They donít make Ďem like they used to. The slashers of the eighties stand so far apart from the pseudo-slashers of today. Staffed with casts of unknowns, you know going into an eighties slasher that all the bets are off. There are no non-nudity clauses, no politically correct pampering, and best of all, no guarantee on who will survive (or what will be left of them). As soon as the big studios started to eat up the genre, the crass spirit of the films was drained, replaced by name actors contractually allowed to live until the final frame. Slashers like Madman, Silent Night Deadly Night, and the early Friday the 13thís still hold up because their only mandate was to scare and entertain Ė and if that meant bad taste, gore and nudity, then so be it. Itís been months since Iíve seen a slasher film I havenít seen before, so imagine my excitement when Anchor Bay sends me Superstition just in time for Halloween. I was praying for a low-brow gore-fest, and thatís just what I got!
A couple are necking in a car outside an abandoned house. All is quiet, but the girl begins to squirm. ďI heard this place is cursed,Ē she whimpers, as her boyfriend continues to prod her pant line. He assures her its all just hearsay, and the two continue to make lip love. Then a noise. They hear a crack, and before they can even split apart, a dead body is thrown upon their windshield. In a regular slasher, this would be the end of themÖbut they make it out alive. See, it was just a couple of kids pulling a prank. They share a laugh, and walk through the houseís corridors to exit. Before the first one leaves though, he is lifted to the ceiling and hammered to the ground by an unseen force, which then dismembers his head and places it in a microwave. His buddy finds the head, but he too becomes eviscerated, this time by a window cutting through his pelvis. The two lie dead, and thus is reborn the curse of the old house.
The house, you see, was build on the grounds of an old witch burning. Back in the 1600ís, a woman possessed by the devil was exorcised and drowned on a cross in the back pond. Her body was to remain in limbo between earth and hell so as to prevent her from ever returning. All that held her there was a cross submerged underwater. When Reverend David Thompson (James Houghton) finds the cross and takes it in for analysis, he allows the spirit of the witch to run free, terrorizing anyone unlucky enough to dwell within the houseís walls. Unfortunately for the next tenants, the house belongs to the church, and during the Regan Republic, if there is money to be made, even the priesthood will be in on it.
Thus the church opens the house to sublet, and in comes the Leahy family. The dadís a drunk, and his two attractive daughters donít get along, but thatís far from the worst thing that will happen to the family. Little Justin will be hung from the basement ceiling, his wife will be pulverized by the witchís demonic hand, and one of the girls will get nailed Ė literally. David is quick to research the house after another priest is gutted with a jigsaw blade, but he must act fast if he wants to save the Leahyís before they all fall victim to the Superstition.
Why hadnít I heard of this movie before? Superstition has some very commendable production values, thanks no doubt to executive producer Mario Kassar, who would go on to deliver First Blood the same year and then a number of successful Verhoeven, Cameron and Schrader pictures throughout the next two decades. Yet, despite its refined visual look, the film has the benefit of a take-no-prisoners independent mindset, where nothing is sacred. We have a lascivious priest eyeing young girls, children being hung and stabbed, gore galore and one mean-spirited ending. All adds up to a fun little rollercoaster ride that descends into the dark side of fear for the last few minutes. The ending is genuinely scary, not only for the silhouetted images of death coming for the family, but more because up until that time nobody in the film has been safe, and there is no reason to believe that even the protagonist will come out of this one alive.
Superstition goes joyfully over-the-top for most of its short 85-minute runtime, making sure there is a good death every eight minutes or so, and thanks to good gore work, those deaths are mostly oozing with red cells. The performances are nearly as exaggerated, with the deaf-mute red herring making the most of his silent role with some grandiose googly eyes. Fun too is the derivative score, with composer David Gibney guilty of plagiarizing the opening theme of The Shining throughout. When he isnít doing that, it sounds more like music from a swashbuckler than it does a horror film. Like a classic Friday the 13th, the film never takes itself seriously throughout most of it, but comes together in the finale for an unsettling resolve.
On its own Superstition will never win accolades as a great film, but as a slasher film, the ingredients meld just right. One pinch haunted house from The Amityville Horror, another pinch lakeside location from Friday the 13th, a dash of unseen murderous force from The Evil Dead and two teaspoons of distastefulness from The Incubus. Mixed together, Superstition forms a derivative yet wholly satisfying slasher dish that no fan will want to exorcise from their mind. Certainly one of the best of the low profile slashers.
A good reason Superstition has enjoyed such a low profile over the years is no doubt due to the quality of the source material. The footage here is excessively grainy throughout, and no doubt looked ten times worse on video. There are a few dark shots that even seem tough to make out on this 1.78:1 anamorphic DVD, so one could imagine it being unwatchable on VHS. The grain is a real distraction here, as are a few print scratches that stay in the upper center of the frame for a good portion of the film (similar to the Madman DVD). Yet, Anchor Bay is likely not to blame though, because the colors here really pop off the screen. The greens of the evergreens that surround the house, the bloody red gore and the orange hues of fire are all wondrously vivid here. While the grain will no doubt make itself noticeable, this is an eighties slasher, and sometimes a little bit of grit goes good with a little bit of grind.
Itís mono only, but all sounds clear and without distortion. Yessir.
We get a theatrical trailer (those awesome eighties slasher ones with a death per second) and trailers for similar Anchor Bay titles. Nothing else, not even a complimentary crucifix.
Superstition may have had an unlucky go on home video, but it is ripe for rediscovery here. A wonderfully entertaining slasher that is as gory as it is politically incorrect, topped off with a nihilistic finale, Superstition delivers. The transfer is incredibly grainy, but Anchor Bay has done what they can with at the very least some strong colors. The sound is mono and the supplements scant, but this is a forgotten slasher that stands its own, and curses be to any slasher fan who doesnít pick this naughty one up.
Movie - B
Image Quality - B-
Sound - C
Supplements - D
Thanks for the review. I'm always on the lookout for 80's horror flicks I haven't seen... and I've never even heard of this one. I'll definitely be checking this out.
So I picked this up based on your review, Rhett... and I gotta say I was pleasantly surprised. Nice little atmosphere and enough gooey kills to keep me interested. I'm not sure how I've never heard of this before but thanks.
Wikked Movie, I wanna track down the dvd.
|All times are GMT +1. The time now is 08:22 AM.|
Portal By vbPortal Version 3.8.1
Copyright ©2000 - 2013, vbPortal. All Rights Reserved.