It was a peaceful mountain retreat until IT came home...
Year of Release: 1970
Also Known As: The Equinox... A Journey into the Supernatural
Running Time: 80 minutes (1:20)
Director: Jack Woods, Mark Thomas McGee, Dennis Muren
Edward Connell ... David Fielding
Barbara Hewitt ... Susan Turner
Frank Bonner ... Jim Hudson
Robin Christopher ... Vicki
Jack Woods ... Asmodeus
James Phillips ... Reporter Sloan
Fritz Leiber Jr. ... Dr. Arthur Waterman
Forrest J Ackerman ... Doctor on tape recorder (voice) (uncredited)
Jim Danforth ... Extra (uncredited)
Jack H. Harris ... Detective Harrison (uncredited)
Deep within the woods and canyons of California, four teenagers happen upon an ancient book containing the secrets of a strange, malevolent world that coexists with that of mankind.
Equinox, remindin' everybody exactly why you don't just go shovin' pictures of Abe Vigoda into people's faces for no reason. I'm serious about this, I like a good practical joke as much as the next guy but people need to understand that there're lines you just don't cross. As far as I'm concerned, Edward Connell's reaction when this happened to him in the movie was completely justified, even though those hospital administrators prolly gave 'im a week in the hole after he choked that journalist til he looked like a wangdoodle that required medical attention after standin' at attention for more than four hours. I remember this one time when my ex-girlfriend did that to me while I was tryin' to sleep off a drunk an I'll tell you somethin', if it weren't for the fact that I couldn't tell which one of the three nags I was seein' was her an I hadn't missed entirely with my retaliation swing before bein' beaten half to death with a purse containin' approximately 37lbs of cosmetic products it coulda been a real ugly situation. We talked about it though, an after that she agreed never to do that again an I promised not to scream like a little girl whose brother just tore the head offa her Cabbage Patch doll til the cops show up. Even though I'da given 'er what for if she hadn't chop sockied my windpipe an sat down on my lower back an proceeded to bend my legs around so far that she could stick my feet in my pockets. Course, the very next week she did the same thing, only this time with a picture of Marsha Jordan from Lady Godiva Rides. After about six months of intensive psychotherapy I was finally able to start sleepin' without the duct tape over my eyelids again. I guess what I'm tryin' to say is, never give a woman your real phone number. Specially not ones with a picture of Rosie the Riveter tattooed on both sides of 'er neck. I realize that my havin' to get all serious again isn't really what you came here to see, but I just feel like if I don't speak out against this kinda thing I'm no better'n the people doin' it. Really though, besides that little bit of unpleasantness, I can say unequivocally that this is easily the best movie I've ever seen to be made for $6500 an feature the Jolly Green Giant in a bear skin toga, so I'ma pass on just a few of the things this movie taught me so alla you can be just as learned an well cultured as I am.
First thing, just cause a guy lives in a cave filled with mountains of bat shat an piles of used condoms an empty beer cans from high school parties past, that's no reason to snub their hospitality. A wise man once said: "you can't piss on hospitality", and I for one live by that adage. Second, don't think that just because you've got the Necronomicon in your possession that the rural authorities're just gonna automatically believe you when you tell 'im there's foul play goin' on. In fact, don't even think about goin' to see Rosco Coltrane without somethin' credible. He's a busy man an those Duke boys ain't gonna chase themselves. An third, just cause you were attacked an nearly killed by King Kong is no reason to head back to town without payin' your respects to the guy that wasn't so lucky. Those're pretty useful bits of information that I'm sure you'll all be able to integrate into your lives with nothin' but positive results, but after watchin' this one I've stumbled onto somethin' that's gonna make those revelations look like a cold sore on a krokodil addict. I think I've finally figured out why the Forest Service is tryin' to close off all the old two-tracks out in the woods these days. Now you'd best stop lookin' at me like I'm some kinda backwater rube an quit pretendin' that you ain't heard nothin' about this, this is serious. You ever notice how all these priests that just can't quit lustin' after little boys in short pants no matter how many Hail Marys they say always end up runnin' off to a monastery cause they just can't seem to fight the temptation? Or how alcoholics move into the deep south an join a fundamentalist church cause they think the only way they can stop drinkin' is the knowledge that if they succumb an the rest of the congregation finds out they're gonna get stoned harder'n an AV club in Colorado? Well, it looks to me like these park rangers've figured out an even better way to avoid fallin' victim to their affliction. Oh right, I didn't tell you what kinda sin it was that they'd been partakin' in. It's even worse than the first two. You see, anytime these creeps see a woman in the woods their eyes start lookin' like they ain't had any sleep in about three weeks an they end up goin' zombie an pinnin' the women to the ground so they can slobber all over 'em til they drown. That better not've been a snicker I heard, I ain't kiddin' around, this's some sick, insidious stuff that's goin' on here, an it's made worse by the fact that these guys don't even have to quit their jobs an run off to some place like L.A. where there's no vegetation for 30 miles in any direction, oh no. No, they just close the whole goll durn forest off so nobody can come in an tempt 'em into slobber-boardin' 'em to death. This kinda crap's gonna stop right now, we pay our taxes an we don't have to put up with this anymore, so ladies, next time you're headin' into the woods, bring your snorkels for protection. An if these turkeys STILL can't exercise a little restraint, well, I'm afraid we'll be left with no choice but to bury 'em under their own tank traps. I'm sorry if that sounds a little harsh, that's just the way I feel about it.
