The nightmare that grabs you where you least expect it!
Year of Release: 1988
Also Known As: Il bosco 1, Horror Queen
Running Time: 81 minutes (1:21)
Director: Andreas Marfori
Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni ... Cindy
Diego Ribon ... Tony
Luciano Crovato ... Algernoon
Elena Cantarone ... Arva
Stefano Molinari ... Fango
A serene, romantic interlude in the country erupts into a frenzy of fright for a young couple who encounter the monster's EVIL CLUTCH. An attractive American exchange student has joined her Italian boyfriend for a weekend of fun and relaxation. It appears to be a perfect holiday until a beautiful and mysterious hitchhiker joins the happy couple, winning their friendship and trust. By the time the young lovers realize who their new found friend really is, they have been drawn into a nightmare of unimaginable horror and it is too late for them to escape from the terrifying grip of their captor's EVIL CLUTCH!
Evil Clutch, remindin' us that when you start gettin' attacked by sawed off pine trees in the forest, invisible lumberjacks can't be far behind. Won't that be quite a surprise for all those hippy enviro tree-huggin' vegetarian peace seekers who spend their weekends out in the woods nailin' railroad spikes into the timber when they think nobody's lookin'. They just think that's funnier'n releasin' a mound of termites in a pine furniture store, an they also seem to think that they're better at layin' out traps than Jigsaw an Daniel Boone put together. Least they did before Cleave Furguson an I were out cuttin' firewood one afternoon an I hit one of those spikes about halfway through this old Tamarack an... well, you ever try holdin' onto a chainsaw at full throttle while simultaneously havin' to dodge two ends of a snapped chain with 48 individually sharpened teeth flyin' at your face at the speed of light? It's a good thing I've seen Karate Kid Part II 19 times an have long since perfected the swingin' hammer side step maneuver or else Cleave prolly woulda sold my corpse to the renderin' plant. Which ain't a slight on Cleave, it's just that we entered into a little agreement regardin' our accidental deaths is all. But anyway, once we got back to town an I had Tetnis sew my index finger back on, we decided enough was enough an the three of us came up with a plan. So we drove back out to the woods an started diggin' holes about 5x5x20 an laid tarps down over the tops of 'em, staked the corners down, covered 'em with pine needles, an set one of Cleave's snares on toppa each one.
Through natural instinct, when anybody of the "fur is murder" persuasion sees one of these, they'll either try breakin' it or stealin' it so it won't harm any furry little animals with adorable complexions. Unfortunately, the pansy sniffer didn't figure on the hole bein' there an landed on his feet about as successfully as he did after leavin' college with that degree in literary arts an started screamin' for Smokey the Bear to come pull his fat outta the fire. Now I know what you're prolly thinkin', but I ran alla this by my attorney, Cletus Rubenstein, an he assured me that if anybody forgot to check the trap for a coupla weeks that he could get me off with a self defense angle. Sides, it's not like we were tryin' to kill anybody. We just wanted to scare the tar out of the guy, so the next day when we came back to check the traps we brought Billy Hilliard with us an had 'im lower a bucket with lotion in it down to the little wiener an just kinda stare at 'im lickin' his lips now an then for a coupla hours while the guy shrieked like a woman who accidentally wandered into the reptile aisle at Petco so we could be sure he wouldn't be back in our woods. I dunno how many of you know Billy, but he was perfect for the part, cause he looks about like Sasquatch on Rogaine an had part of his tongue bitten off by his third ex-wife after she caught 'im flirtin' with the waitress over at Mack's Stacks of Manly Snacks an so now he sounds a lot like Tor Johnson when he talks. But I should prolly get on with this since my index finger's startin' to go numb on me. Goll durn thing looks an feels like a frozen sausage link... I TOLD Tetnis I didn't think he'd gotten that Dorsal vein reconnected right.
