Sunday, May 24, 2015

Evil, The (1978)

... aka: Cry Demon
... aka: Evil
... aka: Evil Below, The
... aka: House of Evil

Directed by:
Gus Trikonis

This is an unexceptional, though decent, little haunted house / devil flick with some cool moments. Hoping to eventually open up a drug rehabilitation center, Dr. Caroline Arnold (Joanna Pettet) and her atheist husband C.J. (Richard Crenna) purchase the huge, run down Vargas House. According to the Realtor who shows them around, the 200 room estate has been abandoned for quite some time and has such a blood-soaked history that townsfolk unsuccessfully attempted to have it demolished. It all has something to do with the original owner disappearing and the fact the plot of land was dubbed "The Valley of the Devils" by the Native Americans who lived there long ago, but the couple decide to ignore local legends and get to work restoring the old building. They draft a handful of friends, including a psychology professor (Andrew Prine), his college student girlfriend (Mary Louise Weller), a construction contractor (Robert Viharo) and three former patients (Lynne Moody, Cassie Yates and George O'Hanlon Jr.), to help and it isn't long before the house starts living up to its bad reputation.

Caroline begins seeing images of a man's silhouette cast in bright light around the home and other signs of evil forces at work but, before anyone can leave, C.J. accidentally disrupts a hatch on the cellar floor and the home decides to seal itself up and then unleashes a deadly supernatural force. Fireplaces light themselves, furniture moves all on its own, the strong smell of sulfur fills the air, a pet dog becomes vicious and attacks and people start turning up dead in a variety of ways. To make matters worse, the doors shut and become petrified and the glass on all the windows has become unbreakable, so there's no way out. Other developments arise involving the ghost, a diary, an ancient crucifix, a charred corpse hidden in a dumbwaiter, a possession and special guest star Victor Buono ("You insignificant speck of vomit!") in a memorable 11th hour appearance.

Though not a great film by any means and not particularly original or all that scary, this is a fun and entertaining enough flick which entertainingly crossbreeds two popular horror subgenres (the haunted house film and the Satanism film) and does so in a fairly interesting way. There are a variety of mostly bloodless killings in this one including several bizarre electrocutions, a fall down a staircase, someone getting sucked underground, someone being set ablaze by fire shooting from a fireplace and, during the bloodiest moment, a hand being nearly cut off with a circular saw. Best of all are the special effects, which are surprisingly well done and effective for the time, in particular the moments when the cast are yanked around, dragged on the floor, pushed, smacked and lifted into the air by an unseen force. The actors are all decent and the shooting locations and art direction are really good, too.

Filmed on a modest budget of 700,000 dollars, this was released theatrically by Roger Corman's New World Pictures, was issued on VHS by Embassy in the mid 80s and then later on laserdisc under the title House of Evil. In 2010, Shout! Factory included it on a double feature DVD as part of their "Roger Corman's Cult Classics" collection, where it's paired up with Twice Dead (1988).

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