Aka - The Outing
At the turn of the century, a ship carrying artifacts from a Damascus archaeological expedition comes ashore on the Texas Gulf Coast with all of the crew slaughtered along with an Arab woman (her daughter is the only survivor). In the present day, a trio of thugs (two men and a woman who soon loses her top) break into the home of the now very aged daughter in search of loot. Although the place is littered with Middle Eastern antiquities, they are looking for money. One of the thugs takes a pickaxe to a wall and discovers an old chest which he breaks open. Instead of gold or cash, he finds an old oil lamp with a ruby stopper. When the old woman tries to take it from him, he kills her with an axe to the head (during which her matching ruby bracelet falls off). The other guy and gal get drunk and go for a dunk in the pool while the principal thug decides to do the obvious and rub the lamp causing the stopper (a hand which holds the ruby) to twist around. This causes the old woman to come back to life and pull the thug down onto the axe still sticking out of her forehead. The other thug gets bisected in the pool by green laser beams and the girl gets supernaturally lifted off the ground (after running nude from the camera) and has her neck broken. The possessions of the old woman wind up with the Texas Museum of Natural History and are examined by Dr. Wallace (James Huston) and Dr. Bressling (Danny B. Daniels). While they are photographing the lamp, Wallace’s BLOSSOM-hat-wearing daughter Alex (Andra St. Ivanyi) shows up (all of this is examined from the point of view of the lamp through the ruby stopper as it twists of its own accord on the photographic pedestal) and they get into an argument in which she wishes her father was dead. Father and daughter make up for their tiff but then Alex tries on the bracelet (which will not come off) and then she rubs the lamp.
The next day, Alex gets picked up by her boyfriend Ted (Scott Bankston) and his car is chased and rammed by Alex’s sleeveless dress shirt-wearing punk with a rich father ex Mike (Red Mitchell) and his lackey pal Tony (Andre Chimene). Mike and Tony get pulled over by the cops and arrested but show up at school to beat up Ted and Alex only to have their asses kicked in turn by spunky teacher Eve (Deborah Winters). In class, Eve gives a lecture on how myths all have an origin in truth (using the McNally/Florescu Vlad/Drac example that has been more recently been called into question) and Alex asks about the magic lamp. Eve tells her that the genie of the Arabian Nights has its basis in the malevolent djinn which brings misfortune instead of granting wishes (better explored in the otherwise average WISHMASTER). She also reminds her students that they are going on a field trip to the natural history museum that afternoon. At the museum, Eve and Alex’s father steal some time together while Alex’s friends try to convince her that it would be cool to stay in the museum after it closes. She warns them about the security cameras and that her father would blow his top. Meanwhile, Dr. Bressling informs Dr. Wallace that the lamp is over three thousand years old and has a curse on it that Bressling plans to translate (and is promptly done away with by the ceiling fan in Wallace’s office). Alex steals into the office and rubs the lamp letting loose the djinn who careens through the museum (a relatively ambitious camera move considering that they were shooting in an actual location) which causes a tusk to fall from the ceiling and nearly impale Wallace and Eve. Alex is possessed by the djinn and tells her friends she has found a way that they can get into the museum after it has closed. Wallace asks Eve to dinner (intimating that he plans to propose to her) so of course he won’t be home. After the museum closes, Alex distracts the guard and lets her friends back inside. While her friends are unaware that Mike and Tony have stayed behind as well, the possessed Alex leaves the basement’s electronic door open so that they could sneak in after them. The djinn leaves Alex’s body (leaving her disorientated) so that it can deal with the security guards and then her friends once everyone pairs off; making for gruesome surprises for Mike and Tony who had their own revenge planned. Meanwhile, Wallace calls home to check on Alex and becomes concerned; leading him and Eve back to the museum to confront the djinn who remembers Alex’s wish that her father was dead.
Produced as THE LAMP and released overseas under that title, the film turned up on US video under the even-less-commercial-title THE OUTING (a previous American horror film originally titled THE OUTING was retitled SCREAM for its US release). While THE OUTING had the direct-to-video look about it as it sat on video shelves throughout the late eighties and into the pre-DVD nineties in US video stores, THE LAMP was obviously intended as something more. For the most part, the set design of Robert Burns (THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE) is quite distinctive (the oil lamp is quite impressive) in its combination of real museum locations and ornately decorated environs like the old woman’s home and Wallace’s office (though much of the gory action takes place in the generic-looking basement complex). In fact, the combination of Robert Burns production design, blonde heroine, gore, neon green supernatural opticals, and demons makes THE LAMP/THE OUTING a good double bill with MAUSOLEUM. The build-up after the opening gore set-piece is restrained with only one other supernaturally-induced death before the kids sneak back into the museum around the fifty-minute mark. Two of the girls provide the requisite nudity and the rape scene is disturbing and seems more like something out of a seventies exploitation movie (made even more tasteless by the actor’s visible erection which somehow made it past he MPAA).
The two villainous humans are more repulsive than the djinn and their aforementioned ass-kicking is all the more satisfying since they showed no compunction for beating up on teenage girls, a female teacher, and using a racial epithet towards the black principal (in addition to the “I can buy and sell you” attitude). Unfortunately, their deaths are too quick and not gory enough to be satisfying. Winters (who also produced) not only plays the teacher Eve, she also plays the Iraqi mother in the opening flashback, and her aged daughter in the post-credits scene but her main character isn’t as prominent as one would expect in the rest of the film. While father and daughter race around looking for a way to destroy the djinn, she pretty much tags along for the run. Wallace and Daniels are both good as the intellectuals but are sidelined as is most of the premise’s originality by the film’s basic “kids spending the night in an enclosed location” slasher plotline. There’s a lot of blood but not much prosthetic gore (one of the more violent deaths is seen after the fact) except for a chomp-happy reanimated mummy. The djinn is made up of a rather unimpressively sculpted stop motion demon (voiced by Jackson Bostwick, THE PREY) and green lasers.
The THE LAMP prints carry the Skouras Pictures logo (Skouras also released THE DEAD PIT and THE COMFORT OF STRANGERS in the United States though their video releases were handled by different companies) and that version’s flashback title sequence adds an immediate sense of production value compared to THE OUTING’s white titles on black and post-credits home invasion. The LAMP version seems to have been the one that made the rounds in Europe given the UK and French tape releases. I’m not sure about other European prints but the UK tape (with considerably more ornate artwork than the US tape) of course had cuts to the rape scene which was present in THE OUTING prints. The similarly cut UK DVD was darkish but actually had better color and clarity than the sometimes hazy US tape release was by International Video Entertainment (though not on their Thriller Video line). The film also had a Dolby Stereo mix when most low budget American horror films were going Ultra Stereo. Since THE OUTING titles appear on black, it would not be difficult to make a composite by adding THE LAMP credits/flashback footage.