Monday, June 15, 2015

Where Evil Lives (1994) [filmed in 1991]

... aka: Trilogy of Fear

Directed by:
Richard L. Fox Jr.
Stephen A. Maier
Kevin G. Nunan

Oh, Troma, you masters of hyperbole and deception, you! Where Evil Lives is a low budget, shot-on-16mm anthology film from Florida that apparently went unseen for a very long time. And by a very long time, I mean for over two decades. That's 21 years, folks. There was no VHS issuing and it wouldn't be until 2012 that Troma decided to finally unleash this beast on DVD with the tag line “One of the GREATEST HORROR FILMS of the 80's!” That statement is ridiculous enough as is until you realize that this couldn't possibly be one of the greatest horror films of the 80s because it's not even from the 80s. It was actually filmed in 1991 (despite Troma's false claim of 1989 on their website). Glancing at the end credits, the copyright date is 1994 and there's even a dedication to the late Claude Akins, the only real “name” in the cast (who passed away in January of 1994), so it's safe to assume someone was hoping to release this in '94 and it just never happened for whatever reason. Speaking of Akins, the IMDb trivia section for the film (as well as Troma's website) claims this was his final film appearance. Amusingly, the trivia sections for three other films on IMDb - Seasons of the Heart (1993), The Search (1994) and Twisted Fear (1994) - also claim to contain his final film appearance. That either means his final film appearance somehow happened simultaneously on four different films or that yet another clueless bozo has submitted false info. I'll let you work that one out on your own.

This is basically three short films from three different directors with a framing story that attempts to link everything together. In the framing segment (directed by Kevin G. Nunan), Realtor Brandy Wine (producer Faye McKenzie) leaves potential buyer Blake Rutherford (James Coffey) to look around a mansion while she makes an important phone call. Blake wanders around the estate and eventually stumbles upon friendly caretaker Jack Devilin (Akins) digging a hole in the backyard. Jack warns him that the house has “quite a history” and may actually be haunted and then proceeds to tell him three different stories of horrifying things that have happened there over the years.

First up is “Hubert's Homecoming,” directed by Stephen A. Maier. Back in 1969 when the home was being used as a college dormitory, obnoxious and unpopular Hubert Whitehead (Peter Zaff) decided to slaughter six popular students, including gunning two down in the middle of a game of Twister and stabbing another to death with a stuffed blue marlin (!) while blood sprays all over a Yogi Bear lamp (!!) He's put away but then released in 1991 and goes to stay at a puke green home he inherited from his dead parents. Eager to prove he's been cured to his new neighbors, Hubert sits on his front lawn talking to a Barbie doll and brushing its hair and spending hours furiously washing his old purple T-bird. Hubert eventually goes back to the now-closed-down college and encounters the vengeance-seeking zombies / ghosts of his victims, who force him to play a deadly game of. uh, Quarters (!) Confederate flags seem to be all over the place for some reason and this is both predictable and silly. Yet, as dumb as the whole thing is, it proves to be the easiest-to-tolerate of these tales.

Nunan's “Midnight Date” is next and the only memorable thing about it is an unintentionally hilarious voice-over that seems pilfered from a corny paperback trash romance novel. 11-year-old Jamie Davis (Beth McKenzie), who has the psychic gift of “sight,” breaks into an old abandoned house but runs off after encountering a fried-haired, lingerie-clad vampiress named Diane (Jennifer Marie) in the basement. Jamie's horny oldest brother Tim (Thomas Croom) goes back to the house later that same night and sees Diane dancing. Seeing how “Her slow, sultry movements perfectly matched his eternal pubescent rhythms,” she is clearly “The perfect woman to ignite the hot loins of his youthful passion.” And how could he resist “Her slow, undulating sexuality...” as it “...sent ripples of desire throughout him?” Well, he doesn't resist it, gets himself bit and transforms into a vampire. Jamie sees it all in a vision and is unable to convince either her parents or the cops about what happened. Instead, she and her other brother Tommy (Derick Martini) get advice from a comic book called “Succubus” about how to stop her. This is just... not good... at all. And I'll leave it at that.

Last is Richard L. Fox's “Saved by the Spell.” Goofball scientist Dr. Henry Gabriel (Dan Daly), the new occupant of Spencer House (now called “Gabriel House”), has lost his mind and wants to construct a female Frankenstein monster using fresh body parts. He sends out grease ball hired killer Nico (Larry Quadagno, another producer) to get all the organs he needs, which he does by strangling women with piano wire, slicing them open with a scalpel and removing whatever part is requested by his boss. The cops are on the case but, since this is a tough nut to crack, police chief Thompson (Larry Silver) enlists the aid of “special agent” Jessica Peters (Louise LeTourneau). Jessica is actually a witch who conducts candlelit black magic rituals wearing only a sheer robe. One would think she'd eventually use her powers to apprehend the killers but instead she has sex with Nico (?!) to get his bodily fluids and proceeds to do nothing with them and doesn't even have a hand in stopping the doctor! Things end on a rushed and inconclusive note, which makes me think they either ran out of time / money or at one point this was an attempt to make a full-length feature but the project was abandoned before completion. Either way it just feels really incomplete.

Things finally return to the framing footage, which has its own (pretty stupid) twist. Needless to say, Evil proves to be far from the best horror movie of the 80s (or 90s) and Troma yet again proves they'll say just about anything to sell something. Surprisingly, two people involved in this one managed to go on to bigger and better things. Actor Martini from the second segment has gone on to an award-winning career as a independent filmmaker and third segment director Fox went on to become an assistant director in Hollywood and has worked on such features as Donnie Darko, The Descendants and Spring Breakers. The end credits feature a few outtakes with Akins, where it's revealed this was called Trilogy of Fear (the title on the slate) at one point.

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