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High Spirits (1988) – Adverse Video Review

High Spirits movie poster

1988 was a great year for films. It was the year of Rain Man, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Big, Coming to America, Die Hard and High Spirits? I bet you are thinking to yourself, “Wow, I don’t think I have seen this.” Now go to the bottom of this article and read the cast line up and then ask yourself this question: “Have I seen this movie?”

High Spirits is one of those 1980s films that dance the line between obscure and “Man, I know I have seen this on TNT.” It has a cast (Daryl Hannah, Peter O’Toole, Steve Guttenberg, a pre-boob job Jennifer Tilly, Beverly D’Angelo, Peter Gallagher, a very skinny Liam Neeson, and more) that makes you wonder whether or not you have actually seen this movie. Ladies and gents, this film rides that fine line so often that the Blockbuster by my house doesn’t even carry it. In fact, I have tried for a while to find it at local stores and finally broke down and ordered it online.

For those of us that don’t ride the “maybe-train” but bought a ticket on the “This-is-awesome-train-o-wacky-ghost-antics”–the answer is yes: it is the one parked next to the Ghostbusters 2-train—you remember how amazingly hilarious and heart warming this Metro Goldwyn Mayer film is. From fake ghosts, to ghosts that want love, sex, and their castle back, High Spirits is one of those films from the 1980s that keeps you coming back for more.

[ad#longpost]This movie has it all, folks. It has Jennifer Tilly trying to get some from a young priest played by Peter Gallagher on a fake flying and rotating bed. It has Peter O’Toole in all of his glory telling his mother (Liz Smith) to shut up while he sorts out how to save his family’s castle. It has Steve Guttenberg falling in love with a ghost played by Daryl Hannah. It has a GIANT SQUID, for crying out loud!

Granted Steve Guttenberg is more so known as “that guy from Three Men and a Baby,” he doesn’t get enough credit for being the awesome character actor that he is! High Spirits shines a light on the world of the silly, and the possibilities of Love and bending reality. It takes you on a joyride off into the land of “weird” and parks you back on your couch with blanket and popcorn feeling slightly odd but pleased you took the time out for the ride. Simply think of it this way: have you ever gone over to your DVD rack and pulled out a film that you have seen a million times and watched it just because you either needed the laugh or wanted to be reminded how awesome the film was? Or have you ever been fishing through your Cable Menu on a “slow night” or weekend to find a film like Coming to America or Caddyshack and you stopped just to watch “that scene?” (You can’t beat the Samuel L. Jackson scene in Coming to America it makes my thumb stop clicking through channels every time!)

Ghost from High Spirits

This is a film that you will find yourself not only asking others about, but stopping just to watch for the sake of watching a good movie. It is the kind of movie, like The Toy, Nothing But Trouble, and Big Trouble in Little China, that you have to not quote directly, but talk about that awesome seen when the cardboard cut-outs from the stage in the castle come to life and the son of one of the American tourists is sucked into the cut-out scene by a GIANT SQUID. (Seriously, how bad could a move be if it has a Giant Squid…I mean, we didn’t get one in Watchmen so, recently I felt the need to get my Giant Squid fix via this film.)

Besides getting to see Liam Neeson acting like a sex-crazed-wife-killing-but-cute-psycho-ghost, what else could you possibly ask for when questioning if you should find this film and watch it or not? Chances are that if you are reading this you are already online, or have some sort of mutant power that I am unaware of (wacky mutants), so wander over to or Netflix and get it. Not only will you thank me, but you’ll quickly put this film in your top 10 1980s films.

Daryl Hannah and Steve Guttenberg from High Spirits

High Spirits poster, in Spanish

Written & Directed by: Neil Jordan (The Brave One, The Crying Game, Interview with a Vampire, and more)
Cast: Daryl Hannah, Peter O’Toole, Steve Guttenberg, Jennifer Tilly, Beverly D’Angelo, Peter Gallagher, Liam Neeson, Donal McCann, Liz Smith (City of Ember and Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit) and others.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1hr 38minutes
Average Film Rating: 5.1 out of 10
Bad B-Movie Rating: not listed
Bob-o-Meter Rating: My Eyes!!!… Why!?… Meh… Good… Great… Yes!… Badass… Awesome… Holy Shit, Man!

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  • Oh, there’s definitely no doubt about having seen this one or not. This is one of those films that way back in the beginning of cable days (when there apparently was not enough content out there) was played over…and over…and over…and over. 20 years later, I could possibly still quote the lines along with the characters if you plopped me down in front of this on the tv now. Especially the two ghosts whose scene played out over and over again. But I had totally forgotten about the squid. That squid was awesome. And planting a ‘banshee.’ More awesome.

    Now I want to watch this one again. Cable’s been playing Big Trouble in Little China a lot again lately, maybe a double feature.

  • Jill?

    You cannot seriously be lumping this moving in with BTILC? I mean, sure a good movie night double but its good movie/bad movie. Right?

  • Oh sure, BTILC is bad, no question about it–more of a cheesy movie/cheesy movie pairing. :)