I've been enjoying the hell out of the new Starz series Ash vs. Evil Dead that started a few weeks back. Having grown up on the brilliant Evil Dead 2 by Sam Raimi, watching Bruce Campbell reprise his iconic one-handed role is like the most-perfect nostalgic gift that gets handed to me every Saturday night. I get home from work, order take out, pop a bottle of Champagne, and let the gore fest begin. While talking to an acquaintance recently about my affinity for the show, he mentioned an old film from 1970 called Equinox, claiming Raimi had been seriously influenced by the movie. Apparently much of what happens in the Evil Dead saga was an homage to this early piece of horror camp. Somehow even the tiniest fragment of knowledge concerning Equinox had escaped me my entire horror film-watching career. I had never even seen the title mentioned anywhere, but when I began to do a bit of research I saw that Criterion had released a version of it with added features and an entirely separate disc of extras. I knew what I wanted for my birthday.
Having spent the first part of December in France, I didn't get a chance to sit down with Equinox until this past weekend. Boy oh boy, was it worth the wait. Let me start off by saying that you absolutely must start drinking about fifteen to twenty minutes before starting the movie. I think only the most dedicated of low budget cinema fans will be able to focus beyond the initial half hour without the joyful glow of intoxication. Get your snacks out and your beverages of choice ready before hand. The plot of Equinox deals with a group of college-aged kids (one who looks about 42) who head out into the mountains to meet a professor at his remote cabin (sounds familiar already, right?). When they get there, however, they find his cabin has been destroyed and no sign of the professor whatsoever. The high jinks and hilarity begin from there. There's a book of ancient devilry that falls into their possession, full of an evil magic that the professor mistakenly has unlocked (pretty much just like the Evil Dead films). You can guess what happens from there on.
Unlike the Evil Dead films, however, there's hardly any blood in Equinox. It's mostly a series of grainy shots with audio overdub that sounds like an early Godzilla flick (a genre that Equinox itself is an homage to). The special effects are quite spectacular though considering the film was made for $6,500. You can credit Dennis Muren for that—the man who went on to later glories with George Lucas and Star Wars, as well as with Steven Spielberg and Indiana Jones. One of the "teenagers" is played by a young Frank Bonner, eight years before he would become famous as Herb on Cincinnati WKRP. As if those career jumpstarts weren't entertaining enough, watch the credits to see who did the assistant camera work: Ed Begley Jr! Don't know who that is? Watch any comedy movie ever and he probably has a cameo, but my personal favorite Begley role is as the Alopecia-stricken real estate rival Stan Sitwell in Arrested Development.
As you can clearly see from the movie still I've included above, there's a lot to be excited about in Equinox. Especially if you've been drinking since breakfast.