Four buddies are wandering through a remote part of Wisconsin. One
of them was supposed to be married that morning, but was stood up at
the altar. The other three, including his older brother, are his
groomsmen, and they are determined to help their friend get over the
pain with a crazy-ass road trip. Their plan consists mainly of beer,
and plenty of it. They stop at a remote bait shop to stock up on suds
and to find out if there is anything interesting to do in the area.
After some discussion they decide to make a canoe trip from twenty
miles up river back to the bait shop, and they find a woman to rent
them two canoes and drive them to a portage.
Their dialogue consists mostly of guy talk about women and their
past adventures, but behind the scenes a mysterious thread is
emerging. The owner of the bait shop has a copy of an ancient text
about witches. The canoe woman tells them a story about seven
mysterious women who once lived together in the remote woods and were
the subject of many rumors about witchcraft. Once you know that the
next night will be both Halloween and a blue moon, items which
coincide less than once per century, you can probably figure out where
all the foreshadowing will lead.
Their first night of camping is the night before Halloween, and
they pass the time in idle talk as they get ready to hit the sack to
rest up for their canoe trip the next day. They get bored and are just
about to call it a night when they hear women's voices. There are
exactly four hot young women camping in the same remote area, and the
women all seem to be wild with lust. As the women attempt to seduce
them, succeeding in various degrees, we realize the lads' peril, but
they do not seem to. Of course, we can hear the discordant and spooky
background music and they cannot.
I guess you can see where all this is leading. Their next day (and
night) will be fraught with peril. Whatever "fraught" means.
(I just looked it up. It was bugging me. Kind of interesting.
"Fraught" is the past participle of "freight" when the latter is used
as a verb meaning to "load and transport goods," as in "he freighted
his goods to India by rail," thus "he has fraught his goods to India
by rail." At any rate, "fraught" thus means "loaded with" and/or
"carried by." I guess I knew how to use the word properly in idiomatic
phrases, but I never really understood what it meant. Live and learn.)
Back to the point ...
The most common failure in today's horror films is that they want
to get straight to the payoff, to start the gore and the sex as soon
as possible, without ever taking the time to let us get to know the
characters. Not that the characters would be worth knowing. They're
just about all interchangeable and/or stock characters.
This horror film comes from the old school. It takes the time to
develop its leads and to distinguish at least some of them as
interesting, diverse, complicated people. Unfortunately, it fails a
bit on the other side because the craftsmanship and atmosphere and
good writing don't really lead up to a heart-pounding conclusion.
There's plenty of sizzle, and a delicious aroma, but no steak on the
grill. There's not much gore, very little nudity, and not many scares
because there are few surprises and the evil is simple to defeat. (The
script establishes early that the witches are vulnerable to water. How
convenient that the witch-queen stands so close to a water trough at
such a critical time!) In short, the film has plenty of foreshadowing,
but needs a lot more actual shadowing.
That being said, let me hasten to add that I rather liked this
retro-seventies horror film. There's only so much one can do without a
budget, and the team worked around those inherent limitations. The
writing is good, the score is interesting, the characters are
involving, the acting is surprisingly good, the cinematography is
competent, and the Wisconsin locations are original. Where the film
falls short is in the areas that simply require more money. The gore
is suggested or off-camera, and the costumes and make-up are lame,
like a combination of off-the-rack Halloween shop kitsch and some
leftovers from The Devil's Rain. Call it The Devil's Drizzle. (Hey,
where's Shatner, Travolta and Ernest Borgnine?)
The one thing the filmmakers could have done better without money
was to ramp up the nudity level. The movie is all about "sapphic
orgies" and seduction and sexual rituals, but for all that talk
there's no walk. Even the satanic ritual on Halloween involves sex
between a fully-clothed woman and a man thrusting away with his pants
on, surrounded by fully-clothed witches dancing around them.
Ol' Satan has really gotten conservative over the centuries!
Must be all those years working with the Republicans.
Prior to the climactic pagan rites, one of the women (Elisabeth Oas)
exposes her breasts very briefly, and two women (could be anyone)
shoot moons from a passing car. That was it in the flesh department,
and that modesty wasn't appropriate for the subject matter. The film's
other failings could be blamed on the budget, but this is one they
should have fixed, because it made the satanic Halloween rituals about
as edgy as a bunch of Mormons conducting an October wedding in the