(Comes to Video TODAY)
Four buddies are wandering through a remote part of Wisconsin. One of them
was supposed to be married that morning, but was stood up at the altar. The
other three, including his older brother, are his groomsmen, and they are
determined to help their friend get over the pain. Their plan consists mainly
of beer, and plenty of it. They stop at a remote bait shop to stock up on beer
and to find out if there is anything interesting to do in the area. They
settle on a canoe trip from twenty miles up river, and they find a woman to
rent them two canoes and drive them to a portage.
Their dialogue consists mostly of guy talk about women and their past
adventures, but behind the scenes a mysterious thread is emerging. The owner
of the bait shop has a copy of an ancient text about witches. The canoe woman
tells them a story about seven mysterious women who once lived together in the
remote woods and were the subject of many rumors about witchcraft. Once you
know that the next night will be both Halloween and a blue moon, items which
coincide less than once per century, you can probably figure out where all the
foreshadowing will lead.
Their first night out camping is the night before Halloween, and they pass
the time in idle talk as they get ready to hit the sack to rest up for their
canoe trip the next day. They get bored and are just about to call it a night
when they hear women's voices. There are exactly four hot young women camping
in the same remote area, and they all seem to be wild with lust. As the women
attempt to seduce them, succeeding in various degrees, we realize the lads'
peril, but they do not seem to, except for the jilted groom. Of course, we can
hear the discordant and spooky background music and they cannot.
I guess you can see where all this is leading. Their next day (and night)
will be fraught with peril. Whatever "fraught" means.
(I just looked it up. It was bugging me. Kind of interesting. "Fraught" is
the past participle of "freight" when the latter is used as a verb meaning to
"load and transport goods," as in "he freighted his goods to India by rail,"
thus "he has fraught his goods to India by rail." At any rate, "fraught" thus
means "loaded with" and/or "carried by." I guess I knew how to use the word
properly in idiomatic phrases, but I never really understood what it meant.
Live and learn.)
Back to the point ...
The most common failure in today's horror films is that they want to get
straight to the payoff, to start the gore and the sex as soon as possible,
without ever taking the time to let us get to know the characters. Not that
the characters would be worth knowing. They're just about all interchangeable
and/or stock characters.
This horror film comes from the old school. It takes the time to develop
its leads and to distinguish at least some of them as interesting, diverse,
complicated people. Unfortunately, it fails a bit on the other side because
the craftsmanship and atmosphere and good writing don't really lead up to a
heart-pounding conclusion. There's plenty of sizzle, and a delicious aroma,
but no steak on the grill. There's not much gore, very little nudity, and not
many scares because there are few surprises and the evil is simple to defeat.
(The script establishes early that the witches are vulnerable to water. How
convenient that the witch-queen stands so close to a water trough at such a
critical time!) In short, the film has plenty of foreshadowing, but needs a
lot more actual shadowing.
That being said, let me hasten to add that I rather liked this
retro-seventies horror film. There's only so much one can do without a budget,
and the team worked around those inherent limitations. The writing is good,
the score is interesting, the characters are involving, the acting is
surprisingly good, the cinematography is competent, and the Wisconsin
locations are original. Where the film falls short is in the areas that simply
require more money. The gore is suggested or off-camera, and the costumes and
make-up are lame, like a combination of off-the-rack Halloween shop kitsch and some
leftovers from The Devil's Rain. Call it The Devil's Drizzle. (Hey, where's Shatner, Travolta and Ernest Borgnine?)
The one thing the filmmakers could have done better without money was to
ramp up the nudity level. The movie is all about "sapphic orgies" and
seduction and sexual rituals, but for all that talk there's no walk. Even the
satanic ritual on Halloween involves sex between a fully-clothed woman and a
man thrusting away with his pants on, surrounded by witches dancing fully
Ol' Satan has really gotten conservative over the centuries! Must be all
those years working with the Republicans.
Prior to the climactic pagan rites, one of the women (Elisabeth Oas)
exposes her breasts very briefly, and two women (could be anyone) shoot moons
from a passing car. That was it in the flesh department, and that modesty
wasn't appropriate for the subject matter. The film's other failings could be
blamed on the budget, but this is one they should have fixed, because it made
the satanic Halloween rituals about as edgy as a bunch of Mormons conducting
an October wedding in the tabernacle.
Here are the film clips of
Elisabeth Oas and