Directed By: Gus Trikonis
Starring: Richard Crenna, Joanna Pettet, Victor Buono
Tag line: "Witness Its Awakening"
Trivia: This movie was shot in an old abandoned health spa and resort
Sam (Ed Bakey) is the caretaker of the Vargas estate, and though his job has never once required him to venture inside the abandoned mansion that sits on the grounds, he must do so today in order to clean the place up for the new owners. As he's sweeping the dusty floor, Sam hears a noise that sounds very much like children laughing. So, he decides to investigate. Following the sound down into the dank, dreary basement, Sam cautiously approaches the furnace, positive that the children are hiding inside of it. Yet when he throws open the furnace door, he finds nothing. Just then, fire bursts out of the chamber, and within seconds, Sam is completely engulfed in flames. Thus begins 1978's The Evil, a fun, if somewhat pedestrian, haunted house film.
The new owners of the Vargas estate are C.J. Arnold (Richard Crenna) and his wife, Dr. Caroline Arnold (Joanna Pettet), who plan to turn the mansion into a drug rehabilitation clinic. Shortly after finalizing the purchase with the realtor (Milton Selzer), the Arnolds set to work fixing the place up. Assisting them is their good friend, Professor Raymond Guy (Andrew Prine), as well as several of C.J.'s former patients. Not long after they start, C.J. discovers a large metal door hidden under the dirt in the basement, one that's been bolted shut with a crucifix. Hoping to investigate further, C.J. pries the door open, and in so doing unleashes an evil presence that immediately seals off the entire house, trapping everyone inside. As the group works at finding a way out, the evil is busy coming up with new ways to kill them off, one by one.
The Evil certainly has its moments, even if most of them aren't particularly original. When Caroline first enters the house, she notices a ghostly figure standing in the doorway, which seems to be motioning to her. Startled, she looks towards the wall, just in time to see one of the wooden gargoyles turn and stare at her. From this point forward, The Evil will pull one familiar haunted house trick after another from its bag (such as doors slamming shut, noises that come from nowhere, etc), yet even if the film does lack originality, it still manages to make the most out of the "old standards" it so readily falls back on, often generating just the right number of thrills to keep you on your toes.
In fairness, not every scene in The Evil is a predictable one (there's a very entertaining cameo appearance by Victor Buono, playing the embodiment of the house's evil, that's undoubtedly unique), but these moments are few and far between. And yet I would still recommend The Evil; even if it doesn't offer anything new, what it does have more than manages to get the job done.