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A Movie A Day: THE EVIL (1978)
Disturb not he who is here, held in chains.

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the next installment of A Movie A Day: Halloween 2010 edition! [For the entirety of October I will be showcasing one horror film each day. Every film is pulled from my DVD shelf or streamed via Netflix Instant and will be one I haven’t seen. Unlike my A Movie A Day or A Movie A Week columns there won’t necessarily be connectors between each film, but you’ll more than likely see patterns emerge day to day.]

I mentioned at the end of yesterday’s AMAD that I was excited to check out today’s film because having recently seen the trailer some imagery in the film led me to believe that this was one of those “what was that movie?!?” titles from my childhood. As a young lad we didn’t have premium cable, just the kinda scrambled cable that most used to pleasure themselves with, the dirty buggers. But we did have the basic channels which included USA Up All Night. Gilbert Gottfried was the host I remember most, but I was there for the beginning of the Rhonda Sheer days. Anyway, there was a movie I watched some late night with the TV volume turned veeerrryyyy low so as to not get caught that stuck with me. I never saw it again and was looking for the title forever. The only things I vividly remembered was that it was a haunted house movie and there was a scene where a character is trying to cut through a door with a power saw only to end up cutting his fingers off. Yep, that’s this flick, except my young brain added in the fingers actually coming off. In the film the poor bastard just slices his hand badly, but I guess even as a kid I knew that these movies were censored and that the implication was that the dude was losing fingers. Watching this film as a 6, 7 or 8 year old is the best way to see it. Because as an adult you see how poorly shot it is and laugh at how stupid the ending is, but watching it as a child, who hasn’t seen the best the genre has to offer, a few solid haunted house images is all it takes to make an impression. And that’s not to say the movie’s horrible, it just has a horrible ending, but it’s certainly not as creepy as I remember. A lot of that has to do with the lighting, which is about as atmospheric as a Wal-Mart. No, Wal-Mart’s far creepier. Bad analogy. However, there’s some really strong haunted house imagery, like shutters that fold up and slam shut by themselves, that kind of thing, that is pulled off very well. If the pay off had worked then I wouldn’t be so disappointed with the flick as there are some really strong moments. It’s a simple story that takes a page from The Exorcist as a man without faith has to find God in order to challenge pure evil.

In this case the man isn’t a priest, but a man of science, a doctor (played by Rambo’s boss, Richard Crenna) who wants to take an old mansion and convert it into a rehab clinic. His wife (Joanna Pettet) immediately feels things are wrong and starts seeing a shimmering form. Lame, I thought. I like my ghosts to be mean and pissed or completely alien (a la Poltergeist), not cheap over-bright manifestations. Luckily for me this being is actually a good guy ghost, albeit a good ghost that murders a maintenance man in order to try to scare away the young people who show up to convert the mansion into a clinic. He is the ghost of a man called Vargas who built the mansion on an old Indian burial ground as a means to keep the evil trapped via a crazy iron crucifix that bolts a door in the ground down in the cellar. This would have made a good double feature with an early AMAD, The Church, which had the same premise. Except that’s more of an Italian demonic possession movie and this is a straight up haunted house flick. So we have a group comprised of college kids getting extra credit for helping set up the clinic, ex-junkies indebted to Crenna for his help in getting them off drugs and the more blue-blooded, intellectual compatriots of Crenna’s all facing a pissed off entity. Speaking of The Entity, the chick from that flick might want to look over at this place because a rape ghost lives there, too. But this one won’t actually rape you, just laugh as it slaps you around, tear pieces of clothes off and drag you around the room. I’m not going to be shy in describing how this film goes wrong, which is total last act spoiler stuff, so be warned. After damn near everybody dies (or becomes possessed for a brief amount of time… and you know they’re possessed because, and I shit you not, their eyebrows get bushier) we’re left with Crenna and his wife, guided by the nice ghost to the door that Crenna opened and down they go into the hole. At first it’s creepy, dusty everywhere, dark stone pillars… then Crenna finds his way in to a bright room. It’s almost like he finds the Architect in the Matrix, except it’s a goofy looking bald chubby dude in a white suit giggling like a school girl. This is what’s been causing all the fuss? I get they were going for something exactly opposite of expectations, but it so doesn’t work. It doesn’t work when it’s just the guy in the suit and it doesn’t work when we see him with his devil make-up that looks like a rejected Klingon design. Final Thoughts: The kills are fine, Crenna does an admirable job at playing a normal guy in a horrible situation and there’s a character that pulls a Friday the 13th Part 3 (yes, I know this came first) and plays pranks pretending to be dead and I love that in goofy horror flicks… and I swear to God they pull the sound of a TIE Fighter from Star Wars use it as a creepy sound during the crazier haunting moments. There are things to like, but THE EVIL is not a great film. Currently in print on DVD: YES
Currently available on Netflix Instant: NO

