Saturday, 5 March 2011

Equinox and beyond...

What were you doing at age 17? Fast Forwarding through a VHS of Eurotrash to the saucy bits? Searching for a pub that ignored your fresh face and served you without ID? Or were you, like the makers of Equinox, applying the German holistic-art concept of gesamtkunstwerk to stop-motion animation? In 1962, accomplished pianist, student of classical literature, precocious little shit, and special effects enthusiast, David Muren joined an effects-nerd collective advertised in the back of influential American magazine Famous Monsters Of Filmland. Together with part time film journo Mark McGee and animator Dave Allen, Muren and gang experimented with various effects in their back garden for years. Honing their skills before finally deciding (via an injection of cash that was due to be spent on Mullen's education) to make the leap into making a full length feature.

Armed with a 16mm Bolex camera, a crew of friends and a script by cthulu-nut McGee they set out into the woods and over the next 2 and a half years of weekends, school holidays and light evenings, they filmed the story of a wholesome group of young kids who head out for a lovely day in the country, get given an evil book by a cackling old man (Mullen's Grandad), which then unleashes creatures from the very pits of hell. These hell-pit creatures were then constructed and lovingly animated in a makeshift studio in Mullen's dad's shed: making The Equinox... A Journey into the Supernatural, quite literally, a Backyard production.

Although intended as a way to exercise their special effects skills, and perhaps get a few bucks from a late night horror tv show, The Equinox... A Journey into the Supernatural was spotted by Jack H Harris, producer of The Blob, who saw the marketability of the kids vs. demons flick, and got his mate Jack Woods, a professional sound editor, to shoot some extra footage to pad out the film to a sell able length. He added and edited in a whole new plot line about a creepy mounted policeman, starring himself as the leering law man.
This new fuller version of the film had the title shortened to just Equinox and went on to be a success on the drive-in circuit.

While a little-watched film, Equinox's legacy is undeniable. Mullen went on to revolutionise special effects, working as visual effects supervisor on the Abyss, Terminator 2, and Jurassic Park and all pivotal films in the development of CGI, and shaping many of our childhoods, working on the visual effects for the proper Star Wars trilogy and E.T. He won 6 Oscars and is the only effects artist to have a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. Dave Allen went on and had a career producing fantastic, and characterful, stop motion such as the little Batteries Not Included aliens, the Young Sherlock Holmes graveyard confectionery attack, the Puppet Master's puppets and the Demonic Toys. McGee carried on writing and directing genre fare such as Sorority Party Massacre II and Bad Girls From Mars.

Of the four main stars, only Frank Bonner, the slightly more devil-may-care male lead, carried on working in show business. He made himself a healthy acting career with various American TV sitcoms, including a regular gig as one of Screech's fellow teachers on Saved By The Bell: The New Class. Jack Woods went back to sound editing and ended up working on such sequels as Critters 2, Look Who's Talking Too and Naked Gun 2 1/2

But legacy: Schmagacy. Is this flick worth a watch or what?

Fuck yes.

Even if you are not charmed by the effects of yesteryear there is still tons to enjoy. The characters were obviously created by a bunch of bookish young men with little real world experience. The men in Equinox, tackle the increasingly bizarre situations with hilariously stoic good sense while the women are pretty young things who will wander off and get into trouble when there's not a man around to tell them what to do. Evil Dead fans will have a field day. With it's teenagers find necrotelecomunicony thing and unleash all manner of terrors plot, Equinox can easily be viewed as a prequel. Deadites will also see echoes of Sam Raimi's camera work in some of the scenes, most obviously in an early crucifix-related freakout scene early in the picture.

So, whether you want Evil Dead 0.5, a chance to see hoe today's top FX bods got started, or just an enjoyably clunky creature feature, Equinox will show you a good time.

Join us as we visit this classic tomorrow evening at the Mucky Pup.

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