Witchcraft. Football. Gender-switching. Teenaged angst. Whatever else it may be, any movie that takes a stab at including all of these things as main elements in the plot is going to be... different. That about describes Equinox Knocks, an oddball movie that takes a comic approach to what would happen if someone really got what he or she wished for. As the punning title has it, "Be careful what you witch for"... it might come true.
You see, Allie Black (Katherine James) is mad at the world. Her jock boyfriend is two-timing her with Lynette, the obnoxious (but busty) leader of a snobbish clique, the sexist high school guidance counselor won't forward her application to Harvard, and her best friend Courtney (Debra Cassidy) is too occupied with practicing her witchcraft to properly sympathize. In a moment of pique, Allie interferes with Courtney's autumn equinox ritual to proclaim "I wish I were a boy!" so that she could get back at the deceitful Lynette. Not surprisingly (to the viewer), Allie wakes up the next morning... as a boy. That's when the fun really starts, as "she" (now played by Guilford Adams) must string along everyone she knows on a tale of being a transfer student called "Caleb James" while trying desperately to figure out how to switch back.
Though it sags a bit in the middle, Equinox Knocks manages to pull its own weight all the way through to the end, which is no mean feat considering that comedies of this style typically have a very hard time pulling through to the finish. The film has a good sense of the absurd, and manages to get in some genuinely funny moments, for instance, when the gung-ho high school coach ends an assembly dedicated to mourning a dead student with a rousing cheer for the football team. In the world of Equinox Knocks, everybody is a little odd (or very odd indeed), but among all the quirky characters there's one who is played absolutely straight, which is the character of Allie's mother, the police officer (Jane Braugh). She's completely serious throughout the entire movie, and though she doesn't appear very often, when she does, her character throws the idiosyncrasies of the other characters into sharper and funnier relief.
Is the film polished? No, not at all. Equinox Knocks has the feel of a high-school production, in both the acting (done, obviously, mainly by high-school-age actors) and the rather bland cinematography. To be sure, the best low-budget films exceed the limitations of the bottom line, making the other strengths of the film take up the slack so the viewer never notices (Alejandro Amenábar's first film, Thesis, is one of that prestigious category). But for every budding Amenábar there are also other directors who have a certain something that they can bring to a film, even if it's not quite enough to make their work take off and fly on its own. Director Francine Rzeznik of Equinox Knocks is one of these. It's clear that the film is a very minor production, but there's enough charm in its rendition that, as a viewer, I could suspend my expectations and enjoy the film for what it is.
Compared to the general run of films on DVD, the image quality of Equinox Knocks is pretty glaringly inadequate. To be fair, though, this is likely attributable as much to the original film stock as to the DVD transfer, and in the end it's watchable.
The film is presented in a non-anamorphic transfer that preserves its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The image as a whole is blurry and grainy. Colors are highly irregular; some scenes look pale and washed-out, and black is generally off, as the nighttime scenes look more grayish than truly dark. Outdoor scenes tend to be on the pale side, but the colors look relatively accurate. Indoor scenes are harder on the eyes, as any bright color like orange, red, or bright green is much too bright, and tends to bleed. Contrast is relatively satisfactory, though, even in the darker scenes.
On the bright side, the audio quality for Equinox Knocks pulls itself up to about the middle of the spectrum. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby 2.0, and though it's rather flat-sounding, it's also fairly clean, without distortion or extraneous noise. The music portions of the soundtrack come through fairly well and are reasonably well-balanced with the dialogue, and, in fact, the pop soundtrack by composer Christopher Rife is one of the stronger elements of the film. It's goofy, but at the same time oddly catchy.
The main special feature on the disc is an audio commentary track from director Francine Rzeznik and producer Zinca Benton, the two of whom also wrote the screenplay together. The commentary was evidently recorded quite a while after the film was made, and it includes a lot of silence in between fairly mundane comments. Even so, it offers some insight into the world of low-budget independent filmmaking. The special features also include a very brief "introduction" to the film form the director, a trailer for the film, and a brief segment showing the audition of Guilford Adams.
I was oddly charmed by Equinox Knocks, but I wouldn't venture to recommend it as a sight-unseen purchase; it's a film that could very well be a hideous flop to a different viewer. It's worth seeking out as a rental, though, if you're in the mood for something decidedly quirky.