Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Name for Evil (1973)

The weirdest movie of the weekend, A Name for Evil, is an oddity produced by Penthouse (yes, THE Penthouse) starring no other than Robert Culp and Samantha Eggar. Marketed as a haunted house-movie, I’m not sure that’s a correct label on this movie – but it has a haunted house, but it’s at the same time so much more than that. And I will at the end of this little text make a statement of a more modern movie that could have been inspired by this one.

Robert Culp is an architect, John, tired of constructing boring office building. He throws out his TV from the apartment window and takes wife Joanna (Samantha Eggar) and their life and moves out in the nature, to an old run-down old house belonging to the family. But not long after John arrive he’s starts seeing “stuff”. Hauntings, visions. Warning’s from someone that could be an ancient relative of him. The remote location of the house starts to get to his and his wife’s nerves, and soon he’s drawn into a dark, sexual game…

This is a very odd movie, one of the oddest I’ve seen in a long while. It’s not bad by any means, but cheap and maybe a bit crude when it comes to some of the visions that appear. We’re not talking special effects here, just shadows and “ghostly” voices. But the ghost-stuff is really not important, because it’s probably just in his head anyway. It’s the how the nature, the location, suffocates them. Such a beautiful place creates so much paranoia and violence. In one of the best scenes of the movie John is drawn into the sexual games that the local people are involved in. If it’s real or not, or partly, is hard to tell. But everything culminates in a huge graphic orgy out in the forest. Everyone is one with the nature.

Yes, this feels – especially when you see it – a lot like Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist. Antichrist is also a name for evil, which is never explained in Von Trier’s movie. Not in this movie either, but somehow it feels like the nature, the woman holding John back, is the evil. It also has the same feeling of claustrophobia, even if both of them are set in wilderness where it’s easy to escape. It ends with sudden and surprising violence, like Antichrist, but A Name for Evil is of course a lot tamer. In the end only one is alive, and nothing will be the same again…

I’m not trying to convince you that A Name for Evil is a masterpiece, but it’s a nice little movie which is far more ambitious than I expected from the beginning. It has tons of nudity – including Robert Culp’s holiest of holies – a weird musical number (which make it resemble The Wicker Man) and a couple of very cryptic twists and turns. Pity the DVD is crap, but I hope maybe someone like Code Red would release a proper version of it in the correct ratio and better picture quality.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The fantastic location where they shot this movie is called THE WIGWAM INN and Yacht club. You can look it up and see how nicely kept up it is today. Still it's a haunting location for a haunting and sort of obviously messed with movie. From what I could find out it was shot in 1970 then later bought from a bankruptcy court by Penthouse who then shot additional scenes and probably cut 10 minutes or more out of it. Yes be great if someone would bring out both versions, unlikely to happen but it's a strangely memorable messed up movie as it exists now.