Scared Stiff (1987) poster

Scared Stiff (1987)


aka The Masterson Curse

USA. 1987.


Director – Richard Friedman, Screenplay – Richard Friedman, Daniel F. Bacaner & Mark Frost, Producer – Daniel F. Bacaner, Photography – Yuri Danysenko, Music – The Barber Brothers, Mechanical/Prosthetic Effects – Tyler K. Smith, Pyrotechnics – John Boisseau, Production Design – Wynn P. Thomas. Production Company – The Fremont Group.


Mary Page Keller (Kate Christopher), Andrew Stevens (David Young), David Ramsey (George Masterson), Josh Segal (Jason Christopher), William K. Hindman (Dr Ben Brightman), Jakie Davis (Detective Whitcomb), Nicole Fortier (Elizabeth Masterson), Bryan Smith (Director), Tony Shepherd (Wally), Tom Kouchalakos (Michael Murphy), Jennifer Hingel (Jennifer), Richard Jason (Elizabeth’s son)


Psychiatrist David Young buys an old mansion in Charlesburg once owned by slave trader George Masterson. He moves in with his girlfriend, pop singer Kate Christopher, a former patient who is recovering from a nervous breakdown. Kate soon discovers that the house is haunted and experiences strange apparitions. She thinks that she might be going mad but also believes that Masterson, who was killed by a voodoo curse placed on him by his slaves, is starting to possess David.

This is an obscure effort from the heyday of the VHS era. It is not related or to be confused with the Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis comedy Scared Stiff (1953). It is an incredibly bad film.

It is cheaply made. Everything in the film is written to cliche – the heroine with the psychiatric history who is unsure whether she is seeing things or not, the banal hauntings, the house with the tortured past. In just about every way, Scared Stiff resembles a tv movie ghost story.

The major difference – the only thing that does in fact distinguish it from a tv movie – is the addition of some over-the-top The Evil Dead (1981)-styled gore and popcorn effects. These vary from the cute – a psychiatric patient who unzips his forehead to reveal his brain – to the silly – a talking potato head in a noose.

A disturbed Mary Page Keller in Scared Stiff (1987)
A disturbed Mary Page Keller

Scared Stiff‘s only point of note is its completely surreal climax. One has no idea – and is sure the filmmakers didn’t have either – of what is meant to be going on. Mary Page Keller runs through the house pursued by the film crew from her music video shoot, psychiatric patients, dead cops, handymen, phantom grand pianos and her son’s novelty lampshade with a Devil face on it that has suddenly become giant size. She then ends up back in the 19th Century where the slave trader tries to romance her before she puts the amulet together causing him to transform, in one neat effects set piece, into a monster with an African tribal mask for a face, whereupon he is then pierced through with a spear – thrown all the way from a voodoo ceremony on the Ivory Coast!!! – and melts down into a pile of goo. You figure it out.

Director Richard Friedman has dabbled in genre cinema a number of times with low-budget films like Doom Asylum (1987), Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge (1989), Can’t Be Heaven (1998), Ground Zero (2000), Dark Wolf (2003) and Born (2007).

Trailer here

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