Upcoming A Movie A Day Titles: Thursday, October 28th: THE DEVIL DOLL (1936)

Friday, October 29th: DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW (1981)

Saturday, October 30th: SCARECROWS (1988)

Sunday, October 31st: RAZORBACK (1984)

That’s one barely remembered movie down. Now I just need to find the one that had a bitchy mother character shoved into an electric can opener which catches her neck, turns her around and somehow decapitates her. Tomorrow’s flick is a Tod Browning classic called THE DEVIL DOLL. -Quint Follow Me On Twitter

Previous AMAD 2010’s: - Raw Meat (1972)
- Ghost Story (1981)
- Two on a Guillotine (1965)
- Tentacles (1977)
- Bad Ronald (1974)
- The Entity (1983)
- Doctor X (1932)
- The Return of Doctor X (1939)
- The Tenant (1976)
- Man in the Attic (1953)
- New Year’s Evil (1980)
- Prophecy (1979)
- The Other (1972)
- The Mummy (1959)
- The Gorgon (1964)
- Mad Love (1935)
- Repulsion (1965)
- The Church (1989)
- The Black Cat (1981)
- The Black Cat (1934)
- The Comedy of Terrors (1963)
- Dolls (1987)
- The Silent Scream (1980)
- Scream of Fear (1961)
- The Mephisto Waltz (1971)
- Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981) Click here for the full 215 movie run of A Movie A Day!

Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 27, 2010, 5:04 p.m. CST

    Things to like... not a great film

    by belasco_house

    Alas, the way with too many classic horrors

  • Oct. 27, 2010, 5:16 p.m. CST

    Andrew Prine AND Victor Buono?

    by skimn

    Somewhere Tarantino is giggling like a schoolgirl.

  • Oct. 27, 2010, 5:21 p.m. CST

    Looking forward to the Tod Browning

    by palimpsest

    Genuine master of early movie horror.

  • Oct. 27, 2010, 5:28 p.m. CST

    Night Flights

    by B ogie

    Yes, USA's Up ALl Night -- but do you remember the more superior Night Flight s-- my first, pre-video store introduciton to indie, cult, and hard to find films (plus concerts, Gabriel-era Genesis, and Kate Bush). And it was around in the early, wild days on early 80s cable when even networks like USA and A&E showed uncut films like "LAdies and Gentlemen the Fabualous Stains" or "Andy Warhol's Dracula".

  • Oct. 27, 2010, 5:36 p.m. CST

    Night Flight respect is due.....

    by Shakeshift

    NIGHT FLIGHT was far superior than USA's Up All Night... First it had that great 'purple and dark red' spacey stardustish intro back in like.... 1982, then it changed into that weird trippy 'electric city/neon tubing background' around 1985. NIGHT FLIGHT had some of the greatest movies ever, including dirty WB cartoons and "Captain Midnight."

  • Oct. 27, 2010, 5:38 p.m. CST

    Also for the USA network respect....

    by Shakeshift must pay respect to Sunday's KUNG-FU THEATER and Saturday's COMMANDER USA'S GROOVY MOVIES.

  • Oct. 27, 2010, 5:47 p.m. CST

    30+ yrs later

    by treatment

    Harrence: The Evil along with an adorable film called Tourist Trap (circa late 70s) used to scare the beegezus outta me. i believe it was in constant rotation on Showtime. i can still envision the trailers... nostalgia is nostalgic!

  • Oct. 27, 2010, 6:48 p.m. CST

    We've got Buono in the basement!

    by The Reluctant Austinite

    Anytime something is going haywire or things just aren't going my way, I say, "It must be Buono in the basement." What else could cause such calamity as having wonderful character actor Victor Buono in your basement? You may remember Buono as King Tut in the 60s "Batman" series. MORE SPOILERS AHEAD! That shot of Andrew Prine sawing off his fingers TOTALLY shows him sawing off his fingers and it's extremely gross, so it's bullshit afterwards when he just has a cut and ends up tearing off the bandage like he's completely fine 10 minutes later.

