Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Evil

Haunted house stories are rather notorious for being nearly impossible to film properly*. So much of what makes a haunted house story so creepy is going on in the minds and psyches of the people residing within, that there’s really only two options for filmmakers. Either they can do their best to maintain a slow pace and try to focus more on quiet dread than the actual scares the horror genre is more known for, which usually gives us pretty lame films like Burnt Offerings or The Amityville Horror, or they can just go all out on crazy spectacle, completely doing away with the main point of a haunted house story. This second path, while frequently giving us such lousy movies as the remake of The Haunting or The Amityville Horror 2, tends to be the more successful in film simply because it’s a lot easier to manage. Director Gus Trikonis, whose greatest claim to fame outside of this movie has been to direct twenty-some episodes of Baywatch, thankfully was aware enough of his limits as a filmmaker to choose the latter path.

I realize that just came off, if in an overly backhanded way, as an endorsement of the film, and I don’t wish to give that impression. Let me be clear by saying that this is a bad movie, it merely happens to be a frequently entertaining bad movie, which makes me feel a bit better about having purchased it. For what it’s worth, it gets better the longer it continues, so while the first half tends to err on the side of tedium, once the demon (Satan?) gets unleashed it manages to get fun pretty quick.

The film stars Richard Crenna as a psychologist who buys an old mansion in the hopes of converting it into a drug rehab clinic, and ropes some of his students and patients into helping him clean it up. Unfortunately, during the cleanup, he finds a secret door in the basement with a white cross on it, makes the mistake of removing the cross, and chaos ensues. There’s a massive earthquake that shakes the whole house, and now nobody is able to leave (all the doors and windows are shut tight, and whenever the characters try to break a window with something heavy the object goes flying away like it hit an invisible barrier). After that, it’s just a matter of them being picked off one by one in a variety of ways until enough time has passed for the movie to end.

Like I said, it’s a very over the top movie, and that generally works in its favor, as the movie is just beyond boring when it slows down for the characters to talk to each other (the big exception being shortly after the earthquake, when one character has been electrocuted in a rather implausible manner and nobody is able to leave, and they theorize that it must be static electricity caused by the lightning storm). Electrocutions, people catching on fire while climbing down ropes, and invisible sexual assault (this predated The Entity by three years, making it possibly the first movie where a woman had her clothes torn off by an invisible assailant), all do their part to keep the latter half plugging along as a delightfully semi-coherent mess, and the climax where the demon (Emory Souza) shows up provides a nice capper to the events.

I will say, in The Evil’s defense, that while it’s a bad film, there really aren’t many haunted hosue movies I can name that I actually like more. It’s a genre where actual quality releases are few and far between, so fans are largely going to have to take what they can get.

Rating: **

* Well, I assume they’re notorious for it at least, having never actually bothered to check anyone else’s opinions on the subject.

1 comment:

katsucurrys14 said...

i agree. gratuitous exploitative invisible demon rape adds at least 5 points to the quality of any movie.