Archive for the 'Crime' Category


I Come in Peace (1990)

IComeInPeaceVHSCover_FotorFinding a videocassette like I Come in Peace for sale in a heap of garbage at a used book store or thrift shop makes all the hunting worth it. Amongst all the copies of Titanic, While You Were Sleeping, Jerry Maguire and the like, you hope and pray for something worthwhile. That moment when you see a VHS with Dolph Lundgren on it, you know you’ve won. But you know it’s the jackpot when he’s threatened by an alien on the cover!

Picture it: Houston, Texas, 1990. Jack Caine (Lundgren) is a vice cop with little regard for the rulebook. He’ll stop at nothing to put the White Boys, a bunch of white collar drug pushers, behind bars. But alas, Caine is a good guy to a fault. While his partner is doing some real dangerous undercover work with the White Boys, Caine leaves his buddy in the lurch to stop a robbery in a nearby building. That is, of course, when the White Boys discover there’s a mole in their midst and blow everything to smithereens, including Caine’s partner.

Now Caine is even more pissed than before. This is no time for the FBI to stick their heads in his business! But alas, they do, and Caine is now saddled with straight-laced, by-the-book Special Agent Larry Smith (Brian Benben). Smith of course has no patience for Caine’s renegade nature, but let’s get real, it’s not like Smith is going to fight against a muscle-bound cop like Caine too much.

So far, so normal, right? Typical story about a local cop with no regard for protocol and a tight-assed Special Agent who loves the shit out of bureaucracy. Don’t worry, the weird shit’s just around the corner: there is a tall, leather-bound dude with long blond hair who is killing people! Smith and Caine find a very alien weapon: a vibrating disk that slices and dices everyone in the room until it finds a place to lodge itself. There’s also a sudden proliferation of corpses pumped filled with heroin, but strangely the cause of death is not a drug overdose. Obviously something is fishy, but what is it? And will anyone believe Caine and Smith?

This movie is delightful, stupid fun. First of all, I don’t think I’ll ever get enough Dolph Lundgren, he’s just so much fun to watch! The “tension” between his character and Benben’s is so hilariously textbook, but I think that actually adds to this dumb movie’s charm. Then there’s this whole alien thing, which is like, what the fuck is that all about? This movie is like Predator 2 meets The Hidden with a serious anti-drug message thrown into the mix. Who comes up with this stuff, and why don’t they continue to make shit like this today?! I would totally go to a movie theater and watch silly shit like this. Knowing this is now available on blu-ray, I just might have to upgrade.


Payback (1995)

It’s been a little over two years since Q and I decided it was time to cull the old movie collection. When you have 2,000+ titles and limited space, this type of slaughter is necessary. Last cull was a bit rough, though, so we’re intermingling this one with a good movie or two – just to keep our sanity. Anyway, somewhere along the line, as I’ve probably already explained in some other blog post somewhere, Q got this thing for Anthony Hickox. To be fair, he’s responsible for a few really enjoyable flicks, like Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, Full Eclipse, and Warlock: The Armageddon. What these movies have in common is that they’re all horror flicks. Unfortunately Payback, today’s selection for the cull, can’t in any way be considered horror.

paybackOscar (Soul Man‘s C. Thomas Howell) and Mac are the best prison friends. Mac’s a little older, and Oscar watches out for him, especially when the evil prison guard Gully gets on Mac’s case. See, Gully knows that Mac has hidden a fuckton of cash somewhere, and he’s hellbent on finding it – even if it means murder! One day, Gully takes it too far, buries Mac in a pile of trash, and ends up killing him. On Mac’s deathbed, he tells Oscar that boatload of cash is his, if he promises to murder Gully once he makes it out of prison. All he needs to do is swipe that little watercolor painting he keeps in his cell, and the secret riches will be his.

But – oh, no! – Gully’s not as dumb as he looks! He’s already taken the watercolor painting! Looks like Oscar’s going to have to find the cash without the clue, and only hope that Gully won’t get there first. Of course, turns out it’ll be difficult for Gully to use his stolen clue; he’s had an unfortunate accident and now he’s blind! Well that’ll make Oscar’s revenge that much easier to exact. There’s just one thing standing in his way now – Gully’s hot wife in a two-sizes-too-small waitress uniform, Rose. Oscar worms his way into their daily life, an easy thing to do since Gully can’t actually see who he is, and ends up working Gully’s restaurant for room and board.

