Mid-’80s Vincent Price movie, AKA The Offspring; it’s told in four segments with a wraparound story. Having just witnessed the execution of a serial killer, reporter Beth (Susan Tyrrell) pays the dead woman’s uncle Julian (Price) a visit. He sits her down and explains how his town of Oldfield, Tennessee poisoned his niece’s mind by demonstrating with four case studies. The first is about Stanley (Clu Gulager), a man dangerously obsessed with his comely but disinterested co-worker Grace (Megan McFarland). The second concerns Jesse (Terry Kiser), a man running from debt who meets a powerful practitioner of voodoo (Harry Caesar). The third shows Steven (Ron Brooks), a carnival glass eater who falls in love with the wrong woman. The fourth takes place just after the end of the Civil War, with a corrupt Union captain (Cameron Mitchell) meeting the remnants of a war-torn Oldfield.
I give the film high marks for originality, as well as excellent acting and (for the most part—there is an animatronic puppet) good special effects. It gets quite gruesome; I was actually shocked several times, for example in the fourth segment when a group of children capture a man and stab him in the crotch (later they play a game with his dismembered body parts).
What I find most interesting about the movie is the lack of hegemonic (I got me a fancy college edu-ma-cation!) white male authority. Stanley is helpless before Grace, Jesse longs for the abilities of the Black voodoo master, Steven is not just controlled but literally owned by the carnival proprietor Snakewoman (Rosalind Cash), and the Oldfield children rebuild the town on the blood of adults. Many of the murder victims are men as well, and most of the typical crawling and groveling that is usually reserved for women is left to the men.
I watched this first with my sister Leslie, horror movie buddy extraordinaire, so it has the nostalgia factor for me. But I also genuinely appreciate it for what it is. Give it a look if you like good acting, realistic-looking fake blood, and social justice issues with your horror.