  • Oct. 27, 2010, 6:50 p.m. CST

    QUINT: The can opener decapitation scene...

    by Admonisher

    I believe it's from 1984's "Bloodbath at the House of Death," featuring none other than Vincent Price as "Sinister Man." :-)

  • Oct. 27, 2010, 7:12 p.m. CST

    Confirmation: Yep, it's ''Bloodbath at the House of Death''

    by Admonisher

    The clip is actually on YouTube (in the middle of a review of the film), and you can view it here: ...yechh!

  • Oct. 27, 2010, 7:53 p.m. CST

    Tourist Trap

    by OldDickLemon

    That's the one where the sexy teens are turned into wax figures right? Tanya Roberts I think? Good times. Looking forward to Scarecrow, caught that on TV as a kid and it freaked my shit out. Of Mice and Men meets Frankenstein and Larry Drake is the money.

  • Oct. 27, 2010, 8:40 p.m. CST

    Dark Night of the Scarecrow

    by DiscoGodfather

    At first glance... was this possibly a visual inspiration for Cillian Murphy's Scarecrow in "Batman Begins"? And/or Rorschach?

  • Oct. 27, 2010, 8:43 p.m. CST

    frank needs help

    by frank cotton

    stop laughing. stop making appropriate comments. i'm serious. sometime around 1985 i saw part of a film - it too had something locked in a basement. or hiding there. or something or other to do with basements. it seems (memory) it was an old two-story farmhouse with a huge front porch, and about the only other thing i remember was some kid was rapidly growing bigger (taller, wider, thicker - no, not his dick), and his face was all distorted, and it was like something was going to burst out of him like the way they changed in CAT PEOPLE (the remake). 25 years i've tried to track this down, to no avail. it is not THE ENTITY, or THE BEAST WITHIN. it's also not a couple of others that i forgot to write down

  • Oct. 27, 2010, 8:46 p.m. CST

    USA *squeeky voice*UP All Night

    by Bloo

    Great Memories of that. they seemed to show the sex romps on Fridays with Rhonda and the horror stuff on Sat with Gilbert. I think I saw the Wicker Man on USA Up All Night.<P>the best of those shows was MONSTERVISION with Joe bob Briggs though. Late commer to the game but damn, I think it was the best

  • Oct. 27, 2010, 8:46 p.m. CST

    there's a shitload of 'things in the basement' flicks

    by frank cotton

    and a number of them have changing/deforming/mutating dudes in them

  • Oct. 27, 2010, 8:46 p.m. CST

    so this is kinda on-topic

    by frank cotton

  • Oct. 27, 2010, 10:19 p.m. CST

    Damn....nobobdy told me

    by The Eskimo

    that AMAD was back. I've been busy ruining my marriage editing Wikipedia this whole time....

  • Oct. 27, 2010, 10:57 p.m. CST

    do you even have anymore good horror films left?

    by hatemphd

    do you even have anymore good horror films left? <p> repeated, in case the title gets cut off :-/

  • Oct. 27, 2010, 11:36 p.m. CST

    I miss Commander USA's Groovy Movies

    by Geekgasm

    And also I miss Night Flight. And the TIE Fighter noise is one of my favorite sound effects.

  • Oct. 28, 2010, 12:01 a.m. CST

    Frank Cotton: are you SURE its not THE BEAST WITHIN?

    by Monroville

    Because that has everything that you are speaking of. Speaking of NIGHT FLIGHT, anyone remember I WAS A ZOMBIE FOR THE F.B.I.?

  • Oct. 28, 2010, 12:02 a.m. CST

    Don't forget...

    by Monroville

    Saturday Nightmares and Movie Macabre with Elvira!

  • Oct. 28, 2010, 12:54 a.m. CST

    Bloodbath at the House of Death

    by TisketMaster

    Man, in the pre-internet days of my childhood, I saw Bloodbath late at night on cable just the same way Quint describes seeing these movies. For years, I wanted to know what movie had the glowing, pulsating meat pie...and had the monster burst out of a guy's in the internet age, I've been able to track down Bloodbath at the House of Death. The Internet destroys one more mystery...surreal half-remembered images become...clearly perceived crap.

