Crash Analysis: TALISMAN (1998)

Uh… Er… Uh… Talisman

A teen enters a bizarro school for mispent rich youth and all Hell breaks loose.

Benjamin Carr, who has written a lot of schlocky and pathetic horror, including RETRO PUPPET MASTER (1999), THIR13EN GHOSTS (2001) and HELLRAISER: DEADER (2005), brings us another half-baked script that in the end, makes very little sense.

Elias Storm (Billy Parish) voluntarily enters a school for teen boys who are either rich, troublesome or both. And this creepy stone mansion of an institution is located somewhere in the backwoods of Romania. Oddly enough, the school only has seven boys on the classlist, one theology teacher (Claudiu Trandafir), an East German throwback of a school mistress (Oana Stefanescu), and her beautiful yet freaky daugther (Ilinca Goia). Serving as audience advocate for all things about this strange scholastic enterprise is Jake Fine (Walter Jones).

The story, as best one can determine, involves a talisman that can conjure the Black Angel (Constantin Barbalescu) who will rip your heart out in order to bring Hell to Earth – for the millennium, of course. But hero boy Elias is out to save the day…

Okay, we’ve seen stories like this one too many times, and even though cliché after cliché is exploited in this feature, the story steers clear of a linear track of complacency for a convoluted head scratcher that makes little sense in the end. The story never gels and is far from satisfying, especially since Elias never gets the chance to smackdown prettyboy rival Burke (Jasaon Adelman).

Although the set has much Gothic visual appeal, the tale’s awkwardness, and some cheesy special effects, prove too distracting to keep us invested. However, the burning question of “What the hell is going on?” will most likely keep you planted on your couch until the credits role when you’ll realize how you wasted 72 minutes by watching something that didn’t pay off. Then again, that’s Carr’s modus operandi.

Directed by David DeCoteau, with 96 titles to his credit, including 1987’s CREEPAZOIDS and BIKINI GODDESSES (1996), he’s the American version of Takishi Miike – minus the talent. Then again, the acting wasn’t half bad, though Jones clearly stole the show, and I loved the lighting. However, as I was watching, I kept asking myself how I missed such an 80’s flick. Yes, it has that cheap, cartoonish look left to the best of the worst from that horror-infested decade. As for DeCoteau, I guess he wouldn’t know a good script if it bit him in the ass.

Regardless, as bad as Carr and DeCoteau are, they’re getting paid for churning out cheap garbage and we keep watching. Oh, well.

The 1.5 stars goes to Jones, and Parish and Goia for trying, and for the lighting guru that clearly took a page from Mario Bava. Yes, this could have been one cool little movie, but Carr took a decent idea and mangled it beyond recognition.

1.5 out of 5 stars

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