Welcome to a new, Halloween-centric feature, trick 'r treaters! The Arrow in the Head staff (along with some special guests) will be recommending obscure fright flicks throughout the month of October, hopefully enhancing your "31 Days of Horror"! Welcome to UNSEEN HALLOWEEN! (See previous entries HERE!)
PLOT: A family moves into a renovated old house and is immediately plagued by ominous occurrences . Only a young priest and a dogged detective can hope to get to the bottom of what's haunting the premises... although it might be too late for the lot of them.
REVIEW: Consider SUPERSTITION the anti-Poltergeist. Both were released in 1982 and revolve around quaint, all American families who move into a new home that soon reveals itself to be a veritable house of horrors. Only difference is, unlike in the beloved Spielberg/Hooper haunted house production, the family in Superstition ultimately doesn't fare too well. At the risk of spoiling things, I'd advise you don't form any attachments to this brood. Superstition is remorseless when it comes to splitting this family in half - literally - and though the film still frequently exudes a cheesy atmosphere (this was the early 80s after all), it's actually rather disturbing. It's one of the reasons I think the James W. Roberson-directed nightmare is not more well known; there's nothing very lovable about a movie that soullessly offs its wholesome protagonists.
The first time I experienced Superstition was via TCM. Yes indeed, Turner Classic Movies itself broadcast this gruesome gem, which definitely tipped me off to its status as a must see. Having been a part of the surge of bloody American horror movies in the early 80s, Superstition had seemingly gotten lost in the ruckus; truth be told, I hadn't even heard any of my gore-loving buds discuss this one. I settled down for another Amityville Horror ripoff and was quickly surprised by this movie's malicious tone: Rocking the bodycount of a slasher, the flick bloodily slays 5 people within its first half hour, including a kindly old priest! As the film progresses and the situation grows more dour, our hapless clan and a few ancillary characters are picked off one by one, with the final Death Count reaching the double digits. My word, even the most morbid horror films usually keep a glimmer of hope shining throughout, but it soon becomes obvious that Superstition isn't likely to let anyone off the hook. You just settle in and wait for the inevitable; this is quite a grim affair.
Naturally, the movie isn't completely faultless. The backstory of the film's villain is generic (just your typical angry witch who curses the land on which she perished) and characters do plenty of things that don't make sense, even for a horror movie. The dialogue is often flat and none of the performances are very memorable, save for maybe veteran character actor Albert Salmi as a crusty detective who quite literally never leaves the family's house. (Why doesn't he just move in with them?) Roberson directs capably, but you won't wonder why he didn't become a bigger name in horror. And, naturally, there's a handful if unintentionally funny moments, but that's to be expected.
Flaws aside, Superstition is a worthy pic to add to your Halloween playlist, especially if you're looking for something dark and dreary.
BEST GORE BIT: Where to begin? An exploding head in a microwave? A body chopped in two by a malevolent window? There are many solid choices, but I think I'll go with one of the film's final kills, where a character is held down and impaled in the head with a stake. If it hadn't been obvious before, that's when you finally declare, "Holy hell, this movie gives no f*cks!
WHERE TO FIND IT: The film is available on Amazon, in both Region 1 and Region 2 formats. The Region 1 DVD (used) is about $23, while the Region 2 goes for a little more, but it's evidently new. (I bought it a few years ago and it was only about $10, so the quantity must be dwindling.) Hopefully, Scream Factory will pick this one up and save it from obscurity in the next year or two. It's also available on Netflix, but just via disc; it's not streaming at the moment.
DRINKING GAME: Say a Hail Mary and toss one back every time...