Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Evictors (1979)

Low-budget filmmaker Charles B. Pierce was relentless about trying to recapture the success of his first movie, The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972), a backwoods monster movie that was shamelessly sold as a true story, even though it wasn’t. For instance, Pierce’s last flick of the ’70s, The Evictors, wasn’t a true story either, despite hype to the contrary. Set in Louisiana circa 1942 (with extensive flashbacks to the same area in 1928), The Evictors employs the scary premise of displaced psychos tormenting the current residents of the psychos’ former home. Unfortunately, the movie is far less interesting than the concept. To the dismay of viewers suckered by the spooky poster and trailer, The Evictors comprises an hour of boring preamble and about 30 minutes of underwhelming climax. Like Pierce’s other Southern-fried shockers, the picture has atmospheric widescreen cinematography and decent production design, but there isn’t enough narrative to sustain a feature. The picture begins with a sepia-toned flashback of cops trying to evict rednecks from an attractive rural home in 1928. Bloodshed ensues. Cut to 1942, when newlyweds Ben Watkins (Michael Parks) and Ruth Watkins (Jessica Harper) decide to buy the house from overly solicitous realtor Jake Rudd (Vic Morrow). For the next hour, Ruth grows worried based on cryptic written threats and the resulting vague suspicions. (The acting in The Evictors is exactly as lifeless as the material deserves, though cult-fave starlet Harper is a uniquely vulnerable presence in any context.) To get a sense of how ineptly Pierce tries to build tension, consider the bit where Ruth walks into her property’s barn, looks directly at a group of chickens, then yelps when one of the chickens hops off the ground. Pierce tries to jack up moments like these with spooky music, but the sum effect is still ridiculous. Occasionally, the movie livens up with a grisly flashback—as when someone gets murdered with a horseshoe attached to the end of a stick—and, of course, when “the evictors” finally show up at the end of the movie, a few minutes of chasing and running and screaming occur. This is followed by a head-scratcher of a “twist” ending.

The Evictors: LAME

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