Wednesday, 6 April 2011

DVD: THE EVIL (1978)/ TWICE DEAD (1988)

Despite Caltiki a few days ago I was still in the mood for some palate-cleansing horror and so-

Two haunted house movies made ten years apart with nothing in common except that they were both produced by Roger Corman. While there is a scene like that above for The Evil, sadly there isn't for Twice Dead. One particular difference is that the first movie lists Victor Buono (the kiss of death) in the cast which gave me a bad feeling and the suspicion that I knew who the villain would be.

In The Evil, a professor and a mix of students, wife, colleagues arrived to renovate a mansion that the college has bought on the cheap. Oh and there's also a german shepherd. Now this being a horror movie, there is an obvious equation: dog + haunted house = dead dog.  Before they arrive we've already seen a handyman burned to a crisp when a fire explodes from a boiler that wasn't lit so we know that bad things are going to happen. And when the professor (Richard Crenna, a reliable character actor) removes a cross from what appears to be the hatch to a cellar, bad things start to happen, like everyone getting trapped in the mansion which appears to have unbreakable windows and doors.

One by one our cast begins to die. Mostly it isn't particularly gory, though there is one scene where a man is trying to cut through the front door using a rotary saw only to suddenly realise he's slicing through his hand -that was nice and yucky. Finally there's only the professor and his wife left to confront- The Evil!- who, as I expected, turns out to be Victor Buono.

Twice Dead is very different. In an opulent part of town in the 1920's, an actor hangs himself after appearing to stab his girlfriend but it turns out to be a dummy. Sixty years later the new owners, who have just inherited it, and comprise mom, dad, and two late teenage children (brother and sister), and a cat. Now this being a horror movie, there is an obvious equation: cat + haunted house = Oh, you're ahead of me there. The part of town is no longer opulent. the large house is a dump, and there's a gang of punks hanging out on the doorstep. The gang prove to be more dangerous than the ghost with one of the psychos being obsessed with the teenage daughter.

One night about halfway through the movie, the gang break in one at a time and...  Well, one of the two girls goes in a room where she sees and hears a wind-up gramophone playing. The lid is shut and I thought I betcha there's a head in there so the girl lifts up the lid and... You're ahead (hahaha pun!) of me again, aren't you. But that's just the first of several. However it all turns out to be the brother and sister who, using dummies, are trying to scare the gang.

But it just makes them really mad so they break in again (the parents are away all the time this is going on) and things look seriously bad for the unlucky siblings. Then the ghost steps in really takes the gang to town. No, not literally to town, that's a euphemism for doing very unpleasant things.

Okay, so neither of these two are great, or even good, films in most senses of the word. But they were never boring, they weren't badly made, and most of the cast did what was necessary. While I may never watch them again, I got a reasonable amount of entertainment from them. For a couple of Corman cheapies on one disc, that isn't bad going.

Coming Attractions.

Apart from, as promised, Fargo, Raising Arizona, and Miller's Crossing, I'll also be reviewing three more of the Coens' movies: Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Man Who Wasn't There, and No Country For Old Men. 


A piece of nostalgia as I revisit my childhood and teenage years at Sunderland's several cinemas. (Go on, admire the alliteration, I know you want to.) Plus flea pit photos (if I can find any). Here's a starter.

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