Wednesday 23 March 2011

The Evil (1978)

I made it a haunted house double-bill with this largely forgotten effort which was directed by someone called Gus Trikonis who, the ever-reliable imdb informs me, worked almost exclusively in TV after this.  There's an interesting cast though: Richard Crenna, who was a good supporting actor (BODY HEAT (1981), FIRST BLOOD (1982), WAIT UNTIL DARK (1967)) but rarely got lead parts - although he did star opposite Alain Delon in the great Jean-Pierre Melville's UN FLIC (1972) ; Joanna Pettet, an English actress who was in some interesting films in the late 60s before moving to the US and generally appearing in crud; Andrew Prine, who has a CV as long and patchy as you're ever likely to see; Mary Louise Weller, who delirious film fans will recognise as Mandy Pepperidge - the focus of John Belushi's lust in ANIMAL HOUSE (1978); and Victor Buono, who worked with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962).  Two of that lot can also own up to having appeared nude in magazines ... guess who?  (Answers at the end)

Essentially the plot is the same as SESSION 9 (reviewed previously) only in this case the group are a drug rehabilition physician and his volunteers, and the location is a large isolated house they are planning to renovate and use as the rehabilitation centre.  It transpires that the Devil himself is locked in the basement and Crenna unwittingly removes the crucifix which seals him in place.  All hell is then let loose, so to speak, as the house seals itself, trapping the hapless cast inside.

Richard Crenna and Joanna Pettet

Not in fact Dr Snuggles, but the Devil himself

The direction is flat, the photography is as dull as ditchwater, the script frequently clunky and some of the acting has to be seen to be believed.  On top of all that, it bears all the signs of having been mucked about with in the editing room: characters are introduced, disappear and reappear just to get killed off.  Similarly, something momentous will occur only for the action to cut to something else with no reference whatsoever to what has gone before.

Richard Crenna spots his ludicrous fake eyebrows

Don't worry, Andrew Prine always uses a fake hand when sawing
Despite all that, there are still some effective shock moments.  Pete's attempt to escape by shimmying down a cable from the roof is tense and frightening; Professor Guy's bid for freedom being cut off just as it appears to have worked is well done too.

Prine comes to a sticky end

And there's a very unpleasant sequence in which Felicia is tossed around by unseen forces in an empty room, which threatens to turn into something from THE ENTITY (1982).  The building itself is great.  It's a real place, called Montezuma Castle and is in New Mexico; apparently it's now used as an education facility by the United World College organisation.  You can see some pictures of it here.

Oh, and those two nude models?  Joanna Pettet and Andrew Prine, neither of whom have, er, anything to be ashamed of.

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