It takes entirely too long for Oscar and Rose to finally bang, but they do, and money is found, and lost, and there are all these very predictable twists and turns, and since no one in this movie is a good person, they’re basically all gonna get their very own, personal ‘payback.’

I suspect the only reason this film somehow managed to score a 5.8 on IMDb is the dripping-hot sex scene where C. Thomas Howell’s ass gets up close and personal with the hood of a car under a barn. Didn’t you always want to see Soul Man getting busy? Oof. Why? Why? Also, I never realized how disgusting handlebar mustaches are until I saw Howell making out in this movie. Shiver. There are a lot of questionable things about this movie, but his casting in the lead ‘badass’ role tops the list for me. How’m I supposed to believe this little guy’s gonna take down Gully’s monster AND seduce his sorta-hot wife? His character also never really seems bought-in to anything, least of all revenge. Revenge should never be wishy-washy!

Of course, the plot and characters leave a lot to be desired as well. The real bad guys in this movie are as bad as the baddest baddies in an episode of Walker: Texas Ranger. We don’t know why they’re so angry, aggressive and greedy, they just are. They’ll judge a book by its cover and then punch it in the face before you can inhale. This kind of unchecked male aggression is so damn tiresome, and it seems to be everywhere. What’s the deal with that? Payback is just another of those movies about a bunch of shitty people doing shitty things that I don’t care about. When there’s no investment in character or plot development, what incentive is there to watch a film? The five minutes of C. Thomas Howell sex? I mean, I doubt it. There’s not even a lot of boobage in this. It’s got all the elements of one of those sexy crime dramas, but they’re all so half-assed, non-committal and obvious, I’m not sure why anyone even bothered to put this flick together.

So I’m happy to report that our videocassette copy of Payback will be relinquished to the discard pile, making room for something more deserving of my shelf space. Or, let’s be honest, making room for another piece of shit we’ll end up culling in another two years. What can I say, we have a sickness, and we’re not about to seek treatment any time soon.


Nightcrawler (2014)

nightcrawlerAfter spending the last 10 years in the DC area, it was time for the Q’s to pick up and move down South. Naturally we had your normal set of concerns: will it be easy to navigate? How southern will it be? Will we make any friends? Will there be enough to do?  Honestly, though, what I was most concerned about was finding a good place to watch movies! As much as I dislike DC, it does have a lot of independent theaters and opportunities to do fun movie things; midnight movie showings, psychotronic society, etc. Thanks to the wonder of the internet, we quickly discovered our new area has quite a few offerings of its own; Monday night b-movie trash, old flicks showing three out of four Wednesdays every month for $5 a pop, and an accidentally-discovered second-run theater with even better ticket prices: $2.25! When I saw the last was playing Nightcrawler I figured why not give it a shot: I didn’t know anything about it except that Jake Gyllenhaal was in it and that people had said good things. I figured it was worth a gamble of $2.25. I was right!

Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is out of work and desperate for money. His current cash flow comes from skulking the streets of Los Angeles collecting scrap metal for cash, but he’s not beyond beating up a security guard for his watch if he has to. As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s not a very lucrative career. Bloom doesn’t want to be this way; in fact he tries very hard to find a legitimate position, but no prospective employers are biting – not even when Bloom mentions his online business courses! Despite a rousing speech lauding his qualifications, Bloom is turned down for yet another job. But on his way home, Bloom fortuitously finds himself at the scene of a car crash. While rescue crews work to free the driver from the wreckage, Bloom is far more interested in the cameramen gunning for a front-row spot. After the crash is cleared away and the commotion has left the scene, he probes the main cameraman, Joe Loder, (Bill Paxton) about his field of work. Loder explains the equipment and philosophy of his profession:  race to record disaster scenes and sell their graphic footage to local news outfits. Impressed by Loder’s truck-full of equipment, he assumes it must be a lucrative career, and thus his new path is chosen.

The very next day, Bloom sets out to get some equipment of his own. He trades in a stolen bike for a camcorder and a police scanner, and soon he even hires an “intern” named Rick, a homeless youth, to help him navigate the streets of LA as he races to the scenes of disaster in hopes of getting there before his competition. It doesn’t take him long to learn the ropes, and in a short while he finds himself offering some hot footage to local morning news director Nina Romina (Rene Russo). Impressed with his work, she asks for more, advising he make it bloody, gory, minority-on-white crime in nice neighborhoods. Impressed with his check, Bloom is more than happy to oblige.

