now here's an interesting one. tipped off by the wonderful "toys and techniques" blog, i rewarded myself for job application forms by watching this odd seventies horror film. in theory, if you look at the plot in black and white (ben, his girlfriend nicky and his daughter KT, are all travelling to a birthday party when they find a crushed car. they stop off at a nearby town to let the populace know and find a town haunted by mysterious deaths and missing children) this should be the hoariest potboiler ever made. but somehow the film makers - acolytes of sam peckinpah, and partly responsible for brilliant post apocalyptic sci fi film "a boy and his dog" - manage to turn this nonsense into something rather brilliant
mainly this is because the film manages to almost entirely buck every cliche the screenplay offers up. i say almost, because the coven stuff towards the end is all a bit sub-hammer, but even the odd digression can be forgiven. otherwise what do we have? killer toys. a truly scary dream sequence. some great performances (again, slightly against type: the screenwriter l q jones particularly makes a nicely against type sheriff). a lovely, haunting little score by jaime mendoza-nava. some set design which would nicely set the film up as a precursor to "suspiria" if they weren't flatly directed. and a couple of moments which really stand up as something special, both at the beginning of the film
the first is the opening sequence which seems at first viewing - as it cuts from toy tank, to real tank crushing a car - seems to be all style over content. the second is the arrival into the small town itself. here the director and screenwriter decide, like with the opening sequence, to just not bother explaining what's going on. it takes about half an hour for us to sort of realise what's really happening, and even then it's just sort of implied rather than told us. instead the film makers just chuck us into a hysterical town filled with panic and fear... and we're not far behind ourselves
it's this approach (which also provides us with a rather sudden, disorienting ending) which makes the film so special. these are people who are obviously seeing if they can turn the hoariest of ingredients into something special and, while they don't always succeed, when they do... blimey. does it hit a target quite unlike anything else going on in horror cinema at the time. put it this way: i recently watched the mixed "lemora: a child's tale of the supernatural". and what that film wanted to be, but tried far too hard to achieve this film manages with what looks like very little effort at all
oh! and the closing credits have people down as "nepotists" - what more could you as for?