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  Equinox Monsters from Beyond
Year: 1970
Director: Dennis Muren, Mark McGee, Jack Harris, Jack Woods
Stars: Edward Connell, Barbara Hewitt, Robin Christopher, Frank Bonner, James Duron, Fritz Leiber, Patrick Burke, James Phillips, Sharon Gray, Louise Clayton, Norvelle Brooks, Irving J. Lichtenstein
Genre: Horror, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: An ambitious, low-budget monster movie, Equinox was concocted by future Industrial Light and Magic maestro Dennis Muren in collaboration with stop-motion animators Dave Allen and Jim Danforth. Basically a fond homage to classic monster fare, from King Kong (1933) to Ray Harryhausen, their inventive effort was purchased by exploitation producer Jack H. Harris, of The Blob (1958) fame, who added a new sound mix and trippy optical effects, plus additional scenes with the original cast.

In a plot that prefigures The Evil Dead (1983), an asylum inmate recounts a wild tale to a sceptical journalist and doctors. Four students, David (Edward Connell), Susan (Barbara Hewitt), Vicky (Robin Christopher) and Jim (Frank Bonner, later a regular in sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati) head to the woods for a meeting with Professor Waterman (renowned fantasy and sci-fi author Fritz Leiber, who wrote Night of the Eagle (1961)). But with his cabin in ruins, the professor is nowhere to be found. The kids glimpse a medieval castle in the distance, monster footprints in the sand, and a cackling old geezer in a cave hands them a magic book. This “bible of evil, witchcraft and demonism” unleashes a host of otherworldly portals and hideous monsters, while a demonic forest ranger (co-director Jack Woods) tries to grab the book for his own sinister ends.

With its raggedy hand-held footage, stilted performances, and a reliance on voiceovers over half-glimpsed actors, Equinox bears the hallmarks of both student filmmaking and low budget exploitation. It’s a fairly slipshod exercise in storytelling, padded with drawn-out chase scenes and a curious incident where the satanic ranger molests Susan, that doesn’t make a lot of sense - despite a lot of metaphysical blather - and, unlike Ray Harryhausen, takes a long time getting to the monsters. The Theremin-heavy score, lame banter and casual fashions worn by the slightly square college kids make this seem like a particularly trippy episode of Scooby-Doo, but there are some inventive images (flashbacks to ancient temples, red-tinted scenes of monks leaping into a hellish pit, Prof. Waterman’s attempt at demon summoning) and the monsters are great fun.

Messrs. Muren, Danforth and Allen tinker with concepts and visuals they would revisit in later big-budget blockbusters: a stop-motion giant ape, winged demon and briefly glimpsed Lovecraftian tentacle horror, a photographically enlarged green ogre and a spectre of death. Their monster scenes were filmed in 1967, but the footage from which Harris and Woods constructed the bulk of the pulp horror plot was filmed a few years later. Consequently, Equinox marks an awkward transition from the relative innocence of creature features to the darker, more fatalistic era ushered in by Night of the Living Dead (1968). Too kitsch for the horror crowd, too downbeat to be much fun for monster kids. Still, from little things great things do grow.

Click here for the trailer



Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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