Greetings, readers. When you hear the name Charles Band and Full Moon Pictures, certain films might spring to mind. PUPPET MASTER, most certainly. DOLL MAN or DEMONIC TOYS perhaps. Maybe even TRANCERS, CRASH AND BURN, or GHOULIES come to mind. For me, the first film I think of is this little number.
You see, when I was but a larva, my mother often took me to the video store. I loved all things monstrous, but also had an overactive imagination and a tendency to scare myself silly. A VHS tape of HIDEOUS! was always on the shelf there, and I was always simultaneously entranced and repelled by the deformed horrors populating the cover art. I wanted to see the film inside, but at the same time, knew with absolute certainty that to see these horrors would send me screaming from the room.
Fast forward a few years. The video store in question is long since gone, and that tape with it (hopefully to someone’s collection, and not simply consigned to the trash), but the image stuck in my mind, and I eventually scored myself a DVD release of the film.
What we have here, readers, is one of the cleverest, wittiest films Full Moon ever put out.
Meet Miss Belinda Yost (Tracie May), a broker for…biological oddities, shall we say. You see, there is a global network of rich eccentrics who will pay through the nose for a jar of formaldehyde with a deformed mutant in it, anything from an oversized flatworm to teratological nightmares stretching the limits of human abnormality.
Recently, Miss Yost has come into possession of one of the latter. She offers it to Mr. Napoleon Lazar (Mel Johnson, Jr.!) for a sickeningly hefty sum, including the caveat that he has to buy a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of pickled punks from her every year for the next ten years. Due to the uniqueness of this particular pickled punk, he accepts.
However, in so doing, she violates a first-refusal agreement she’d signed with Dr. Emilio Lorca (Michael Citriniti), for which the good doctor had paid a great deal. As a bit of “insurance,” Lorca had bribed Yost’s bubbly and ditzy blonde secretary Elvina (Rhonda Griffin) to report on any dealings of Yost’s that would violate said first-refusal agreement.
Lorca’s henchwoman, the beautiful, charming, and nearly nude Sheila (Jacqueline Lovell, who had previously appeared in pornographic films under the name Sara St. James), is sent to waylay Lazar and steal the specimen. To do so, she hijacks him at gunpoint wearing leather hotpants, hiking boots, and a gorilla mask. Not a stitch more. In winter. Mmhmm.
Enraged, Lazar and Yost hire Detective Kantor (Jerry O’Donnell) to track down the “goober,” as Kantor calls it. A quick conversation with Elvina reveals her duplicity, and Kantor, Yost, Lazar and Elvina take off for Lorca’s castle. Lorca takes affront at Lazar’s accusations of thievery, and closes the big steel shutters covering every exterior door and window of the castle, sealing everyone inside.
However, a problem quickly arises. The new goober survived it’s abortion, trip through the sewers, and unceremonious dunking in formaldehyde, and is still alive. And has similarly imparted new life to three of the other fetal freaks. Terrified by the sound of the steel shutters closing, the freaks want to leave, and are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that freedom…
Holy crap, Charles Band made something witty. The film is, while thoroughly laced with horror, a strong black comedy. Much of the humor is in the interactions between the fully human members of the cast — Really, most of them are freaks in their own way. Lazar and Lorca for their obsessive freaks-in-bottles collecting; Yost for enabling it; Sheila for the whole “sit on tables in an open leather vest and leather hotpants” schtick she’s got going on; and even Elvina is almost inhumanly ditzy. Amidst this sea of lunatics, Detective Kantor sticks out like a sore thumb, playing straight man to the crazies. It’s like if Abbott had not just Costello at his side, but Moe, Larry, Curly and Shemp as well. The audience tags along with Kantor as he tries to comprehend the goober-collectors, the goober-broker, and the just-plain-goobers. A favorite scene of mine, and one that I think exemplifies the humor of the film as a whole, has Kantor and co. in Lorca’s castle, with Sheila playing hostess to Kantor, Yost and Elvina while Lorca takes Lazar on a tour of his collection. Sheila is, as per her idiom, sitting cross-legged on a table in an open vest. Kantor is watching her solemnly while munching on a sandwich, and finally says, “So what’s with the whole ‘sitting on tables’ thing?” giving voice to the audience’s own question.
The goobers themselves are marvelous, dripping slime and less-identifiable substances. Each one is original and unique (well, one of them looks like he might be a puppet recycled from an earlier production, but I’m not quite sure. I’ve met Charles Band on two occasions, and always forget to ask him for clarification), and their roles are pretty well-developed. The newest goober, a four-eyed, two-nosed, two-mouthed lump of tissue, is the brains of the operation; the other three are extensions solely of its will, acting under telepathic command. This kind of mirrors the freakish Stackpoole family in Band’s film HEAD OF THE FAMILY, released a year earlier, though taking the concept to an even freakier extreme here.
The film is a little leisurely in it’s set-up, but once it gets going it moves along at a brisk pace, never letting up, and in all honesty the ending comes a little abruptly. The first time I saw it I said, “Wait, no, that can’t be it! There must be more…no…wait…yeah, most of the cast is dead, and the survivors are driving off into the sunset, must be the end.” It genuinely leaves you wanting more, and while it hints at a sequel, it’s been thirteen years. I’m guessing no real HIDEOUS 2 is on the horizon, though Dr. Lorca does apparently appear in DEMONIC TOYS 2, but I can’t really comment on that as of yet.
In the final analysis, I’d say give this film a watch if you get the opportunity, and by all means, seek out that opportunity. One of Full Moon’s lesser-known productions, overall I’d say it’s one of their better ones. It’s got Blood, it’s got Boobs, it’s got Beasts…it’s a surefire hit.