In any event, Evil Clutch is just about the best Italian Evil Dead clone that Troma's ever released, an while I'm not entirely sure that I wanna go on record as sayin' that Troma, pound for pound, makes the best educational movies of any studio out there, it's at least in the top two. Something Weird comes to mind, so you can see why I'm a little hesitant to crown Troma the king of the classroom. But one thing's for sure, a Troma movie will never fail to unleash a veritable barrage of knowledge to help us cope with our miserable everyday lives, so here're three things that I've deemed particularly crucial with regard to makin' sure we stay one step ahead of "rational" society. First, just havin' one of those little Norelco electric razor devices that people who smoke eight packs of cigarettes a day have to use in your possession is enough to ensure your speech is audible after the doctor hasta carve out a new breathin' hole once your throat gets barricaded shut with tar. Holdin' it up to your neck is purely optional. Second, when a strange woman offers you cocaine an there's a fully loaded chamberpot between the two of you, don't be an idiot. You move that pot before reachin' for that cocaine, cause it's a little known fact that cocaine an cacca comin' together react like Bloods an Crips an there's a good chance that the resultin' eruption'll leave you lookin' like you got all the chimps in the primate exhibit real P.O.'d a few hours after feedin' time. An third, as long as you remember to pipe in the chainsaw noises later, there's no reason to use the pull start on it or make some kinda effort to hide the fact that the chain isn't rotatin'. As long as the zombie *thinks* it'll hurt 'im, it'll slice right through like hot lead through a Ferguson, Missouri protestor.
Makes your head spin just tryin' to take it all in, don't it? Well, I know that sometimes it *seems* like I've got all the answers to life's little problems, but I'm no smarter'n anybody else an sometimes I come up with a conundrum of my own. For instance, in Evil Clutch, we've got this witch whose got this furry glopola claw that squirms out of 'er hoo-ha an likes to tear the wangdoodles offa unsuspectin' male suitors. Now, I do not by any means condone the decockpitation of anybody without good cause. But if we can get past the misuse of said cooterclaw for a minute, it really ain't the witch's fault that she's got this schlonker slicer growin' in there, so my question is, if this woman was usin' 'er manhood masticater *responsibly*, for claw jobs an such, would we as a modern progressive society be open minded enough to get past her physical deformity an treat 'er with the respect an dignity she deserves? I know our track record ain't real hot, what with that whole Elephant Man thing an the way we used to treat Michael Jackson, but I've been thinkin' a lot about this an... oh who am I kiddin', we aren't ready for this, even now. Sure, she'd be revered in the Hentai community, but do you really suppose you could bring this woman home to meet your parents an have your mama not forbid you to see 'er outta fear that she might get P.O.'d an scissor off your baby maker? I just can't see it... cept maybe in California. We just can't seem to get past these little petty differences of ours, can we? If it ain't skin color or religious backgrounds, it's havin' a Lovecraftian appendage growin' outta your cock crevice. I dunno how anybody EVER expects us to get invited into the United Federation of Planets with this kinda persecution an prejudice runnin' wild like a Hulkamania in 1988. We've really, really gotta get it together, people.
