Call them litmus tests. There are certain movies, TV shows, bands and books that, if you like them, make you a bit of a misfit. But, misfit or not, you LOVE them. You believe everybody should love them, but not everybody does. You want to be around other people who love them. If you try to turn other people on to these things, it goes one of two ways: A) They laugh and tell you how weird you are for liking this, or B)They love it too, and you have a friend for life.
The first reaction, unfortunately, is more common; that's the way this misfit business works. It can be heartbreaking, like the time you tried to get that happening girl to like the Cramps and she asked if you could play some Air Supply instead. But when you meet a fellow misfit? When you connect with that bent soul who understands the difference between Just Schlock and Transcendent Schlock? When you find that cute girl in the Ramones shirt who understands that three chords and lyrics about surfing are better than 50 chords and lyrics about wizards and demons? We're talking soulmate.
And speaking of demons, the new, two-disc set for "Equinox" is chock-full of 'em...and is about the best litmus test to come out this year for separating fellow misfits from the folks with whom you may need to reconsider your friendship. It's not that this is a good movie. By any reasonable standard, it's probably not good.
But "Equinox" sits among that rare class of films to which reasonable standards don't really apply, that place where good and bad collide head-on to create something that's fun, messy, amateurish, sloppy, inspiring and unforgettable all at the same time. Not everybody will like it, of course, for on the face of it, "Equinox" is nothing more than a cheap 60s horror flick. Cute girls. Bad acting. Plenty of monsters.
It's the 'plenty of monsters,' though, that makes this movie such a gas for all the misfits of the world. Monsters, after all, are the cornerstone of a REAL horror flick. None of this demented-guy-in-a-hockey-mask crap! Forget those monster-free Edgar Allan Poe flicks. I'll say this one time: with only a few notable exceptions, HORROR MOVIES ARE BETTER WHEN THEY HAVE MONSTERS. And, boy howdy, does "Equinox" have some good ones! There's the big reptillian gorilla thing. The flying demon. The Green Giant (though he sure looks blue to me). These were all created, of course, by Dennis Muren and friends, long before he would go on to win Oscars and work on SFX blockbusters such as "Star Wars," "The Abyss" and countless others. For "Equinox," Muren and company scraped together a few thousand bucks, made a few puppets and managed to shoot a minor classic in somebody's back yard. Talk about the DIY ethic!
But monsters without context do not a classic make! "Equinox" goes the 'professor-who-dabbled-in-things-beyond-his-comprehension' route to get the mayhem rolling. In this case, it's one Dr. Waterman who's gotten his hands on some ancient Satanic text and decided to give demon-conjuring a whirl. Not a smart move, but we wouldn't have horror flicks if characters didn't do monumentally stupid things now and then, so I'll have no complaints. Most of the movie is filled out with four California teenagers battling the monsters Dr. Waterman has stirred up, all the while trying to steer clear of the devil himself who arrives on the scene cleverly disguised as a park ranger.
Even if you're an "Equinox" lover, the movie itself is just part of the fun of this set. There are lots of short documentaries with oodles of info on the production. (Your reaction to the revelation of various SFX secrets will almost certainly be both "God, that's cheap" and "Hey...these kids were pretty clever!)You also get tons of stills, commentary, and even the full, original version of the movie from 1967 before additional footage was shot for its theatrical release in 1970.
So go for the full-on "Equinox" litmus test. Have some people over for a screening. The folks who are glued to their seats as the closing credits roll are friends you'll treasure for life. And the ones who roll their eyes when the girl wants to go to Dr. Waterman's to get a Coke? The ones who say, "I'm soooo sure" when the devil shows up wearing a Smokey the Bear hat? Let them go, dear misfits. Just let them go.