The movie begins with what appears to've been some redneck usin' his lawn mower's gas tank as an ashtray, cause the moment the movie starts this guy with mutton-chops the size of Wyoming (David) gets blown clean offa his feet an an thrown on the ground like he's in a Lonely Island video. Once he's able to shake the cobwebs clear, he starts lookin' around an notices his squeeze layin' a few yards away seepin' out Prego Thick an Chunky an heroically starts runnin' like Forrest Gump til he makes it to the highway where he's immediately mowed down by a 1960 Dodge Polara driven by Claude Rains. To be fair, he'd just been dumped on Facebook an was tryin' frantically to get his girlfriend to answer his texts, so it's not like he did it on purpose. So David ends up in the hospital, an then the barn for the bonkers after he tells the doctor that the forces of evil're comin' after 'im like the IRS when they know you can't afford a defense attorney. A year later, this journalist (Sloan) drives over to the lunatic lounge for a follow up story on David, only David's got the Percodan stare of eternity an just kinda sits there droolin' in his padded bathroom stall til Sloan shows 'im a picture of Abe Vigoda an he ends up goin' ape shit tryin' to strangle Sloan an by the time the orderlies can pry 'im off Sloan's lookin' a lot like Papa Smurf. Once Sloan's brain functions start to gradually return an he's able to remember why he drove over here, he realizes that while he was strugglin' like a Beijing crossing guard to get a gulp of oxygen he ended up gettin' ahold of David's crucifix, an that David is a little bit upset about it bein' that he's now screamin' loudly enough that the hospital's startin' to get complaints from the space shuttle launch pad next door. So Sloan has the doc play the original tape recording from the day David was admitted an David tells the detective doin' the interview that earlier that day Abe had called 'im up an asked 'im to come out to his cabin so they could dress up like Bigfoot an scare the bejezus outta the tourists. (By this point we're in flashback mode and will be for the remainder of the review). He asks if he can bring his friends with 'im (Jim, Susan an Vicki) an Abe says that's fine but that they gotta supply their own musk an pay for the squatch-shoe rental. So David packs up his friends an they all head out to where they think Abe's cabin's supposed to be only they aren't real sure cause Abe's "just past the big tree" directions aren't real helpful in Sequoia National Park.
