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Superstition

Directed by James Roberson

Written by Donald G. Thompson

Starring James Houghton, Albert Salmi, Lynn Carlin, Larry Pennell

Produced by Ed Carlin

Not Rated

85 minutes

****

Anchor Bay Entertainment resurrects some fairly choice horror movie with “Superstition,” one among several in what looks like a long-term program for them.

So what we have here plotwise is an alcoholic priest and his family moving into a house on Mill Road. The house has something of an unpleasant history to say the least, and not too far from the house, a witch was drowned. Another priest, meanwhile, is staging an investigation into the house along with a cynical police detective—ostensibly because priests generally can’t get search warrants. So now we’ve got priests gone wild, houses gone crazy, and the weight of a church about to go up against the great haunted house phenomenon.

If it looks a little old and dated to you, it’s because it is. This is actually a rerelease of a much older movie—if I’ve read the box right it’s from the bad old days of 1982, which means strap yourselves in, folks…it’s either going to be a long and bumpy ride on through the night or electric candy nightmare country for the next hour and twenty minutes.

And there’s plenty of 1980s-style silliness abounding in this little beauty. Take the first five minutes (please!)—you’re going to have make-out coercion AND people jumping and screaming at the sight of badly designed mannequins dropped onto cars from a height of four feet.

Frankly, as much as I’m not in favor of watching movies made before 1980 (the quality of the playback is usually so godawful that it gets in the way of the story), more and more I’m grateful for the cleaned-up rerelease of some of these old gems on DVD. The rediscovery of some of these gems, some lost beyond repair to the ravages of time and the necessity to clear space on video store shelves for DVDs, is an important event in the history of horror.

Plus, I’m also leaning toward the necessity for today’s self-styled horror mavens to watch these old movies just for the sheer laugh factor.

Not laughing? Try this thought exercise at three minutes thirty five seconds:

“In theatres in 1982, half the audience probably screamed at that.”

NOW see if you’re laughing!

And yet, at the same time, the shoddy quality of the special effects throughout the movie also shows just how spectacularly dependent on plot and pacing movies of this era were. They were doing great things with very little, and as a result, they managed to make some pretty sweet movies back then. Sure, they had their dogs, but sometimes, they could have a real bang-up splatter flick on their hands.

Examples? Sure. Try the sequence at ten minutes and seven seconds. Clearly, this is a fake head. And yet, when it blows up in that microwave, even I’m willing to put disbelief on hiatus and follow the movie’s lead.

Even as I’m shrieking, “Just BREAK the window, idiot!” just a little over thirty seconds later, I’m still kinda freaked out by what happens next.

And check out the shocker that hits eighteen minutes and thirty eight seconds in! Man, that was cheesy and I STILL jumped at it!

The rest of the movie frequently develops a kind of chill-inducing quality by virtue of good storytelling and suspense-building easily on par with the best of Japanese fare. Apparently, at one time, we knew how to do it too. I guess we just forgot for the sake of better effects. Sad, really.

Though it was probably a bad idea to, at the fifty one minute thirty six second mark, show the witch laughing so broadly that her dental fillings were perfectly visible. Especially given the fact that this scene was supposedly taking place in 1692…

The ending is a whole lot of thrills, some pretty decent surprises and just a bit of horror-standard stupidity packed into one fairly confined space. It’s a beauty, really.

The special features include trailers for “The Evil Dead,” “Dellamorte Dellamore,” “Superstition,” “Warning Sign,” and “Baby Blood.”

All in all, “Superstition” makes for great watching, whether you’re just now seeing it, or you’ve already had the pleasure of it the first go-round.

Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.


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