Evil Toons – 20th Anniversary Edition (1992) – By Duane L. Martin

Let me start off by saying, I’m not sure exactly why they released a 20th anniversary DVD of Evil Toons, when the original film actually came out in 1992.  It’s actually only been 18 years, so someone messed up on the math somewhere there.  That has nothing to do really with my review of the film itself or the quality of the release.  I just thought it was funny.

Anyway, suffice it to say, Evil Toons has been around for a long time.  It’s a movie I’ve been well aware of, and yet hadn’t seen until now.  I think a large part of the reason I hadn’t seen it previously was because of all the bad reviews I’ve read about it.  I mean, I’ve read some reviews that really slammed it.  After seeing it myself now, I have to say that these reviews were patently unfair, and I’ll tell you why in a minute.  First I’ll tell you what the movie is about, for those who haven’t yet seen it.

Four co-eds are being paid $100 each to clean this spooky house where murders have taken place.  The old owners have disappeared and new owners are about to move in, but they’ve hired Burt’s (Dick Miller) cleaning service to clean the house prior to them moving in.  The girls, Megan (Monique Gabrielle), Terry (Susan Ager), Roxanne (Madison) and Jan (Barbara Dare credited as Stacey Nix), are to stay in the house over the weekend to clean it.  There’s no phone service in there yet, so if they need to make a call, they have to go to the neighbor, Mr. Hinchlow’s (Arte Johnson) house.

While the girls are cleaning, they come across an old trunk in the basement with some strange writing on it.  Inside, they find an old book, that on the cover looks very much like the Necronomicon from the Evil Dead series, only the face on this one actually opens its eyes and talks now and then.  The book was left in the house by Gideon Fisk (David Carradine) who has one of the biggest Oh Snap!!! moments ever, but it’s only recently become an Oh Snap! moment.  I’ll get to that in a minute.  Anyway, the book turned out to belong to an evil sorcerer, and was full of drawings of hideous monsters.  After Megan (the smart one) reads an incantation in the book aloud, one of the monsters later pops out of the book as a toon and kills Roxanne.  It then hides the body and assumes her form, which it then uses to kill more and more, with the goal of sending their souls to Hell so that it can live again.  Gideon Fisk returns from Limbo to do away with the demon once and for all with a special dagger that the girls found with the book.  But can he stop the demon in time, and who’ll survive the demon’s murderous rampage?  Watch the film to find out!

Ok, I’ll tell you what that Oh Snap! moment was now.  There’s a scene right at the beginning of the movie where David Carradine hangs himself.  There’s even a great shot of him with a wild look in his eyes and a noose in the background over his shoulder.  Now tell me that’s not the greatest Oh Snap! moment ever!

Anyway, I’m truly puzzled why this movie got so many bad reviews.  If I had to guess though, I’d say that it’s sort of billed to be something it’s not.  There’s a tagline on it that says, "Roger Rabbit meets The Evil Dead!".  Truth be told, the only similarity between this film and Roger Rabbit is that there’s a very small amount of toon / live action interaction.  In fact, it has more in common with The Evil Dead in that it has a similar book and the demon comes out and starts killing people to send their souls to Hell.  Once it takes the form of Roxanne, that’s where the toon part ends until the end of the film.  The problem is, the name of the movie implies there’s going to be a lot more toonage than there is.  In fact, there’s a whole lot more boobage in this movie than there is toonage, which is fine, but not what people expected.

So taking the movie for what it is rather than what people’s natural expectations seemed to be, I actually enjoyed the film quite a lot.  The acting was cheesy but fun, the toon scenes were really not that bad for the time they made the film and the budget they were working with, and seeing folks like David Carradine, Arte Johnson and Dick Miller along with some really hot girls, made for a fun ride.  Another thing about this film that amused me, is that there were several scenes thrown in of David Carradine just standing around outside looking creepy.  It very much reminded me of those scenes of Bela Lugosi just walking around looking creepy in Plan 9.  It was like stock footage of him walking around looking creepy, and that’s what this felt like.  It didn’t really have anything to do with anything, but I found it rather amusing anyway just because David Carradine was just standing there looking creepy.  He did actually come in the house toward the end of the movie to stop the demon, and all I could think was, "Why the hell were you standing outside all this time instead of helping them?".

The only technical problem with this film is that the dialogue in certain scenes is really hard to hear.  I was watching this film on my computer and I had to turn my speakers all the way up to hear the dialogue in the scene where the girls are getting out of the van with the cleaning equipment.  Most of the movie was like this, but hey, that’s what volume knobs are for.  In the "Making Of" video documentary, it’s explained how the animation was done and incorporated into the film and how much it cost to do it, etc….  It was actually pretty fascinating to hear all the stories from behind the scenes about the cast, the production, the costs and everything else.  While the animation could have been better, what they did at that time, how they did it and for how much it cost them, it’s actually really not bad at all. 

The long and the short of it is, this movie has gotten undeservedly hammered over the years.  I actually had fun watching this film.  Is it Citizen Kane?  No, but then again, it’s not supposed to be.  It’s a titty flick horror comedy, and when you take it for what it is…it works.  It’s a fun film, and I think most b-movie fans would enjoy it!  So forget the bad reviews and give it a shot.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

There’s not much info about it on the website, but if you want to check it out anyway, you can head on over to the Retromedia website at http://www.retromedia.org.