Evil Judgement 1981 Review
Evil Judgement 1981
Directed by: Claudio Castravelli
Starring: Pamela Collyer, Jack Langedijk, Walter Massey
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
This is an update of the review that I posted on the IMDB way back in 2004. Enjoy…
Looking at the cheesy cover, one could be forgiven for immediately passing off Evil Judgement as just a typical bottom of the barrel slasher from the years when studios were knocking them out faster than the time it takes to boil an egg. Due mainly to the huge amount of slasher films released during the golden period, many struggled to find an audience and rapidly vanished without recognition. Although the likes of ‘Movie House Massacre‘ and ‘Click: The Calendar Girl Killer‘ were perhaps deserving of such a fate, the excellent ‘Terror Night’ and the two ‘BloodStreams’ (both 1985 and 2000 respectively) proved to be worthy of a more prominent status.
As I have said before, 1981 was a fine year for fans of slasher movies. Not only were enthusiasts treated to a sequel of Halloween, which was arguably the movie that started it all; but also they were given excellent features such as Small Town Massacre, Friday the 13th Part 2, The Prowler, My Bloody Valentine and Tobe Hooper’s Funhouse. It was also without a doubt the most lucrative period for the cycle and it is reported that over 60% of box office receipts were from slasher flicks.
Evil Judgement was also completed in 1981, but missed out on the chance to become a part of the peak year influx, due to post-production problems, which have remained undisclosed. The movie sat on the shelves for 3 years and was released direct to video in 1984. Usually such a fate is reserved only for the worst of entries (Twisted Nightmare anybody?), so initially the signs were unconvincing for this Canadian effort.
Everything kicks-off stereotypically as an unidentified patient escapes an asylum, murdering a doctor and an unsuspecting orderly along the way. Next up we meet our heroine, Janet (Pamela Collyer), who is hardly the virginal alter-girl that so often dictates the stereotype for the female protagonist of a slasher movie. Working in a grimy café really begins to get her down and so after much convincing, she decides to accompany her friend, who is an expensive hooker, on a money-spinning night of erotica. Janet’s prostitution début doesn’t go specifically as planned, because an unseen maniac turns up on site and attempts, albeit unsuccessfully, to murder her. Despite his failure to relieve us of our leading lady, the killer does manage to slaughter both her friend April (Nanette Workman) and their unfortunate client. The killer realises that he has left a surviving eye-witness and begins to stalk Janet throughout the rest of the feature, gorily slaughtering everyone that gets in his way. Numerous twists and turns in the plot keep the audience guessing until the surprising conclusion…..
Evil Judgement has become something of an obscurity and is rarely mentioned in the same breath as Prom Night or My Bloody Valentine. It’s a real shame, because actually Castravelli’s slasher is one of the better peak-year murder-mysteries. The film’s strengths lie in the ambition of its synopsis and an excellent characteristic performance from Jack Langedijk as the anti-hero, Dino. When first watching, I had the feeling that he had turned up on the wrong set and was meant to be playing a wise guy in the Mafia flick that was shooting next door. But in fairness, he quickly began to grow on me and made a likeable persona from an audience boo-boy, which is no mean feat. Despite an obviously low production budget, the director manages to build an immensely atmospheric puzzle, which includes characters that break the monotonous slasher clichés. The story enters realms of the unknown in terms of plot development (how many slashers can you name that mix Mafioso with a demented psychopath?) and it deserves credit for its flair for the ambitious.
Judgement is not a gore film like so many that populated the genre at this point in the period, but there’s something notably gruesome in the manner that the killer dispatches his victims. The murders are bloody; and the camera never shies away from the graphic corpses. Some may argue that more creativity was needed – every victim suffers the same gooey throat slashing. With that said, Castravelli does well to build a fist-full of tension in the right places and the stalking scenes in the mansion are dark and memorable. Mixing a few decent shocks with a talent for building a gothic atmosphere, the movie makes the most of its plus-points and rarely struggles to keep up a comfortable momentum.
Whilst Jack Langedijk is excellent as the problematic Dino, Pamela Collyer is irredeemably poor as the one-toned Janet. In fact, the couple perform arguably the worst ever sex-scene (I’m not an advocate of gratuitous sex in a movie, but hey, this sucked) in the history of cinema. The words two, wooden and planks spring to mind. At times, the lighting dims to keyring-torch illumination, which is usually a big negative for slasher flicks. On this occasion though, the darkness adds to the sleazy feel of what’s going on, so it doesn’t effect things too much. When we are not steering into the dimension of sleazy, things get surprisingly cheesy, which is a strong selling point to many retro fans. The OTT eighties fashions are pushed to the max here and the dialogue and music help to bolster the film’s inadvertent comedy factor. Swapping between the two moods is something that not many trash slashers can claim that they have mastered, which is why I am surprised that Judgement is so rarely acknowledged as a decent slice of genre garlic bread. With cheese, bacon and all the toppings too…
Its lack of a fan-base means that Evil Judgement may never get the respect it deserves, but if you have time then I recommend that you give this one a shot. Compelling and alluring, Castravelli’s part slasher/part crime movie is well worth a revisit.
Final Girl: √√