For a while, Romina and Bloom’s professional relationship is extremely lucrative for both of them. Romina is able to get her ratings up, and Bloom can afford to upgrade more than just his shitty camera equipment. Unfortunately, it’s only a short while in until Romina realizes what kind of guy she is dealing with. While she initially admired Bloom’s unflinching ambition, she comes to realize exactly how dangerous a man he is. Bloom is the personification of unfettered capitalism; morality and compassion are secondary to the bottom line. As you can imagine, the film takes some very disturbing turns, and I’m not about to ruin those for you by going on and on about the plot; I’ve probably said too much as it is.

As I mentioned before, I went into the theater not knowing at all what Nightcrawler was about. As the film wore on, I became increasingly excited about where it was going. The story is engrossing in and of itself, but it wouldn’t have been half the film it is without Gyllenhaal leading the way. His creepy intensity drives the entire film; I don’t doubt for a second Bloom’s ghoulish reverence for the health of his burgeoning company. Gyllenhaal has managed to play a character only Ayn Rand could love; a truly despicable human being.

I must say though, I’m left wondering what made Bloom the way he is. The movie is peppered with lines about how difficult it is to get anywhere in an economy like this. As has been well-documented these days, we live in a time of great income inequality, and Bloom, having just recently taken all those online business courses, must of course know the only folks who are successful are really fucking successful. He’s done his best to get by honestly, though perhaps he hasn’t exactly taken the smartest route, he is a man who wants to work. Why should making ends meet be so difficult for him? In the cut-throat, social-darwinistic world of business, it’s kill or be killed, and Bloom isn’t about to be killed. So who can blame him for not just wanting to survive, but to thrive?

Don’t get me wrong, I do not find Bloom’s character sympathetic in the least. What I do find sympathetic is his situation, and I think the film does a fantastic job of pitting our economic climate against an average Joe. Being educated and driven is clearly not enough to get by in today’s America; you must also be bloodthirsty and relentless. The story is shown to us almost matter-of-factly, like yes – of course these are the lengths a successful businessperson will go to in order to achieve greatness. What is highlighted for me the most is the idea that perhaps the most dangerous thing about steep income inequality is not need, but the desperation it breeds in those who don’t want to be left behind.

Nightcrawler is a difficult movie to watch (I got the Fremdscham more than a few times), but it is also riveting (yeah, I used that word, so what?) and rewarding. Though I must wonder what a true libertarian would think of it. Q had said he could envision Bloom being held up as a true hero of Modern Capitalism… but I think even he is a little too despicable for such people to laud. But hey, what do I know? I just watch movies.


Innocent Blood (1992)

innocentbloodposterThere is a lot of danger out in the world for poor old saps like Q and myself who still prefer to own physical media over its digital counterpart. The sloughing off of someone else’s excess assures the bloat of our own, from used media stores who dare to charge $7 for discarded DVDs to thrift stores who offer up videocassettes at 25 cents a pop, the world of garbage is our delicious oyster. I guess it goes both ways, though: there is some measure of relief knowing that, after watching a particularly underwhelming feature, we can take it somewhere and turn it into new-to-us gold! After dumping 20-or-so shitty flicks and getting a pretty penny in store credit, my ability and desire to discern a worthy purchase from a shitty gamble goes out the window, and the stack we take home often times ends up larger than the one we ditched! First-world hoarder problems, I suppose, but this is all the long way ’round to explaining why we ended up with a copy of John Landis’ Innocent Blood. The cover looked promising, and while Landis has his ups and downs, I thought for sure a vampire flick set in my former home of Pittsburgh was a shoe-in for a keeper.

Watch out boy, she'll chew you up.

Watch out boy, she’ll chew you up.

The film follows a charming French vampire named Marie (Anne Parillaud, also known as that chick from La Femme Nikita), who skulks around the seedier parts of Pittsburgh hoping to feed on the flesh of the evil mobsters who’ve made it their playground. See, Marie doesn’t believe in killing innocent humans, it’s the devils she’s after. When she happens upon local gangster Tony (Chazz Palminteri) she’s relieved to have found herself a meal for the night, and we get a glimpse into her rules: never leave evidence, and never make the mistake of allowing them to come back as vampires. After a long awaited feast, she cleanly takes care of Tony by blowing his head off by a shotgun.

