Today's movie, The Evil (1978, dir. Gus Trikonis), is another one vote favorite. Spoiler alert, there are going to be a lot of one vote faves featured this month. It's kind of the really compelling end of the list, isn't it? The underseen stuff, the weird stuff, the stuff that might not be "good"--sure, there are a few "Wait, that only got one vote?"s down there at the bottom, but mostly you'll find movies that are off the beaten cinematic path. But someone out there loves these movies enough to call them favorites, and I love that! It's part of the reason why I ask for your favorites in the first place. Who cares what the "best" horror movies might be? Tell me what you love. It's much more interesting.
And so here we are with The Evil, the tale of a house with a sordid history (people driven mad, accidents, murder, the local indigenous population giving it a wide berth, sulfur pools, etc etc) bought by well-intended psychologist CJ (Richard Crenna!) who hopes to turn it into an alternative treatment center. His counsellors show up to get the place cleaned and ready for business, but we know this will end poorly: just look at how it looms, all Hill House-esque.
As any Amityville enthusiast knows, if things get hinky in a house you should immediately check the basement for a portal to Hell (or, at least, to Heck). Sure enough, there's a trap door under the dirt floor of the cellar and once nosy-ass CJ opens it up, the titular evil escapes and the earth quakes! Everyone is trapped inside as the windows and doors seal shut, and as our plucky band of counsellors tries to find a way out, they're dispatched one by one like they're in some kind of cosmic slasher flick. Whatever's in this house doesn't mess around, I can tell you that!
The special effects are simultaneously hokey and quite good considering The Evil's era and budget. Like sure, the electrocutions don't come off as "real," but the lines scratched into celluloid look is leagues above and beyond the blue movie lightning effects that would become the standard in the next decade. Characters are set on fire, tossed around like rag dolls...look, if The Haunting ('63) has you saying "Okay, so someone holds an invisible hand and a door bulges and that's it?" and The Haunting ('99) has you saying "Okay, that was stupid," well, The Evil might just be your ticket, baby.
And did I mention there's some great doggie acting? And also Andrew Prine is in it? We know he's always cool in everything, but he might actually be at his coolest here. I mean!
Take a dash of The Legend of Hell House, toss in some The Legacy, add a wee pinch of Phantasm, douse liberally with the aforementioned Amityville Horror and The Haunting, and cook for a brisk 90 minutes at ...AND VICTOR BUONO AS THE EVIL degrees and you get this maybe it's half-baked but I don't care, it's fun delight.
Wow, that was tortured, huh?
The Evil feels like a random Saturday night cable movie that you'd watch, enjoy, and then kind of forget about for years until you see it randomly mentioned somewhere and, remembering it fondly, you'd give it a long-overdue rewatch and still find it enjoyable as all get-out. Unless you're that one person who named it a favorite in 2020. Now they know what's up.