‘Witness its awakening’
The Evil is a 1977 [released 1978] American supernatural horror feature film directed by Gus Trikonis (The Darker Side of Terror) from a screenplay co-written with Donald G. Thompson [as Galen Thompson].
The Ed Carlin produced movie stars Richard Crenna, Joanna Pettet, Andrew Prine and features a bizarre cameo appearance by Victor Buono as the Devil; although his scenes were apparently re-edited for some releases.
The Evil was released on Blu-ray by Scream Factory on September 18, 2018 in a new, high-definition transfer from apparently the only surviving archival print. Extras from the previous DVD release are included.
Psychiatrist C.J. Arnold (Richard Crenna) purchases an abandoned mansion, which was built over hot sulphur pits, in order to set up a drug rehab facility. He recruits a group of volunteers to help clean-up and renovate the large house.
Almost immediately, C.J.’s wife, Dr. Caroline Arnold (Joanna Pettet) begins sensing a strange and usual presence that starts to manifest as a ghostly apparition. Soon thereafter, more strange and eerie things start to happen which start to agitate the volunteers, along with the resident dog.
Later on, C.J. discovers a trap door in the basement, which he opens up and unknowingly unleashes a menacing spirit. Suddenly, all of the doors and windows become locked, trapping everyone inside the creepy mansion.
The unwilling occupants soon discover that the trap door in the basement is actually a gateway into Hell itself. Slowly, the evil force within the house starts to kill off the trapped occupants one by one through a series of bizarre deaths…
“It’s light on the jump scares and gore, but it brings the creepy atmosphere big time. Of course, like most of the haunted house films it takes from, it also has an ending you wish wasn’t there.” Tony Ryan, CHUD.com
“The direction and the score are competent but much feels formulaic, even heavy-handed as loud music telegraphs the tension […] The very last minutes would better suit a TV special than a feature-length horror film but the appearance of Satan alone – always very rare – makes The Evil worth seeking out.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers, Lulu.com, 2012
“A rather traditional haunted house thriller with a slim plot line that milks the sub-genre for all its worth, The Evil is actually an entertaining, well-paced film, even if it’s not all that scary or logical for that matter. Shot almost entirely on location in a single mansion, the creaky secluded setting, along with tight direction and a fine cast make this one worthwhile…” George R. Reis, DVD Drive-In
“Despite its relative obscurity, The Evil is at least the equal of many of its peers, both in terms of structure and presentation. This isn’t some cheap knock-off, this is a genuine, 100%, good old fashioned horror movie; just like the one’s you’d stay up late to watch on TV as a kid.” Paul Pritchard, DVD Verdict
” …here character development only exists in little snippets that have so little bearing on the ultimate story that they feel like they’re there only to pad out the running time. And when the horrors start, they’re trotted out so mechanically that it almost becomes laughably predictable. As a result, the movie never really comes to life; it feels more like an exercise in formula…” Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings
“It’s all pretty expertly done, and director Gus Trikonis knows how to make a haunted-house movie. Victor Buono is sublime as the Devil himself…” James J. Mulay (editor), The Horror Film, CineBooks, 1989
“Though it appears to be in the Exorcist–Omen school, this one is really more like The Shining […] With a solid cast of character actors, the result is better than you might expect and the film does have some moments that are frightening and surprising.” Mike Mayo, The Horror Show Guide, Visible Ink, 2013
“The Evil was filmed in a real castle in Montezuma, New Mexico and, per usual, the utilizing of an actual space with authentic history pays off. Frankly the location alone is more than enough to recommend this movie. The Evil is more frivolous fun than under the skin unsettling, but it’s not completely brain dead either. Unlike many a haunted house flick it comes off as generally interested in the supernatural.” Kindertrauma
” …The Evil really belongs to corpulent character actor Victor Buono […] who turned his brief cameo as the Devil into the most amusing slice of monstrous villainy since Vic Diaz in Beast of the Yellow Night.” Christopher T Koetting, Mindwarp! The Fantastic True Story of Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, Hemlock Books, 2009
“Richard Crenna is set up, just like the rationalist heroes of Curse of the Demon (1957) and Night of the Eagle (1961), as sceptics who throughout the course of the film have the arc where they are forced to face the actuality of matters supernatural – although this is far too crude a film to make anything interesting out of such.” Richard Scheib, Moria
“Trikonis’s direction is skillful enough, as he knows how to capture the ominous surroundings and chilling events through unsettling camera angles and by often bathing the film in dark shadows. If you’re going to have an effective haunted house movie, the house itself has to be adequately spooky, and this one is. Really, “adequate” is the best way to describe this one…” Brett Gallman, Oh, the Horror!
“Taking a cue from The Exorcist into the bargain, this actually trapped its characters inside the house in question once the blundering C.J. managed to unleash the demons of Hell, or as much of that as the budget would allow, which evidently stretched to a wind machine judging by how many of the more intense sequences were shot in what appeared to be a Force 9 gale.” Graeme Clarke, The Spinning Image
“Though the direction and the cinematography were fairly solid, much of the acting left a little to be desired with Crenna and the female lead played by Joanna Pettet, and Crenna’s wife in the film, better than the rest. The movie produced more thrills than it did horror, as the pace during the latter two-thirds moved the film along quickly.” The Telltale Mind
“A strong opening and some atmospheric elements put this one on the right track […] Crenna tries, but can’t seem to overcome the inherent weaknesses of the script. Solid production values and a haphazard earnestness runs throughout, however, and make it generally a watchable one-time journey if nothing else.” The Terror Trap
” …despite working with a low budget, director Gus Trikonis manages to whip up a good number of chills. He is helped greatly by managing to shoot in an actual old and creepy-looking mansion, and its dilapidated exteriors and interiors add a great deal of atmosphere. Trikonis adds to the eerie feeling with skilful use of sound – a rainstorm, creepy music – while also knowing when to shut up and use a background of silence equally effectively.” The Unknown Movies
“While the set-up is nothing but standard and some of the mayhem gets a bit over-the-top at times this is a fairly entertaining time with some okay shocks (such as the one involving a dumbwaiter) and acceptable spookings despite a finale that’s too silly…” The Video Graveyard
Victor Buono as The Devil
“Surrealism doesn’t fuse well with exploitation and Victor Buono has a lame role as evil incarnate.” Los Angeles Times
“Crenna and Pettet confront the devil himself, played with sinister angelicism by Victor Buono. A silly idea? Maybe, but Trikonis and Buono make it click.” Variety, 1978
“An extremely fast-paced, tightly constructed film in the tradition of, but far superior to, The Legend of Hell House (1973), the film milks the haunted house sub-genre for all it’s worth.” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror
- Trailers for Kingdom of the Spiders, Death Race 2000, The Terror Within, and Not Of This Earth
- A commentary track for The Evil with the director, Gus Trikonis; the screenwriter Donald Thompson; and the director of photography, Mario Di Leo
- A commentary track for Twice Dead with co-writer and director Bert Dragin and lead actor Tom Bresnahan
- The Girl Next Door…with Jill Whitlow featurette
The Devil: “You really are an endless source of amusement.”