They're able to find the cabin alright, only the place looks like Dom DeLuise an James Avery got up on the roof to do some shingle repair work an the whole place, unlike their belts, buckled an ended up collapsin' like a Millennial's hopes an dreams the moment high school's over. Then this park ranger with eyebrows bushier'n an East German vagina shows up an tells 'em he ain't seen Abe since before his cabin developed a moonroof an to watch out for Jason cause he's been in a lousy mood ever since some bimbo chopped off his mama's head. But before they can make it back to their car they can't help but notice Frankenstein's castle just kinda hangin' out on the hillside an decide to head up there so they can get Boris Karloff's autograph, only about halfway there they come to this cave where it sounds like John Kassir's inside filmin' an episode of Tales from the Crypt an so they all go in there cause who wouldn't after hearin' that maniacal laughter? Vicki don't really wanna go in cause of all the Jersey Devil footprints outside the entrance but she does anyway an after awhile they start thinkin' Fred an Wilma must not be home or Dino would've pounced 'em an started lickin' their faces by now. Naturally, Vicki ends up gettin' separated quicker'n Mia Farrow an Woody Allen after she found out about Soon-Yi an about that time she runs into Marshall Applewhite an starts screamin' like one of them fat mid-western housewives when they land on the $1,000,000 space on Wheel of Fortune. Eventually the rest of the gang is able to find 'er by followin' the trail of groggy, P.O.'d bats that've just had their sleep schedules borked an when they get to 'er Applewhite bends down an sweeps the guano offa the Necronomicon an makes 'em take it. I still like 'im better'n those jerkass door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen. So after they get outta Applesbad Caverns they go setup their picnic an Jim starts leafin' through the book lookin' at all the Devil's Food cake recipes til he realizes he's gonna need a Deadite translator for most of it. Then Abe comes outta nowhere an snatches up the book like the last bottle of Geritol an takes off down the middle of this creek, destroyin' all the good fishin' holes as he goes, until David catches up to 'im an tackles the hoary heister an ends up bustin' the old guy's head open like Gallagher in a melon patch. Once they reclaim the book, Jim tries to console David an tell 'im that it wasn't his fault an that there was no way of knowin' that tacklin' a frail old man in an area riddled with solid blunt objects could be detrimental to his health, but it don't help much an when David goes back to check on the body it seems to be missin'. Must've headed over to Pittsburgh for that undead casting call.
Then the ranger shows up again to make sure nobody's huntin' old men without a license an Jim ends up lettin' it slip about Applewhite livin' in the cave an not havin' his septic tank 100 feet from the creek so he'll buzz off. By this point, Susan's startin' to get a little concerned that Vicki ain't been left on 'er own in dang near ten minutes so she goes lookin' for the guys an the moment she does Ranger Smith comes by to make sure Yogi ain't been tryin' to burgle 'er pic-a-nic basket an puts on this ring that looks like squashed cockroach. Then all the sudden he starts goin' zombie an pins 'er down on the ground so he can slobber on 'er like Beethoven after a five mile run an just as he's about to start rootin' around for 'er bare essentials, her crucifix flops out of 'er pocket an he has to recoil in terror an start shieldin' his eyes like he just walked in on Divine in the changin' room. Guy really needs to work on his romantic approach. I haven't seen a ranger look that awkward since Chuck Norris had to tell Haley Joel Osment he had AIDS. An apparently he's also got the roofie drool, cause once he's gone Susan can't seem to remember nothin' an just kinda sits there with the blank stare of a housewife day-dreamin' about Fabio til the guys find 'er an run down their little excapAbes. Then Susan opens up the Necronomicon an pulls out the scrap of paper Abe was usin' for a bookmark an notices it's covered with notes. Among other things, he makes it clear that this thing is the bible of evil, that it belongs to some guy named "Ash", an that the Persians that found it kept tellin' 'im it was bad news but he wouldn't listen to 'em cause he figured their brains were all fried from wearin' turbans in 134 degree heat. So naturally, he started thinkin' he was a big shot an tried summoning a Succubus cause all the old prudes down at the VFW're lookin' for a "serious commitment" an ended up summoning Cthulhu by mistake an pretty quick the tentacled terror wrecked his home worse than Rielle Hunter wrecked John Edwards'. Fortunately, bein' young an indestructible, nobody seems to mind, an the guys head for the castle again, cept when they get closer Toad tells 'em their princess is in another castle, an as if that ain't bad enough, he don't even know where the castle is cause the goll durn thing's up an vanished like a Maury Povich guest after the DNA test revealed they were the baby daddy. So then they consult the periodic table of religious symbolism inside the book an make dreamcatchers to wear around their necks to ward off any demonic forces an make sure Fred Krueger minds his manners an then start makin' their final approach to where the castle was to make sure it's really gone an not just hidin' under a Klingon cloakin' device.