Having acquired a taste for this particular type of wise guy, Marie sets her sights on the top of the food chain: the number one mob boss in all of Pittsburgh, Salvatore “The Shark” Macelli (Robert Loggia). Unfortunately, his taste for garlicky mussels throws her off her game and she doesn’t quite get the chance to finish him up. Leaving him for ‘dead,’ Marie flees the scene, and its aftermath sure confuses the shit out of undercover cop Joe (Anthony LaPaglia). It seems a blessing in disguise that all the mobsters he’s trying to nail are getting picked off, but he can’t shake the feeling that something supernatural is going on here; I mean, why are there bodies nearly completely drained of blood?

Frank Oz is greeted by quite a surprising corpse.

Frank Oz is greeted by quite a surprising corpse.

Marie’s carelessness with Macelli’s body of course turns into a boon for the mob: his re-animated corpse is seemingly indestructible! Being the opportunist most mob bosses are, he realizes the cops will be no match for him and his crew if they’re all turned into bloodsucking monsters. Now it’s up to Joe and Marie (oh yeah, somewhere along the way they met, fought, made-up and banged) to save the ‘Burgh from the undead.

Somehow, all of Innocent Blood‘s potential just never adds up to a very good movie. Sure, there are some moments that are slightly amusing, but for a film that wants much more to be comedy than horror, it’s never quite funny enough. The jokes just fall a little (or a lot) flat, and I can’t put the blame on the actors; I really think it is due to lackluster writing. Ultimately it’s rather a shame; I wanted very much to like this movie, but it was just… so… anemic.

Sam Raimi and a chicken bone.

Sam Raimi and a chicken bone.

There were times during (and even after) watching Innocent Blood that I thought it might be worth keeping in our collection. After all, genre cameos abound: Frank Oz, Sam Raimi, Dario Argento, Tom Savini and even Forry Ackerman all make appearances. Though they’re delightful, they’re not enough to make the film worthwhile. It seems that lame jokes, a star-studded cast and unimpressive computer-generated special effects don’t make a very good movie. I did find myself thinking this might actually be a good candidate for a reboot: a nice make-over by the right people could bring this plot line to its full potential. As it is, I can’t say I recommend it.


Frailty (2001)

frailtyposterFor a long time, I’d been hearing really good things about Bill Paxton’s directorial debut Frailty. Naturally, I was skeptical: I’d only just recently admitted to myself that I like watching Paxton in action. Specifically, his turn in Near Dark delighted me to no end, and I finally had to come to terms with the fact that he is an enjoyable, if ridiculous, force on screen. After the endorsement of several folks, all of whom have opinions we normally respect, we decided to take a gamble. While I don’t necessarily regret it, I will say that a movie hasn’t inspired such passionate anger in me since that piece-of-shit Godzilla remake.

First things first: I can’t account for my disgust without revealing the film’s secrets. So, if you are stuck in the late 90’s/early aughts and still obsessed with plot twists, read no further. To the rest of you, it should already raise a red flag that the success of Frailty completely hinges upon its twist(ed) ending.

Now, let’s see if I can sum this shit up. Fenton Mieks (Matthew McConaughey) appears uninvited at his local FBI office. He’s looking for Agent Doyle (Powers Boothe), the detective searching for the “God’s Hand” serial killer. Fenton insists he knows, quite intimately, who the killer is. Doyle is skeptical, but with leads having run dry long ago, he has no choice but to hear him out. Long story short, when Fenton and his younger brother Adam were growing up, his widower dad (Bill Paxton) woke up in the middle of the night with a vision from God telling him it was his family’s job to kill sinners. The light of the lord bequeaths upon him a list of sinners by name and a few instruments with which to catch and kill them. Dad wastes no time getting the great cull started, and when he brings the first victim home, Fenton is horrified.  He is pretty sure his father has lost his shit completely. Young Adam is too little to know who’s right, and is more inclined to believe his father knows what he’s doing when he takes his hatchet to harlots and heretics.

We're a happy family, we're a happy family, we're a happy family, me, God and Daddy!

