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Necromancer (1988)

Directed by Dusty Nelson
Forum Home Video VHS

“And for revenge, thou hast created this demon. Her domain is darkness, her purpose wickedness.”
–Dead Sea Scrolls

This is the only interesting part in the Dead Sea Scrolls; the rest of it is snoozefest God stuff. No guns, no nudity, no point in reading it. Watch this movie instead.

A sexy necromancer in a red sundress wanders around a satanic lair, which also happens to be a garage. It’s actually a pretty nice garage, nothing like my parents’ garage, which is filled floor to ceiling with crap, including a juicer from 1988 that they refuse to throw out because what if they want juice one day? The witch spews cryptic gibberish and calls upon the Dark Lord. She wills an axe into a lady’s skull. She makes a nerd’s bike disappear. This is the power of Satan. And with great power comes great responsibility.

Three bros in Halloween masks break into a theater. A young blonde named Julie (Elizabeth Cayton, from Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 and Friday the 13th Part VII) yells for a security guard, but unfortunately he’s in the bathroom jerking off. He’s got his hands full, know what I’m saying? Julie gets violated. But she doesn’t go to the police because of a bunch of reasons that make no sense, but let’s not worry about that. Just know that it’s 1988—the year of my parents’ juicer—and Paul the rapist says, “She’s just a chick, no one will believe her.”

Julie and her friend find an ad in the paper: “Sometimes REVENGE is the only justice. I, and not others of this world can help. CONTACT THE POWER. Call (213) Revenge.” They want to take 213-style revenge on Paul and his two friends who idly stood by as Julie was raped. They travel to the Valley, which is not in the 213, and they meet the sexy necromancer, who is actually named Lisa, just like everyone else in the Valley in 1988. For a meager $20, Lisa calls upon “the legions of the desolate ones” who rule with “vengeance and anger” and “disturb thy kingdom.” Soon axes fly, vacuum cleaners come to life, and a bass drum plays itself. And it plays itself hard. Demons fly out of the garage, which is an alien feeling to me because nothing—and I mean nothing—has ever left my parents’ garage. Once something gets in there, it stays there forever.

Julie finds herself at a party at Paul the rapist’s house for a bunch of reasons, but let’s not worry about that. And let’s not worry about Julie’s theater professor (played by Russ Tamblyn) and his sexual extortion. Let’s not worry about anything except for the fact that a demon disguised as Julie is exacting sexy time revenge on everyone. Glowing green eyes, gory hands, gnashing teeth, ripped throats. Faucets spout blood, and bathrooms are ruined. Meanwhile, a band called Trapper plays a hit called “Turn You Around.” And they certainly do. They sound like the best parts of Foreigner and the worst parts of Styx—in other words, Europe. Julie’s boyfriend Eric is in the band. He plays keyboard, which we can all agree is the weakest instrument in a band. It’s a step slightly above the egg shaker and the bongos. The demons are released, but can they be stopped before they go too far?

Necromancer is a terrifically solid piece of horror-rape revenge, from start to finish. There’s something for everyone—sacred satanic ceremonies, spray-painted pentagrams, dirt-cheap gore, ugly wallpaper, dudes’ butts. This movie contains a healthy amount of dude butts and lady boobs. But that’s not to say the film is just a T&A flick with some bloody demons thrown in for good measure. It’s much smarter than it lets on. Necromancer makes pointed statements about rape and the struggles victims face—powerlessness, despair, shame, and the institutional and cultural systems that hold justice back. The statements are bleak and overblown, but the point is understood. The film plays with rape revenge tropes, but also falls into them in a glorious way. There’s also a scene where the students perform Romeo & Juliet, which as we all know, explored the theme of misunderstanding better than any episode of Three’s Company. This scene seems to come out of nowhere, but it parallels Julie and Eric’s arc nicely. Director Dusty Nelson (Effects) created a film that’s ambitious and thoughtful as it is fun and exploitive. This is a movie where all the dudes wear spandex underwear, but if you look closer—not at the underwear, but at the movie in general—the drive to go a step beyond all the other boneheaded horror movies of that era is clear.  Necromancer is deceptively smart, like the girl in high school everyone thought was an airhead, but was a straight-A student who just acted dumb to fit in. Of course people who act dumb are, in fact, dumb, but in this case we’ll make an exception.