  • Oct. 28, 2010, 2:51 a.m. CST

    My Little Contribution...

    by Rebeck2

    When I was a kid in San Francisco, in the late 60's (that's right, I'm old) I curled up under a blanket on the couch and watched a new show on Saturday night called CREATURE FEATURE. I watched this old black and white film that had one memorable scene that terrified me and seared itself into my little memory. It was a bunch of girls at a slumber party expecting to be raided by teenage boys, so they put a bucket of water over the door...but instead these monsters come in and tear them all apart. This scene stuck with me for years and years and I had no idea what movie it was or even if I had just imagined the whole thing. Well, a couple years ago, I found out it was a laughable beach movie-meets-monster movie "gem" called THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH. So I buy it, sit down and watch it...and it's just this ridiculously bad (but almost good-bad) movie with these ultra-fake monsters with what look like hot dogs in their mouth instead of teeth. BUT...when it comes to that scene: perfection. It is a genuinely horrifying and bloody sequence that seems to be a leap forward and the seed that would grow into NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. So, my point is, I had good taste in horror even as a child. And the really weird part is I've learned more about the old CREATURE FEATURE show (anybody else here remember it? - it went national at one point) and it turns out that movie was the very first movie they showed, so I was there under that blanket on the very first night of a show that would become a cult legend. Damn I'm old. I know who cares, but these stories reminded me... This is the stuff geeks are made of.

  • Oct. 28, 2010, 2:56 a.m. CST

    Hey Quint...

    by Rebeck2

    THE OTHER is not looking so bad now, is it? Compared to all these massive pieces of shit you're watching, THE OTHER is CITIZEN FUCKING KANE.

  • Oct. 28, 2010, 4:11 a.m. CST

    Looking for this movie

    by cornloaf

    I rented this as a kid and the only scene I remembered was the saw across the hand. Every couple years I try to find the movie. Just last week I was searching for it again.

  • Oct. 28, 2010, 7:58 a.m. CST

    These are going to get harder to do every year

    by Rex Carsalot

    If you just stick to movies you haven't yet seen - for instance, the sense of disappointment this go round is almost palpable; maybe you should massage your policy a bit.

  • Oct. 28, 2010, 9:23 a.m. CST

    "Dark Night of the Scarecrow"

    by 24200124

    God, that movie creeped me out when I was a kid... but watching it earlier this year, it's more fucked up than I remember. Not creep-wise, but the subject matter. Quint, I can't wait to see your comments on this movie.

  • Oct. 28, 2010, 10:02 a.m. CST

    You were there from the beginning...

    by DrMorbius

    of Up All Night!<p>Rhonda SHEAR<p>was the host in my neck of the woods.

  • Oct. 28, 2010, 10:07 a.m. CST

    That ending seems all Twin Peakey

    by quicksilver80

  • Oct. 28, 2010, 11:44 a.m. CST

    wow, Night Flight

    by yourebreakingthejacket

    That was great stuff back in the day. I remember a short that had some bald, hen pecked husband building some contraption and you didn't know what it was until he snapped his neck off in it and it was a giant mousetrap. Then I think you hear the basement door open and the bitchy wife's voice say " You were always more of a mouse than man.." or some shit like that. Good stuff, though.

  • Oct. 28, 2010, 12:02 p.m. CST

    Commander USA and Lefty

    by cmsof

    Loved the Commander. Saw so many really great B-movies. My favorite, and one that stuck with me was The Brainiac. I finally bought a copy of the dvd last year and watched it again. It was even better than I remembered.

  • Oct. 28, 2010, 12:49 p.m. CST

    Devil Doll

    by BadPho

    Was pretty frakin' cool, if memory serves. Its been many years though.

  • Oct. 28, 2010, 9:07 p.m. CST


    by frank cotton

    no, but thanks anyways - the people in this one were hillbillies, and i think there may have been scientists involved, or investigators

  • Oct. 29, 2010, 5:45 p.m. CST


    by treatment

    Tourist Trap -indeed- twas less house of wax and more so condo of wax.

  • Oct. 29, 2010, 11:41 p.m. CST


    by MST3KPIMP

    never forget...