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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Friday, February 23, 2024

The Evil Below (1989)

I’ve been in the mood for some oddball eighties movies so I’ve started digging thru my stacks of tapes to see if I can unearth any gems. I had a VHS copy of The Evil Below, which I have no idea where I acquired it, and thought I’d give it a chance. Though I’ve not had much success with South African lensed flicks other than maybe Hardware and even that wasn’t a favorite of mine I was willing to give this one a chance. Was that a mistake? Let us find out.

The movie opens with a sailing vessel, or rather a decent looking model of one, being tossed in some rough seas. Thanks to a helpful bit of text on the screen we know this is the past, specifically the sixteen hundreds. Then the action moves to a man and woman diving. They find the wreck of the ship and are killed by a giant fish. Not a shark but a toothy barracuda looking scaley bastard! I’m guessing those aren’t our main characters otherwise this was a short movie.

Now we meet our main characters. Max is a fishing boat captain that is having difficulty paying the bills. He meets a lady in a bar named Sarah in a bar and they head to her room for some groping and brief nudity before she starts to cry, and he leaves. The next day she comes to the docks to hire a boat to go looking for a treasure ship named The El Diablo. Guess who has the only available boat? Now do we get some explanation as to why she cried when they started to hook up? Hell no. This sadly will become a familiar theme.

"Thrilling" bar scene 27...
Be warned spoilers follow. As they look for the treasure they visit Max’s Dad, who is murdered. By whom and why? I can only guess that it was the bad guy a local expert on antiques named Calhoun, who also has a random henchman named Barlow. Both of whom are basically immortal supernatural creatures. Wait… why and how? It must not matter because the movie makes zero effort to explain what the hell is going on. Eventually Max and Sarah blow up the wreck which ends the curse… I think… and the movie ends.

This one is a mess. I’m not sure if the script was poorly written or if the editor didn’t know what they were doing but the results are the same. The characters jump from scene to scene without any connective narrative between them. We literally get people talking in a bar, then suddenly underwater in scuba gear, to being back on the boat talking about going to the bar. The action jumps around like this not once but throughout the entire runtime. It makes for a jumbled mess and kills any momentum that the movie might have created. Then again that was an unlikely hope for a movie that is filled with unnecessary characters. I mean what is up with the priest characters who apparently are there to die and not add anything to the story. And that is plural as in the first one dies and then his replacement also dies in the same basic way. Toss in some underwater footage that is nothing more than padding for a miserable way to spend ninety minutes.

"Thrilling" SCUBA scene 14.
The Evil Below also tries to sell itself as horror in addition to mystery and adventure. Other than the immortal bad guys and hints at a curse there is very little horror to be had here. That might explain why the kills are all offscreen and lame. There is also zero mystery here… other than me asking myself why I was watching this that is. I suppose the best way to describe the movie is as an adventure flick with little to no adventure.

I’m still struggling to find a South African produced genre flick that I dig. And yes I’ve seen Dust Devil in addition to Hardware. The Evil Below is one of the slowest and most pointless exercises in cinema that I’ve seen in a quite a while. I can’t recommend anyone spending their time and/or god forbid their money on it. This is a VHS that I should have left on the shelf collecting dust.


© Copyright 2024 John Shatzer

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