Something Evil (1972, TV-Movie)

Something Evil (1972, TV-Movie)

Synopsis:

A family buys a farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania unaware that the property houses an evil supernatural entity.

Reaction & Thoughts:

An early TV production by then on-the-rise young filmmaker Steven Spielberg. You immediately sense that Spielberg is not your run-of-the-mill TV director — Something Evil, despite the obvious small budget, is extremely well-done, and very stylish.

Something Evil feels like a dry run for Spielberg’s Poltergeist (1982) — the two movies share many plot points and ideas. Being a modest TV movie, Spielberg doesn’t have access to expensive state-of-the-art special effects, so the director, with the help of cameraman Bill Butler (Jaws), build suspense using clever editing and funky camera angles.

Written by Robert Clouse (The Ultimate Warrior), Something Evil is not perfect, but it does get the job done, and the actors are pretty good — Sandy Dennis (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) and Darren McGavin (The Natural) are very convincing as the married couple confronting paranormal activity.

Because it was a TV project scripted to fill a 90-minute spot, the narrative is a bit rushed thus some potentially interesting sub-plots are left unexplored. For example, Ralph Bellamy’s (His Girl Friday) character — he plays an older guy interested in the occult — could have benefited from more screen time.

The cast also includes Margaret Avery (she would later co-star in Spielberg’s The Color Purple) and child actor Johnny Whitaker (The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming). Spielberg and Carl Gottlieb (co-writer of Jaws) have cameos.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Something Evil probably won’t appeal to younger viewers accustomed to fast-paced chillers. However, I grew up in a time when these kinds of movies dominated the airwaves so I enjoyed it. More important, the film gives us a chance to asses the skills of a very young Spielberg. Color, 73 minutes, Not Rated.

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