Meanwhile, the ranger's made it over to Applewhite's place, only when he tells the ranger "it" ain't there anymore he gets P.O.'d an summons a stop-motion Mighty Joe Young an sics it on the old codger. Cripes, what a time for the battery on his Rascal to go south. While that's goin' on, the guys discover this real indiscreet vortex that you can't actually see til you pass through it, only they don't really wanna go through cause the Tall Man's prolly got an army of angry dwarves on the other side just waitin' to shove an embalmin' needle up their asses. A short distance away, the girls're doin' a fashion shoot for "Babes in the Woods" monthly when Applewhite comes outta nowhere with Magilla hot on his heels an the girls just kinda watch in terror while Magilla mashes Applewhite into a banana daiquiri. When the guys hear their screams, they run around the hillside an start peltin' the big guy with rocks til they brain his damage an turn 'im into Wonky Kong so the girls can squeeze through this big crevice in the rock wall while Kong stumbles around with Excedrin Headache #5. But once Rafreaky gets his marbles together he grabs this tree branch an starts rakin' the Necronomicon towards 'imself through the crevice an Dave has to pop his pectoral implant with a spear til he gets real P.O.'d an ends up doin' the Ric Flair faceplant in the dirt. Okay guys, we've seen the gorilla, can we go now? Are you kidding? Leave without showin' our respect for the old bastard that got us into this mess in the first place and whose corpse the police will prolly wanna look at? What are you simple? Of course we can't go now. Besides, Dave really wants his picture taken with Cheetah so he can get into National Geographic, so they send Jim to get the camera an about that time Susan starts havin' glom flashbacks of the ranger an grabs Vicki by the nape of the neck an Dave has to shove his dreamcatcher in Susan's face to make 'er behave 'erself. Elsewhere, the ranger (now referring to himself as Asmodeus) gets the drop on Jim an tells 'im to give 'im the book cause it was never meant for the world of the lily livered an Jim has to back 'im off with his dreamcatcher til he goes all Monty Hall an tries makin' a deal. Despite this bein' Jim's one shot at not bein' a pathetic sap for life, he starts rememberin' what happened in Rosemary's Baby an declines the first offer til Asmodeus tells 'im he'd better not get 'im P.O.'d cause he wasn't really tryin' a minute ago when he was cowerin' like a prison snitch in the exercise yard an Jim takes that moment to run like the devil's after 'im. Cutting the description off here for lack of any better place.
Because this movie is structured in a flashback format, there really was no good place to cut the plot description. It was either this, or going through the entire plot up to the point where the movie begins, which only leaves the last three or four minutes where the movie finally returns to the present. And giving away that much plot just seemed like too much spoiling, so I did it this way instead. In any event, this is the cheapest movie I've ever seen, in budgetary terms anyway, but it really doesn't show until the special effects make an appearance. In all honesty, if I were to give it leeway due to its budget (which I won't, because I find that misleading) and rate it based upon how well it turned out in relation to what they had to work with, I'd probably have to give it a 90%. With a $6500 budget you've basically got all the actors working for free, with every penny going towards the equipment and the special effects. The idea that it was even possible to make a movie for that amount of money (that actually looks like a movie) seems absurd, let alone a movie that isn't completely without redeeming value. And in fact, there's really only one thing wrong with this movie, which is even more absurd considering the cost. Unfortunately, that one thing is significant enough that I'm going to end up failing it. Stop motion animation, for me, simply cannot create a convincing effect. And almost all the effects here are stop motion. You really can't fault the film makers for using that method, because it was the only method they could afford. And I'll go one step further and say this much for stop motion; even though it looks worse than CGI, I have far greater respect for it. Because in most cases, that was the most convincing method for making special effects available. CGI is not. CGI is inferior to conventional make up effects, and studios choose to use it anyway. It's very much a part of why I can hardly stand modern movies. The computer generated effects look like garbage, and... the studio wants them to look like garbage, otherwise they wouldn't take that path. From my perspective, there's basically a sweet spot for movies (not just horror), and it's the era where make up and tangibly constructed effects reigned supreme. I'm talking, the 70s - the early 90s. There were certainly some movies before that time frame that made good use of conventional effects, and some during that era that still utilized the stop motion, but overall, that's the sweet spot. Stop motion just doesn't work for me, no matter how well it's executed, and for that reason I'll have to execute this movie.
