The Outing (1987)
Studio: Scream Factory
Release date: October 8th, 2013
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
The 80s spawned two slashers dubbed The Outing, but this is one of those cases where neither can be considered “the good one.” Instead, you’ve got the atrocious, incoherent one and the one that’s dopey and merely nigh-incoherent. That said, if you were forced to pick one of these two, you’d surely want to conjure up this one, the 1987 outing that eventually features a killer genie about a decade before Wes Craven unleashed Wishmaster. At least this one lets you know what’s responsible for butchering its cast, which is something the 1981 movie couldn’t be bothered with.
It also helps that this Outing features some batshit bookends. We open on a trio of burglars breaking into an old lady’s home. Their target seems like low-hanging fruit considering she’s practically an invalid, but these dopes can’t help themselves and start to ransack the place. One of them desecrates a lamp and unwittingly unleashes some bad mojo that gets them all killed by an unseen force. The attack is oddly vicious, not that the police seem to key in on that particular aspect or anything, so they hastily ship the lady’s stuff off to a local museum, where both the lamp and a mysterious bracelet catch the eye of Alex (Andra St. Ivanyi), the teenaged daughter of the museum’s curator (James Huston).
And it’s at this point that the meaning behind the film’s title starts to slowly reveal itself—and I do mean slowly. Before getting to the point, it forces audiences to endure some 80s high school drama involving Alex’s love life, though it is particularly deranged. She’s recently taken to Ted (Scott Bankston), much to the dismay of ex-boyfriend Mike (Red Mitchell), who takes out his frustration by attempting to run the two off the road. The attempt is unsuccessful, so the two lovebirds make the class fieldtrip to the museum, which I suppose qualifies as the titular outing.
Things finally become a little sinister once Alex gets possessed by a mysterious force and promptly suggests that her friends stay overnight at the museum (in perhaps the nerdiest display of 80s slasher chicanery). Everything leading up to this is a tremendous slog, but once the kids are locked in, The Outing springs to life, even though it’s clearly running on the supernatural slasher fumes that were quickly exhausting in the wake of the Elm Street sequels. Like Night of the Museum by way of The Evil Dead, the place takes on a different light, only the doofus security guard in this case is no help.
The proceedings carry some usual 80s slashers flaws: the acting is barely convincing (most of the cast only boast a handful of acting credits in their career), and the direction is a little dry since it leans on the splatter that finally shows up in the third act. To its credit, The Outing features some nice gags in the form of multiple bisections (although one is hilariously low-rent), impalements, and other assorted mutilations. Since a mysterious, evil spirit is perpetrating the crimes, each sequence is rather unique: one guy is dispatched by a flying spear, while another victim is bitten to death by snakes during a bath (a girl has to rinse off because she gets soaked with beer, I think—though, with this group, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were just soda). Another highlight finds a reanimated mummy gnawing one of the kids to death and perfectly illustrates the principle behind Chekov’s gun: if you prominently feature a perfectly preserved mummy (which is nonsensically sitting out in the open) early on, it better resurrect as a flesh-eating zombie.
Suffice it to say, there’s some gonzo stuff in The Outing once it (finally) gets going; along the way, Alex’s maniacal ex adds attempted rape to his record and also outs himself as a racist with a wholly uncomfortable exchange with the school principal, as if he were gunning for the Worst Human Being Ever Award (he comes just short of taking the belt from Hitler). Unfortunately, he also represents the lone memorable character in The Outing, so it’s tough to completely forgive that sluggish middle act, especially since it draws out the film’s central mystery to the point of pointless obfuscation.
Once the Djinn finally emerges towards the end and delivers some marble-mouthed exposition, it sheds some light, but, by that point, I only cared about the rad blood and gore. The Djinn itself is an admittedly impressive effect that probably should have received more screen time since it’s one of the few times the film isn’t betrayed by its low budget (then again, it turns right around shows a hilarious lack of imagination when it’s discovered that the method of killing the Djinn is inscribed on the side of the lamp—that's mighty inconvenient for him).
As that last detail might hint, there are a few unintentional laughs to be had here, as The Outing is pretty silly junk that’s at least attempting to deliver some cool schlock. Its low ambitions mostly come true, but the film leaves me wishing someone would finally get the killer genie sub-genre right. If the Wishmaster sequels didn’t use up all of our wishes, then here’s hoping the next time’s a charm.
Previously consigned only to the VHS scene, The Outing finally comes to DVD as part of Scream Factory’s All Night Horror Marathon alongside What’s the Matter With Helen?, The Vagrant, and The Godsend, with the latter two also making their debut on the format. The bad news is that The Outing may well have been sourced from those same VHS tapes, as the full-frame transfer can’t shake the murk-o-vision effect. However, the good news is that this set is modestly priced, and a spot check of the other titles reveals that they fare better in the presentation department. Such a low price also forgives the lack of extras, and, at this point, it’s nice to see that a studio is still dedicated to unearthing titles that still haven’t made the transition to DVD, even if it is the likes of The Outing. comments powered by Disqus Ratings: