skeevy caretaker (Ed Bakey) opens up an enormous house after taking
a swig from his ounce of dutch courage - as this is the sort of old,
scary-looking place that requires very large keys, we think we understand
why. As he begins to clean the interior up, he is distracted by Blair
Witch noises coming from the basement, and goes down the cobweb-choked
stairway to investigate. Opening up the furnace, he declares, "Nothing
there!" And is promptly turned into caretaker s'mores by a fireball.
opening segment provides a fair taste of what is to come in The Evil.
The caretaker, while following the sounds, utters the same three damned
lines over and over: "Who's there? You better come out! I'm coming
down!" Ignoring the fact that he's supposedly frightened of the
house and is still going into the dark places.... There's that damn
basement staircase, in which he must brush huge cobwebs out of his way...
obviously, no one has been down that stairway in years. Why does
he think there's someone down there?
the song says, we've only just begun.
Arnold, a psychology professor, and his wife Carol (Joanna Pettet) arrive
shortly after our prologue with a realtor in tow. CJ wants to rent the
pre-Civil War house for his new Drug Rehabilitation Center. Although
the realtor gives him all the usual warning signs for houses you want
to stay the hell away from - nobody lives there long, The original owner,
Emilio Vargas, built the house over some sulphur pits, the Indians used
to call the place "The Valley of the Devils" - and despite
the fact that Carol keeps seeing a ghostly figure, CJ decides the place
is perfect. The absence of the 'unreliable' caretaker is not too troublesome;
CJ says he has "plenty of volunteers" to help him clean the
now it's time for a roll call of the cannon fodder. First, we meet one
of CJ's students, a grad student named Raymond (Andrew
Prine), who is either teaching a class in psychology or physics... he
keeps babbling about the mind, but burns holes in paper with a laser
as he does. There is also one of Raymond's students, Laurie (Mary Louise
Weller, probably best known as Mandy Pepperidge in Animal House),
with whom he is doing the nasty. Both look forward to spending the summer
cleaning out Hell House (excuse me, the Vargas Mansion), so they no
longer have to be so circumspect about their rutting.
back at the house, we become acquainted with Dwight (George Viharo),
an electrical contractor who owes CJ a favor, and is therefore wiring
the house for cheap and setting up generators; and CJ's drug counselors,
Mary (Cassie Yates) and her dog Kaiser; Felicia (Lynne Moody) the token
black; and Pete (George O'Hanlon), the resident joker, who never quite
manages to turn into the picture's Odious Comic Relief.
the cast divvies up clean-up chores, Kaiser wanders into our old friend
the basement and starts digging something up; hearing the animal's sudden,
fearful howls, everyone rushes to the cellar, only to find that the
dog has turned vicious. After biting its mistress, it disappears into
the depths of the house.
the ghost later, Carol follows it to a study, where an old diary sits
on a disused desk. The book's pages are all blank, save one; this one
has a cryptic message straight from the Biblical Book of Revelations,
all about Beasts and Seals. Carol has a vision of a cross being forged
on an anvil... then CJ comes in and spoils the mood.
of CJ spoiling things, he goes down to the basement to stoke up the
furnace, but finds the spot where Kaiser was digging;
curious, he moves aside the loosened dirt and finds an ornate cross
buried there, wedged under two loops of metal. He excavates the cross
and manages to pull it out of the loops. About this time, Felicia and
Mandy.... Sorry, Laurie.... Find the burnt remains of the caretaker
in a dumbwaiter. They call CJ away from his discovery, so he never gets
to see that the cross was acting like a bolt on a gate, and now that
he has removed it, a hatch in the floor blows open, and the titular
Evil is loose! This prompts an earthquake throughout the house; doors
and windows shut of their own accord. Felicia falls down some stairs,
and Dwight, running to assist her, is attacked by a power cable that
wraps around him like a snake, electrocuting him (as usual, it is the
Working Man who gets it in the neck).
recovering from their dismay, our heroes try to escape, only to find
that not only are all the doors and shutters locked, but all the windows
that are not barred are suddenly shatterproof, and any tools that attempt
to break said glass are knocked away by some unseen force. Now, having
set up our story major, the movie proceeds to squander it by turning
into a simple body count film, as each person falls prey to a different
death methodology, sort of like a lesser James Herbert novel.
