Halloween Scene: The Evil (1978) & Twice Dead (1988)

Well, I didn’t manage my time very well yesterday and wound up finishing the second movie of my double feature after midnight. I’m aiming to have two double features up today, but we’ll see, there’s a lot going on. These two picks were easily chosen for me my Shout Factory’s latest Roger Corman Double Feature. There’s a fun feature on the DVD where you click on it, it plays some trailers and then gets into the first movie. After the first one, there are some more trailers and you get the second. I appreciate that kind of efficiency on a disc even if the movie theater lobby images are a little too Reboot.

As it turned out, both The Evil and Twice Dead are haunted house movies after a fashion which, anyone who read my review of the original Amityville Horror knows, is not a genre I enjoy. But these two movies offered up takes that were different enough to keep me from groaning through the whole movie.

The Evil is about a couple who buy an old house and want to turn it into a rehab facility, so they invite some friends to come help with the remodeling. Soon enough the dog starts freaking out and the main blonde woman starts seeing things like a ghostly figure luring her to a book with some mysterious writings. Luckily it doesn’t take long for the house/demon/ghost to get mad and lock everyone inside. There’s lots of talk about what’s happening but soon enough dudes are cutting their own hands off and enjoying it, women are getting chased around by ghosts and dogs go after people sounding like an X-Wing or TIE Fighter flying through space.

While watching the movie I was thinking “Man, this is a pretty big Evil Dead rip off” what with the group of friends in a remote location, the inclusion of a book, invisible forces going after them. I noted that it’s like the Sam Raimi flick in a bigger house, but as it turns out The Evil came out three years before Evil Dead. Weird, right? Anyway, it’s an okay movie with some goofy acting, especially in the scenes when the whole house shakes. Some people stumble around like they’re drunk while others flip around like it’s Cirque du Soleil. Also, the end is just kind of weird. The main guy goes down into the hatch you see on the poster and winds up in a white room talking to the demon who looks like a cross between Santa and Grandpa Munster. I couldn’t tell if the ghost and this demon were the same guy or what, but then again, I was half paying attention and I have to keep the volume low so as not to wake the missus. Anyway, the scene reminded me of Neo meeting God or whatever in the last Matrix movie or the Tall Man’s room in Phantasm. Either these things are all coincidental or The Evil is one of the most influential movies in horror. I’m guessing it’s the former.

Oddly enough, I couldn’t find a poster for Twice Dead, so I just went with the Cult Classics Double Feature box. This is one weird flick. A family with two teenagers moves into an old house that a 30s film star killed himself in a long time ago and a group of teenage punks has turned into their hang out and don’t want to give up. Right off the bat, the dad tells his son to grab his shotgun and shoot these douches, but the cops come and they bail. As much as I wish the movie followed the dad kicking ass, he and the mother go out of town leaving the two kids at home. The gang tries to attack them and they seemingly get slaughtered, but it’s really just the two kids who live there using gags from the special effects class at school (?!) playing a big prank. The gang doesn’t take kindly to this and come back to attack the kids again. This time, though, the ghost of the movie stars kicks their asses in increasingly bloody fashions (hence the slasher tag).

It’s a weird little movie that takes some pretty big leaps when it comes to logic. Like, why do the punks even care about the house? Why do the main kids think that pretending to kill the punks will have zero repercussions? And, in general, why are the punks so crazy that many of them are willing to kill, including poor Todd Bridges who was pretty good in the movie and then got iced.

But, overall, I liked the flick. The strangeness of the special effects prank angle was fun as was the idea that the ghost is an old movie star who winds up helping the people who live in the house, gave it enough originality within a pretty tired genre. The effects were pretty good both in the story and in the movie overall, plus it’s got some funny moments (“What is that a penisaurus?”). Overall, I don’t think I could say that Twice Dead is a good movie, but it’s definitely a fun one.

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