a.k.a. The Beast
a.k.a. The Equinox... A Journey Into the Supernatural
Dave (Edward Connell) is a raving lunatic in a mental asylum, who goes even crazier when he is separated from the silver crucifix he thinks is his only protection against the forces that made him crazy in the first place — all of which we learn about in flashback when a newspaper reporter (James Phillips) visits him in an attempt to get a follow-up story to events that occurred a year and a day earlier.
Dave, his friends Jim (Frank Bonner, a.k.a. Frank Boers, Jr., whom you'll know as blowhard salesman Herb Tarlek from "WKRP in Cincinnati") and Vicki (Robin Christopher), and Susan (Barbara Hewitt), a girl with whom Jim and Vicki set up Dave for a picnic date, go to the woods looking for the guys' science professor, Dr. Waterman (Fritz Leiber). They find Waterman's house, which looks like it's been crushed by a giant foot (which it probably has been), and run into a forest ranger (co-director Jack Woods) on a horse, who's really Asmodeus (the ranger is, not the horse), a demon king (or possibly Satan his own bad self) with a vague resemblance to Tommy Lee Jones.
Asmodeus says he has no idea what happened to Waterman's house, then tells the kids (who, strangely, dress and sport coiffeurs* as if they just stepped out of 1962 instead of 1970) to enjoy their picnic before he leaves... while hovering around to watch what they're up to.
The four hike around until they hear maniacal laughter coming from a cave. They investigate, and find a crazy old man who assumes they came for "the book" — which turns out to be a large, thousand-year-old necronomicon in cryptic form — and insists they take it with them.
The kids inspect the book, have their picnic, and then wander around the woods until they spot a castle (yes, a castle). While the guys go check things out (the hill, the guys decide, is too steep for mere girls to climb), the girls hang out and fool around with Jim's Polaroid (which, naturally, in 1970, is huge and must weigh a good pound or more), until Asmodeus comes along and tries to rape Susan, who has lost her only protection against demons, the aforementioned sliver cross. (If you haven't laughed your butt off already at the insipid dialogue or the actors' horrible performances,** which would shame a high school drama teacher, this scene should do it for you: Asmodeus's look of lust consists of snarling, drooling, and lip-twisting that will make you wonder if Satan is having a stroke. Susan later apes the same grotesque, seemingly neurologically-disordered facial contortions when she is momentarily possessed and attacks Vicki.)
By the time the kids are attacked by a giant, stop-motion (no, we don't think there's any claymation here), lizard-like thing (which should remind you immediately of a poor man's Ymir from 20 Million Miles to Earth), they've figured out that there are demons in these thar hills. They do eventually find Dr. Watermann, who grabs the book and runs, followed by Dave and Jim, only to end up dead after hitting his head on a rock when one of the guys tackles him.
The kids (mostly the guys) fight more stop-motion demons (and one live-action creature, a huge, green-skinned caveman who looks like the mutant love child of Fred Flintstone and the Jolly Green Giant), fall into another dimension, and die one by one — all except Dave, who, running for help, reaches a highway overpass and is struck down by a driver-less automobile... which is why he's hospitalized (and committed to the psych ward).
Our take: It ain't no Ray Harryhausen, that's for sure, but it is a hilarious, so-bad-it's-good cheese-o-rama that began as a student film made for $6,500. Definitely one of the worst movies we've ever seen (filmmaker Dennis Muren should have taken notes from Ed Wood on plot and character development before attempting this). How it ever earned a theatrical release, we'll never know (actually, we do know: the distributor hired film editor Jack Woods to re-cut the flick and shoot additional footage), but we're glad it did: Equinox is one also one of the funniest worst-ever movies you'll ever see.
Yes, the premise of Equinox (teenagers discover Book of the Dead, and very bad things ensue) will remind you of Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead, but Raimi swears he never saw this cheeseball flick before making his classic horror-comedy outing. (One big difference: Equinox wasn't meant to be funny — but it is. Very, very funny.) And if you've seen The Blair Witch Project (and who hasn't?), you'll be surprised by the similarity of the talismans the kids fashion from bent sticks to the hanging stick figures of Blair Witch. So, OK, in these ways, Equinox is actually innovative. (Yes, it surprises me to write that more than you'll ever know.)
(And before anybody defends this crap-fest by challenging me to do better, I already have: When I was 14, I did make my own stop-motion movies with a single-frame shutter release attached to a Super 8 movie camera, and yes, the results were just as good as, if not better than, anything seen in Equinox. And at least my scripts were meant to be funny.)
* Watch the length of Susan's hair change from shot to shot and scene to scene. In fact, watch the actors age between shots.
** Frank Bonner's performance is hands-down (or, rather, hands up) the worst of his career, punctuated by overblown arm-waving, prompting yours truly to wonder if he was preparing for a career as a semaphore flagman. Think of the "I Love Lucy" episode, "The Operetta," and Ethel's deliberately stagey pointing gesture while singing "Lily of the Valley," or of Auto Focus with Greg Kinnear as Bob Crane in the dinner-theatre production, every time he delivers the line, "I can't remember!"
NO COMMENTS? If you cannot see comments (or a comment form) above, your ad blocker is likely to blame. Please DISABLE all ad-blocking on your browser when you visit Amuse Yourself! or white-list the amuseyourself.com domain. Amuse Yourself! DOES NOT TRACK your activity on the Web — we only want you to be able to interact with us! Thanks for your understanding and cooperation — and if you have any questions or concerns, contact JR directly at amuseyourself.com.