Hysterical (1983)

Article 4602 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-8-2014
Directed by Chris Bearde
Featuring Bill Hudson, Mark Hudson, Brett Hudson
Country: USA
What it is: Horror comedy

A writer of trashy novels tries to get away from his life by moving to an isolated Oregon seaside community. However, when he moves into a haunted lighthouse, a ghost resurrects the corpse of an old lover who begins running amuck, turning the townspeople into zombies.

This movie stars the Hudson Brothers, a musical group from the seventies who had a few hits and hosted a variety show at one point. From the looks of it, they also fancied themselves as a comedy group, because that’s how they’re showcased here; though there is a bit of music in the movie, they only sing one brief number and they remain on the fringes of the only major musical number in the movie. The movie is a parody of horror movies, with references to THE EXORCIST, JAWS, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, CHARIOTS OF FIRE, any number of zombie movies and anything else that happens to cross their path. To these eyes, the movie is largely a chaotic mess; though the occasional moment works, it mostly comes off as confusing. The weak direction is a major problem; Chris Bearde seems to have been best known as a producer of variety shows, and this is his sole directorial effort. He shows little ability in establishing a coherent mood or keeping things focused. There’s quite a few of name actors popping up here, most of whom are wasted, though I will admit a little fondness at seeing Dracula played by Charlie Callas and Richard Kiel as the resurrected corpse named Captain Howdy. For me, the biggest surprise is that this movie actually has a rating on IMDB above 5.0, and I had to scan through a few of the user reviews to realize that the movie has garnered a bit of a cult following over the years. The most impressive moment here is the big musical number featuring dancing zombies (probably inspired by MICHAEL JACKSON’S THRILLER), and even that is a mess around the edges. If you’re part of the cult following for the movie, you already know how you feel about it; for the rest of us, it is a confused mess.

NOTE Someone pointed out that this movie actually came before MICHAEL JACKSON’S THRILLER; therefore, if there was an influence, it must have gone in the opposite direction. Now THAT is mind-blowing.


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