WACKO (1981) Reviews and overview

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‘At last! A motion picture made by, for, and about people… just like you!’

Wacko is a 1981 (released 1982) American comedy horror feature film produced and directed by Greydon Clark (Uninvited; Without Warning; Satan’s Cheerleaders) from a screenplay by Jim Kouf (Grimm; The Hidden; The Boogens), Dana Olsen and Michael Spound.

The movie stars Joe Don Baker (Cape Fear; The Pack; The Shadow of Chikara), Stella Stevens (Megaconda; The GrannyLittle Devils: The Birth; et al) and George Kennedy (Demonwarp; Just Before Dawn; Death Ship).

On February 26, 2019, Vinegar Syndrome released Wacko as a Region A Blu-ray + DVD combo with the following special features:

Newly scanned and restored in 4k from its 35mm original camera negative

Brand new commentary track with director Greydon Clark

“Die Laughing” – an interview with cinematographer Nicholas von Sternberg

Never-before-seen outtakes


Reversible cover artwork

English SDH subtitles


It all began exactly thirteen years ago, when Mary Graves’ older sister was murdered on Halloween prom night by a power-mower maniac. Since then she has experienced horror, libido frustration, even psychoanalysis, but she still sees little lawnmowers everywhere.

However, tonight, at the new Halloween Prom, all the questions of the past thirteen years will be answered as the pumpkin-headed killer has returned. But hot on their trail is an obsessed cop (Joe Don Baker) who won’t allow history to repeat itself…


“Although Wacko isn’t as clever as Student Bodies, as star-filled as Pandemonium, or as lovable as Zapped!, it does have its moments. Set at Alfred Hitchcock High School, the comedy’s a mixed bag (most of the best gags are in the last half hour of the film), with countless references to Halloween, Psycho, The Omen, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and lesser references to everything from Welcome Back Kotter to West Side Story.” Cult Oddities

Wacko will probably never sit in great regard with horror or comedy fans; both are hard to do well, and seeing the form elevated by the likes of Edgar Wright certainly doesn’t help matters, but Wacko is good-natured silliness that deserves another look, even while your eyes climb into the back of your head.” Daily Dead

“…Wacko is one of the most criminally underrated and overlooked movies in this book. It’s hysterically funny (something that many modern parodies are lacking) and one of the best parodies out there. It does tend to lose momentum towards the end of the film, but still manages to be funny, even with repeat viewings.” Ronnie Angel, Slashed Dreams: The Ultimate Guide to Slasher Films

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“For its hundreds of gags and zingers, there are actually very few laughs in a seemingly endless 84-minute running time. Whether it’s Joe Don Baker’s embarrassing monologues or Andrew Dice Clay’s cheesy rock number, Wacko never fails to fumble, fall, and eventually drown in its own comic ineptitude.” AllMovie.com

“It’s all played strictly for laughs but most of the gags fall flatter than pancakes […] References (visual and verbal) to horror/science fiction cinema might help buffs to enjoy this in a small way. Everyone else will wince…”John Stanley, Creature Features

” …the approach to comedy is of the Zucker-Abraham-Zucker “slather it on” variety with numerous sight gags and jokes: Mary’s baby brother is named Damian and has three sixes on his forehead, it goes without saying that Norman Bates brings “Mother” to dinner, and there is a coda that owes as much to the final scare of Carrie as it does to Alien.” DVD Drive-In

” …clearly inspired by rapid-fire gag films like Airplane!, Wacko is all over the place as it throws in sub-High Anxiety Hitchcock gags (including rival De Palma High School), zany slapstick sound effects, all that creepy business with Kennedy […] and even a somewhat interesting twist ending.” Mondo Digital

“With characters as ‘The Looney’ and ‘The Weirdo’, the film is anything but subtle.” J. A. Kerswell, Teenage Wasteland: The Slasher Movie Uncut

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Wacko is one of those films that tries to be a non-stop barrage of jokes but whereas that worked with Airplane (to which the video sleeve tries to compare this crap), it doesn’t work here because none of the jokes are even slightly funny. There are tick-the-box gags spoofing The Exorcist and Alien, neither of which is worth even a smile. The whole thing is just terrible beyond belief. I love it.” Cult films and the people who make them

Choice dialogue:

[Reading a note from the killer] Mrs. Doctor Graves: “It says, It’s Halloween, it’s prom night, there’s a psycho loose, so don’t open the door, don’t answer the phone, don’t look in the attic, don’t go to the bathroom, don’t go into the ocean, and don’t go into space ’cause no one can hear you scream. Signed, A Friend.”

Mr Doctor Graves: “One very serious point: lawnmowers do not kill people. People kill people.”

Main cast and characters:

Joe Don Baker … Dick Harbinger
Stella Stevens … Mrs Doctor Graves
George Kennedy … Mr Doctor Graves
Julia Duffy … Mary Graves
Scott McGinnis … Norman Bates
Elizabeth Daily … Bambi
Michele Tobin … Rosie
Andrew Dice Clay … Tony Schlongini (as Andrew Clay)
Anthony James … Zeke
Sonny Carl Davis … Weirdo (as Sonny Davis)
David Drucker … The Looney
Jeff Altman … Harry Palms
Victor Brandt … Doctor Moreau
Wil Albert … Doctor Denton
Charles Napier … Chief O’Hara
Michael Lee Gogin … Damien
Claudia Lonow … Pam Graves
Tamar Howard … Little Mary
Darby Hinton … Rookie Cop
Jacqulin Cole … Librarian
Ben Hartigan … Doctor
John Avery … Danny
Toni Sawyer … Rosie’s Mother
Lou Felder … Rosie’s Father
Al Nalbandian … Dale (as Albert Nalbandian)
Laura Dashosh … Wandering Jew

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Film Facts:

The working title was The Last Horror Show

Image credits: Australian VHS CoversCult Oddities

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