This week’s VHS was Armand Mastroianni’s 1986 effort The Supernaturals.
A platoon of recruits (headed by Nichelle Nichols of Star Trek fame) out on maneuvers come across the site of a Confederate massacre and run afoul of some vengeful ghouls.
Happy Friday the 13th everyone! If I’d been more astute I’d have posted about a slasher this week, but such is life. I’ve been preparing for my yearly jaunt to Montreal – and crying into my pint over England’s loss – so I just picked the VHS on the top of the pile.
The Supernaturals was a half-decent yarn. I say “half” because it started pretty strong, but fizzled out toward the end. I did learn something new though. In the opening sequence, set during the Civil War – actually a solid bit involving Confederate civilians forced to walk through a mine field – I wondered if mines had been invented yet. The Internet then let me know they’ve actually been around for almost a thousand years. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. If humans are good at anything, it’s dreaming up new ways to kill each other.
Anyway, I was into it during the first act, as the camaraderie between the recruits was entertaining and boasted some familiar faces, including Max Caulfield, Scott Jacoby (now grown up from his teen roles in Little Girl That Lives Down the Lane and Bad Ronald) and also, decades before her work in two of my favourite shows Homeland and Mad Men, Talia Balsam.
Quite strangely though, once things started to get weird, everyone turned into an idiot. It wasn’t particularly clear that one of the characters was drunk when he went monosyllabic and stumbled off, but on several occasions people went sprinting through the darkness knowing full well there were pointy stick traps set up everywhere.
I imagine that the budget was a restraint here, but I really wished the effects (provided by Bart Mixon) could’ve been more front-and-center here. It’s like the opposite experience Mixon had on NOES 2 where it seemed like they had money leftover for some inserted climax creature gags. The ghouls in The Supernaturals were largely just shadowy shamblers and save for a decent throat rip, there’s not much to write home about. It’s disappointingly a decidedly PG-13 affair at best - regardless of what the coverbox says! With the Civil War backdrop, I guess I had the sinewy excesses of H.G Lewis’ 2000 Maniacs in my brain.
Oh I forgot to mention that, in a stroke of serendipity, LeVar Burton was also in this film. I like to think that between takes Burton was asking Nichols about Star Trek, not knowing that, within a year or so, he himself would become part of the canon in The Next Generation.
The Supernaturals was watchable fare, but I feel it could have been better if it had more money and edge behind it. Mastroianni is a prolific director who by that time had already directed He Knows You’re Alone (and later some notable genre television like Tales From the Darkside & Friday the 13th) so he certainly had the chops.