evil Clergyman, however, is a case where those choices fall flat. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a fun little watch, but even at 30 minutes, I snuck a couple peeks at how much time had elapsed, so, yeah, it bogs down some. The film, though, has little if anything to do with the story. There’s maybe one common element, an atypical kind of “possession” you might say, more along the lines of body switching.

Band also inserts a Brown Jenkin type character which is straight outta “Dreams In The Witch House” and has no business being in this story. It’s not clear what he’s doing there, and ultimately he only functions as a deliverer of bad one-liners/sex jokes and a mindless final gag. Similarly, there’s lotsa stuff in here that isn’t in the story and generally doesn’t show up in Lovecraft at all, much of it involving sex.

Generally, ain’t a lot of the regular ol’ fornicatin’ (much less necrophilia) to be found in Lovecraft. But the spirit of the evil clergyman, Jonathan (Combs), gets to have the hot, defrockment-worthy priest sex with Crampton’s Said Brady. If that’s not enough, whilst his corporeal spirit dangles (heh) from a noose, he demands oral satisfaction with the cringeworthy line “Kiss me like you used to kiss me.” And there’s another supercringey moment when the rat-thing licks Said’s butt.

I think I’ll go shower now.

BODIES- Technically 0
Stream- Full Moon Features
Rent- Prime

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