Reviews

Evictors, The (1979)

Charles Pierce has made muddy footprints on the back porch scary again.

Beginning with 1974’s untouchable The Legend Of Boggy Creek, continuing with 1976’s marred masterwork The Town That Dreaded Sundown, and now, concluding with 1979’s The Evictors, director Charles B. Pierce defined the art, nostalgia, and enchantment of the pseudo-documentary horror film. So it’s only fitting that Pierce’s final genre coup would turn out to be his most elegant. Whereas Boggy Creek will forever be candy-coated with Bigfoot sentimentality and Sundown, though wonderful, is rife with mood killers, The Evictors is all business. There’s no novelty. No exploitive hook. No deviation. It’s just a magnificent fright film; one which focuses less on real life roots and more on the craft of low budget, regional horror.

Welcome to Louisiana. In the finest of Shirley Jackson traditions, Ben Watkins (Michael Parks, Mr. The Werewolf Of Woodstock) and wife Ruth (Jessica Harper, Suspiria) move into an old farm house during the fall of 1942. But we know something that they don’t know. A prologue that took place in 1928 related the house’s unfortunate, eviction-related history — one that may repeat itself in the Watkins’ foreseeable future. First, a hand-scrawled note in the mailbox, which reads, “I want you to move.” Next, two more murder-ific flashbacks. And then, Ben is summoned on a work-related weekend trip. Ruth is left in the house. Alone. Afraid. At risk.

The Evictors revolves around dusty antiques — the house, the town residents, the isolated farm fields. Photography captures these elements beautifully, while the actors interpret them with great efficiency. With that foundation in place, the film slips into a confident comfort zone and never looks back. Orchestral swells and creamy synths (courtesy Pierce regular Jaime Mendoza Nava) meet the suspense head on. Bursts of slasher violence arrive at most welcomed moments. The lack of narration, which is usually a Pierce calling card, solidifies the script’s surprises, rather than anticipating them. The Evictors is every bit as affecting as Boggy Creek and Sundown, but requires zero effort to feel the ice. You never know what’s next. You never want it to end. You always —

Wait a minute. Do I hear footsteps out back?

From the Archives