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By Mike Watt | September 19, 2003

Growing up, I was an avid watcher of “The Monkees” reruns. My favorites were the ones where they would get caught in a haunted house, or face mad scientists. Monsters and mummies would be used for cheap laughs, then they’d sing a song and run around in a circle for three minutes. This was a staple in late ‘60s beach movies, too, after Frankie and Annette had moved on and fans were left with Tommy Kirk and Buster Keaton in movies like “The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini”. Silly monsters and song-filled laughs remained.
Pat Bishow’s “It’s a Haunted Happenin’” pays tribute to those late ‘60s “Monsters Crash the Pajama Party”-style beach movies. A number of girl-bands – with names like “The Darlings” and “The Soul Tanglers” – are invited to the annual “Ghoul-a-Go-Go” contest held at a scary ocean-side mansion (portrayed by a tiny model). Once there, each cutie comedienne finds herself battling baddies in bad costumes, Tor Johnson masks and gorilla suits – in between they burst into song for impromptu music videos. The result is unabashedly goofy fun.
As in his other ‘60s homages “El Frenetico and Go-Girl” and “The Girls From H.A.R.M.”, Bishow makes no effort to hide the $1.65 budget. Sets are painted flats borrowed from children’s plays, masks and props were no-doubt bought at Halloween-remainder sales. Every now and then, the filmmakers will forget to keep their camera on “Frame” mode, resulting in mis-matched video and film-looked footage, but what the hell? It only adds to the overall craziness. The actors are not professionals, but they are obviously having a great time, working hard at concealing the seams of their performances. The movie is wall-to-wall pop-culture references obvious and obscure (when one character exclaims “Give me a break!”, she is handed a Kit-Kat bar). Scenes are bridged with unlicensed ‘60s bubblegum hits and ancient film footage (a “Santo” movie plays at one point, old road show footage is employed at another). The movie even boasts his own horror host who pops up every now and then to deliver even more bad jokes. The movie’s main villain, Dr. Vallerious, has a wonderfully monotone voice dubbed over wildly gesturing physical over-acting.
What really makes this and other Amusement Films offerings stand apart from other no-budget wonders is it insists on having fun without lowering itself to crass exploitation. The cast is primarily female, a couple boast short skirts, but there’s no nudity, no lesbian situations, not a lascivious scene in the group. There’s no innuendo – not even a line of dialogue harsher than “damn”. Even the Scooby-Doo ending feels refreshing.
This is not a movie that takes itself seriously, so the viewer shouldn’t either. If you can’t sit back and just have fun with a movie, then avoid this thing at all costs. If you actually allow yourself to have a sense of humor, you’re going to have the time of your life.

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