The plot is pretty decent, and very obviously inspired Sam Raimi and company when they went out into the woods to make The Evil Dead. In fact, if I were the kind of idiot that threw the term "rip off" around, I could see using it on The Evil Dead. The plots are that similar. It's a simple premise, but one that, for the time, you'd have to call rather original; and if nothing else, this movie played a part in inspiring one of the greatest horror movies of all time, which really counts for a something no matter what else may be wrong with it. The acting, contrary to what many of the comments on the IMDB may tell you, is not bad. I get the impression some of the people writing reviews over there cannot distinguish between acting that's genuinely bad, and acting that's just dated. It's definitely dated, there's no question about that, but bad is not at all an applicable description in this case. Acting, like special effects, evolves over time, and most film buffs can tell you what decade a movie was shot in by watching the actors. I found the acting perfectly acceptable, and again, with a $6500 budget, if you want to get right down to it, the acting is far better than the budget warrants. Here's who matters and why: Patrick Burke (The Phantom of the Opera 1989), Forrest J. Ackerman (The Dead Undead, The Boneyard Collection, Scarlet Moon, Scorned 2005, The Naked Monster, Skinned Deep, Future War, Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold, That Little Monster, Innocent Blood, Dead Alive, Nudist Colony of the Dead, The Laughing Dead, Transylvania Twist, Curse of the Queerwolf, Return of the Living Dead Part II, Evil Spawn, Amazon Women on the Moon, Scalps, The Howling, King Kong 1976, Dracula vs. Frankenstein, Queen of Blood, The Time Travelers), Jim Danforth (The Aftermath. Though these days, he's best known as a special effects guy who's done dozens of excellent horror/sci-fi/fantasy movies), Jack Harris (The Blob, Beware! The Blob, Dinosaurus!, Schlock, The Eyes of Laura Mars), Chuck Niles (Nightmare Circus, Creature of the Walking Dead, Face of the Screaming Werewolf, Attack of the Mayan Mummy, Hand of Death, Teenage Zombies, Invisible Invaders), R.J. Robertson (The Haunting of Marella Transylvania Twist, Not of this Earth 1988). Normal human beings would likely recognize Frank Bonner as Herb Tarlek from WKRP in Cincinnati, though he mostly directs for TV these days. Forrest Ackerman is perhaps best known for editing the Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine (a publication that inspired Ray Bradbury, Stephen King and many others), starting in the late 50s, and is the man credited with coining the "sci-fi" abbreviation. Also of note, is Ed Begley Jr. as an assistant cameraman. This is one of only two movies for which he fulfilled that function before he became a biggish name actor. So, though it may have some serious problems, the acting is not one of them.
The special effects... oh dear, the special effects. Do bear in mind what I said earlier regarding my feelings on stop motion animation. If you personally like or at least have no problem with stop motion, I highly recommend this movie because beyond this, I honestly have nothing but good stuff to say about it. Stop motion is jerky, unconvincing, and antiquated. The best stop motion is inferior to all but the most terrible conventional or CGI effects. That said, the stop motion for the giant ape in the movie is okay, by stop motion standards, about 75% of the time. There is one really nasty shot where the ape is seen in the background through a crevice in a rock wall that's absolutely pathetic, but that's all. The flying devil type creature near the end is really bad as well. Really bad. The tentacle monster that destroys the cabin is pretty decent, again, by stop motion standards, and the miniature cabin that it destroys isn't too bad either. I will say that the superimposing technique used on the sequences involving the green giant monster with the bear skin toga I found no serious problem with, but it's not stop motion, it's blending two shots together and it actually works pretty well for 1970. On the topic of special effects, the reason the movie was released on DVD by Criterion is due to the fact that Dennis Muron (who co-directed) is a major special effects name these days, having worked on several, big as they come, movies. Including but not limited to; E.T., the original Star Wars trilogy, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. In addition to Muron, we've also got one of my favorite effects guys, David Allen, who's worked on so many great movies that I'm not even gonna try listing them. Unfortunately, they were young, still learning their trade, and didn't have enough money to buy a Coke on their lunch breaks, let alone produce convincing effects, and even they couldn't make this work. The shooting locations are pretty nice, with the more important ones being filmed in the forests and scrub-lands north of L.A. In contrast to say, The Evil Dead, these locations aren't nearly as good, but I still liked them and found them appropriate, if a little bit geographically incongruent. The idea that the desert patch would be that close to a heavily wooded area with running water is of course, nonsense, but that's not the kind of thing that bothers me all that much. The soundtrack is pretty fair, and at times reminds one of both Planet of the Apes (mostly just the opening credits sequence) as well as The Evil Dead. Of course, both of those movies have better soundtracks, but I consider it a compliment to make those comparisons. Overall, I really feel like a jerk for rating this so poorly when the movie has so much heart, and so many talented people working on it, but I cannot tell a lie, stop motion really bites. If you can overlook that, by all means, check it out, you'll probably enjoy it.