Equinox (1970)

Equinox (1970)‘You guys may enjoy this open air magic show but I’m getting the creeps.’

A running man is hit by a driverless car on a lonely mountain road. A year later, an investigative journalist visits him in a psychiatric hospital to try and piece together his strange and frightening story.

This cheap and cheerful production started out as a student project by young, aspiring SFX men Dennis Muren, Jim Danforth and Dave Allen. More footage was shot later on by director Jack Woods and the finished product released by producer Jack H Harris, who was responsible for ‘The Blob’ (1958) and ‘Dark Star’ (1974) among others.

The film is mostly interesting now for what influence it might have had on the fledgling filmmakers who created ‘The Evil Dead’ (1982). We have the same basic premise: two couples go on a trip into the remote woods and find a satanic book that unleashes evil forces and monsters. There’s little similarity in the subsequent story development, however, here the creatures look like poor refugees from a Ray Harryhausen movie and Satan himself makes an appearance as a randy Park Ranger.

Ladies Night down the Dog & Duck had taken a turn for the worse...

Ladies Night down the Dog & Duck had taken a turn for the worse…

The first half of the movie is all dull build-up with a no name cast and acting to match. Things liven up a bit with the appearance of Asmodeus, the friendly (and very horny) park ranger, played by director Woods and some very jerky stop motion tentacles that demolish a wooden shack. There’s also a strange old man living in a cave wearing a lumberjack shirt who laughs a lot. A hell of a lot. He seems to be the guardian of the book (or something?) but we never really find out.

Then there’s the sudden appearance of a mysterious castle (which then disappears), a gateway to another dimension, a 12 foot giant who looks like he’s wandered in from some ‘off-Broadway’ Tarzan movie and a creature that bears a passing resemblance to a bargain basement King Kong. Some woven together twigs are an adequate defence against all this horror.

There are plenty of potentially interesting ideas here but proceedings are completely hamstrung by the low budget and general lack of expertise on display. The film does have its advocates, who cite the virtues of the original cut before Woods and Harris got their hands on it but, in the end, this is a seriously dull viewing experience.

Muren, Danforth and Allen all went on to success in mainstream Hollywood, particularly Muren who worked as an SFX supervisor on some of the biggest movies ever made: the original ‘Star Wars’ series, ‘E.T. The Extra Terrestrial’ (1982), ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’ (1991) and ‘Jurassic Park’ (1993), etc, etc. It all goes to show: everyone has to start somewhere.

Buy ‘Equinox’ here

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