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Evil Spirits

USA 1990
produced by
Sidney Niekerk (= Sam Norvell) for Grand Am
directed by Gary Graver
starring Karen Black, Arte Johnson, Virginia Mayo, Michael Berryman, Debra Lamb, Martine Beswick, Mikel Angel, Bert Remsen, Yvette Vickers, Robert Quarry, Anthony Eisley, Hoke Howell, Sam Menning, Dori Courtney, Larry Biedes
written by Mikel Angel, music by Duane Sciacqua

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Ella Purdy (Karen Black) runs a boarding house exclusively for those on healthcare or welfare - which makes her a very good soul ... one should think. Truth is, she has the welfare checks of her tenants signed over to her, and she apparently cashes way more checks than she has tennants these days.

The tenants she does have are a pretty diverse bunch: medium Vanya (Martine Beswick), harmless drunk Willie (Mikel Angel), wannabe-writer Balzac (Michael Berryman), the Wilsons (Virginia Mayo, Bert Remsen), a self-proclaimed society couple, and Ella's own daughter Tina (Debra Lamb), who doesn't talk but expresses herself in dance. There was another tenant, but he has left recently, which somehow puts the others on alert, to a point where Vanya insists on holding a séance. Ella smiles through all of this, but her rather evasive excuses about the whereabouts of the missing tenant sure enough arouse suspicion - to an extent that the social security service sends an investigator (Arte Johnson) - whose brakes are conveniently sabotaged when he drives off ... he survives though.

Ella has to realize that the air at her boarding house has become thin, so she sees to it that her tenants die one by one, all but Tina of course, and Willie, who has been a witness to pretty much everything but decides he's delusional from alcohol and needs help.

Finally, the social security investigator returns to her house - not to have her arrested but to blackmail her. She wants to shock him when she introcudes him to her husband - who has died years ago but still lives with her as a corpse, and she still collects welfare money for him. The investigator has expected as much though ... but is killed nevertheless - by Tina, who has actually committed all the murders.

The ending sees Ella and Tina walk off into a new future - that might even include another boarding house ...

 

Evil Spirits is a film that simply never lives up to its promise: It has an (at least for genre fans) excellent cast, some amusingly eccentric performances (especially Debra Lamb, Mikel Angel and Michael Berryman come to mind here), an enjoyably macabre plot, it approaches the whole thing with the right amount of irony but does feature enough blood all the same ... and yet, the film fails to reach its full potential by quite a few feet, mainly due to a rather impersonal directorial effort and the lack of any atmosphere or tension and suspense. Too bad, really, this could have been borderline great, as it is it's rather mediocre.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
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shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD