I saw this on the library shelf and remembered vaguely some Youtube clips I had seen of old school monsters. Then I was hit by the revelation that the packaging must inspire in most people: So, why does a bizarre cult monster flick get a Criterion Collections release?
If the director/writer/special effects guru on your film later wins nine special effects Oscars, you just might have genuine film history.
Equinox is the baby of Dennis Muren, a special effects wunderkind who went from this film to a career at Industrial Light and Magic. In itself, this movie is a weird nexus of the entertainment industry. It has one foot in the past, with scavenged pieces from places like The Outer Limits and the original King Kong. The people who made it went on to shape SFX history in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Jurassic Park, and Star Wars. It gives an incredible advantage to anyone trying to win the Stages of Kevin Bacon separation game, almost as powerful as the film they used to show with Kevin Bacon in the Empire State Building. I mean, mix Kevin with Trek's Scotty and you're basically playing on easy mode. But I digress...
You know something has the historical badge of fame when its got an introduction by Forrest J. Ackman. Forry a.k.a.the Ackermonster a.k.a. Dr. Acula ran the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. It was basically the Internet for young horror fans once upon a time, a place to connect and store cool pictures and weird trivia.
Muren calls this film a fossil, and that's not a bad comparison. It's a transitional one at that, showing the ancestor of many of the teenagers-in-a-cabin movies of the future. It's got swarming clouds...
...and an evil book that flies at the screen...
...which summons demons to a cabin. Anybody heard this one before? Yes, the special effects wizard of the Evil Dead series admits to seeing Equinox twice in the theater.
We start in the thick of things, with an explosion leading to a screaming man getting hit by a possessed car. Then begins the perfect opening for a Call of Cthulhu adventure as a reporter goes to an insane asylum to here the story of a daemonophobic screaming man. Once the flashbacks start, we're in familiar territory.
I'm not going to run down the plot, because:
A) It's familiar to any horror fan.
B) We're here for the monster highlights.
There's plenty of weird dialogue worth making fun of. The absolute best line of dialogue overall is definitely "I've seen dead bodies before," a statement idly uttered by a character and never explained. I wonder what kind of social circle the characters have where no one bats an eye at that verbal bomb drop.
The monsters include a a green thing that's a lot like the Ymir from Twenty Million Miles to Earth....
...a giant that's surprisingly well-integrated with the smaller human characters...
and THE DEVIL!
Now, the creepy park ranger is secretly the devil...
...which is totally not a spoiler, considering he's called Asmodeus. That's the subtlety you find in a second grader's creative writing story.
Ranger Not-The-Devil performs the goofiest gratuitous sexual assault ever, trying to kiss a fallen woman while trying to imitate a frog that just accidentally tasted something foul.
There's a second DVD that's crammed with special effects features, stills, and shorts. I absolutely geeked out on these, because they reminded me of the fond hours I spent as a kid pouring over the special effects photos in Daniel Cohen books and the Crestwood House Monster series, two things I must blog about someday.
One hilarious gem is an 8 minute student film, Zorgon, the H- Bomb Beast from Hell.
The overacting in Zorgon is on display wonderfully in the first thirty seconds, and honestly, why not?
If your goal is to make a B-movie homage with the goal of making your film class laugh, Zorgon hits all the right notes. The silent part is a bonus, making it perfect to throw on while your friends are over for a homemade Rifftrax.
The movie's fun, and I'd probably show it to my kid if I quickly skip over the weirdo Satanic fondle assault part. I don't want her getting weird ideas about what a French kiss is and having an embarrassing prom night. I do adore scary monsters, with my DVD shelf boasting such favorites as Splinter, Rogue, and Carpenter's The Thing. Still, instead of scary, monsters can also be fun in the way that magic tricks are. I like watching older movies and thinking about how they were made.
This DVD won't scare anyone except young children, but I had a blast watching it. Equinox is a neat fossil that should occupy a proud place in horror's evolutionary tree.