Thursday, December 17, 2015

Hex (1973)

          On paper, this one sounds like a sure winner—a supernatural thriller set on the American prairie in the early 20th century, with motorcyclists and witches fighting against each other. Oh, and the cast includes Gary Busey, Keith Carradine, Scott Glenn, Dan Haggerty, and stunning model/actress Cristina Raines. On film, however, Hex is a perplexing misfire, neither pedestrian enough to work as a run-of-the-mill genre piece nor weird enough to qualify as so-bad-it’s-good cult fare. The movie is amateurish and muddled and slow, with an offbeat premise and a few somewhat exciting scenes. At its worst, Hex becomes utterly silly (especially when cornpone music kicks into gear on the soundtrack) and that’s not exactly the vibe one looks for in a supernatural thriller.
          The picture opens at a remote farm occupied by beautiful sisters Acacia (Hilarie Thompson) and Oriole (Raines), who seem like Old West eccentrics. They drift into a nearby frontier town, where they see a traveling motorcycle gang led by Whizzer (Keith Carradine), who claims to be an ex-World War I flyer, interacting with the locals. After the sisters leave town, Whizzer and his pals get into a hassle with a redneck named Brother Billy (Haggerty), so the bikers flee the town and discover the farm, taking the sisters hostage at gunpoint. Soon Whizzer falls into a romantic triangle, because even though he’s involved with fellow biker China (Doria Cook), he finds Oriole irresistible. Meanwhile, Acacia takes a liking to soft-spoken mechanic Golly (Mike Combs). But when biker Giblets (Busey) tries to rape Acacia, Oriole uses magic that she learned from her Native American father to get revenge. The movie them spirals into the hippy-dippy-’70s equivalent of a slasher flick, with members of the biker gang esuffering gruesome deaths until the final showdown between Oriole and Whizzer.
          Very little of this stuff makes sense, either in terms of basic logic or recognizable human behavior, and choppy editing exacerbates the myriad script problems. (For instance, what’s with all the material featuring the very white Robert Walker Jr. as some sort of ethnic/spiritual martial artist?) The actors playing bikers give spirited performances, but Raines’ lifeless work drains the picture of vitality, and it’s odd whenever the movie drifts into comic terrain. (Someone insults a woman by yelling, “Up yer skeeter with a red-hot mosqueeter!”) On the plus side, Raines gets to wear a creepy bear costume during the climax, and that’s something one doesn’t get to see every day. FYI, Hex is sometimes marketed on video under the titles Charms and The Shrieking.


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