We’re a happy family, we’re a happy family, we’re a happy family, me, God and Daddy!

When Fenton decries his father’s actions and opts not to help murder people, dear old dad says the vision of God has told him that he should be next on the chopping block. But I guess he doesn’t quite have the strength of Abraham, and instead just has Fenton dig a giant hole in the ground that eventually will be his home for two or three weeks; just long enough until he sees the light of God, of course. Adam is allowed to give his brother one glass of water a day, but no food. I guess hunger can cause visions, right? So Fenton says he saw the light and is allowed out, and, you know, to eat and stuff, so that’s kind of nice. He still balks when his dad hands him the axe, though. Instead of whacking a sinner’s head off, he intentionally misses and sinks the blade into his father’s belly.

At this point Agent Doyle is  thinking ‘boy howdy, that’s quite a story, but them pieces don’t fit together.’ Fenton insists his brother Adam is the God’s Hand killer, carrying out the work started by daddy all those years ago. Doyle wants some sort of proof, and for whatever reason agrees to go to the plot of land where Fenton says all the bodies are buried. Finally, the two are alone and Fenton can reveal the truth: he’s not Fenton at all! He’s actually Adam! And his dad wasn’t crazy, he really did get a list of sinner’s names from the almighty lord and has carte blanche to murder

It's hard to be called to duty by the lord himself. Really hard. Just look at what it's done to Paxton's forehead.

It’s hard to be called to duty by the lord himself. Really hard. Just look at what it’s done to Paxton’s forehead.

them all! Even more twisty, Agent Doyle is just such a sinner and his end is imminent! OH MY (literal) GOOOOOODD!

Seriously? Seriously. How is this movie not an endorsement for religious zealotry? What. The. Fuck. At first I was thinking to myself: oh, okay, I get it; this movie’s going to say something interesting about religious fanaticism! BUT THE EXACT OPPOSITE HAPPENED! I am pretty sure I seethed and fumed about the irresponsibility of such an ending for entire days after I’d watched this. Aren’t we taking the whole ‘eye for an eye’ thing a little too fucking literally here? The worst part of it is, after watching the special features on the disc it seems painfully clear that Paxton and writer Brent Hanley don’t seem bothered by this shit in the slightest. It’s almost as if the implications of their supposedly masterful twist ending didn’t concern either of them; they only wanted to make the audience gasp. And, I guess the second worst part is, it fucking worked. How is it possible that normal people are not bothered by the meaning behind this creepy-ass, evangelical ending?

McConaughey plots his next move...

McConaughey plots his next move…

While its politics absolutely disgust me, the truth is the film is not a bad piece of work, technically speaking. Paxton seems to know what he’s doing behind the camera, even if he can’t entirely pull off the devout dad role. He’s not the only one who seems to have trouble with his acting; McConaughey is no prince in this either. He’s not terrible, but after just watching (and loving) True Detective it’s pretty clear to see just how much he’s grown as an actor. And speaking of True Detective, I couldn’t help but see a lot of similarities between the two. Not to throw gas into the plagiarism fire plaguing writer Nic Pizzolatto, but there is a bit here that makes me wonder. Aside from the obvious McConaughey link, both pieces of work take place, in large part, in an office of the law. Both pieces center around a man, played by McConaughey, retelling a story in which he may or may not be suspected of committing serious crimes. Both have a weird Southern Gothic spiritualism thing going on, but thankfully True Detective‘s ending, while perhaps ultimately disappointing, was benign.

Anyway, whatever. This movie sucks. It’s irresponsible, reprehensible, and lazy. And, despite what Paxton and Hanley would have you believe, murder is not okay.


Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970)

As I probably have mentioned before, October is a triple-treat month: my birthday, my wedding anniversary AND Halloween, all within 31 days! Best month ever! Being the total romantic that I am, I insisted we continue 31 Days of Horror on our first wedding anniversary. The movie I chose was, of course, Mario Bava’s Hatchet for the Honeymoon. Q happily complied; that’s why we’re married, folks.
John Harrington is a studly fashion designer, whose expertise is in wedding gowns, bridal lingerie and murder. His favorite kind of murder involves newlyweds; preferably women who are still wearing the bridal gowns they’ve purchased from his shop. He knows he’s mad, but he can’t stop murdering brides! It’s just something he must do; every bride he cleaves will bring him one step closer to solving his insanity, or so he thinks.

