Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Evil Clutch (1988)

aka Horror Queen

Original title: Il Bosco

After gifting their audience with one of those much-loved holiday slide shows (complete with mandatory boring off-screen mumbling and terrible jokes) during the credits, the young lovers Cindy (Coralina Cataldi-Cassoni) and Tony (Diego Ribon) decide to make a camping trip into the Alps. And good riddance, the audience says.

After picking up a woman named Arva (Elena Cantarone), who claims to have been attacked by someone in the vicinity and inconclusively looking around for the attacker for a bit, they come to a quiet little village. Arva runs off, but our hero couple is unfazed by anything that might be strange about the woman's demeanour. They make the acquaintance of a writer (going by the credits he's called Algernoon; played by Luciano Crovato) who speaks through an electronic box. Writer guy tells the couple an utterly delightful story about them becoming possessed by demons and killing each other. Later on, he'll demonstrate the dangers of the area by brandishing a fishing rod. In fact, Algernoon is trying to warn our heroes off from staying in the area, but instead of just saying something like "whoever goes into the woods gets massacred by the local witch, who just happens to be my daughter", he's going the classic vague rambling route. Not surprisingly, Algernon is creeping Tony and Cindy out so much they don't want to have anything more to do with him.

Of course the two young people decide the best way to get away from their new-found "friend" is to go camping in the woods. There they meet Arva again. The woman invites the couple to stay overnight in an empty house she knows about, and their experiences with Algernoon notwithstanding, they agree.

Little do our heroes know that Arva is a witch who likes to play with a bucket o' demonising goo she stores in the house and castrates men with the giant claw (alas, not as big as a battleship) that grows out of her vagina. Sure, Algernoon could have told them, but then the film would have ended early.

As the title Evil Clutch already hints at, this is another Italian attempt at squeezing a few bucks out of pale imitations of other films.  Given how late the film comes in the history of Italian rip-off film culture, with all the lack of talent behind and before the camera and lack of funds a film being made at this point in time implies, it will come as no surprise that Evil Clutch does not manage to stitch an entertaining monster out of the parts it hacked off of other films. It's especially unfortunate because the first two Evil Dead films this wants so desperately to remind us of were themselves made on shoestring budgets, yet still managed to be excellent movies. One might think Evil Clutch's director Andreas Marfoni could have tried to learn something from Sam Raimi's films, but the Italian prefers to just copy parts of the setting and use lots and lots of low-hanging steadicam shots that implicate the drunken frat boy brother of the American films' force of evil.

Too much of Evil Clutch is spent on moments of refined boredom that are punctuated by ropey gore and pus effects which never manage to be all that interesting. From time to time, these effects are at least funny, but I couldn't shake the impression Marfoni didn't know which of them were worth spending time on and which ones just boring busywork for the effects people. So excellent (yesyes, and tasteless) ideas like the vagina claw or the cuckoo clock with the wee little blood-spitting head instead of a cuckoo inside are drowned out by uninventive mutilations and much brownish decomposition of body parts you'd need someone with the imagination and fearlessness from being ridiculous of Lucio Fulci behind the camera to make interesting.

I probably hardly need to mention that the script (also by Marfoni) only contains enough plot for twenty minutes, or that not much of it makes any sense. These wouldn't be insurmountable problems, if Evil Clutch just weren't so dull for most of the time.

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