The Chronicles of Horror Movie Night: The Evil (1978)

Posted by Damon Swindall - February 16th 2012 @ 10:00 am

After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas and Chicago. Horror’s Not Dead’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!

Cover Art for The Evil

If only there were a masturbating ghost…

Don’t worry, I’ll explain in a bit. This week we trekked all the way back to the late 70s for a Roger Corman distributed bit of haunted house creepiness. Unfortunately, Gus Trikonis’ 1978 film The Evil is nothing all that special. There is a ghost on the loose in a huge, strange mansion with some co-eds, but save for the outstanding fashion stylings of the characters and a jaw-dropping ending, this really isn’t too interesting.

A psychologist working with addicts buys an old mansion on the cheap with the intention of sprucing the place up for use with his patients. Dr. C.J. Arnold (Richard Crenna) enlists the help of some of his students and prize patients to help with the renovations, but things are not exactly what they expect. After they arrive a few weird things begin happening around the property and Arnold’s wife’s, Caroline (Joanna Pettet), bad feelings get worse as she sees the apparition of the mansion’s original owner floating about. Shit really hits the fan when a hidden door in the basement’s floor is found and an old cross, keeping it securely closed, is removed.

Poor Richard Crenna

Why do people always open things they shouldn’t? I know, I know – Pandora’s Box and all that, but give me a break. This is an old door on the floor of the basement being guarded by a large metal cross! I don’t care what your religious leaning is, take that as a fucking sign. I’d like to think that if I, or any of my friends, came across such a thing we would be smart enough to leave it the hell alone, but I know better. We’re all idiots and I would probably say something cliche like, “I have a bad feeling about this”, as I was prying the crucifix free.

This film has a lot of crazy shaking going on in the house. This demon spirit unleashed from the sub-basement is a powerful one who likes to make people flop around like fish out of water. Each time this happens it’s done by shaking the camera and having the actors jump around like the house is violently throwing them. I really would love to see a second shot of this taken by a stationary camera so we can see just how ridiculous the actors look. There is one scene where the camera remains mostly still as a young girl bounces all around a room. The great part is in this moment you can clearly see the wires connected to either side of her waist to pull her back and forth. A lovely, pre-CGI touch.

Dirty apparition

Still hung up on my masturbating ghost comment? Alright, I’ll explain. During the film the HMN chapter in Austin evidently had a brief conversation, after seeing the ghost, that was relayed on Twitter by @noahphex about how creepy it would be to look over and see an apparition “taking care of things” in the corner of the room. I completely agree! Just imagine you wake up to some spirit pleasuring himself while staring at you. Shudder. Think the ghost sex/rape from Ghostbusters cranked up to eleven! You may not share the enthusiasm for this phenomena that Noah and I do, but I really think that would’ve taken this film to the next level.

If a wanking ghost isn’t your idea of batshit crazy, this movie has its own crazy left turn. Nearing the end of the night, and having seen most of his patients killed, C.J. heads down through the mysterious door in the floor to tackle whatever might be waiting inside. What he finds is an older, round bearded man clad in all white, sitting in a white chair, in a white room. This is the evil demon causing all the death and destruction in the house above. What the hell?! Even though this comes out of nowhere it’s still a fantastic scene. A great choice to have such an innocent looking man in such a pristine room turn out to be a demon. There are some slight make-up alterations as he plays his tricks on the good doctor. The actor portraying our hell-raiser is Emory Souza who did very little acting in his short career and has been dead for 32 years. A tragedy as he’s pretty much the lone highlight of the film.

If you are wanting to check out The Evil, and haven’t yet, there’s a nice print out on DVD currently. As part of Shout! Factory’s Corman releases this comes paired with another flick called Twice Dead – which I haven’t seen, but hear is the better of the two. Part of me wishes Souza had a bigger part to play but I suppose that role/scene would not have been nearly as special. They say the more you do/see something the less special it becomes. Try telling that to a masturbating ghost.

Until next week – leave all secret doors guarded by religious symbols be!

Body Count: 6 and 1 dog
First Death: 7:02
Number of Random Cuts to the Dog: 5
Weirdest Death: Out of Nowhere Quicksand
Number of Electrocution Deaths: 2
Number of Burned Alive Deaths: 2

Coming soon to Horror Movie Night (Chronicles are posted one week after screening):
-2/15/12: Hospital Massacre (1982) aka X-Ray
-2/22/12: Necropolis (1987)
-2/29/12: Silent Madness (1984)
-3/7/12: Curse III: Blood Sacrifice (1991)

Evil, I say!

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