The movie begins with this guy walkin' through the Italian countryside lookin' around checkin' on his spaghetti crop til he comes to Creedence Guilgud's house an finds this dame (Arva) inside with more eye makeup than the lead singer of Green Day an starts clickin' the button on 'er garage door opener so he can park his Ferrari inside. Unfortunately, this particular parkin' garage has a meter that don't accept money an he ends up gettin' charged an arm an third leg when this big gnarly claw flies out of 'er penis/guy trap an rips off his kielbasa faster'n a rabid feminist at Todd Akin campaign headquarters. Elsewhere, this real cute couple (Tony an Cindy) who've managed to overcome the fact that they're not speakin' the same language, are headin' through the Italian Alps on holiday til Arva an the cockeyed POV Evil Dead cam start flyin' toward 'em as they're comin' down the highway, an once she can flag 'em down she starts makin' like Steven Seagal an claimin' she's under siege. So Tony gets out an heads over to this cemetery to make sure Rugerro Deodato or Lucio Fulci aren't tryin' to kidnap 'er an put 'er in their own movies, til an invisible voodoo demon starts playin' Ring Around the Rosie with 'im an he decides to get back to the car before the sun's UV rays ignite all the grease in his hair. Once he gets back he tells 'em his inner hippy was sensin' some bad vibes over yonder an so they head for town where this creepy guy wearin' Red Baron goggles (Algernoon) shows up on his motorbike an Arva takes off like William Shatner after the Star Trek nerds breech the event security's force field. Then The Baron takes 'em over to a waterfall an puts this Norelco electric razor up to his neck so he'll sound like Stephen Hawking's voice synthesizer after a coupla decades with a two pack a day habit an tells 'em that the mountains are cursed an that the people who used to live out there practiced black magic an borrowed people's goats but never returned 'em with their heads still attached. All the while Tony's got this look on his face like the one he had when Cindy tried convincin' 'im that where she comes from it's normal for women to shave their armpits, an so The Baron lays out a coupla future scenarios for 'im wherein he's just livin' his life an all the sudden Cindy goes demon on 'im an starts tearin' out his jugular vein to use in 'er Fettuccine Alfredo if they stick around this place too long. It's pretty much the same story your embittered uncle who's been married six times tells to all the kids in the family when they announce their engagement.
Course, by now Cindy couldn't be more afraid if she was tryin' to cross the street with Tony Stewart parked at the stop light, an so she starts makin' noises like a new arrival at Michael Vick's Tough Love Animal Shelter til they take off an head for the mountains. But once they get out there The Baron shows up an tries one more time to convince 'em that they're gonna end up bein' broth in a witch's brew an that sometimes things aren't always as they seem, particularly in some of the shadier areas in Sicily where it seems like all the businessmen have unnerving nicknames. Undeterred, they promise to save a coupla trout for The Baron an start hikin' into the hills til one of the grips loses theirs on a sawed off pine tree an nearly Sonny Bonos Cindy faster'n the director can yell "YOU HAD ONE JOB!" So now she *really* wants to get back to civilization, only Tony's able to convince 'er that she ain't lived til she's experienced sex outdoors in a patch of stingin' nettles, an so she quits whinin' an they head over to this spring where Arva shows up an tells 'em The Baron's bad news an that they prolly aughta make like Bob Vila an come back to This Old House she knows where they'll be safe from any potential dog fights with The Baron. Course, all the while The Baron's sneakin' around followin' 'em like like an Italian ninja wearin' Don Opper's costume from Critters 3 til the trio finally makes it to the house from the openin' female empowerment sequence, an naturally Cindy's scared again cause the actin' school she attended in Rome, Georgia only had enough of a budget to teach one emotion. So Avra shows 'em to a bed of cedar shavins that Bob's been meanin' to sweep up for the last nine years an while Cindy goes outside for some air, Avra whips out some cocaine an tells Tony to snort it up real quick cause she thought she saw Whitney Houston prowlin' around outside. Cept when he takes it from 'er he spills some in this fully loaded chamberpot an the contents start spewin' out like Old Faithful til he looks like he just finished filmin' on a German porno. Then he heads outside to check on Cindy to make sure she isn't huddled in the fetal position hidin' from a potato bug an they check out this old stone monument covered in symbols like what you'd see on an East German black metal album til Tony lights it on fire an it starts bleedin' like the clientele of a suicide hotline when nobody answers the phone. Tony's just a teensy bit spooked, so he figures that he'd better go empty Arva's chamberpot in case there're any angry chili spirits trapped inside before goin' back in the house an floppin' down on the floor makin' noises like a manatee caught in an Evinrude.
