Twenty years ago, Bambi (Candice Azzara), a high school misfit hopelessly infatuated with star quarterback Blue Grange (Tab Hunter), witnessed the first in a long line of horrific cheerleader murders. Now, several generations worth of dead cheerleaders later, Bambi welcomes a new bunch of pom-pom wavers to Cheerleader Camp. Among their number are Candy (Carol Kane), a virginal teen with telekinetic powers anxious to finally get laid, gormless Glenn (Judge Reinhold), horny stoners Andy (Miles Chapin) and Randy (Mark McClure), perky blonde beauty queen Mandy (Teri Landrum) and Sandy (Debralee Scott), a sassy hitch-hiker with very high standards. Inevitably a mysterious murderer soon circles around this lot but intrepid Canadian mountie Reginald Cooper (Tom Smothers) is determined to get his man aided by his super-intelligent horse Bob and sidekick Johnson (Paul Reubens, pre-Pee-Wee Herman) who bears a grudge against the horse. Even so, they can't decide if the guilty party is the recently escaped mental patient or the convict who likes to turn his victims into furniture. Or maybe it's someone entirely different.
Pandemonium was among a spate of slasher film parodies released in the early Eighties, including Wacko (1982), Student Bodies (1981) and National Lampoon's Class Reunion (1982) that suggested the genre was already something of a running joke even though it rumbled on well into the next decade buoyed by post-modernist gimmicks and big budget remakes. Ostensibly a vehicle for Tom Smothers, of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Show, who had a sporadic film career, this was the last of three movies directed by production designer Alfred Sole. At one point Sole seemed poised to be a major horror auteur on the strength of Alice Sweet Alice (1976) a.k.a. Communion but returned to his day job shortly after this for-hire gig for which he subsequently expressed little love.
Nonetheless, Sole imbued the film with a certain manic screwball energy lacking in others of its ilk, staging a host of truly off-the-wall cartoon-like gags making good use of the performers pantomime gifts and funnier than the cheesy one-liners doled out by co-screenwriters Jaime Barton Klein and Richard Whitley, who wrote the seminal Rock 'n' Roll High School (1978). Take for example the explosion that catapults a bleach-blonde Judge Reinhold into the stratosphere where he startles a plane-load of Japanese tourists including a hostess inexplicably dressed as Godzilla! Even though some of the bug-eyed routines prove corny enough to make a five year old roll their eyes in exasperation, the film largely succeeds at lacerating the clichés of the hack-and-slash genre, right down to its very obviously Canadian hero, an amusing jab at all those faux small town America, shot-in-Canada slasher flicks. It is hard not to laugh when the escaped convict hitches a ride with the escaped mental patient, the creepy camp caretakers let Japanese tourists gawp at the soon-to-be-dead teenagers or when a bunch of hardened street punks abandon a diner the moment the squeaky clean heroes saunter in. At one point Paul Reubens gets caught groping a victim of the furniture fiend and replies he was trying to get into her drawers. Boom-boom.
Interestingly, while certain scenes riff on the expected high points in horror from this period – Carrie (1976), Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980) – the majority of the film's pop culture references hail from an earlier era including gags based on Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald musicals, the Susan Hayward death row drama I Want to Live! (1958), Andy Hardy movies, classic Universal horror and A.I.P. drive-in favourites as is apparent from the presence of Sixties heartthrob Tab Hunter, well into the zany cult comedy phase of his career in the wake of his role in the John Waters film, Polyester (1981). A likeable cast rip into their roles with relish with little known Teri Landrum especially appealing as the blonde bimbo whose life is one big television commercial and whose obsession with oral hygene proves her undoing. Among the bit-part players: Singin' in the Rain (1952) star Donald O'Connor appears as Glen's blind father (with all the obvious gags), Eve Arden of Mildred Pierce (1945) and Grease (1978) plays the prison warden with the oddly calm reaction to a jail break, Richard Romanus is the aforementioned serial killer, Phil Hartman plays a reporter and Eileen Brennan (billed as "A Friend") spoofs Piper Laurie as Candy's mother. Horror fans may well wonder whether in pitting a telekinetic teenager against a masked murderer this film inspired Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)?