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John’s Horror Corner: The Willies (1990), a hokey kid-friendly-ish horror anthology starring Sean Astin.

September 8, 2018

MY CALL: Basically, this is a young adult horror anthology a step scarier than Nickelodeon’s Are you Afraid of the Dark (1990-2000). It’s not bad, but the gore and “scares” are nonexistent (to adult horror fans, at least).

MORE HORROR ANTHOLOGIES:  Dead of Night (1945), Black Sabbath (1963), Tales from the Crypt (1972), The Vault of Horror (1973), The Uncanny (1977), Creepshow (1982), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye (1985), Deadtime Stories (1986), Creepshow 2 (1987), After Midnight (1989), Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), Two Evil Eyes (1990), Grimm Prairie Tales (1990), Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1993), Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), Campfire Tales (1997), 3 Extremes (2004), Creepshow 3 (2006), Trick ‘r Treat (2007), Chillerama (2011), Little Deaths (2011), V/H/S (2012), The Theater Bizarre (2012), The ABCs of Death (2013), V/H/S 2 (2013), The Profane Exhibit (2013), The ABCs of Death 2 (2014), V/H/S Viral (2014), Southbound (2015), Tales of Halloween (2015), A Christmas Horror Story (2015), The ABCs of Death 2.5 (2016), Holidays (2016) and XX (2017).

This flick takes me way back. The wraparound story has three boys (incl. Sean Astin; Cabin Fever 3: Patient Zero, Stranger Things, The Strain) passing the time around the campfire telling scary stories. Playing on urban legends, the stories include some jovial super-shorts (just a few minutes each) about a lady at a fried chicken joint eating an extra crispy fried rat, an old man on a “house of horrors” amusement park ride that dies of fright, and the old lady who gives her dog a bath and then uses the microwave to dry it off, resulting in a gloppepty gross explosion. The tone is light, and this has a very preteen-friendly vibe to it; it’s very PG most of the time and everything is more hokey than scary. Although when that dog exploded into what looked like hot dogs in brown gravy I had quite a “pseudo-gory” giggle.

This anthology focuses particularly on two stories. The first is about elementary schooler Danny who is bullied at school. He finds little sympathy except from the kind janitor. On a routine visit to the bathroom, Danny encounters some sort of primate-gargoyle monster (think of a cheaper monster from Creepshow and Fright Night II) and finds the janitor’s body and head as if it was a sort of costume—I’m left to wonder if this influenced the Men in Black (1997) “Edgar suit.” The bathroom monster is a basic rubber creature effect, but it gets a lot of screen time, looks just passable enough to be entertaining, and has a silly “action-violence” scene with a mean teacher ending with her being dragged into the ceiling.

The second story is about a bad kid with an odd interest in insects—like, pulling the wings off flies and making dead fly dioramas, not collecting butterflies. Gordy (Michael Bower; Evolution, Dude Where’s My Car?, Wishcraft) is just not a good boy. And because he’s not nice, we don’t feel sorry for him when he gets his comeuppance. Through a silly turn of events, some giant flies exact their revenge in a ridiculous ending complete with costume store-quality giant fly suits and severed limbs. If you grew up in the 80s, this may serve your nostalgic guilty pleasure.

The editing is quite amateur, the score is kids flick-ish, and the movie has no sense of timing in its cultivation of spookiness. But again, the tone is just so goofy and light, and gore is largely nonexistent. They even have an in-dialogue callback to Sean Astin’s role in The Goonies (1985) which should provoke a grin. This is just one small step scarier than anything from Nickelodeon’s Are you Afraid of the Dark (1990-2000), and it carries a similar atmosphere.

Written and directed by Brian Peck (his only writing or directing endeavor), this anthology is nothing special other than a nice stepping stone for potential horror fans to wet their feet in the genre at a younger age. It’s entertaining, but nothing I’d recommend in general. However, it’s nice how the wraparound story ends up linked to one of the anthology tales in the end.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 8, 2018 11:57 pm

    I remember this. I also remember how Donkey Lips from Nickelodeon’s Salute Your Shorts is in it.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      September 9, 2018 4:26 pm

      He had the most memorable part for me! It’s funny, I knew I had seen this but remembered nothing. But as I watched it slowly came together. I probably last saw this around 1991-92 shortly after its video release.

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  1. John’s Horror Corner INDEX: a list of all my horror reviews by movie release date | Movies, Films & Flix

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