Cindy's P.O.'d an starts screamin' at Arva bout how he never used to speak in tongues an vomit up 10W-30 before she showed up an tells 'er to get the heck outta there before she hasta make catty remarks about 'er outfit an Arva slinks off like a she just got caught piddlin' on the carpet. Then Cindy realizes that it's all just a case of alcohol withdrawal an tries luggin' 'im down to the spring to see if Jesus is down there turnin' water into wine, til the guy who was relieved of his manly duties in the openin' sequence shows up lookin' like he just wandered over from the set of Zombi 3 an wrestles with Tony til Cindy can get a chain around 'im like a dominatrix takin' a client for a walk an ties 'im to an old wagon wheel. But once they get that handled, Tony starts foamin' at the mouth like Old Yeller an Cindy has to split like a skull at a cannibal dinner party. Then Arva comes back an starts eyeballin' Tony like a side of beef at a weight watchers meetin' an they start rootin' around in each other's drawers til Old Man Willow tries draggin' Tony into his trunk with a buncha shop vac hoses. Fortunately, by the time Arva whips out 'er beaver cleaver The Baron shows up an hacks it off with an axe before she can give anybody snatch scratch fever. Arva's P.O.'d, an once she gets over the loss of 'er Lovecraftian lacerater, she gets ahold of The Baron's ax an uses the handle to crush his throat like he tried 69in' Queen Latifah. Then 'er eyes start bulgin' out like a she's in a Ren & Stimpy cartoon while Tony makes pitiful blubberin' sounds an whinin' for Cindy, til the zombie Houdinis his way outta the chains an sneaks up on Tony with a big ole boulder an crushes his hands off til he's got a reverse Lieutenant Dan syndrome. So Tony runs off to find Cindy an she tells 'im not to worry cause she's gonna grab some water outta the cellar... which she must think is either gonna stop the massive blood loss or cause his hands to regenerate, but before she can get down there the zombie heads 'er off with a sickle an runs 'er back up topside. Unfortunately, she seems to have misplaced 'er chivalry down in the cellar, cause once she emerges she blows right by Tony an leaves 'im for the zombie who stuffs his head between a coupla spokes on the old wagon wheel an snaps the head right off like a defective bolt in the grip of an impact wrench an starts enjoyin' his Italian take-out. Meanwhile, Cindy runs into The Baron who's who's now gone zombie too, an hasta run back to the house where somebody decides it'd be a great time to kick on all the stadium lights in the surroundin' area an the zombies start puttin' on their bibs in preparation for their forthcomin' slice of American cheesecake. Gonna cut it here, and if the director had done the same, it prolly woulda gotten a passin' grade.
Alrighty, well, as a Troma presentation, it's pretty good. Though as you probably know, this is a bit of a backhanded compliment. Like being the lightest contestant on The Biggest Loser or being the smartest student in the remedial English class. I prolly shouldn't be so harsh on Troma movies, my problem is that with a lot of them, there's always that attitude that they don't really need to put that much effort in because, for the most part, bad movies are what they're known for. But now and then you come across one that's actually got an interesting story and after everything goes south, you're stuck trying not to bludgeon its score to death because it disappointed you after showing some real promise. As I mentioned earlier, with about 20 minutes left, I was ready to give this one a passing grade, but then it started fallin' apart like a leper in an industrial sized washin' machine. At about the one hour mark, the actors begin overacting to the point that it's just silly, and that's not helped by the fact that this is also the moment the writers chose to let the dialog go to Hell as well. A couple of the more sparkling lines include: "We must find a way! You can't just give up!" and "You fucking creatures! Don't think you'll get me so easily!" I suppose those could be translation issues, but up to that point the dubbing seemed like it was supervised by somebody who knew what they were doing, so I dunno. But that's not all, oh no. Not long after these other problems it looks like we're about to be treated to a chainsaw battle, and we are, but they got stupid about it and never had Coralina Tassoni's character actually use the pull start to get it going, or make any kind of effort to hide the fact that the saw isn't running while she's holding it. The camera's super close to her too, so it's REALLY obvious that the chain isn't rotating. And of course, this is also the point where the zombies start gettin' the giggles and so they're actually laughing throughout a lot of this, which kills the mood quicker'n havin' to wait for your date to go empty their colostomy bag. Though there is one point for which I'll go to bat for it; I've seen a couple people mentioning how revealing the villain at the very beginning spoils the movie, and that's really not accurate. The fact that they choose not to build up to the revelation that Arva is the villain is not violating some cardinal rule, it's just different than the way most 80s movies handle it. This method is actually one that used to get a lot more use back in the early days of horror, wherein they purposely reveal the villain to the audience, but not the other characters. So the audience knows the villain is gonna turn heel and start slicin' up protagonists at some point, but not necessarily when that'll happen. It's just a different way of doing things is all, like revealing a bomb under a table that none of the seated individuals know about. You can say you don't like that style and that's fine, but the idea that there's something inherently wrong with it is nonsense.