Felicia is assaulted and has her clothes ripped off by an Unseen Force,
CJ and Pete the Joker find an open door - leading to the mansion's belltower.
Hanging some of Dwight's cable over the side, Pete tries to lower himself
to the ground, but finds himself buffeted by Unseen Forces, and then
he bursts into flame. Yep, that made sense to me, too. After a pep talk
by Raymond, an attempt is made to cut through the front door with a
radial saw, only to find it as tough as the windows. Raymond gets hyp-mo-tized
and uses the saw on himself, nearly cutting off his hand. Mary
runs to get linens for bandages. Of course, the linen closet is on the
top floor of the house, and that just happens to be where Kaiser, who
is all possessed and stuff, is hiding. They both hurtle down the stairwell
to their deaths (I also have to note this movie was either shot when
they were still applying tourniquets to such injuries, or CJ is a crappy
awakens from a faint to find the cross from the basement under her couch,
and the ghost of Vargas motioning her to come to the central room, where
everybody else has gotten possessed. Luckily, the big cross is enough
to cast out the Evil temporarily, and CJ begins to admit that there
may be something to this God stuff his wife has been rattling on about
does come up with a new (and incredibly desperate) plan. They run more
of Dwight's cables (how much did the guy bring?) from the lightning
rods atop the house to the burglar bars on the conservatory windows
(did I mention that there's a thunderstorm going on during all this?
Sorry, I thought that was a given); they hope to use the lightning's
power to melt the bars. At least I think that's what they're up to;
CJ and Raymond talk about setting up energy fields, and since I am not
a psychologist, I know nothing about electricity. Felicia is adjusting
the last clamp when Mary's dead body sits up, causing our unfortunate
token to jump back against the bars just as lightning strikes. The bars
do not melt, but Felicia does (and for an Ancient Evil, our bad guy
is quite quick to use the modern conveniences, like electricity, to
get the job done).
gets carried away by A Growling Something In The Dark At The Top Of
The Stairs, and Raymond, after being chewed up and spit out by the Something,
is either too cowardly or too smart for a rematch. He sees a shutter
open by itself, and jumps through a suddenly non-shatterproof window.
He finds himself outside, but not safe, as the muddy earth beneath him
parts and sucks him under like quicksand, as the shattered window repairs
itself, and the shutter closes and locks.
see, quick head count... yep, just CJ and Carol left. The Ghost of Vargas
possesses Carol, and tells CJ that it's all his fault for taking out
the cross, and that holy seal must be set back in place to trap the
Evil once more. Vargas also reveals that it was he who killed
the caretaker, as a warning to them.
and Carol go down to the basement as a new series of quakes rocks the
house, eventually causing Carol to fall into the Hellmouth; not
only that, she takes the cross with her. CJ follows, to find himself
in a fog-enshrouded sub-basement. Carol dropped the cross when she landed,
and is having trouble finding it. CJ, while searching, finds himself
drawn to a deeper part of the catacombs, which echoes with the sound
psychologist finds himself in a dazzlingly white room, population one:
The Evil (Victor Buono) a kindly looking fat man dressed in white, sitting
on a white throne. The Evil wants CJ to be his agent and destroy the
cross; CJ, though, has recently converted and refuses. The Evil apparently
starts sucker-punching CJ's pain centers, but still the psych refuses,
as the Evil just gets ooglier and ooglier, until he looks more like
a proper Satan. Old Scratch's fun is cut short, however, when Carol
pops up and stabs him with the cross. CJ and Carol run, and in an astounding
act of convenience, when the Evil pulls the cross from his chest, he
hurls it across the room to land just in front of the one doorway out,
so our heroes can retrieve it and seal the Hellmouth once again.
