Starring Andra St. Ivanyl, Malcolm Stoddard, Cyd Hayman
Directed by Tom Daley, Gabrielle Beaumont
Distributed by Scream Factory
Not long ago, Scream Factory released a “4 All Night Horror Marathon” DVD, featuring What’s the Matter with Helen? (1971), The Vagrant (1992), The Outing (1987) and The Godsend (1980) spread out on two discs. Fans’ enthusiasm for the collection, of which three features had never before been released on DVD, was dampened when it was revealed The Outing would be full-frame only, while The Godsend received a tighter-than-it-should-be 1.66:1 transfer. Being the receptive folks they are, Scream Factory sought to ameliorate the problem by pairing up both films and giving them a proper Blu-ray release, featuring the original aspect ratios.
The Outing is one of those late-80s horror pictures that came and went without much fanfare, with most viewers (like me) catching it for the first time on VHS. My only recollection of the film was that it featured a cool creature design and… not much else. This memory was not too far off track. After an extraneous opening set in 1893, wherein we learn of a lamp with mysterious powers, the film cuts to present day. A trio of white trash criminals – two dudes and a lady – has decided an old woman who lives in the area must have money stashed in her home, so they’re going to break in and find it. Don’t do meth, kids. They arrive, beat the old woman, smash open her walls and find a chest. Inside that chest: the lamp. Oh, and they also axe the old lady in her head. The lamp gets rubbed (because what else do you do to a magic lamp?) and soon our triumvirate of stupidity joins the old woman in the afterlife.
After a police investigation, the lamp is sent to a museum for testing. There, we meet Alex (Andra St. Ivanyl), a high school student whose dad works for the museum. He finds out that the lamp has an unusually violent history. Meanwhile, Alex and her friends make a plan to hide away when the museum closes up for the night so they can all stay over because that’s the kind of thing you do in high school. Also, some standard, racist bullies come along because we need to get some revenge satisfaction, too. The lamp gets rubbed, a monstrous djinn pops out of it, and nearly everyone is killed with items found around the museum.
Be sure to stick around after the credits for a less-than-a-second scene that is puzzling.
Not a terrible film, The Outing is instead just kinda dull. The kills are admittedly pretty good, especially one done by a possessed old mummy that likes to bite. The best thing about the movie is the djinn. He’s large, looks very evil and is a far cry from the typical turban-wearing Middle Eastern dude most people associate with living in a lamp. His movements are a bit limited; he mostly just speaks. But he looks cool! And he’s the only thing I remembered about watching this movie ages ago. It may be typical in many ways, but at least the premise is mildly novel and not just another run-of-the-mill slasher.
For no actual reason, I expected to enjoy The Outing more than its double feature roommate, The Godsend (1980), but that was mostly due to ignorance because I’d never seen it before. I had zero clue what to expect going in, and that played a large part in digging it. The tale here concerns the Marlowe family, with their ever-growing brood of kids, who live out in the countryside in a quaint cottage. One afternoon a pregnant woman (Angela Pleasence) visits them; she’s a very strange, creepy woman who stares off into space a lot and gives very vague answers to simple questions. As she is about to leave their home, the woman goes into labor and her child is delivered by the Kate (Cyd Hayman). Not long after the baby leaves its creepy mom, so, too, does the woman leave – never to be seen again. Kate decides on the spot that the best course of action here is to raise it as their own. Because that makes perfect sense when you’ve already got four kids… Wait, make that three because their newest addition is found dead in its crib, sitting mere inches from baby Bonnie. Then, years later another one of their children dies in a mysterious accident. Then another. In each instance, Bonnie (now older, played by Wilhelmina Green) was nearby, though no suspicion was raised. Finally, after losing three of her children and facing the ire of their small country town, Kate pushes Alan (Malcolm Stoddard) to move them into the city.
The urban environment offers a change of scenery, but not a change of family. Bonnie is still around, and the Marlowe’s still have at least one child left to kill. Alan catches a glimpse of Bonnie’s murderous intent one day when they’re out at the park with Lucy (Angela Deamer), their last remaining biological child. He’s convinced Bonnie is a bad seed, but Kate isn’t swayed so easily. Parent is pitted against parent, and Bonnie knows just how to pull the strings so that in the end, she’s the one left in good standing.
Ambiguity used to be a thing in movies; you rarely catch it anymore. The Godsend is mired in it. Right from the start, we meet this weird-eyed pregnant woman and learn next to nothing about her- and then she’s gone. Nothing is gleaned at all from Bonnie through the years, either; never even a hint at her driving force or ultimate goals. And then it ends as curiously as it began. It’s a film that keeps you thinking. There are a number of unanswered questions. This isn’t to say it’s a deep film or anything, just that the script was purposefully underwritten to keep the story interesting.
It’s also a bit remarkable to note this film was produced, in part, by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, a few years before they were a real powerhouse producing duo.
The Godsend is good enough that it could have been released solo, although the fact it isn’t too well known works against it. Even though the two features here are unrelated, this is another double dose of little-seen horror from Scream Factory. They have really been killing it lately with the amount of low-budget ‘80s titles that are finding new life on Blu-ray. The Outing is a fun trip down Bad VHS Rentals Lane; “The Godsend” is legitimately a commendable take on the “bad child” subgenre.
After being seen in full-frame for nearly thirty years, The Outing finally gets a widescreen release, featuring a 1.78:1 1080p picture. The results, however, are less than impressive. Presumably no prints of The Outing exist, so the one used here comes from what I’m assuming is a U.K. print, under the title of The Lamp. This is a good thing because the American release, done as The Outing, cut off the opening prologue. It’s a fuzzy image, washed out and almost completely lacking in definition. Nothing looks sharp or acutely defined. Colors are decently saturated. The print doesn’t look to have been kept in great shape; there are many instances of dirt present.
On the flipside, The Godsend looks nicely detailed and very cinematic. Film grain has been retained and the cinematography delivers an appreciable sense of depth to the image. Colors are accurate, blacks are stable and contrast, though a little blown out in daylight scenes, is solid. The print used for this release also looks like it was kept in great shape.
Audio-wise, the two films share many similarities – an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track that is clean, balanced and features reasonably good fidelity for the soundtrack. Activity is limited in both films, with only a few minor moments of heightened tension punctuating the tracks. Subtitles are available in English for both films.
The sole bonus feature included here is a theatrical trailer for The Godsend.
- The Godsend Theatrical Trailer