Shock, R, 90 Mins
Director/producer/co-star Charles B. Pierce’s evocatively-titled ‘regional’ horror movie from 1976 is constructed as a rather awkward docudrama, a recreation – and sometimes heavy fictionalisation – of real events complete with oh-so-serious voice-over from Vern Stierman, who also offered the narration for Pierce’s hugely successful début, the Bigfoot-ish drive-in classic The Legend Of Boggy Creek (1972).
In the naïve Arkansas of 1946 we’re given the facts (sort of) in the case of the unapprehended ‘Phantom Killer’, a hooded murderer who brutalised and killed several residents despite the best efforts of a police force that includes Captain J.D. Morales (Ben Johnson, former Oscar-winner), Deputy Norman Ramsey (Andrew Prine, star of many hip horrors) and Patrolman A.C. Benson, a.k.a. ‘Sparkplug’, who’s played by Pierce himself in a bizarrely tacky attempt to bring some dire comedy to the grim goings-on. And after a series of false leads and stakeouts (cue the day-for-night footage!), and several consultations with psychologists (who talk to camera about the Phantom’s apparent killer kinks), we treated to yet more attacks, including one on the home of well-to-do local Helen Reed, who’s played, rather startlingly, by Dawn Wells, a.k.a. Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island, and who gets Phantommed in a sequence that’s still rough and nasty stuff even by today’s standards.
A time-capsule piece, to be sure, but diverting enough for horror completists, this was remade and/or sequelised (under the same title) for no good reason in 2014, with moderately well-known actors and harsher violence. And no one cared.