Equinox (1970)

FEBRUARY 27, 2008


The program info for Equinox seemed to be written specifically for me. As you know, I don’t have any sort of criteria for horror movie watching – no specific sub-genre, no era, no discerning of “backyard” indies from Hollywood blockbusters... you get the gist. Anyway, the description for the film simply read “Devil worshipers and monsters” or something to that effect. This is certainly enough for me, but can you at least TRY to entice casual movie fans who aren’t sworn to an insane duty of watching every friggin one of these damn things regardless of actual interest in their plot or relevance (on that note - watch for a review of Mangler 3 in the next week!)?

Luckily, I knew a bit more about the film than that, and actually had been curious to check it out. Rue Morgue once wrote an article about its (then) impending DVD release from Criterion, which was the first I ever heard of it. Essentially, the same spirit that Sam Raimi and crew had from Evil Dead was evident in Equinox, as it was also a VERY low budget, wholly independent film with ambitious effects work and a persistent charm that more than made up for its shortcomings.

Like Dead, the film’s plotting isn’t very complex – and in fact on a surface level they are identical (a group of kids accidentally unleash supernatural forces after reading passages from a mysterious book found in the woods). The main difference is, while Dead was a splatter flick, with more than a couple of legit scares, Equinox is more like a typical 50’s fun monster movie, with lots of forced perspective shots of the monster rampaging around the forest and desert and such. The stop motion monster effects are pretty impressive, as are the split screen effects. Obviously they don’t hold up to say, 300 or whatever, but keeping it in perspective, it’s truly an award worthy effort for such a small crew of amateurs.

One of those “amateurs” is in fact Dennis Muren (who wrote and directed most of the film, though is only credited as producer), who anyone well versed in modern effects knowledge will be quite familiar with. Sadly, the other guys on the crew haven’t been as successful as he (excepting an assistant cameraman, one Ed Begley Jr (!!) ), but they’ve all still managed to make a name for themselves in one way or another. The actors, on the other hand, are now forgotten, and for the most part, for good reason. The main guy isn’t too bad (though he sounds exactly like Robert Reed, which never stopped distracting me, not to mention giving me Bloodlust flashbacks), but his girlfriend is atrocious, as are many of the supporting characters. It’s kind of ironic that I had an easier time believing a giant caveman walking around than I did buying (director) Jack Woods as a park ranger.

I have to point out an early scene involving a reporter and a cop and a doctor (I can’t tell which one is which, most of their dialogue is voiceover). One of them is driving around, and it APPEARS that he’s listening to something on the radio. It might just have been editing (playing audio from another scene), but if it IS the radio, it’s the best damn news reporter ever, as he describes people like “Some kind of weird old professor from the University...” Hahaha it killed me.

Apparently the DVD has a different version from three years prior, which focuses more on the adventure than the horror. As the DVD is from Criterion, I will have to wait until I win the lottery before I can afford to purchase it, but I am interested in checking it out. I love this spirit of “do it yourself” filmmaking, particularly for big effects movies, and wish we saw more of it (instead of the more common “We know what we’re doing, but we don’t care how it looks so long as we make some money” practice that is woefully apparent in about 50% of the movies I end up watching).

Oh and the ending is awesome. Not really a downer, but it still kind of surprised me. Well played!

What say you?


  1. I saw this movie on cable when it was on cable about 10 years ago. I remember liking it alot, like they really pushed the limits of what they could do with their miniscule budget.

  2. I watched this about 2-3 weeks ago, and I thought it was quite good. Surprised you didn't recognize Frank Bonner from "WKRP" in the role of Jim Hudson.

    You might also enjoy "It's Alive" -- the 1969 version. It's been on cable rotation the past few months.

  3. It was on yesterday afternoon- I did not watch it, but I did catch this tid-bit

    2nd camerman: Ed Begley, Jr.

    1. Yeah, I saw that too! LOL!!! I saw this movie many times as a kid in the movie theaters. When they had double features and this was always the first movie. LOL! Anyway, I caught this a couple of years ago on cable and noticed Ed Begley Jr's name as the 2nd Cameraman. Hysterical! I also heard that the guy who did the special effects is now one of the head guys at Industrial, Light & Magic!!

  4. This film is so bad, it's entertaining. I saw it for the first time on the Flix network years ago and stopped on mainly because I recognized Frank Bonner who played the loudly dressed salesman Herb Tarlek on the late 70's sitcom "WKRP in Cincinnati". I was shocked to find out this movie is from 1971 as I would have placed it more around 1965, although I guess the original student film was from at least the late 60's.

    I later saw the film again at a friend's house on a bootleg DVD (the Criterion Edition was still a few years away) when we caught Ed Begley Jr. as assistant cameraman. The friend who was showing this (a bit of a budding film maker himself) stated that Begley's style of cinematography was reminiscent of the "put the camera in one position and grab a sandwich" school.

    The writing, of course leaves a little bit to be desired. Who would of ever guessed that Park Ranger Asmodeus would turn out to be Satan incarnate. Apparently Dr. Waterman's students were in his special needs class.


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