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April 28, 2012

Movie Review: The Evil (1978)/Twice Dead (1988)

The Roger Corman Cult Classics Double Feature DVDs are little slices of gold. For those of us who either 1) Remember these films from when they came out or 2) Remember these films from the VHS and Mom & Pop video store boom of the 80s and 90s these discs are a treat. For this particular outing, we shall examine the New Horizon films The Evil (1978) and Twice Dead (1988)… a couple of effective (and semi-effective, respectively) haunted house chillers from the broad era we like to call vintage.
 The Evil (1978) stars Richard Crenna (of First Blood fame) and Joanna Pettet and was directed by Gus Trikonis. Sometimes unfairly compared to Matheson’s far superior The Legend of Hell House, The Evil is an effective thriller. Crenna, a haunted psychologist, moves into a home with a little ‘spirit’ activity of its own. The film builds slowly, like any effective ghost story, and our payoff for that build is a deliciously evil portrayal of Satan himself by Victor Buono. The DVD features a commentary track from Trikonis and co-writer Donald Thompson.

Twice Dead (1988) is a decade younger than its double feature counterpart and, as we’ve seen, the quality of filmmaking slipped from the seventies to the eighties (and then to the nineties and then the 21st century and we’re now left with things like the Nightmare on Elm Street remake). The Cates family (led by Tom Bresnahan) inherits a home from a deceased theatre performer, and psycho, of distant relation. The thespian’s ghost is still around to make a little mayhem. This film isn’t nearly as effective as The Evil and, like the post Amityville Horror-world, was very derivative and predictable. DVD features a commentary with director Bert Dragin and Bresnahan.

For my money, the gold in this set is The Evil but there are still a few enjoyable moments from Twice Dead. Like some of the other Corman doubles, it is a true drive-in feel where we’re treated to a first run film and then we just sit through the ‘bonus’ feature to get our money’s worth.


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