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The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, 1971

Alan (Anthony Steffen) is a wealthy man who handles his emotional anguish over the death of his wife, Evelyn, by torturing and murdering sex workers in his personal dungeon. On the advice of his cousin, Alan marries a young woman named Gladys (Marina Malfatti) who resembles Evelyn. But soon after the two are wed, strange events and attacks take place at the coupleís home. Has Evelyn returned from the grave to haunt her former husband?

Elevated by some fantastic visuals, this twisty horror-thriller is let down by its ending and an uncompelling main character.

The sweet spot of this film is the middle, in which a mansion full of obnoxious people are being menaced and killed by an unknown, and possibly supernatural, perpetrator. This stretch of the movie is full of eerie, lush visuals, and also the absolute joy of trying to figure out which of the suspicious people inhabiting the mansion is responsible. In a story full of murder, adultery, death, wealth, and sadism, there could be any number of deliciously outlandish explanations for the strange goings-on.

What doesnít quite work about this movie is that itís almost more like three different films. The first act is a chilling look at a man who is so powerful and wealthy that he can indiscriminately torture and murder women just to satisfy his own emotional issues. Our look at Alanís life in this first act is a disturbing glimpse at control and abuse. What else can you feel but disgust at a man who murders red-headed women while a cage of foxes howl in his yard? Worse, thereís a kind of knowing silence in everyone from his cousin to the servants who work on the grounds.

The second act shifts more to the point of view of Gladys and the various hauntings/assaults taking place. Again, I felt that this was the best part of the film.

But the third act, where everything comes to a head and the truth is unfurled really fell flat for me. I was underwhelmed by a conclusion that abandons the visceral unpleasantness of the first act and the visual splendor and wackiness of the middle act.

Without going into details, the final act really fails to resolve anything about Alanís murders of the women in the first act. Sometimes in a film it can be hard to distinguish between a character being misogynistic and the film itself being misogynistic. But in this film, it seems pretty clear that the filmmakers themselves (along with Alan), view the women characters as sex props to be used and discarded. Whatever else happens in the film, Alanís cold-blooded murder of the women is the most chilling element, and yet the movie uses them as set-pieces and not a real part of Alanís character arc.

And about Alan . . . eh. I think that itís an interesting idea to put such a character at the center of the film. Usually most of it would be from Gladysís point of view, but instead thereís more of an even split. But sadly, Alanís just a rich, sexist, insecure jerk who uses his power to hurt women. And thatís about it. While I really enjoyed Malfattiís role as Gladys and the evolution of her character through the story, Steffen really didnít make an impression on me aside from the repulsion naturally generated by his character. You could argue that Alan being uncharismatic actually speaks to the way that heís able to use his money to acquire women as victims, but because the film abandons its focus on those activities, this idea doesnít go anywhere, even if it were the intention of the performance.

The visuals are solid and the middle act is fun, but the ending is the pits and itís ultimately not a very satisfying experience story-wise.