SPECTERS (1987) Reviews and overview

 

‘If you go down to the tomb today you’re in for a nasty surprise’

Specters is a 1987 Italian supernatural horror film about the evil that is unleashed once an ancient tomb is unopened.

Directed by Marcello Avallone (Last Cut; Maya; Cugine mie; Un gioco per Eveline) from a screenplay co-written with Andrea Purgatori, Dardano Sacchetti and Maurizio Tedesco.

The Reteitalia-Trio Cinema and Televisione co-production stars John Pepper, Katrine Michelsen, Donald Pleasence, Massimo De Rossi and Riccardo De Torrebruna.

The special makeup effects were created by Sergio Stivaletti (The Beyond; Zombie Flesh Eaters). The synth soundtrack score was provided by Lele Marchitelli and Danilo Rea.

Plot:

As a result of drilling for a new subway, an archaeology professor and his assistants discover a forgotten tomb under Rome. By the time they translate the warnings inscribed on the stones surrounding it and gather that an ancient maleficent spirit is imprisoned there, it may be too late…

Reviews:

” …the gore is well-handled, but the demon is rarely shown, and the first hour leading up to all the mayhem is a talky bore.” All Movie Guide

” …this is atmospherically photographed (during one set-up scene in a laboratory, a monkey chatters unnervingly in the background) and loaded with ominous dialogue but amounts to little more than an extended tease. An impressive cross between a minotaur and the fiend from Night of the Demon (1957), the monster […] barely gets a walk-on.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

“The film is stretched beyond human endurance, offering nothing frightening.” John Stanley, Creature Features

“All that’s seen of the monster is a taloned hand and some indistinct shadowy distant shots. The film is atmospheric and has a decent look, but is leaden. Two faces get torn off and one heart gets pulled out.” Down Among the Z Movies

“Only Donald Pleasence gives an expectedly good performance […] The devil suit is a rather dire looking thing – there is a reason why we are mostly seeing its hands and a lot of coloured fog when it appears. All in all, Specters is far from being a masterpiece, but as a friend of cheap and terrible films, one should be able to appreciate its finer points.” The Horror!?

“There are some good moments here and there, and if you are a huge fan of Donald Pleasence then it’ll be good to watch once. Just don’t pay too much for it. The re-watch value is basically non-existent. Once is enough.” Horror News

” …very well made, with beautiful photography and plenty of good actors to match. Among them, of course, Donald Pleasence playing his usual oddball […] The obvious resemblances to Demons aside, Specters is a pretty exciting little gem. It may be a bit out of focus with too many subplots hanging around loose, but once the steady-cam and special effects-operators get their stuff going, you almost forget about the silly plot.” The Inzomniac’s Movie Guide

“It’s a little better than most of their efforts, boosting a half-decent cast and some good locations, but the film is still hampered by the standard half-hearted Reteitalia approach. From start to finish, Specters is a mess of half-formed ideas and lacklustre performances. Donald Pleasence seems largely disinterested in his role…” Jim Harper, Italian Horror 1979 – 1994

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“Sharp-looking but slow, with unsympathetic characters and all the gore saved for the last 20 minutes, when a face is pulled off, a heart torn out, and a head crushed against a wall.” James O’Neill, Terror on Tape

“It’s a pretty mediocre Italian horror which is probably why it’s not very well known, but it’s still Italian so I enjoyed it for its wackiness and nonsensical storyline, and inclusion of Donald Pleasence hamming it up as usual […] There are a few gory and creative kills that kept me from nodding off…” Tony the Terror

“Hellishly confused plot is unoriginal, to boot; decent production values hardly compensate.” Video Hound’s Movie Retriever

Choice dialogue:

Professor Lasky [Donald Pleasence]: “Whether invoked or not invoked, evil will come.”

Cast and characters:

John R. Pepper … Marcus (as John Pepper)
Trine Michelsen … Alice (as Katrine Michelsen)
Donald Pleasence … Professor Lasky
Massimo De Rossi … Matteo
Riccardo De Torrebruna … Andrea
Lavinia Grizi … Barbara
Riccardo Parisio Perrotti … Gaspare
Giovanni Bilancia
Matteo Gazzolo … Mike
Laurentina Guidotti … Maria
Erna Schurer … Catacombs guide
Giovanni Tamberi … Gino

Technical details:

92 minutes
Audio: Dolby Stereo

Original title:

Spettri

Fun facts:

In a film within a film scene, an actress pretends to be scared by a man in a monster suit that looks identical to the Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954).

The character Andrea has a pet monkey which is presumably a reference to Dario Argento’s equally absurd Phenomena (1985) which also starred Donald Pleasence.

There is a scene in which a female character is swallowed by a bed which is presumably a reference to Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).

In an interview in the Spaghetti Nightmares book, Dardano Sacchetti said he wrote an early draft of the screenplay but none of his work was retained in the final version. He suggests his name was retained in the credits to assist with overseas sales.

Trailer:

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