November 9, 2014

The Evictors (1979)

Directed by Charles B. Pierce. Starring Vic Morrow ("Jake Rudd"), Michael Parks ("Ben Watkins"), Jessica Harper ("Ruth Watkins"), and Sue Ane Langdon ("Olie Gibson"). Rated PG.

Source: Region 1 DVD (Scream Factory)
Running time: 01:32:22
Country: USA

Directed by Charles B. Pierce (THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN), THE EVICTORS opens very similarly to a certain Rob Zombie film. A reclusive and sort of notorious family are defending their home against unwanted visitors. But instead of a police raid like in DEVIL'S REJECTS, the family in this film are being harassed by someone from a bank who wants to evict them. They resist and it turns into a full-blown firefight, ending tragically for the family of hillbillies.

Subsequently, over the years, bad things would happen to anyone who tried to make the doomed home their residence, and such is eventually the case with the happily-married Ben and Ruth Watkins (Michael Parks and Jessica Harper respectively) who are introduced after the opening flashback sequence when they purchase the home and move in. Initially, things are going almost too good for Ben and Ruth. They get an amazing deal on the house (hmmm.....) and Ruth is seemingly living out a fairytale when it comes to her ideal domestic situation; she gets to be Suzy Homemaker while her devoted husband is winning the bread. However things slowly but surely begin to get weirder and weirder for them, beginning with a threatening note that turns up in their mailbox. There's even a Prophet of Doom character in the form of a black man who sells various goods out of the back of his truck. As he so eloquently puts it to Ruth upon their first meeting:
"Been a lotta strange things happenin' 'round here. Ain't you heard about all those folks that was killed here? You ain't heard about all these killin's out here, ma'am, all them people dyin'? It's all in the newspaper but I tell it better than all the newspaper do (laughs)."

The Prophet of Doom's info-dump and yet another flashback sequence set the stage for the impending trouble that Ruth and her husband face, if legend proves to be real. This all coincides with a physically-imposing man making his presence known at various hours of the day (and night). Perhaps Ruth and her husband will end up as part of the tragic folklore surrounding the house and star in their very own sepia-toned flashbacks when the black man warns yet another oblivious family who later moves into the home. Or, if they play their cards right, they could outsmart the mysterious assailant and pull off a Scooby-Doo style unmasking, which would in turn lead to a long-winded confession from the antagonist. You'll have to see this for yourself to find out!

The third act of EVICTORS is essentially Ruth left to her own devices while her husband is at work, but not before she's trained in the ways of operating a firearm. This is when the film's stalk n' (sort of) slash element kicks into gear. Most horror movies that primarily take place in a house, more often than not, earn the same critical question from viewers: "Why don't they just pack their shit and leave?" In this case it's because Ben wants to fulfill his professional obligations, hence why Ruth somewhat reluctantly takes advantage of her constitutional right to bear arms when he's not around. Despite this, the mysterious attacker is hellbent on terrorizing Ruth for whatever reason.

THE EVICTORS is a solid little rural slasher that sort of marches to the beat of its own drum due to the fact that there weren't any "rules" established for slasher movies at the time. Director Pierce is mostly known for TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN or LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK, so I went into this expecting one of his lesser films considering it doesn't get talked about as much. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by this film. One of the more surprising elements of EVICTORS is its score. The music ranges from pulsating, foreboding synth music to squealing, string-heavy compositions accompanied by what sounds like the wails of restless spirits crying out from a blackened cemetery, which would sound right at home in SUSPIRIA coincidentally enough. The music is one of the key factors in turning what could otherwise be a creepy slasher into a very unsettling and atmospheric Southern Gothic horror tale. If THE EVICTORS has alluded you over the years and it looks like something you'd be interested in, it will more than likely deliver the goods if you check it out - and then some. Bonus points for the cast as well.

Score: 7

1 comment:

  1. Had no idea Harper did another horror movie on top of Phantom of the Paradise and Suspiria.