Saturday, April 10, 2010

'Beyond Evil' is worth going for

Beyond Evil (1980)
Starring: John Saxon, Lynda Day George, Michael Dante, and Janice Lynde
Director: Herb Freed
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

When loving couple Larry and Barbara (Saxon and George) move into a house acquired for them by Larry's scheming friend Del (Dante), the man-hating spirit of a voodoo queen who was murdered there (Lynde) is awakened. The spirit first attempts to kill all the men in Barbara's life, and then it possesses Barbara and tries to kill even Larry. Will a force beyond death--and beyond evil--consume the inhabitants of the small South Sea island, or will Larry find a way to defeat the ghost?

This is a fabulous low-budget chiller that features a great collection of energetic and ethusiastic actors--there are literally no bad performances anywhere--and showcases steady, focused direction of the kind that movies with ten times the budget are often lacking.

On the downside, the film features some rather laughable visible effects. In most cases, the filmmakers seemed to be aware that their budget limited what they could do--and they got by quite effectively with creative lighting, fog machines, jump-cuts, and other inexpensive movie gimmicks--but then they also decided to do some animation effects. These were passable when all they were used for were to illustrate whenever the ghost was up to something evil, but when they started showing laser beams shooting from the eyes of the possessed Barbara, the animation went from cheap-looking to rediculous.

Despite the occassional special effects missteps, "Beyond Evil" is mostly a competently executed haunted house/possession flick. It sags a bit in the middle--where the voodoo queen flexes her supernatural muscle and things get a bit repetative as Larry tries to convince the increasingly strange Barbara to seek medical help--but for the most part it remains an engrossing little movie that's worth a look.

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