I thought The Evictors was Charles B. Pierce’s magnum opus right up until the end of the movie, but I should have known that Mr. Boggy Creek couldn’t actually pull it off. Is there a good movie out there that was made by a director who also had a different movie featured on MST3K? I’m drawing a blank. I mean, this may still be Pierce’s best film, but I haven’t seen The Town That Dreaded Sundown yet. And I stress the yet. I am definitely going to watch it, because Andrew Prine of the I-posed-in-Playgirl-for-one-very-good-reason Prines is in it.
Anyway, this movie begins in 1928 as some cops and a guy from the bank are trying to get some fools out of their house they can’t pay for. But instead of moving out after taking all the toilets, light fixtures, interior doors, carpet, and appliances, like normal sleazy people, these entitled hicks have a shootout instead.
Cut to 1942, and Jessica Harper and Michael Parks are buying the same house from Vic Morrow. They should have known that buying a house from Vic Morrow would lead to trouble. I knew it, and I was only four years old when this movie was released! OK, so I didn’t see the movie until I was in my 30s but still. Vic Morrow is looking pretty shifty here as the real estate agent.
Well, they move in, but nobody will come over for coffee, and the local peddler and the local lady in a wheelchair and bad wig (Sue Ane Langdon) tell Jessica terrible sepia-tinged stories of the murders that occurred in her house in 1934 and 39. Then there are muddy footprints on the back porch, then the owner of the footprints actually kills the peddler, and then the bastard starts coming in and out of the house at will! And nobody but our heroine is very concerned! It’s all very edge-of-seat, especially with Harper on the screen.
I told my husband, “See? All you need for regional horror is three actors and a bunch of Guffman Waiters from the local theater.” But I should have known the movie was going to hell when the killer killed the peddler, who was hired to chop wood and bring over ten chickens and put them in the barn, and Harper came home right as the killer was driving away. That’s because instead of waiting to kill her too, the killer had hidden the body, finished chopping the wood, and put the chickens in the barn himself. And left with the peddler’s truck, after building a nice fire in the fireplace and leaving a nice note. Doubleyew tee eff.
But I did enjoy the rest of the movie, until the end, which flew completely off the rails. And then it sheared off a bunch of old growth pines and crashed through a schoolhouse full of orphans and finally exploded after actually knocking the top off of a mountain. Yes, train metaphors can do all that.
The real problem here is that Pierce did not have Harper running around wearing a floor length white nightgown. If you’re gonna make a horror picture about a young woman in peril, she must have a white nightgown. That’s a rule.
But of course, I did enjoy the movie, especially the rest of her 40s wardrobe and hair and the house and its furnishings. Oh, and the cars. I’m just fascinated with 40s period pieces. There weren’t that many good movies actually made then, but movies about the time are a favorite. Life looked so soothingly lo-fi, but with phones and cars. And I know I’ve said before that the end of a movie determines whether it sucks or it rules, and I’ve trashed the end of this one, but I have the right to change my mind, and I still probably would watch The Evictors again. Especially if I had some homemade pie to eat while I watched it. That would be cool.