John Harrington: Normal Guy

John Harrington: Normal Guy

At first, it seems obvious why John thinks the only good wife is a dead wife: his own wife Mildred is an absolutely miserable human being. She goes out of her way to make John’s life a living hell, and constantly holds over his head the fact that it’s her money that funds his whole fashion operation. Meanwhile, she holds seances so she can speak to her long-dead previous husband, whom she actually loved. All John wants is a divorce, but of course she won’t grant him one. Instead, she vows to be with John forever and ever, no matter what. I guess John decides to test her resolve and kills her in an almost understandable fit of rage. Sure enough Mildred hangs around, if only as a ghost to make him look insane to others.

Mildred said they'd be together forever...

Mildred said they’d be together forever…

Now with Mildred out of the way, perhaps John won’t be so batshit? Not so; he’s still got mommy issues to deal with, namely getting over her violent death. And what about that detective who keeps snooping around his shop, his house, his fashion shows for chrissakes? Could it be he knows John has been slaying newlyweds?
I think most Bava fans would agree Hatchet for the Honeymoon is not one of his best movies, but it is definitely a better-than-average horror movie. It is especially a better-than-average giallo! While I love the style of the giallo films, I have to say a lot of the time they are pretty darn disappointing; the plots are always going in a million directions too many and I am never genuinely surprised by the endings. At least with Hatchet we already know who the killer is. Instead, Bava is asking a more interesting question: why is John a killer? Though the answer doesn’t surprise you, it is still a fun ride.

Holy shit he's wearing a wedding veil! Yes. Yes. Thank you Mr. Bava.

Holy shit he’s wearing a wedding veil! Yes. Yes. Thank you Mr. Bava.

What is interesting about Hatchet is it seems to be the predecessor to a few other flicks I wouldn’t have expected. Comparisons to American Psycho are pretty obvious: both John Harrington and Patrick Bateman are self-obsessed rich guys who hide their murderous identities from the fools around them. But the whole mommy-issue thing reminds me a lot of my least favorite Cronenberg movie Spider.  Both Spider and Harrington are nut jobs who didn’t like to think of their mothers having sex. Throughout Hatchet we see John as a little boy re-experiencing his mother’s violent end, an awful lot like the scenes we see in Spider when the main character is transported into the past. I can’t help but think Cronenberg took a few cues from Hatchet; it doesn’t seem out of the question!

The bride-to-be might not make it to the honeymoon...

The bride-to-be might not make it to the honeymoon…

But, as always, my favorite thing about this Italian horror flick is its style. If only I’d watched this when I was shopping for wedding dresses, I would have had so many more ideas! And what about John’s pajamas? Wow, if that’s what dude lounges in just imagine what he’s hiding in that closet (aside from the cleaver, of course). And of course the film itself is just stylish beyond words, because that is what Bava does best. It just looks so good. This one is definitely worth a watch or two.

I want those pajamas.

I want those pajamas.


The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971)

Note: Hi! This is Mike Q, and I’m not the one who usually writes here. I got this guest-spot because Katy’s fallen behind in writing up movies of late, so I’ve been called in to do some of the titles she doesn’t especially want to deal with.

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave has such a good cover, we bought it twice.  Maybe that’s not true; maybe my pal Grant had given me a copy at some point in the past, and I’d forgotten about it. But, whatever the reason, we ended up with two copies right around when we figured out what we’d be watching for this Fall’s 31 Days of Horror, and into the running it went. We watched it as title 20 of the series.

the-night-evelyn-came-out-of-the-grave-3Before I tell you about how it fared, check out that cover! It’s great! It’s got most of what you’d want in horror packaging: a scantily-dressed lady–a scantily-dressed lady with a skull head — holding an almost tasteful severed head. When I was a kid (much like Panos Cosmatos) I was fascinated by the jackets to the VHS horror films my parents wouldn’t let me watch. Because of my rather limited frame of reference, I often imagined them as more intense Scooby Doo episodes — lots of pursuit by monsters. When I was older and able to pursue such things myself, I realized that most weren’t like that (the closest I’ve gotten to that platonic childhood sense is Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse). Why am I sharing all of this? Because the jacket art to Evelyn is really great, and looks exactly like the sort of movie I’d like to watch.

