Goodnight Godbless 1987 Review
Goodnight Godbless 1987
Directed by: John Eyres
Starring: Emma Sutton, Frank Rozelaar-Green, Jared Morgan
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
*An update from the review I posted on the IMDB in 2004. It was the first one there and I think that it is still online now…
This extremely rare and mostly unheard of slasher was actually the debut movie of British-born director John Eyres. Although his name may not immediately ring bells in the heads of most movie buffs, he did at least manage to carve himself a career out of directing mostly straight to video films. These include Monolith with Bill Paxton and the new age slasher flick, Ripper, which was released during the boom years of the post-Scream invasion.
This time, we are back in killer priest territory, with a murderous Padre that shows people his rosary beads and then butchers them remorselessly. The plot kicks off when Detectives Joe Yamovitch (Frank Rozelaar Green) and John Brett (Jared Morgan) head up an investigation to track down the psycho responsible for a recent school-yard massacre. The maniac left one witness, a young girl named Mandy (Jane Price), who is immediately placed under Joe’s protection. Meanwhile the ruthless assassin has located the child and begins stalking her as she is the only person who could possibly identify him. Can Joe keep his promise and protect the young girl from the deranged madman…?
Goodnight Godbless starts with one of the most shocking sequences that you’ll likely ever see in a slasher film. It is in fact so startling that I’m surprised the movie managed to remain in circulation. It was edited by the BBFC, but I think nowadays it wouldn’t even pass through censorship. A churchman strolls leisurely past a school playground stroking his rosary beads. He is spotted by one of the many young kids that are playing behind a large spiked fence. As he reaches the gate, a teacher – who indeed seems bewildered to see a priest – approaches him. Suddenly he draws a large knife from within his jacket and stabs her, before reaching for a handgun and firing randomly at the fleeing children. Soon after, we learn that he killed five juniors, which on reflection has horrible echoes of the Dunblane massacre that would take place five-years later. It’s a grim and downbeat intro that is made somewhat more nightmarish by the foggy photography and haunting childlike score.
Now this sort of approach is usually well avoided by most slasher movies. Dumb fornicating teens getting slaughtered, the average viewer can handle, but young innocent children getting shot doesn’t sit comfortably with Joe public and especially with the then cautious censors. Eyres certainly went all out on the exploitation for his opening and to be honest he manages to create a tone of dread that is eminently unsettling. I knew that he would have one hell of a job on his hands to maintain or build upon such a dark ambience.
Sadly, from then on, Eyres struggles to deliver anything that reaches the same levels of extremity. The storyline walks into more traditional clichés, but even they feel laboured after such a drastic kick-off. The leads are likeable and accessible, even though a little more character building certainly wouldn’t have gone a miss. In one part, young Mandy asks Joe to accompany herself and her mother out on a date only five minutes after their first meeting. The guy only says a few words and he’s found himself a microwave relationship (with the mother, of course ;)). Who needs realism anyway? We then get a cheesy ‘couple in love’ montage, which juxtaposes shots of the threesome exploring the ‘wonderful’ sights of Bird World, Surrey. (?) It’s accompanied by the most gawd awful soft rawk tune ever recorded, – (sung by the director, no less) – and it sucks the last remaining drops of the macabre quality from the glass. Add on top of this the fact that the photography is as grotty as an abandoned subway and we really begin to feel uncontrollably sleepy.
The plot has difficulty making up it’s mind how it wants to play ball. None of the victims can give a positive description of the killer and the viewer never gets to see his face. Now in a slasher flick, this usually means that it’s one of the cast that’s slicing everyone up and it’s our job to guess who it is. But just when you think you’ve picked out your choice of culprit, the inexplicable ending leaves you totally bewildered. I’m sure that the intention was once again to shock, but it comes across as lazy.
There’s the odd interesting shot from DP Alan Chow, but nothing to write home about and as I previously mentioned it is impossible to give credit when you feel like you are watching everything through a dense mist. This is most evident in the night scenes which must’ve been illuminated by a matchstick and a throwaway lighter. Most of the murders are poorly filmed and bloodless, and after the opening massacre, there’s not much of a body count either. The overall momentum brought to mind the days of listening to a Walkman when the batteries were running out. Far too much screen time is wasted covering the silly liaison that continued between the leads. The killer padre was one hell of a creepy bogeyman, but we just didn’t see enough of him, which I think was a big mistake. Few antagonists share the aura of menace that he carried so effortlessly and I would’ve liked to have focussed more on his motives and the Police’s efforts to track him down.
In any walk of life, you should always play to your strengths and much like Ghostkeeper, Godbless had the potential to thrive on such a unique feeling of uneasiness. It never manages to sustain a mood though and ends up laying, like a drunken hobo, in a mangled heap on your TV screen.
Overwhelmingly amateur with very little to warrant a purchase, aside from that shock-a-lock opening (and an awesome title, although it was released in the UK simply as Lucifer), I really don’t think that you’ll find enough here to keep you interested. I most definitely liked the creepy bogeyman, but aside from that we are really drinking the last saliva laden dregs from the filmmaking vodka bottle. Director John Eyres has his own website and guess what picture is missing from his online résumé…? Perhaps it suffered some problems during production? It’d be interesting to know.
Funnily enough I once showed this to a group of my friends when I was about seventeen and one of them absolutely loved it. In all my history of watching slasher films, he remains my only convert. Is that bad? I am not sure. Seeing London as a back drop was a laugh for me, because from 1987, I grew up there! They even compliment British tradition with stereotypical cups of tea and bags of chips lol. Due to intermittent problems with pacing, Goodnight Godbless just doesn’t cut it I’m afraid.
Killer Guise: √√√
Final Girl: √