Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Evil (1978)

Director: Gus Trikonis

Starring: Richard Crenna, Joanna Pettet, Andrew Pine

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: Escape is just a nerve-shredding scream for salvation!

Plot: A psychologist buys an old mansion at a bargain price and asks a colleague and his students to help him fix it up. Things are fine until a cross is removed from a stone door in the basement and satan himself starts wreaking havoc on each person one by one. Their only hope of ever leaving alive or dead is the ghostly resident that built the house.

My Rating: 6/10

Would I watch it again? Maybe, just maybe, when that widescreen DVD comes out.

#23 on Dusk to Dawn Drive-In Trash-o-Rama Show Vol. 1 (part of the TRAILER TRASH PROJECT)

#39 on 42nd Street Forever Vol. 2: The Deuce (part of the TRAILER TRASH PROJECT)

For the most part this is a standard haunted house movie. THE haunted house movie of the 1970s was to come out a year later, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR. At first I thought THE EVIL was a quickie response to TAH until I came to the imdb page to find that it pre-dates it. You can see by the plot that there's really nothing special. What is special, and this is important to the horror fans, are the kills. They're fantastic.

Remember that scene in the beginning of JAWS (1975) when the night swimmer is being jerked all over the place by the shark? Well, there's a scene in this one where the same thing is happening to this poor girl in a lighted room. The way it was shot and edited give the illusion that she's being tossed around by an invisible force. It's really well done and effective. Toward the end the evil spirit starts ripping her clothes off, stopping with her underwear. I guess he didn't have enough practice to take that bra off. Stupid ghost. It would have helped.

There's another great moment reminiscent of EVIL DEAD (1981) where Prine's character starts cutting his own hand off with a circular saw! Nice!!!

At one point their dog, Kaiser, gets possessed and attacks one of the girls. It's one of those 'jumps out of the darkness' kind of scares but the cool thing is that part of the sound effect for the dog includes the Tie Fighter scream from STAR WARS (1977). It's a little subtle but it's there and, for us SW nerds, it makes it that much cooler.

Oh, there's another kick ass scene where one of the kids is climbing down a cable from the 3rd or 4th floor at night during a severe thunderstorm. Crenna's up top waiting for the kid to make it to the ground but the wind picks up and starts flailing him all over the place ending with a lightning strike that sets the poor dumb bastard on fire!!! He doesn't hold on for long before he falls to his flaming death!!! Fucking AWESOME! It's shit like this that can really make a movie worth while.

The ending is kind of bizarre as they fall through the hole in the basement to come face to face with the devil, played fiendishly by Victor Buono. At first it seemed out of place but Buono's just too much fun hamming it up and I really dig the atmosphere. He's defeated and Crenna & Pettet make it out alive. There's a decent body count and every one of them met a lovely end. What more could you want?

I would have loved to have seen this in a big, dark theater. I'm sure it would have been more effective but the fullscreen overseas DVD is all that we've got for now. It's said to be coming out in Sept/Oct of this year in a widescreen release. It's definitely worth a rental if you dig that late 70s haunted house kind of thing.

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