Saturday, November 7, 2015

In short: Tower of Evil (1972)

aka Horror on Snape Island

To make matters shorter than the film does, a bunch of naked teenagers is slaughtered on a light house/island studio set. The only survivor (because she’s only into oral sex, and I’m not even kidding) loses it and nakedly stabs a rescuing fisherman, therefore proving to the police she was the killer. Fortunately for her, she falls into a catatonic state and spends the rest of her scenes being hypnotised by a psychiatrist, leading to the expected home-made psychedelia flashbacks that are the obvious highlights of the film.

All the while, an expedition of some – and I quote, unconvinced – “experienced archaeologists” (names and actors are pretty unimportant) makes its way to the island, for one of the teenagers was stabbed to death with a Phoenician spear that suggests to the archaeologists the island must harbour the hoard of a Phoenician chieftain. Which indeed it does, as well as the guy who actually killed the teenagers, and who, after good slasher manner, will slaughter the new, joint-smoking, wine-swilling, and sex-having non-teenagers, too. Hooray.

On one hand, Tower of Evil is quite the interesting film as a clearly giallo-influenced proto-slasher with all the love for sleaze (though not the propensity for gore) of a third generation slasher, showing off the bizarre yet fascinating fashion (sometimes I wish people actually dressed this way) and unpleasant characters of the former genre, and the “kill all people who have sex and/or drugs” tendencies of the latter one, as well as copying the often dubious plotting of the latter.

Unfortunately, Jim O’Connolly’s resulting film just isn’t very good. Sure, there are a lot of nude bodies if you’re into that, but if you’re hoping for some of the style of the Italian genre cinema this is built on, or clever or even just aesthetically interesting use of the sleaze and the violence, you’re really watching the wrong film. O’Connolly’s direction may not be inept, exactly, but more often than not, it’s pedestrian and boring, leaving the audience little to do than to watch these rather unpleasant people be unpleasant and later get offed. This turns out to be neither very entertaining nor captivating, even though there are one or two moments I found vaguely amusing. Extramarital sex is better than masturbation you say? “Zip me?”.

Things are made even less interesting by to the bone-headed decision to first spend half an hour plus on the teenagers and then do the same plot, just with more set-up, again with the “archaeologists” (who carry more grass and wine than any actual archaeological equipment, and dress like people from a bizarro fashion magazine), instead of somehow just fusing the two strands and actually getting on with the business of killing people and getting them naked (not always in this order).

As it stands, I can only recommend Tower of Evil as a historic curiosity that badly aped a particular sub-genre and sort of arrived at prefiguring the worst bits of a different related sub-genre, because as a movie, it’s just slow, mucky, and sleazy in a way that’s neither fun nor oppressive enough to be of much interest.

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