Equinox (1970 film)
Equinox (1970 film), AKA The Beast and "The Equinox . . . A Journey into the Supernatural" (original 1967 short film)
A group of college students take a trip to an eerie cabin in the woods for a picnic where their college professor holds the secret to unlocking a sinister Tome of forbidden lore, and encounter a mad hermit, a mysterious castle, a possessed park ranger named Mr. Asmodeus, cloaked cultists, a handful of wonderful forced-perspective and stop-motion animated monsters, and a film appearance by author Fritz Lieber!
- Release Date: 1970
- Country/Language: US, English
- Genres/Technical: Fantasy, Horror
- Runtime: 1 hr 11 min (full-length; the short was less than an hour in length)
- Starring: David Fielding, Barbara Hewitt, Frank Bonner, Robin Christopher, Jack Woods, Fritz Leiber
- Director: Dennis Muren
- Writer: Mark Thomas McGee
- Producer/Production Co: Jack Harris
- Film Website: (link)
- View Teaser, "Book of the Dead": (link)
- View Trailer: (link)
- Criterion Collection presents "Books of the Dead": (link), comparing scenes from Equinox... A Journey into the Supernatural (1967 short) and Evil Dead II (1987 film)
- IMDB: (link)
- Rated: PG (off-screen violence, mild creepiness, and Asmodeus' mouth)
This seems to have been arbitrarily rated a "G" back in the 1970s, though it's possible the movie might be just a bit too weird and scary for very young kids. A vaguely "rapey" scene where Asmodeus' mouth attacks a young picnicker in the woods of-camera might be a bit uncomfortable for some viewers (it's unclear what's going on - it's a scene that's reminiscent of vampire attack scenes from earlier films, seems to result in demonic possession, and was billed by the film's publicity as "picking up where Rosemary's Baby (1968 film) left off!")
A rough measure of how "Lovecraftian" the work is:
- SSs__ (Two and a Half Tentacles: vaguely Lovecraftian)
A rating of 2.5 Tentacles for a generically "Lovecraftian" (or perhaps "Derlethian") pastiche plot with its own mythos, stop-motion tentacle monsters, and an appearance from Fritz Lieber!
Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.
- Y.Whateley: My fondly-remembered first contact with a "Lovecraftian" film, which would go on to fuel a life-long interest in the genre. A low-budget (made for about $6500 in the 1970s) amateur/student film with a generically "Lovecraftian" (or perhaps "Derlethian") pastiche plot with its own mythos featuring some wonderful stop-motion tentacles and other monsters, which seems to have been arbitrarily rated a "G" back in the 1970s, though it's possible the movie might be just a bit too weird and scary for very young kids (I handled this sort of thing just fine on late-night TV as a youngster, in any case).
- The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review (link) 2 Stars. " One tries to be hopeful about ingénue student efforts but Equinox is not a very good film. ... If Equinox had employed Fritz Leiber for his writing skills...it might have emerged considerably better than this."
- 1000 Misspent Hours & Counting (link) -2 Stars. "...one gets the impression that the filmmakers temporarily forgot that there was a story being told in the first place. Such a thing is truly remarkable in this case, because Equinox actually has more story than it quite knows what to do with."
Told in flash-backs by a patient at a mental hospital who panics at the loss of his cross, this is the story of what happens after college Professor Dr. Waterman (played by Lovecraft correspondent Fritz Lieber in a cameo role) has obtained a forbidden tome and unleashed eldritch horrors with his studies. He has invited two of his students to his creepy cabin in the woods for further exploration, and the students bring dates along for a picnic in the scenic location. They discover that a faux-Cthulhu has crushed the cabin like a cardboard model, a nearby cave is haunted by a skeleton and a crazy old hermit who now owns the Tome, and the surrounding woods are haunted by a mysterious castle, a green giant, and a sinister park ranger whose creepy mouth is named "Mr. Asmodeus". The Tome reveals a handful of arcane symbols that can repel the monsters (including the cross). The kids get killed off one by one by wonderful low-budget miracles of special effects wizardry, until only the mental patient remains, and is threatened by a veiled Elder God with a terrible curse of doom, his cross being his last defense against the curse....
Comments, Trivia, Dedication
- This was originally a short film made in 1967; when the films' creators had difficulty getting the film distributed, Jack Woods took over, reunited the original cast, re-shot a few scenes and added some new scenes as filler, until the film reached a theatrical release-friendly 71 minutes in length; Woods then took credit for writing and directing the film.
- The film was made for only $6500, with innovative force-perspective, stop-motion, and trick-photography special effects
- The special effects team would go on to help create effects for more well-known films, including the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings films, Clash of the Titans, Jurassic Park, Ghost Busters (1984 franchise)|Ghost Busters II]], and others.
- Writer Fritz Lieber appears in a cameo role (Dr. Waterman), as does writer Forrest J Ackerman (voice on tape recorder) who helped Lieber get the role
Associated Mythos Elements
- an unnamed Necronomicon
- a stop-motion Tentacle Monster
- a crazy hermit
- some doomed cultists (in a flashback-within-a-flashback)
- Mr. Asmodeus, Avatar of a nameless Winged Demon
- a Green Giant
- the "Taurus"
- an unnamed Great Old One
- a self-driving car and an eldritch bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken
- Evil Dead (1981 franchise) - there are remarkable similarities between the low-budget original The Evil Dead and the earlier Equinox, though it's unclear just how much Equinox inspired the more famous Evil Dead films.