Starring: Ashlyn Gere, Steven Baio, Jerold Pearson, Jody Gibson
“These things don’t happen in New York. I just hope a guy in a hockey mask named Jason doesn’t show up.” (Barney, Evil Laugh)
Sometimes when I’m in the mood to watch a completely random horror film, I tend to use two qualifying questions: 1) Is it from the ’80s? and 2) Does it have a weird name?
It was this vetting process that led to my discovery of Evil Laugh, a 1986 slasher that has somehow slipped between the horror cracks over the years. This surprised me because I found it pretty bloody entertaining.
In it, a group of medical students (all of whom look much older than they’re probably supposed to be) travel to a large secluded house to help their friend fix it up and turn it into a foster home.
Sadly, there’s a slight issue with the house: it used to be an orphanage. That’s not the problem, mind. The problem is that ten years ago, all the adults and children living in it were slaughtered by a madman who then set the house on fire, dying himself in the blaze.
Long story short, this is a house with a lot of baggage. If you’re assuming that baggage is going to return to cause some hassle for its new residents, your assumption is spot on.
If you had a secondary assumption that said baggage would come in the form of big sharp blades, you’d be right again, because someone’s decided it would probably be best to start offing the medical students one by one.
As you may expect, Evil Laugh isn’t exactly packing Oscar-worthy performances, and most of the medical students fit into the usual slasher stereotypes you’d expect.
There’s the horny couple looking for some action, the arsehole you want to see die first (but won’t die until much later), the overweight nerd who fancies the hot girl but will never get any, and of course the slutty one who is the worst actress and is clearly there to get her breasts out.
Oddly, said bap-merchant isn’t just any young model looking to get her big break, but a (relatively) young Jody ‘Babydol’ Gibson in her only acting role. If you’ve never heard of her, pat yourself on the back: that’s a good thing.
You see, Gibson eventually became known as Sasha and was nicknamed the Hollywood Super Madam. She owned one of the world’s largest escort services, providing over 300 girls to over a thousand clients worldwide (including, according to her, Bruce Willis).
She was eventually arrested and jailed for 22 months in 2000 for running a prostitution ring: to this day it’s not known whether she’s more embarrassed by that, or her acting in Evil Laugh.
She’s not on her own here, mind. Everyone puts in performances that are appealingly appalling, perhaps best illustrated by that classic ’80s slasher staple, the pointless and terrible dance scene.
Thankfully there’s a hidden gem in there too, in the hefty shape of Barney (who’s meant to be a teen but was played by a 34-year-old).
At first Barney seems to be there to fulfill the classic slasher in-joke of having someone read a copy of horror magazine Fangoria during the movie: many cheapo films did this in the hope it would get the film mentioned in the magazine and gain some free publicity.
But it turns out Barney’s more than this: he’s actually one of the earliest examples of a self-aware slasher film character.
He’s the first who suspects there’s a killer in the house, keeps making Friday The 13th references and keeps telling people not to have sex or else they’ll die. Essentially, he’s the embodiment of the Scream plot a whole decade before it happened.
Evil Laugh is a surprisingly entertaining little slasher that’s worth tracking down. The killer’s identity is an interesting one (if a little derivative) and there are some interesting kills in there.
After all, how many films have someone being killed by having their head jammed into a microwave?
Seriously, I’m genuinely asking here. I want to see them.
HOW CAN I SEE IT?
Evil Laugh was only released on DVD in the US. You can import it through Amazon, as long as you have a multi-region DVD player. And no, I wouldn’t possibly dream of suggesting you can find the whole thing on YouTube fairly easily.
THE TRAILER CAN’T BE FOUND, SO SHOW ME THE OPENING KILL INSTEAD:
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Available on YouTube now 🙃