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STUDIO Shout Factory
RUNNING TIME 174 minutes
• Interview with Jill Whitlow
Two cheap, sleazy Roger Corman released haunted house pictures. The Evil is a
subtle slow burner that would make a great double feature with Dan
Curtis’s Burnt Offerings. Twice Dead is some serious drive-in fodder,
with just enough gore and nudity to satisfy. Not a bad double feature, offsetting the creepy with boobs is always a good idea.
Richard Crenna, Joanna Pettet, Andrew Pine, Todd Bridges, Tom Bresnahan, and Jill Whitlow
In The Evil Richard Crenna leads a group of scientist who buy a house and try to fix it up. Of course it’s haunted by The Devil and only the group’s dog knows. The devil traps them in the house and get assaulted by electricity for eighty minutes.
Twice Dead has a family who gets a creepy house deeded to them. Their house is haunted by some dead actor, but the real villains are a biker gang with their eyes on Jill Whitlow. The gang breaks in and tries to steal the girl but the creepy dead actor ghost wants her too, so they fight over her. Yes, it is the exact same plot to The Killing Fields.
Lean and with a slumming Richard Crenna, The Evil comes with all the limitations of it’s budget and producer. That’s not a bad thing though. This is why Roger Corman deserves that Honorary Academy Award. He’s all about limitations and workmanship, somehow through this process he gets it done and helps to advance the craft of anyone that had an idea for a poster. In the case of Joe Dante, Monte Hellman, Jonathan Demme, and countless others it helped forge solid future filmographys. Gus Trikonis, director of The Evil, went on to helm a couple of Baywatch episodes. But he actually fared better than a lot of Corman graduates. Most of Corman’s films, during the New Concorde era in particular, were not the work of auteurs. Sometimes something like Ride The Whirlwind sneaks out on his watch, but Corman’s productions were usually a place to learn for future directors and not where they made their masterpiece. These were mass produced films and the bottom line and schedule were far more important than getting someone’s vision to film. Something that made for a lot of terrible (but profitable) films and some fantastic pieces of genre history. The Evil resides somewhere in between.
The Evil starts and pretty much stays in one location and smartly stays subtle with the ghostly happenings for the majority of the running time. It’s a great example of how take a limited budget and rushed production and make it work for you. The single location and sparse special effects undoubtedly spring from the budget restraints, but it adds to slow build panic of the movie. It’s an old school haunted house movie, the kind where where the scares come from what you don’t see. It’s all in the setup here, the walk to the door is more important that what’s behind the door. It’s light on the jump scares and gore, but it brings the creepy atmosphere big time. Of course, like most of the haunted house films it takes from, it also has an ending you wish wasn’t there. No one really cares why the house is haunted, and usually we are better off not knowing. Here it turns out The Evil is just a talkative Victor Buono. And no, Adam West doesn’t get to punch him. But he does get stabbed with a Crucifix. I guess he’s The Devil and he lives in a bright white room under their house. A bright white room under a mansion in New Mexico; that’s where The Devil lives. I don’t know if there is some back story where some drunk teenagers summoned him with their Kiss albums, but that’s about the only explanation I can think of. And why is he haunting the house? Because he likes to scare people or because Richard Crenna doesn’t believe in God. The Devil is pretty vague on that. Plus, why have one reason for a haunting when you can have two that are equally stupid and confusing? I’d say turn it off before the last five minutes, but then you’d miss King Tut as The Devil in an all white hell get stabbed by a Crucifix and instantly die. That needs to be something you’ve seen.
Twice Dead doesn’t have Burgess Meredith as Budah living in a purple dome. It could have learned something from The Evil, but sadly it just doesn’t. It does have the cute chick from Night of The Creeps and the guy who isn’t a dead midget from Diff’rent Strokes. It doesn’t have the creepy atmosphere of The Evil either, but it does have boobs. Twice Dead is barely a haunted house movie, it’s a sleazy urban survival movie that takes place in a haunted house. It’s an interesting mesh of ideas, but it’s a sloppy, stupid movie. This is poorly made 80’s horror trash, and I love it. Only the 80’s can bring us boobs, blood, and Todd Bridges and it’s something we all need in our lives. It really doesn’t matter how bad this movie is, and it’s really bad, all that matters is that it delivers on it’s promise of being a generic 80‘s horror movie.
I rented Twice Dead when I was kid because I thought I would see Jill Whitlow naked, I was a disappointed kid. What I should have done was rent it because I wanted to see Todd Bridges get hit by a car, I would have been a much happy kid. The reason for watching any terrible 80‘s movie is some secret personal confession. You want to see starlet X naked or you want to see that gross kill scene your friends were telling you about. It’s totally different from watching something that has actual value, it’s all about that one thing you want to see and just hope the filler isn’t boring. Twice Dead has some well done jump scares for the adrenaline junkies, decent special effects for the Fangoria crowd, horribly dated references if you’re into the whole irony thing, and naked girls for everyone else. The filler in between isn’t that bad either. It’s padding for sure, but there isn’t a lot of it and the dated nature of the film keeps it easy to laugh at. Basically, the movie is two big set pieces with yellow parachute pants and a gang of mullet wearing baddies in between. This really needs to be seen with a shitty VHS copy on a seven inch television when you’re far too young too see it. But sadly that time has passed and now kids have to watch Twice Dead in anamorphic widescreen on seventy inch flatscreens whenever Blockbuster thinks they are old enough to see it. But hey, at least they get higher definition boobs.
Not even a little resemblance?”
The Evil and Twice Dead don’t make a bad double feature, if you know what you’re getting. All the praise I gave them is because I easily succumbed to their charms, but they are pure schlock and if you’re expecting anything like a modern horror movie you’ll hate them. Unless you like your horror derivative, because you will not find an original idea on this disc. But if you’re like me, you know you’ve seen the same thing done better and you could care less. These aren’t classic, but they get the job done and have a good time doing it. Just grab some greasy food, a few beers, and get ready to feel a little guilty before you watch the movies and you’ll love them.
The films look pretty terrible, thankfully. I’m pretty sure Corman just gave his productions film he found in trash cans anyway. The prints are scratched to hell and bleeding colors all over the place, and that’s how it should be. It adds to atmosphere and the films would just feel wrong in a pristine color corrected print.
Both discs have informative commentaries. The Evil has a lot more information about shooting on such a low budget, which is always the draw of these types of commentaries. Twice Dead has a lot of Tom Bresnahan talking about how he wanted to sleep with his sister in the movie, but you can’t blame a guy for having a crush on Jill Whitlow. Whitlow shows up separately in an interview on the disc. She’s still very crush worthy, but the interview is mostly about God and her kids. Two of the only things I do not want to hear Jill Whitlow talk about. The disc is rounded off with trailers for other Corman produced films that can be played separately or in between the films, Grindhouse style.