doors and windows all open, and Carol and CJ run out into a suddenly
sunny day. They see Vargas' ghost in an upper floor window; they then
pile in their station wagon and burn rubber. The end.
they still have to explain the five dead bodies in the house (and the
guy buried in the front yard), but that's where the movie stops.
one big question for this movie: Why do guardians of things like
Hellmouths always have to be so abstruse? Here we have something
rather important like Ancient, Undying Evil sealed in a hole under a
house, and the only outward signs that this is the case is a gargoyle
in the front yard, facing toward the house, with a cryptic inscription
on its base; and the diary, which has only one page of text, and that
a Biblical allusion. Wouldn't it have been more appropriate had the
inscription on the statue read, "Warning: Devil Sealed Under
House"? Forget the diary, shouldn't there have been plaques
on the wall of the basement saying DO NOT TOUCH THE F@#KING CROSS? At
the beginning, the realtor tells us that the building had been remodeled
and used as a girl's conservatory - so why is Vargas' diary still
on that dusty desk?
most galling is Vargas' admission that he killed the caretaker
to scare the interlopers off. Good plan, Emilio, but it might have been
more successful had you not hidden the body in a dumb waiter!
Ideally, the corpse should have been waiting for them at the front door,
possibly going, "Boogedy Boogedy!" for effect. Just a thought.
Guardian of the Hellgate playing coy is not the only maddening thing
about The Evil. It is one thing to exploit the concept of The
Idiot Dimension * - it is quite another
to rub the audience's nose in it, as when CJ forcefully tells Raymond
that no one is to be left alone; the very next scene is CJ, wandering
about the house. Alone. Then they proceed to continually leave people
who are injured alone, that they be visited by supernatural forces -
forgivable in Felicia's case, early in the film, but criminally stupid
when Carol is left alone, even after everyone is ready to admit that
Scratch is in da houze. Luckily for her, it's only Vargas that comes
attack on Felicia opens up another problem, and one I'm not even sure
I should address: the odd, almost subtle racism in the script concerning
the character. She's the only woman to get salaciously assaulted, even
having her clothes torn off; the only drug counselor with a history
of drug abuse ("CJ got me off the horse") and the only character
to use strong language in the whole movie. While this does have
the effect of giving her the only actual character among the minor female
roles, assigning these negative traits to a black character is somewhat
suspect. At least (unlike most token characters in body count movies)
she's not the first to fill a body bag.
movie had even more problems after it was released: some audiences found
Buono's segment at the end comical and there are versions of the movie
floating about with that entire sequence excised. I guess Carol and
CJ get the Hellmouth sealed the first time. That's too bad, as it's
Buono's scene that gives the movie any claim to its own identity. I'm
a Buono fan - I'll watch the worst episode of The Wild Wild West,
"The Night of the Eccentrics", simply to watch Buono ham it
up (Well, him and a shockingly young and slightly embarrassed Richard
Pryor). Buono makes for a nicely casual Evil - he doesn't have to work
at doing evil things, they seem to take very little effort from him;
gives you a creepy feeling that you don't want to see the results if
he really tried. Truthfully, in my dream cast for Forever
Evil, Buono was ever the only choice for the bad guy, Parker
nagging feeling one gets during a viewing of The Evil is that,
although it had a theatrical release, you are watching a made-for-TV
movie. Outside of Felicia's single instance of mild cursing, the sight
of her in her underwear, and the one gruesome effect of Raymond sliding
the saw across his hand (negated in the next scene by simply slapping
red paint over his whole hand), there is nothing in this movie
that could not have been shown on TV circa 1978. (Why was it
given an R rating?) There aren't whole lot of budget-eating special
effects; there is a lot of being buffeted about by unseen (and
therefore cost-effective) forces. Director Gus Trikonis, in fact, has
a career full of TV production, though sharp-eyed MSTies will remember
him as the director of Five the Hard Way, aka The Sidehackers.
best use for The Evil is to show to your Significant Other if
he or she doesn't really like horror films: it won't traumatize them,
might amuse you, and like a lot of it's brethren, is infinitely and