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EVIL CLUTCH (1988)

"In a couple of days we’ll go on a short trip to the Alps – and you’ll see things you’ve never seen before…."

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Director: Andreas Marfori

Starring: Coralina C. Tassoni, Diego Ribon, Elena Cantarone, Stefano Molinari, Luciano Crovato

Screenplay: Andreas Marfori

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Synopsis: In an Italian church, a young man approaches a woman, Arva (Elena Cantarone), who gloats that he has been unable to stay away from her. As the man starts to caress her, a clawed hand emerges from Arva’s vagina and rips off his penis. Arva transforms into a fanged demon, as the man bleeds to death.... A young couple, Cindy (Coralina Tassoni) and Tony (Diego Ribon), decide to take a holiday in the Alps. As they drive along a lonely road, Arva runs in front of their car. When they stop, she claims that a man attacked her. While Cindy comforts her, Tony searches the nearby cemetery for the man. He finds nothing, but is disturbed by a strange presence that he senses nearby. The three drive to a village, and there are startled by the sudden appearance of a mysterious man, Algernoon (Luciano Crovato), who rides a motorcycle and speaks with an electronic box. Arva runs away. Algernoon tells Cindy and Tony that he is a writer of supernatural stories, that the village was once the home of an evil cult that carried out sacrifices to conjure up demonic forces, and that the cult has recently reappeared. He takes the couple for a walk into the woods, telling them an ugly story of a young man forced to murder his girlfriend, and the girlfriend’s vengeful return from the dead. Sickened by the story, Cindy and Tony abruptly leave. Returning to the village, they realise that it is totally deserted. The two drive away, planning to hike through the woods, but first have another encounter with the writer, who warns them that things may not be what they seem. The couple’s walk is cut short when a falling tree almost hits Cindy. She and Tony then meet Arva, who takes them on a long walk through the woods to a ruin where they can spend the night. Tony is splashed by a strange black liquid found within the ruin, and is soon very ill. Meanwhile, a hideously deformed creature is watching from the trees….

Comments: Sorry about the opening of the synopsis. I did consider resorting to Diane Cartman’s phraseology, and talking about his "hoo-hoo-dilly" and her "cha-cha", but in the end I decided to describe the scene using the same level of subtlety that the scene itself displays. Hard as it may be to believe, this sequence, from which the film derives its title (although personally, I think Evil Crotch would have been a better choice), is the high point of the entire story. Occurring as it does during the opening minute of the film proper, it at least has the virtue of unexpectedness. From there, the proceedings degenerate still further into a series of ever more sickening and pointless gore effects.

Evil Clutch looks like - and probably was - the work of a bunch of students who’d just completed SFX 101: Severed Limbs And Puking. The whole thing hits rock bottom when Tony gets his hands lopped off. The prosthetic stumps used are not only the fakest I’ve ever seen, but the only thing done to disguise the fact that they are prosthetic is to stretch the sleeves of the actor’s jumper over the base of them. When Tony leaps at Cindy brandishing his stumps, you seriously expect him to yell, "April fool!" - the whole thing is that embarrassingly bad.

Tragically, as awful as most of the effects are, the characterisations are even worse. What a fun couple our Cindy and Tony are! From the moment they start demonstrating how carefree and lighthearted they are (ah, the dramatic irony of it!) by singing "Whistle While You Work", the viewer wants them dead. This comes to pass for poor old Tony, who not only loses his hands, he ultimately gets his head ripped off by a demon called - and I kid you not - Fango. The head gets waved around for a while, is impaled on a hook, and later explodes in a shower of brown goo for no readily apparent reason. In my view, this is rank injustice, because Cindy is twice as irritating as Tony, and she makes it out at the end.

My favorite moment is when, thinking Arva has just escaped a rapist, Cindy comforts her by pointing out that her hair is messy. Later, when Tony comes down with the effects of his encounter with the evil black goop, she leaves him to "find you some fresh water - it’ll make you feel so much better!" Not so stupid, you think? Maybe not - except that when Tony loses his hands, she also leaves him to "find you some fresh water - it’ll make you feel so much better!" After Tony’s demise, and a lot of screaming and running around in the dark, Cindy gets cornered by Fango and the undead Algernoon. Fortunately for her, the ruin that, earlier on, was empty except for a cuckoo clock featuring a decapitated head and the bucket of black goop suddenly disgorges a brand new chainsaw in perfect working order. This is sufficient to dispose of Algernoon, but when Cindy tries it on Fango--- "Shit! It’s out of gasoline!" cries our heroine. Not to worry. In Cindy’s bag is that most deadly of all weapons: a makeup mirror!! Before long, Fango is collapsing into a heap of decomposing sludge as Cindy, ah, reflects him to death. (Remember, girls: even if you’re on a backpacking holiday, always carry your makeup kit!)

Cindy then staggers out into the dawn, and in one of the longest closing scenes ever committed to film, runs through the forest while sobbing hysterically. And – runs through the forest while sobbing hysterically. And…. Finally (thank God!) she gets wherever it was she was going and stops running (although not sobbing hysterically). The camera then zooms in for a close-up of a reviving Arva, which probably would have been really dramatic if the film had given us any reason to think that she was dead (or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention at that point).

Strangely, the disgusting nature of Evil Clutch’s effects, its appalling acting and its stupid plot aren’t the worst things about it. What I found hardest to bear is that it suffers an affliction that has grown to epidemic proportions amongst bad horror films: it desperately wants to be The Evil Dead. (Personally, I have never understood why the makers of really bad movies are so eager to remind viewers of the existence of really good ones – I mean, do they really want people making that kind of comparison?). Evil Clutch doesn’t even try to disguise its sources: Algernoon’s revolting story concludes with him announcing that "you won’t be able to avoid – The Evil Dead!" He ain’t kidding. During the film’s early sequences we have to suffer through the almost incessant use of a swirling, subjective camera meant to suggest the presence of < dramatic chord> eeevilll (this wears thin really fast). Then, obviously, there’s Cindy’s chainsaw battle. Finally, there’s the scene in which Tony has sex with Arva. No, she doesn’t give him a hand job (ha, ha). Instead, a killer tree attacks him. After doing a remarkable imitation of Bela Lugosi battling the giant octopus in Bride Of The Monster (1955), Tony struggles free and runs for his life, at which point we discover that despite the fact that he and Arva were clearly – er – rocking the Casbah, Tony’s pants are up, his zipper is closed and his belt is done up. (Arva must have given him a hand, ha, ha. Okay, I’ll stop now, I promise.)

All in all, then, there’s not much to recommend in this movie – just a couple of effective sequences, a lot of grue, and some unintentional laughs. There are also some beautiful shots of the deserted town and the forest, but let’s face it: if you’re watching what’s meant to be an intense and terrifying horror film and you find yourself admiring the scenery, that film’s in big trouble.

Check out all the details of this movie on the IMDB