Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Forever Evil (1987)

Inventor Marc (Red Mitchell), his fiancée and a few friends are having a little get-together in the proverbial cabin (okay, house) in the woods. A rather rotten looking creature which more than just suggests the supernatural slaughters everyone but Marc, who manages to escape.

During the course of the next hour of run time or so, Marc’ll learn that his friends aren’t the first people to be murdered in the area in this way, and that the killings are in fact part of a ritual to open the gates for one Yog-Kothag to bring about the end of the world as we know it. For the ritual to work properly, the killings have to be timed to the pulses of a quasar that only does its thing every few decades or so, because, well, because! Take that, astronomy! There’s a lot of pointless to and fro making up the middle part of the film, scenes of a ghost dog whose actual relevance to the plot (except its cuteness) I couldn’t puzzle out, some hot tarot action, dream sequences that are actually pretty great, and other digressions. Sometime during all this, Marc also teams up with an elderly cop (Charles L. Trotter) and Reggie (Tracey Huffman), another survivor of an earlier attempt of the movie’s rather incompetent real estate agent cultist (finally, some realism in horror) to bring his Master to Earth. There’s awkward romance, stuff and more stuff, until the film gets around to a just as awkward but actually rather fun final half hour or so.

It’s a bit of a shame the production history of Forever Evil is so well documented, for now I can’t really use my theory the script to this one is actually a play-by-play-adaptation of someone’s homebrew Call of Cthulhu scenario, which would explain so much about it, like the film’s insane running time - the “director’s cut” is a full two hours long  - or the way the script adds random pointless characters it spends unhealthy amounts of time on for a scene or two, only to have them disappear shortly thereafter. Hi and bye, Leo’s magazine-commenting neighbour!

This one’s a very early direct-to-video horror film shot in Texas on actual film stock (!), and it carries all the hallmarks you’d expect from that pedigree: the acting is awkward, and sometimes pretty darn awful, but more often than not in a charming way that helps you get over the film’s many, many lengths and digressions (I think you could cut it down to an hour or seventy minutes and you wouldn’t use anything actually important or useful to the narrative, he said in a digressive bracket spitting on the rules of good or readable writing).

Charm’s the thing with this kind of production to me. Sure, all the curious characters (see also, Master Magnus, tarot reader extraordinaire) the film introduces for no good reason bog the narrative down terribly and destroy any chance it has for developing something amounting to tension but they’re also what gives it an identity all its own, personality and local colour, things that make a film enjoyable despite technical flaws, a stop-and start narrative and an ancient evil my mind turned into Yog-Cassock the first time the film mentioned its name. And, you know, there’s the whole Lovecraftian angle I can’t help but enjoy.

On the technical level of editing and camera work, Forever Evil is surprisingly decent. The camera isn’t nailed down, the edits make sense if you ignore the fact most scenes are twice as long as they should be (this must be the birth of “indie horror”), score and picture cohere. The special effects are even pretty good. The gentleman zombie and Marc’s nightmare baby (don’t ask) aren’t exactly looking lifelike, but director Roger Evans uses them to full advantage and they show a good grip on the basics of what makes things creepy.

Consequently I found myself having a lot of fun with Forever Evil. Sure, the middle part is easier to survive if own has the sense of time of an ancient evil (you know, decades are mere seconds to it), but most of its pointless digressions are somewhat fun. The film also has a lot of ideas – not all of them good, mind you – and isn’t ashamed to use all of them, putting its dream sequences, its scene of a woman commenting on the magazine she reads over the phone, the ghost quasar, the ghost dog, the difficulties with killing a gentleman zombie (not to speak of an evil magician), a random duel between a tarot master and some hooded guy (who may or may not supposed to be the ancient evil itself or the real estate cultist) and so on and forth, for the audience to sort out and enjoy or fall asleep to. Falling asleep to a movie presenting so much random weird stuff isn’t my way, fortunately; instead, this thing made me inordinately happy.

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