Written by: Jason Wheeler, Film Frenzy Senior Writer & Editor.
In 1972, Steven Spielberg released Something Evil, which starred Sandy Dennis, Darren McGavin, Ralph Bellamy, Jeff Corey, Johnny Whitaker, John Rubinstein, David Knapp, Laurie Hagen, Herb Armstrong, Margaret Avery, Norman Bartold, Sheila Bartold, Lois Battle, Bella Bruck, and Lynn Cartwright. The film was made for television and had no box office gross.
Married couple Marjorie and Paul Worden move into a Pennsylvania farmhouse with a mysterious past. Soon, strange noises occur all over the property and it becomes clear there are dark forces afoot.
Something Evil is nothing short of an awful film containing no saving graces. In and of itself, the plot makes absolutely no sense. Supposedly, the Wordens have moved into a home where Satan himself or demons have a presence and have taken control of their son. However, none of this is properly conveyed. Multiple times, Marjorie hears a baby crying and goes to inspect. The first time, all she finds is a rat and the next two, she sees a jar of glowing red substance. Nothing ever materializes from these jars other than sound and noise and she reacts as if it were the most terrifying sight imaginable. Further, the son never comes off as if he’s possessed by something except for the final minutes where he gives a creepy smile before Marjorie somehow manages to bring him under control. The film attempts to present a backstory to what happened, yet it comes in the penultimate scene and is so rushed it is barely understood.
This second to last scene also includes a character who either had not shown up all movie or was involved somehow but was one of the many characters who showed up for one or two scenes only to never be seen again. Another problem the film has is it gives the audience too many characters to keep track of along with the family living at the farmhouse. So many characters have so little time or dialogue that their time in the film is ultimately forgettable and having one of these characters just show up at the end for exposition becomes confusing.
The acting is terrible, especially from Dennis as Marjorie. Every single word she says is individually emphasized, giving the feel as if her lines are made up of one-word sentences. Her entire performance is loud, too, as if she was told to act like anyone she may have been speaking to was several miles away. The flow between her lines is nonexistent, as well. One scene sees her yelling for her son, saying his name over and over. The way it’s flowed evokes the feeling of hearing someone reading the same name in a loud and shrill voice. Dennis isn’t the only source of bad acting in this film. All the actors present have managed to give performances ranging from subpar to boring. They are all forgettable.
The film takes a nearly 90-minute runtime and goes full tilt from beginning to end. Only one scene is paced right and it’s when Marjorie finds the rat. Every other scene attempts to take the viewer on a ride into a world of demonic horror. It fails. Instead of giving the audience time to register what horrific events might be happening in front of them, the film goes past them and speeds into the next scene. In general, proper pacing is part of what gives horror films the right atmosphere. This film is paced so badly it doesn’t have any atmosphere, causing its goal of scaring audiences to fail.
Additionally, the lack of an atmosphere is an editing failure. There are a lot of points in the film where it cuts back and forth between two or three objects in one scene and keeps going long after it should have. The aforementioned scene when Marjorie is looking for her son involves this. The camera goes from her, to the foliage, back to her, and back to the foliage so many times in such a short amount of time it’s dizzying and only serves to further confuse what viewers have stuck around.
None of this film feels anything like a movie, theatrical or otherwise. It’s an incoherent mess making little effort to be entertaining or scary.