Okay then, lets start swingin' our crotch claws around and see if anybody's impressed. The plot is simple, but enjoyable, if very derivative of The Evil Dead. Complete with cockeyed point of view camera angles moving invisibly towards a target, old house in the woods, zombie transformations, and of course, the necessity of surviving until morning. I'm not knocking it for borrowing ideas, after all, The Evil Dead borrowed some things from Equinox... although it also improved upon its source material where this one doesn't even come close. It also kinda reminded me of Versus, or rather, Versus reminds me of it, since its got precedent. Anyway, the plot isn't particularly original, but that's fine. The acting, for the first 75% of the movie is fair, though nothing special. The acting for the last 25% is atrocious, although having seen the first 75%, you recognize that these people are capable of a better performance, so it makes you wonder if the director was actually telling them to do... whatever it is they're doing. It reeks all the same, and really hammers the overall rating. Not much in the way of acting careers on this one, but here's who matters and why: Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni (Mother of Tears, Ghost Son, The Phantom of the Opera 1998, L'amico d'infanzia, Opera, Demons 2), Stefano Molinari (La maschera del demonio, Demons 2). The special effects, for the most part are pretty fair, although near the end when the zombie rips off Tony's head so he can sit around in the lawn debris an do his Al Snow impression... if that ain't a completely hollow K-Mart (or whatever the Italian equivalent is) fright mask I'll eat it without salt or pepper. I mean, that thing'd be pitiful if they were tryin' to pass it off as just a skinned face, let alone an actual severed head. But otherwise, the effects're mostly alright. The cooterclaw is pretty cool, the zombie makeup on Stefano Molinari is very good, and the damage caused by the chainsaw fu isn't too shabby either. Though I think that if any of the blood in this movie were actually inside somebody they'd prolly suffer six simultaneous heart attacks on account of how thick it is, but in general; not too bad.
The shooting locations aren't bad, we've got some pretty decent nature shots, a cemetery, a brief sequence in a little Italian village, and of course, the house. The house is the main event, although the interior is a bit disappointing after seeing the exterior. It's entirely possible that the interior was a set, or not part of the house shown from the outside, but it's alright. Nothing really special here, just fair, though generally speaking, the cinematography is actually pretty good. The soundtrack may very well be the high point. It seems like a lot of so-so movies like this one manage to have one unusually outstanding feature, and for this one, it's the soundtrack. Early on it's a little silly, with some portions obviously portraying what Americans (whose only exposure to Italian music is the dinner scene from Lady and the Tramp) *think* Italian music is like, but for the most part it's a well executed, spooky composition with great instrumentals, and an occasional smattering of choral singing. Was really surprised to see that the composer only has seven movies to his credit, cause this is one of the better Italian movie soundtracks I've ever heard. Though, if it does have one fault, it's the fact that it's really overused. I'd say there's music going between 60% - 70% of the entire movie, and with it being utilized for that much of the run time, they miss some opportunities that might have generated more atmosphere if there was simply dead silence. Still, really good soundtrack, probably better than the movie deserves. Overall, it really goes south after about an hour, and it's very disappointing, because up to that point it really is at least worth a passing grade. But I can't in good conscience let those problems slide, so this one's only recommended to Troma fans (they might very well consider those last 20 minutes to be the redeeming portion), completist zombie fans, and fans of Italian horror. I can't even recommend it to people who just like bad movies in general because the first three quarters aren't even bad. So give it a shot if you like, but do so at your own peril.