Four (allegedly) teenage girls are spending the night at a spooky old house they have been hired to clean when the mysterious Gideon Fisk (David Carradine) arrives at the door with a strange gift. It is an old book, seemingly bound in human skin, with sketches of bizarre creatures. When bespectacled Megan (Monique Gabrielle) unwisely recites an incantation from its pages out pops a malevolent cartoon demon. After ravishing Megan's vivacious friend Roxanne (Madison Stone) the animated imp inhabits her body terrorizing the teenagers and any unfortunate interloper that stops by. Somehow Megan and fellow (alleged;y) college co-eds Jan (Barbara Dare) and Terry (Suzanne Ager) must survive the night and bamboozle this doodle.
According to an interview included in Maitland McDonagh's excellent book "Filmmaking on the Fringe" a screening of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) inspired direct-to-video schlock specialist Fred Olen Ray to make this horror-exploitation riff. At a fraction of that blockbuster's budget. In the same interview Ray makes a similar promise (threat?) regarding Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) but, as far as this writer is aware, has yet to deliver. Filmed in eight days using film stock, equipment and crew left over from another production, Evil Toons isn't so much a movie as a masturbatory aid for twisted adolescents. Shot by D.P. Gary Graver, who went from working with Orson Welles to trash like this and directing porn, it is a self-consciously silly, utterly inconsequential romp cast with enthusiastic albeit still amateurishly emoting porn stars and B-movie staples. Among them an obviously indifferent (and/or inebriated) David Carradine, whose opening scene makes for, um, awkward viewing with the knowledge of the actor's real-life demise, and good old reliable Dick Miller. Miller, seemingly between Joe Dante cameos, even gets to watch himself on a TV screening of A Bucket of Blood (1959) and lament: "How come this guy never won an Academy Award?" A gag that would be much more amusing if the film did not dwell so long on that clip. Way to pad out the runtime, Fred.
For the most part Evil Toons strains the patience of even the most schlock-tolerant viewer with feeble attempts at self-aware humour poking fun at its own hackneyed horror setup. Every once in a while though the script drops a fairly charming witticism while Monique Gabrielle, the only one among the principal players capable of a convincing line reading, proves an amiable if lightweight heroine. Perhaps inevitably given the budget and 'talent' involved the animated sequences are at best slapdash. Designed for the film by former horror fanzine editor Chaz Balun and brought to life with 80s Saturday Morning cartoon style animation, the Tasmanian Devil-like cartoon demon (in true Fred Olen Ray cost-cutting fashion, in spite of that title this has only one Evil Toon) is not on-screen long enough to make an impact. After its dubious showpiece assault of Madison Stone, played for queasy laughs and seemingly Ray's attempt to mimic the 'tree rape' scene in Evil Dead, the cartoon critter vanishes from the movie. We’re left with Stone traipsing around with plastic fangs. Back during the heyday of video rentals, Evil Toons garnered some notoriety via its promo material and box art. But one imagines those inspired to actually watch the film were left feeling unsatisfied and embarrassed. Albeit probably not as embarrassed as David Carradine.