If you’re looking for a haunting, quiet, and subtle ghost story, 1987’s SCARED STIFF sure ain’t it because damn, this movie is bonkers. It’s tacky, garish, politically incorrect on multiple levels and somehow, against all odds, entertaining as hell. It’s hard to take seriously, with it’s over the top acting and scrambled script but there’s such a go for broke, throw anything at the wall and see what sticks enthusiasm that it’s hard (at least for me) not to enjoy its sloppy lunacy. As much as it borrows heavily from literally countless films that came before it, I can’t claim that it’s not unique as it’s the only movie I know of that involves a child who adores a pet appliance (an electric lamp with a racist American Indian face upon it) that inexplicably grows to a grotesque size and chases someone down a hallway. This movie is truly crazy.
Psychiatrist and electric shock enthusiast David Young (the always intense ANDREW STEVENS) moves his lover and ex-patient (!) Kate Christopher (MARY PAGE KELLER of the early FOX sitcom DUET) and her son Jason (JOSH SEGAL) into a mansion with a long history of slavery, murder
Believe it or not, SCARED STIFF is a based on an original script by MARK FROST of TWIN PEAKS fame. It’s safe to assume additional writers DANIEL F. BACANER and director RICHARD FRIEDMAN (who is responsible for the equally bizarre DOOM ASYLUM) crammed in all the added derangement. This isn’t a good film by any stretch my friends but it is wacky and nonsensical enough to always be interesting. STEVENS and KELLER make highly watchable leads even when trapped with daffy dialogue and you really get your money’s worth in the practical effects department (plus, I’m all kinds of partial to movies with multiple mental hospital scenes stocked with zealous background performers pretending to be crazy). I’m surprised SCARED STIFF (also known as THE MASTERSON CURSE) isn’t a bit more notorious as a cult flick but it sadly skipped a DVD release before finally winding up on Blu-ray and that probably explains its low profile. If you’re the type that would be interested in a low grade haunted house flick that apes better flicks like BURNT OFFERINGS and the HOUSE series, this could be right up your alley. If you’re not a bad movie lover then make like SHEENA EASTON and take the morning train far, far away!
It was an illustrated book of ghost stories. I took it out from the public library several times as a kid. I’m 32 now, but I distinctly remember two pictures from it. One was the ghost of a well-dressed man drifting across a vaulted ceiling, with bookshelves lining the walls on both sides. The other image is from a story which I think was called “The Nu.” The picture accompanying the story was pretty striking: the viewer was looking down a staircase illuminated by moonlight. A ghost covered completely by a white shroud, with a very tall white conical hat, was ascending the stairs. I know, this isn’t a lot of info. But it’s been a real pain to find, and I want to find it. Any help would be much appreciated!