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A burned out writer retreats to a northwest town called Hellview to write the great American novel. Unfortunately for him, the lighthouse he is renting is inhabited by the spirit of a woman who killed herself there one hundred years before and now wants him to replace her lost love, Captain Howdy. When Captain Howdy is resurrected, two daring adventure seekers are brought in to solve the case and find out the secret of the lighthouse. Written by
Todd A. Bobenrieth <TAB146@PSUVM.EDU>
There are enough good things about this little-known comedy that the viewer really wants it to work. The Hudson brothers are charismatic and often funny, but the overall ineptness of the production seems to smother them. Despite some very funny gags and lines, Hysterical is hopelessly bogged down by redundancy and a myriad of technical problems. The fact that the director of this film has no other directorial credits may be one indication of why things went badly.
The story centers around a disillusioned yet successful writer who decides to spend a month in a quaint coastal Oregon town to write "the great American novel". Most of his books have been trashy sex stories, and one of the running gags of the film shows people reading his latest book wherever he goes. Even inside a loony bin. Anyway, no sooner does the writer arrive in his new town, than things start going haywire. The body of a deceased sea captain surfaces in the harbor, for example. And the spirit of his old mistress haunts the writer after he moves into the captain's old lighthouse. The town folk are baffled as to the strange goings on, and two crazed adventure seekers are called in to help solve the trouble.
The film is a vehicle for the three Hudson brothers who play the writer and the two adventurers. This film was apparently supposed to make them the Marx Bros of the 1980s. Needless to say, that didn't happen. The three of them are likable, but the material is just too cheesy in many aspects of the film. There are some very funny lines and a few of the running gags are quite funny, too. One involving a crazy guy on a bike warning people "they're doomed" has some clever angles. Of course this is a spoof of the guy from Friday the 13th 1 & 2, and this film spoofs countless other films along the way. One hilarious scene spoofs The Exorcist. The film also hits some good notes with a scene in a library where apparently the only black resident of the town works.
There are all kinds of things wrong with Hysterical, though. First of all, this film was about as technically inept as any film I've ever seen not called R.O.T.O.R.. The lighting is so minimal that you can hardly see which characters are even in some scenes. The editing is choppy, and the special F/X are putrid. Some gags are revisited way too often. There are a total of three musical numbers; one of them seems to last forever. Then there are times when the ancient technique of speeding up the film is used to emphasize the fact that we the audience should be laughing now. And the film has a cheap look to it in general. Even if a film has a tiny budget, there are ways make it look less obvious.
Overall, this film was a nice try, but just not good enough to launch anyone's career. The Hudson brothers are like that crazy uncle everyone has who can be funny for a while, but he just doesn't realize when to turn it on or off. Honestly, there just wasn't enough funny material here to stretch it out into a full length movie. In the end we get a marginally funny film that looks cheap, and probably resulted in more than a few wet and bored actors. Many of them appearing in much better films before and after this one.
4 of 10 stars.
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