A young priest helps prepare a long-abandoned house on church property to be rented by a family. A series of terrible accidents, and the ravings of a mad old woman who also resides on the property leads the priest to believe something from the property’s ancient past may to blame. As it turns out, in the 17th Century, a woman was condemned as a witch and drowned in a nearby pond. So guess who’s been holding a 200 year grudge? Can our young priest cast the spirit of this devil’s mistress back into the confines of the consecrated pond? Will the evil witch claim yet another victim? How hard would it have been to conjure up the spirit of a goddamn editor?
Superstition is by all rights a bargain basement schlockfest; all the trappings of a nearly non existent budget are alive and well. Its primary offense is its inability to end a scene at its logical conclusion. The opening scene is an admittedly entertaining prank that would be effective if not for the fact that we are subjected to an extra five minutes of obnoxious laughter as one of the perpetrators of the practical joke stands alone in the creepy old house cackling at his own deed. This inappropriate attachment to scenes is echoed in the longer-than-logic-should-allow moment in which the cop walks along the dock. Tadpoles swimming in the pond below had time to burgeon into frogs, evolve into beings of higher-consciouness, and become bored with the scene before it was permitted to end. It was clearly an effort to pad out thirty minutes of content into an 8o minute film.
The film’s other compromising fault has to do with the family that moves into the old house. Sure, these are actors lacking in that elusive quality that epitomizes great performance…that is to say anything resembling quality. But more mind-boggling than the skin-wrapped doorknobs inhabiting the characters is their complete and utter detachment from one another despite the fact that their supposed to be related. They drift about the house like tectonic plates with no genuine regard for one another. When the little boy goes missing, his father’s reaction is that of a man who’s lost a set of keys or his fourth-favorite Dollywood shot glass. When the shit really begins to hit the fan, the parental units seem content to wait it out in their bedroom rather than investigate and/or keep tabs on their increasingly dwindling children.
Despite the great lengths to which Superstition goes to hobble itself, it manages flashes of brilliance. The flashback to the witch burning and the subsequent vengeance visited upon the peasant persecutors is quite satisfying. The brazenness of the film to kill a ten-year-old boy more than compensates for its meagerness and I also adored the microwave kill. The thing that really impressed me about the film is its bizarre acknowledgment of its budget and the creative way it dances around it with respect to its monster. The design of the monster’s hand is outstanding while the rest of it looks like a man in his grandmother’s rain slicker. In full awareness of this shortcoming, the director chose to focus heavily on the hand; like entirely on the hand. The thing is they do such a great job blending it into the rest of the scene that it’s never a chore to behold. It actually ends up being something more akin to the shadowy dream demon from Prince of Darkness. Awesome.
Given last week’s unfortunate events, it was encouraging to see both Zack and Weird Wednesday host Lars Nilsen patrolling the theater Rainbow Six style. The film played remarkably well and the it was so comforting to see Tim League’s newly enhanced no talking policy enforced.