Wednesday, January 6, 2010

'Terror at Red Wolf Inn' is pretty terrible

Terror at Red Wolf Inn (aka "Terror House", "The Folks at Red Wolf Inn", and "Terror on the Menu") (1971)
Starring: Linda Gillen, Mary Jackson, John Neilson, Arthur Space, and Margaret Avery
Director: Bud Townsend
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

Ditzy college student Regina (Gillen) wins an all-expense-paid vacation at the scenic Red Wolf Inn, a complete surprise to her since she didn't enter a contest in the first place. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth--or even ask where it came from--Regina heads off for her vacation. The inn is run by a kindly old couple (Jackson and Space) with help from their grandson (Neilson) who seems to be nice enough when he's on his anti-psychotic meds. When a fellow guest and contest winner (Avery) mysteriously dissapears, Regina starts to wonder if there might not be something strange going on... and what is the big deal about that walk-in freezer in the kitchen that's always locked?

"Terror at Red Wolf Inn" is either a failed horror movie or a failed dark comedy. My money's on the former, but the latter is themore likely possibiity. Whatever the filmmakers had in mind, the film is neither particularly scary nor particularly funny. Plus, it's got one of the most annoying main characters I've encountered in my many years of watching trashy movies.

The main character/heroine of "Terror at Red Wolf Inn" is one of the dumbest characters to ever be written, and her idiocy goes a long way to making this film the dissapointment that it is. The film asks us to believe that she's a college student, but she is shown to be such an idiot that one has to wonder how she even graduated from high school, let alone be admitted to a university. Who else but a complete idiot would "forget" to tell her parents--or anyone for that matter--that she's won a free vacation and that she is being rushed to take it until she's about to board a plane chartered just for her? And who other than a complete idiot would get on the plane without telling anyone, just because the pilot insists she does? Or call from the airport she arrived at? Given how stupid Regina comes across, it's clear she's only in college to land herself a husband (the film is from the early 1970s when this was still common), but someone this stupid would barely be able to hold a job as a hotel maid.

Regina's idiocy coupled with a couple excrutiatingly boring dinner scenes--the director was undoubtedly trying to be clever, thinking they were serving as "the gun over the fireplace" and the audience would reflect on them as the story progresses with an "aha!" but he drags them on for waaay too long--and the director's apparent ability to create scenes that are completely suspense free all combine to make the movie the failure that it is. Once one adds the many inexplicable events, unexplained crucial details, and underdeveloped characters, we end up with a film that's not worth the time you'll devote to watching it.

"Terror at Red Wolf Inn" is another one of those movies where I feel sorry for the cast, because they all do a good job. Gillen manages to play Regina in such a way that she never becomes annoying, despite her boundless stupidity, while Jackson and Space play the elderly couple who operate the inn and prepare its unusual menus, with just the right amount of sweetness to make them perfect for the story--in fact, they're the best part of the whole movie. With a better script, I think these three could have been fanrtastic in their parts.

But even good acting doesn't make up for the fact the movie starts flawed and doesn't get better.

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