Thursday, 15 January 2015

Terror at the Red Wolf Inn (1972)

So I see that IMDB and a number of internet reviews call this a 'comedy horror', but in my opinion that's putting far too much emphasis on a five second snippet that happens after the credits roll.  Now admittedly, I saw the 77 minute 'TV' version of the film, and there is a 90 minute edition.  But I'm willing to bet the missing 13 minutes isn't exactly "Yakety Sax" material.  If you're curious to find out though, you may be able to locate the longer cut under one of the film's many titles (other options: Folks at the Red Wolf Inn, Terror House, and Club Dead).

College student Regina gets a phone call to alert her to the fact that she's won an all expenses paid vacation at the Red Wolf Inn.  She protests that she didn't enter any competition, but the person on the phone is very insistent.  They're also very insistent that she has to take the prize immediately and head straight to the airport for a charter flight.

Of course, if this happened in real life, I think most of us would immediately figure something hinky is going on.  Nowadays we might be more thinking identity theft or some other phishing scam.  But this is a 1970s movie, so what Regina's actually walking into - I don't really think this counts as a spoiler since it is obvious very early on - is a cannibal cult.

So this movie actually features mostly pretty solid performances, and some quite effective directorial decisions in terms of making you feel grossed out without doing anything explicitly gory.  In those regards, it is a well put-together little film.

Unfortunately (you knew it was coming, right?) those positives are rather squandered by the absurdity of the core concept.  Firstly, Regina and the two other victims of the cannibals have to be willfully stupid to not realise something weird is going on at the Inn.  A script that relies on characters being this dumb is a script that needs re-writing.

Second, the cultists' plot doesn't make any sense.  After 'winning' the competition, Regina has time to go outside and shout it out to the whole dorm.  Nobody seems to care much, but if she'd had friends or acquaintances nearby, they'd have asked questions and known where she was going.  That seems bad.  And we haven't even got to the question of how the cannibals find and select their victims.  They're basically just one family, so how are they locating young women who (presumably) don't have partners or jobs or other encumbrances to stop them coming?

Sure, you can turn off your brain and just enjoy the film's creepy atmosphere and amusingly twisted conclusion, but you really shouldn't have to.  The basic setup should have been - and has been, in other films - executed better than it is here.

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