Evictors, The (1979)
Cast: Jessica Harper, Vic Morrow, Michael Parks, Sue Ann Langdon
Director: Charles B. Pierce
Nutshell: Languidly paced Louisiana set period piece chiller about a couple finding their new home has a history that has returned to haunt them.
This unusual low budget horror film arrived with Halloween already into its incredible slow burning run at cinemas world-wide. John Carpenter’s classic had been a genre game changer and suddenly from Demons and possession oriented films we were thrust into the age of the slasher film with shadowy figures in masks carving up amorous teenagers in their dozens. The Evictors poster may suggest something on the lines of Halloween but that is where the similarity ends.
The Evictors is essentially a period piece set in 1942 with most of the action taking place as a couple (Jessica Harper and Michael Parks) make a move into a sprawling Louisiana house from their cramped life in New Orleans.
The audience is already shown one flashback to 1924 during the title sequence when the Towns authorities arrive to evict the Monroe family and a fierce shoot-out follows when the Monroe’s defy the orders to vacate.
14 years later we have the new couple trying to start their lives in a new environment amidst trepidation and excitement. Ruth (finds) that the townsfolk are generally quite cold to her and then gradually finds that she is being stalked by a stranger and his harassment escalates when he breaks into the house wielding a knife.
The couple are forced to arm themselves amidst the danger but it isn’t long before the man returns and tries to break in once again. This time Ruth is armed and a terrible confrontation takes place with dreadful consequences and Ruth is left to confront the horrible facts about all those who have perished at the same house in previous years.
The film is not traditionally a horror film and veers ever so slightly into Straw Dogs territory before a twist in the tail reveals the mechanisms of the evil that drives the horror of the Louisiana residence.
To its credit The Evictors is not just a bandwagon late 90s slasher film but one that stands apart for originality even if it isn’t too successful in keeping pace and is fairly dreary viewing. The camerawork and decent acting help sustain the film and the payoff comes as an unexpected little twist that saves the film from the totally forgettable.
Not by any means a great film and yet it is notable for standing out among the huge pile of rapidly deteriorating slasher entries that the era was to be so littered with. That said, the film could have been so much more had it been directed by a genre director with a tighter script. Hollywood could do worse than remake this little entry rather than cannibalize the Halloween’s and the Friday the 13ths over and over again.