1982’s Wacko is a lot different than the slew of parody movies in the 1980s. Other than its very low-budget look, the jokes aren’t like the ones in Airplane!, which are largely based on puns and misunderstandings within the English language, though the quick deliveries are paced the same. It’s also not as bad as something like the very unfunny Saturday the 14th, with jokes that are easily understood, but just never hit the mark, although the atmosphere in Wacko isn’t quite as impressive as that movie either.
So, where are we left? The comedy is often so absurd that the audience may not even be privy to it. And that’s what makes the film so appealing. I would most likely compare the absurdist style of humor to 2001’s Wet Hot American Summer. A cringeworthy parody of the self-important mindset of society. In this case, the tropes being lampooned are those from high school and horror movies.
The film opens up as a man wearing a pumpkin head kills some teenagers with a lawnmower. Mary Graves (Julia Duffy), who was very young at the time, witnesses her older sister get murdered by the Lawnmower Killer. As we jump ahead 13 years, the anniversary of the infamous killings are approaching and the main suspect accused of committing the murders escapes from the mental institute he’s been in.
Detective Harbinger (Joe Don Baker) is the lead on the case, trying to figure out where his patient is so that he can stop history from repeating itself. If this sounds familiar, the basic premise is a direct spoof on John Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween movie. There are several other horror nods as well. Mary’s boyfriend is named Norman Bates (Scott McGinnis) and the school’s science teacher is Dr. Moreau (Victor Brandt).
Director Greydon Clark doesn’t seem to care if people get his jokes or not. And it’s that very attitude that makes this movie so respectable, albeit irreverent. Wacko may be a little too random to follow at times, but this early spoof film makes up for it with creative humor, even if the jokes don’t always land. Fortunately, if one doesn’t work, there’s another one right around the corner.