A low budget anthology film made on 16mm in the late eighties on location in Florida, giving it that quirky local film flavor that makes so many low budget oddities as interesting as they are, Where Evil Lives hasn't ever been easy to see. For better or worse, Troma has picked it up for distribution and now Claude Akins (this was his final film) swansong picture can finally be viewed in all its cruddy, fullframe glory!
When the movie begins, a wealthy man named Blake Rutherford II (James Coffey) meets a female real estate agent in front of an aging mansion called The Spencer House whose history dates back over a hundred years. As she deals with some business he strikes up a conversation with the friendly caretaker, Jack Devlin (Akins), who relays to him some of the horror stories that surround the origins of the building.
The first storyline tells us of one Hubert Whitehead (Peter Zaff), who was picked on by many of the people he went to school with. Never able to score with the ladies the way the other guys were able to, nerdy and weird looking Hubert finally snaps and kills a whole bunch of people who are having a frat party inside the house. Twenty some odd years later and Hubert is released from jail - where does he go? Back to the scene of the crime of course, where he learns that his victims have come to seek revenge from beyond the grave! In the second story, a brother and sister explore the house and realize that it's inhabited by a seductive blonde woman who struts around in fancy black lingerie. The sister sees this as a bad sign, but the brother, a teenage boy, is understandably intrigued. He heads into the house alone one night and learns who, or more specifically what, this women really is. Last but not least we are told the story of a female police officer who is tasked with catching a serial killer. She gets naked a few times in her apartment just for kicks and may or may not have a thing going with a fellow cop. As she closes in on the fiend, it turns out that she's using more than just great detective skills to catch him - there may be something supernatural on her side.
Of course, in horror anthology tradition, once the three stories that make up the bulk of the film are told we return to Mr. Rutherford and Mr. Devlin for the second bookend before the end credits role.
Aside from Akins, there is one other interesting name associated with this. Richard L. Fox, who directed the first story, went on to work quite prolifically as a second unit director on pictures like The Expendables, The Descendants and Donnie Darko. While the other two co-writers/co-directors - Stephan A. Maier and Kevin G. Nunan - don't seem to have gone on to do much, Fox is still doing his thing in Hollywood and this appears to be his first credit.
At any rate, this movie has the same pros and cons that a lot of low budget straight to video horror movies made around the same point in time. The pros? It was made with some obvious heart by people who love horror movies, it's got some genuinely creative storytelling working in its favor and it can quite often provide you with loads of unintentional hilarity. The cons? Pretty much everything else. The effects are goofy, the cinematography barely adequate, and the acting fairly horrible. For the most part though, this actually works as a fun time killer. Part of the appeal to a certain segment of Troma's intended audience here is going to be nostalgia, not for the movie itself (which it would appear few had seen before this DVD release) but for the era and the whole straight to video horror movement itself. Realistically speaking, the movie goes at a good pace, features an interesting central location and if nothing else is rarely boring. It offers up a bit of gore, some nudity, zombies, serial killers and witches, so you can't really fault it for lack of horror movie elements. On top of that, it's Akins' final credit, and he's amusing in the role. This is worth seeing if you've got a taste for low budget eighties horror.
Where Evil Lives arrives on DVD and looks about as good as it did on VHS many moons ago. The fullframe image is murky during the darker scenes but otherwise looks okay considering its age, budget and origins. Don't expect much in the way of ultra sharp detail but the movie is certainly watchable enough so long as you know what you're getting into. Does it look great? No, but it's at least acceptable given its age, budget and obscurity.
The only audio option is a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track in English, there are no alternate language options or subtitles provided. The audio quality is on par with the video quality in that it really isn't very good but it gets the job done considering what we're talking about. There are a few spots where the dialogue is a bit muffled but for the most part you can understand everything easily enough.
Extras are slim here, limited to a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Troma DVD releases, a quick intro from Troma head honcho Lloyd Kaufman discusses the movie for a minute or two. The Sunny Acres Farm short film made by PETA and Troma is bizarre and interesting as a curiosity item. There's also a bit with a 'Tromette Of The Month' strutting her stuff and a still gallery for the feature. Aside from that, the often seen but rarely understood Radiation March performance art piece that Troma has included on countless DVDs since the inception of the format is recycled here, and we get some static menus and chapter selection options.
Where Evil Lives isn't really anything to write home about in the long term, but fans of eighties low budget horror will get a kick out of it as it's pretty amusing, even if that's often times for all the wrong reasons. Good? No, not really, but fun. Troma's DVD does about as good a job as you'd expect with a movie like this, it's watchable but not much more than that, and while the extras are fairly slim, this is still one that fans of schlocky cheap horror movies will have some fun with. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.