Unfortuntely, the movie itself isn’t much to write home about.

To cut right to the chase, Evelyn in practice isn’t too far from Scooby Doo in the broadest strokes of its plot — I’m going to be spoiler-y here since I don’t think the reveals are all that shocking — we’re in territory that was well-explored, and better, by the likes of Dominique is Dead or, perhaps most exceptionally, by Henri Cluzot’s Les Diaboliques: a plot to frighten a lightweight into being scared to death. We get there in Evelyn by way of a by-the-numbers ’70s giallo, with all of the misogyny that entails.

Killing some braod, like you do. Though it's not impossible to have a libale protagonist who is also a conflicted killer, this flick doesn't even try.

Killing some broad, like you do. Though it’s not impossible to have a viable protagonist who is also a conflicted killer, this flick doesn’t even try.

In this case, the movie begins with our “hero,” the decadent and troubled Lord Alan Cunningham, bringing a comely redhead to his rotting Gothic estate somewhere outside of London. He takes her down to his torture chamber and tortures and kills her. Hey! Wow! Can’t wait to see him get his comeuppance! (Spoiler alert: he doesn’t). Seems sometime in the past, Lord Alan had a redhead — his late wife Evelyn — cheat on him, and he killed her for it. Now, he’s trapped in a terrible cycle of finding and killing more redheads to somehw assuage/amplify his guilt. Everyone in his life — his psychiatrist/childhood best friend, his playboy cousin, his crippled, very young aunt, his lawyer — knows he’s got this problem, and while they’re all troubled by it to varying degrees, the only one who seems to hold him at all accountable is Albert, the estate’s groundskeeper and Lord Alan’s brother-in-law. Albert is always there, watching Lord Alan’s murderous dalliances, sneeringly taking Lord Alan’s pay-offs to keep quiet. It seems only a matter of time before he gets his revenge…

Meanwhile, Aunt Agatha holds a seance to bring back Evelyn’s spirit — and it works! This is all too much for Alan. The doctor says he needs regularity in his life — he should consider marriage. Maybe that will let him work his issues out.

His cousin takes him to a fancy-dress party where Alan is immediately smitten by yet another redhead, whom he proposes to before they’ve even left. Everyone in Alan’s life takes this in stride; they think she’s awfully well-mannered indeed. That, i guess, is the only qualification that need be had to marry the lunatic patriarch.

Evelyn's come out  of the grave! THIS is the night they were talking about!! ...Or was it?

Evelyn’s come out of the grave! THIS is the night they were talking about!! …Or was it?

Strange things start happening — the new wife discovers Evelyn isn’t in the family crypt, Albert is killed by a venomous snake by a mysterious assailant, Aunt Agatha gets up and walks without explanation, and then is killed and thrown to Alan’s pet foxes by a mysterious assailant… Some one, or some group of someones has something afoot, though damned if any of the pieces seem to fit together (Spoiler alert: they don’t).

This movie does have some wonderfully atmospheric locations and sets to play with — the aforementioned torture chamber and fancy-dress party both look stellar, as does the rotting family crypt and gardens around it. The fashions and hairstyles of both sexes are top-of-the-line mod/psychedelic, and reflect a vision of Swinging London that we here at Schlockwave find almost irresistably alluring. That’s not to say exactly that the movie looks good — the camera placements are a mess, and a series of bad decisions were made in the editing room that manage to squander what seems to be this movie’s only real resource. It’s hard to believe this movie was handled behind the camera by folks who’d  made anything professionally before.

I’d say that’s a pity, but this movie left me awfully frustrated. Beyond the first act, we seem to have been meant to view Lord Alan sympathetically… which is awfully hard to do once he’s mercilessly killed a few redheads. When he’s driven to madness and death, I wasn’t sad at all to see him go. And, when his death turns out to be a ruse to expose the plot that had been cooked up by the new wife, one of the redheads we thought was dead (?), and the playboy cousin, I couldn’t have been more disappointed. Their “sins” pretty well pale in comparison to his… and in the reactionary logic of horror generally and giallo specifically, doesn’t that emminently qualify Lord Alan for a really juicy bit of narrative justice? Not here, it doesn’t.

So, should you run across a copy of The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, take a moment and drink in that cover art. It looks so good! But, you can safely skip watching it, not to mention buying it — let alone buying it twice.



Old Wave