C.J. Arnold (Richard Crenna), a psych professor, and his wife Caroline (Joanna Pettet), a doctor, just bought a haunted mansion to turn into a drug rehab center. The Arnolds and a wimpy guy from the foundation (or whatever organization gave them the grant to buy the house) are on the way to see the place when the wimpy guy informs them that it took longer than usual to get the money because the Arnolds aren’t affiliated with a church. This gives the screenwriter the opportunity to have C.J. say, “Organized religion is just another way of saying organized hypocrisy.”
Now, that is the kind of line I would have gone around quoting when I was 17, and maybe even had made into a button I would then have worn on my vest. Hearing the line now makes me cringe, because it sounds like something a 17 year old in a vest adorned with buttons with sayings on them would say while feeling deep and rebellious. But it’s being said by a 50-ish psychologist with a big brown beard. Could you get any more 70s than a guy with a big brown beard? He looks like he’s on his way to record backup vocals for Seals and Crofts.
Apparently you could get more 70s, because C.J. has a friend named Ray (Andrew Prine) who just taught his final class as a grad student while wearing wocka chicka wocka tight white pants before going home to take off the pants with a young female student. Although seeing as how it’s worn by Andrew Prine the wardrobe just adds to the movie’s goofy charm.
Then Caroline starts seeing a shimmering figure everywhere, she finds the original owner’s diary and warning about the evil house, and before you know it 90 minutes have passed. This is well paced; there is hardly any down time between kills and scares, and it pretty much has a linear plot that makes sense. We’re beaten about the head and shoulders by C.J.’s atheism, but in the end it seems to work because it is the Devil, not God, who shows himself to C.J. out of a need to prove what he is capable of. A college professor is used to dealing with sophomores, and who could be more sophomoric than the Devil?
I liked The Evil, and how could I not? It’s the opposite of subtle. You’ve got two electrocutions, at least two possessions, two dog attacks, a corpse that sits up, a sparkly ghost, and a quicksand drowning on dry land. I know it’s been said before by some witty person with a meme, but I really did think, based on watching 70s movies as a kid, that quicksand was going to be a bigger problem in life. Other things I thought would be more prevalent: amnesia, multiple personalities, and getting party invites from David Warner.
The only thing that really bothers me is the dead bodies that the Arnolds leave behind when they escape. I always wonder how, at the end of a supernatural horror movie, the survivors manage to explain all the carnage to the police. A mess like that probably screwed their chances of getting another grant, and I sure hope C.J. had tenure before the movie began.
The Evil is available to watch on Tubi.