31 Days of Hell: Pandemonium (1982) - Reviewed

Before becoming a prolific production designer in the film industry, Alfred Sole once gained notoriety for the short adult film Deep Sleep before making a name for himself with the surprise hit 1976 giallo inspired horror film Alice, Sweet Alice.  Circa 1982, with the rise of the horror parody film including but not limited to Student Bodies and Full Moon High, it seemed only natural that the director of one of the scariest films of the 1970s should do one of these.  Featuring a star studded cast including Carol Kane, Phil Hartman, Judge Reinhold and Paul Reubens (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure), what became known as the slasher horror parody Pandemonium was shaping up to be a surefire comedy hit.

Unfortunately however, what emerged was more akin to the psychedelic Egyptian-Italian weirdness of Ovidio G. Assonitis’ The Visitor than, say, a Zucker Brothers film.  The story is standard slasher fare: in 1963 a group of high school cheerleaders are impaled on a spear by a mysterious killer, causing a scandal that forces the school to close.  Years later, former student turned cheerleading instructor Bambi (Candy Azzara) seeks to reopen the school.  As expected, the killer returns to pick up where he left off by murdering the new students.  

Turning out to be the final film as a director for Alfred Sole, something is amiss right from the get go as joke after joke falls flat and provokes more wrinkled brows than laughs.  If Pandemonium is a comedy it surely is among the very strangest with increasingly weird sight gags including but not limited to death by way of toothbrush.  Given this was co-written by eventual TV-show writer Richard Whitley of Roseanne and Millennium, the absence of straightforward comedy or horror in Pandemonium seems that much stranger.  The best gag in the film involves a Carrie parody featuring When a Stranger Calls star Carol Kane replete with glowing red eyes that shoot lasers.  Paul Reubens as a cop occasionally does the Pee-Wee Herman voice but it comes too little too late amid everything else.


A light PG rated horror comedy of the most bewildering kind, Pandemonium enjoyed a modest theatrical run before becoming a cable TV regular and ultimately disappearing from the comedy horror shelves in videostores indefinitely.  Thanks to the good folks at Vinegar Syndrome, however, this peculiar and not entirely successful parody oddity has been resurrected in a new 2K digital restoration.  Remembered for forming question marks over viewers’ heads rather than elicit chuckles, Pandemonium doesn’t really work all that well but has enough at stake from the cast and crew to still attract the interest of cult horror aficionados. 

--Andrew Kotwicki