Equinox (1970)

So, a couple quick questions:

Do you like the original Clash of the Titans, in all of it’s claymation glory?

Do you like Evil Dead, with it’s story of youngsters, monsters and demon books?

Have you ever wondered what abomination would be produced if the two of them had an unofficial love child?

Well my friends, you’re in luck! Cause I’ve got just the film for you:

1equinox

A man and a woman are running through the woods from an unknown force. There’s an explosion. The woman is killed and the man continues to run until he reaches the road. He tries to wave down a car, but it’s a trap. The car has no driver. He notices too late and is run down by the unmanned vehicle. Luckily another car comes by and picks him up.

One year later we meet the man. His name is David. Whatever it was that happened to David, the trauma he suffered was so great that he has been put into an institution, his sole focus being the cross he always wears.

2equinox
Pretty, shinny object, you’re my only friend….*rocks*….I wonder if it can help me
break through that shoddily constructed wall in front of me.

Via an audio recording made a year earlier we learn what brought on his mental breakdown.

Equinox tells the story of four friends, (David, Susan, Jim and Vicki). The four head off into the woods for a picnic, but first they decide to pay a visit to David’s friend, Dr. Watermann (cameo by Fritz Leiber Jr., for all you book fans). Dr. Watermann has something he wants to show David, but when they get the forest Dr. Watermann is nowhere to be found. Suspiciously, neither is his house.

3_2equinox
I don’t remember reading about Forest Squid being such a
huge threat the last time I went hiking.

What they find instead is a creepy park ranger who tells them he hasn’t seen the Doctor for a while. Instead of using common sense and calling the police, David decides that the four of them need to solve this mystery (Jinkies!), and thus he drags everyone around with him through the woods looking for the missing Doctor.

In the middle of looking, they take a break to have a kick-ass KFC picnic, the likes of which have not been seen before or since.

3equinox
No one can beat your cooking skills, Vicki….Yes, Jim is a bit of a
smart ass.

Ignoring the tender, fried goodness, David keeps searching for the doctor and stumbles across something he’s almost sure shouldn’t exist in the middle of the American woods

4equinox
Impressive. I don’t remember anything like this in my
American History books, either. I’m learning a lot today.

Dragging the others away from the food they’ve been looking forward to ALL DAMN DAY, David takes them to see the castle only to realize it has mysteriously disappeared. Realizing he no longer has a reason to force them to climb a cliff, and not even considering the fact that what he saw could very well be a hallucination brought on by excessive heat and a startling lack of food, David instead forces them to investigate the cave at the bottom of the cliff. Surprisingly, they agree without much protest, because, honestly, a lot of time in this movie is spent simply humoring David.

5equinox
On second thought, that’s all right, David. I’d rather stay
out here in the blazing sun with my precious KFC bucket.

Along the way they lose Vicki (which seems to be one of the films recurring themes.) Thankfully, Vicki can shriek with the best of them, and promptly does so when she stumbles across a wrinkly old man with the most disturbingly awesome old woman cackle in the history of cinema

6equinox
Seriously. I’m not kidding about the laugh:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qb028Pfcn7A

In the meantime, they stumble upon a book. If you’ve seen even one other movie in the horror genre, than it should come as no surprise to anyone that random books discovered in the wilderness is not something to be carrying around.

7equinox
Gee, ya think?

Especially when blue-skinned giants and monsters show up and start trying to squish them in an effort to get it back.

8equinox
Fe-Fi-Fo-…ah, hell. Just give me back my damn book! I
need it to read to the kid later.

But even with everyone ready to jump ship and LEAVE, David is the sole voice of stupidity, insisting that they stay because they still haven’t found the good doctor.

9equinox
Seriously, David? You know what, you stay. I’m  
taking my KFC and going HOME.

The rest of the film is spent trying to find out what the book is, what the creatures are, and how the hell to get out of the woods alive. The audience is also subjected to one of the most grotesque kissing (/subtle sexual assault?) scenes ever, made all the worse by it’s close up and unnecessarily long length.

10equinox
Wait, what the hell is he-….Arrrrrgh! Why would you do
this to me, movie! Why!

Equinox was originally a short science fiction film made for a little less than 7K by college student Dennis Muren. Muren also happened to create just about all of the special effects himself.

11equinox
Some are….better than others. Admittedly this looks better with motion
and…you know…more frames.

When the film was picked up for release it was given to editor Jack Woods, who added additional footage to make it feature length.

12equinox
I wish I had the equipment to pull stuff like this off when I was forced to make my
crappy class movie in high school.

It was then picked up yet again by another producer, had more footage shot and was finally released in 1970.

Due to their similar plots Equinox is suspected of having inspired Evil Dead, Tom Sullivan admitting that he’d seen it “at least twice” before making his seminal film. And it’s hard to deny that the similarities are really rather striking.

13equinox
Except for, you know, the types of special effects used….Evil Dead this ain’t.

I viewed this on TCM and, judging by the time, am pretty sure that I saw the feature length version, though both the feature length and the original are available in The Criterion Collection (Yes, it got a Criterion release). After reading up on it, I’m now very interested in seeing Muren’s original short, which has been described as a “student art film” but a good student art film.

Just to be clear though, Equinox is not on the same level as Evil Dead. It’s certainly an enjoyable one, worthy of a drive-in or late night viewing, but Evil Dead it is not. If you’ve ever seen a college student film, than you have a bit of an idea of what to expect. Still it’s an enjoyable film if for no other reason than to see where a classic of horror (most likely) got a good chunk of it’s inspiration from. And also what one can do when one is given enough clay and a budget. It’s got a lot of faults, but it’s an interesting bit of cinema history.

I shall leave you now with this wholesome, parting shot

14equinox
Sweet Dreams!

Michi

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