Not that long ago the video store was a mundane and sometimes obnoxious part of life; driving over to some lonesome strip mall with your friends or family to comb through the all-too-often disorganized shelves of your local shop, argue over a selection, and then be stuck with it, for good or ill. Yet, it was also sublime. And for those who lived during the true video boom, video stores also equate to another bygone commodity: VHS. When JVC’s Video Home System won the early-80’s format war, the motion picture market changed forever. The genre and B-movies that had previously filled drive-ins across the country now often went straight to VHS. Then DVD took the world by storm in the late-90’s. It was a brave new world, and sadly, many films never made the leap, trapped now on a dead format. These often aren’t “good” films, but goddammit, they were what made video stores great. For we here at CHUD are the kind of people who tended to skip over the main stream titles, our eyes settling on some bizarre, tantalizing cover for a film we’d never even heard of, entranced. These films are what VHS was all about.
Some people are still keeping the VHS flame burning. People like me, whose Facebook page Collecting VHS is a showcase for the lost charms of VHS box artwork. With this column it is my intention to highlight these “lost” films and the only rule I have for myself is that they cannot be available on DVD.
Title: The Outing (aka The Lamp)
Genre: Supernatural Horror
Tagline: Don’t say see you later… say goodbye. It’s no picnic.
Released by: International Video Entertainment
Director: Tom Daley
Plot: An evil genie is released from a lamp inside a museum full of teenagers who’ve snuck in after hours to party. It begins to kill them all in an attempt to fulfill its own wish for absolute human annihilation!
Thoughts: Everyone has always dreamed of finding an old lamp, rubbing it, and being gifted with three wishes from a grateful genie, whom hopefully looks like and is just as horny as Barbara Eden. I know I have. But what if you do find a lamp and a genie does pop out, only instead of wanting to reward you with material gifts and sex, it figures out some violently magical way to bump you off instead?
This is the premise of the awesomely entertaining 80’s killer-genie gem The Outing (aka The Lamp), which begins when three drunken redneck thieves ransack an old woman’s house looking for loot one foggy night. They pull an old chest out of the wall containing an ancient lamp. One of the thugs buries an axe in the defenseless old lady’s skull because she protests when he attempts to open it, which he does while his hillbilly friend goes skinny-dipping in the backyard pool with their white trash girlfriend. The genie pops out, only instead of being happy and in a human form; it’s a slobbering green monster that murders the shit out of each one of them in a grotesque manner with its incredible supernatural power.
The estate is sold and the lamp becomes the property of a local museum where it is studied over by the head curator Dr. Wallace (James Huston). He has a hot daughter named Alex (Andra St. Ivanyi) who puts on the bracelet that once belonged to the old woman and is promptly possessed by the genie’s magic into doing its bidding. She invites a group of her friends to spend the night inside the museum after hours for a little partying and sneaks them all in on a dark and stormy evening. Two vicious, racist bullies are also allowed to enter the building, before Alex breaks away from the genie’s spell.
Now that all the kids are trapped inside, the genie, or Jinn as its referred to in old tales of the occult, starts murdering them off in a wide variety of ways that include: impaling with an African spear, poisonous snakes in a bathtub, crushing a victim’s skull by tightening the metal helmet he’s wearing while he’s trying to commit a rape, snapping a boy in half at the waist and making a mummy come to life that attacks and bites out somebody’s throat. There are others, but those were a few of my favorites.
Alex and her dad, along with the attractive high school archeology teacher her father’s having an affair with, team up to fight the Jinn. Unfortunately, dad dies because he made his daughter angry while she was wearing the bracelet and she foolishly wished him dead. The sinister Jinn collects on this wish, but is finally defeated when Alex throws the lamp in the museum’s furnace, causing the creature to explode in glorious 80’s fashion.
This is a great example of the totally original, bat-shit crazy ideas they once came up with back in the Reagan era. Taking the traditional haunted house theme and moving it to a museum location while adding a monster-genie is sheer genius in my book. It’s like most films from this time period: a fuck load of fun. Imagine Night of the Demons meets Night at the Museum. If you love rare horror flicks from the 80’s, I suggest you find a lamp, rub it, and ask for this on beautiful VHS, because it isn’t on DVD. Maybe wish for a VCR too, if you don’t already have one. Last wish is of course for Barbara Eden in that incredibly hot I Dream of Jeannie outfit, but that goes without saying.