Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Returning, The (1983)

...aka: Witch Doctor

Directed by:
Joel Bender

While camping on a Utah Indian reservation with his parents, young Jason finds a strange-looking black rock and brings it back to his suburban home where some kind of ancient spirit is released. The boy is run over and killed by a distraught truck driver (who seems to be psychically tuned-in to what's happening) and the father becomes possessed by the little boy's spirit and starts acting weird. He (Gabriel Walsh) starts speaking an Indian dialect, beats a schoolteacher up, tries to burn down the house, hears voices, digs up the dead son's corpse and brings him back to the house and more while his wife (Susan Strasberg) just tries to make sense of it all. The final plot revelation has to do with warring Indian spirits, an ugly medicine man and reincarnation. There are a few good ideas here and it picks up a bit toward the end after a terrible opening (tying up a lot of the loose ends), but it's also ineptly edited and paced by people who don't understand the importance of continuity and scene structure. You can tell the music is by Harry Manfredini, because much of it sounds just like his scores for the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies.

A few other well-known people worked on this one; British cinematographer Oliver Wood went on to shoot such hits as FACE /OFF (1997) and SCOOBY DOO 2 (2004) and documentary filmmaker and writer Laurent Bouzereau (author of the book Ultra Violent Movies) also worked on this film. I wonder what the audience reaction was when it played at the Montreal Film Festival?


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