John Ary here with another installment of Ain’t It Scary Reviews. Today, a group of young adults find a mysterious book in the woods that could unleash the powers of hell upon the world.
It started off as a student film, made for just $6,500 by a future Oscar winner. It was later picked up by a small production company, additional footage was added and it became Equinox. Considered by several as a forefather of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series, it shares many similarities. It involves an evil book, there’s a cabin in the woods, people become possessed and there are some really fun monsters.
When four young adults head into the woods to find their missing scientist friend, they stumble upon a dangerous situation. The scientist’s cabin has been destroyed, there is a creepy park ranger that follows them around, a mysterious castle has sprung up out of nowhere and a crazy old man in a cave presents them with a strange book. From there the young people are stalked, possessed, run over with cars, and attacked by large stop-motion creatures.
If it sounds hokey, it is. The acting isn’t particularly memorable. All of the lines have been overdubbed. Sometimes you’ll notice changes in costumes or the length in sideburns from one sequence to the next. These are all things you might expect from a student film.
Despite its flaws, the movie is really fun to watch. The pacing feels crisp with the action and exposition balanced well. While I didn’t particularly care about any of the four main characters, you can’t help but smile to see them put through the ringer. The film has this whimsical air of mystery about it. Each perilous situation they encounter is a bit unexpected and filled an earnest charm. When the filmmakers reveal the demonic creatures, they have a fun playfulness to them. You can tell they were crafted with love. This isn’t somebody’s 9 to 5 job, but rather a passion project made by a group of devoted Ray Harryhauesen fans. Also, did I mention it features Frank Bonner from WKRP in Cincinatti? Where else can you watch AM radio’s sleaziest sales manager battling a giant demon troll?
It would be easy to watch a couple of minutes of grainy footage from Equinox and quickly write it off as a lame student project. That would be a shame. The film’s original director Dennis Muren relied on his young filmmaking instincts to craft an engaging horror story. Muren would go on later to major special effects work like the bike scene in E.T. and the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park. Another director was brought in later to help add some scenes and he also played the creepy park ranger. Together they’ve crafted a horror movie that is technically flawed on several levels, but it’s the surprises that make it worth a watch.
Equinox is currently streaming on Hulu. It’s also available on a Criterion DVD here.
Check back in tomorrow for another Ain’t It Scary Review as seven people stuck in a rural farmhouse fight off an onslaught of zombies.
Here’s a look back at the Ain’t It Scary Review installments that you might have missed:
The Ground Rules to the Project
#1 Son of Frankenstein
#2 Scream, Blacula, Scream!
#3 Black Sabbath
#5 Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
#6 Invisible Invaders
#7 The Mummy’s Curse
#8 Lord of Illusions
#9 Night of the Demons
#10 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
#11 The House of the Devil
#12 Dr. Phibes Rises Again!
#14 The Catman of Paris
#17 Werewolf of London
#18 Tales from the Hood
#19 The Keep
#20 The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog
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