Once upon a time there was a cursed book. Anyone who read from it or even just had it around ran the risk of homicidal tendencies, complete insanity, and/or demonic possession. One day some yutes came acrosst it in a forest.
No not The Evil Dead but Equinox, a seminal gem from a decade earlier.
Now as “cinema,” right outta the gate I gotta admit that Equinox does not bear up well under close scrutiny. The writing, acting, shooting, dubbing, all subpar The irony is how little weight any of that carries. What’s important is the groundwork Equinox lays for later directors to build on. It’s worth noting that both George Lucas and Ray Harryhausen commented on the movie’s effects.
The story, such as it is, opens with David, a catatonic patient in a mental facility. A reporter attempts to interview David about the deaths of his friends a year and a day previous. When the reporter shows David a picture of his one-time professor Dr. Waterman, David attacks the reporter. From there we move on to an extended flashback of those very events.
Already we’re treading on well-established territory–the insane protagonist tells or recalls the events that led to their current state (or those events are reconstructed by others). Poe used this not infrequently. So did Lovecraft as well as numerous authors who work within Lovecraft’s mythos.
But wait, there’s more. Certainly there was plenty of stop-motion animation flyin’ around well before Equinox, and one of the artists involved, Jim Danforth, has been in the industry for a while, including work on a number of George Pal features. Impressive lineage at work here, and its reach is palpable. Events in the plot will be expanded on to great effect by The Evil Dead, and it’s not hard to find some resonance among later creatures like Q and The Kraken.
To be fair, aside from the Raimi connection, the stop-motion critters may well be the only things that anyone will remember from this movie. I find those factors enough. Not everyone agrees. Generally I don’t go outta my way to hammer opposing reviews. But sometimes, for me anyway, a review misses the mark. Sure your opinion is your opinion–it weren’t my review and ain’t my blog, but here’s what JP Roscoe says at Basement Rejects:
The movie’s plot is half-baked. The story barely has any cohesion. The characters just walk around, are frequently menaced by creatures, and behave in stereotypical dumb horror movie fashion by not getting out of the area and splitting up constantly. The movie is often credited as giving the basis for Raimi’s The Evil Dead which also featured teens in the woods with a cursed book.
Well, yes. And then again, no. For one thing, I’m not sure how “stereotypical” the characters’ behavior is. This is 1970. If anything, this is one of the movies that establishes what will become said stereotypical behavior. I don’t think any of ’em is bringing the potato salad to the Mensa picnic, but again, 1970. I’m also not sure that Equinox merely serves as “giving the basis for Raimi’s The Evil Dead.”
I’d be willing to bet that there would have been no Evil Dead without Equinox. Roscoe further suggests that Equinox “has a rather Manos: The Hands Of Fate type feel to it.” I get the lower-than-low budget reference made here, but I’m not sure how anyone can watch Equinox and even remotely equate it with Manos.
There’s a great deal more to Equinox’s influence than the apparent coincidence that both “featured teens in the woods with a cursed book.” I can scarce overstate the number of times I’ve said that very thing, primarily because I’ve never said it. It’s like saying The Hills Have Eyes is a less-than-ideal road trip.
BODIES- 6 onscreen 1 implied
Stream- Criterion Channel, HBO Max, YouTube