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David L. Hewitt
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Plot has potential, and opening sequence is very promising, but film fails to capitalise on it.
As early 70s horror flicks go, Tower of Evil (a.k.a Horror of Snape Island) has a greater-than-expected amount of sex and gore. Unfortunately, the script is pretty stupid and the performances are generally bad, ruining what might've been a decent little chiller. Some of the lines the actors have to work with are hopelessly silly, and the number of times characters go wandering off alone (even AFTER they've established there's a madman on the loose) beggars belief. What's particularly disappointing is that the plot is just outlandish enough to have made for an unusual and effective horror yarn.
The opening sequence is actually promising. Two sailors, John Gurney (George Coulouris) and his son Hamp (Jack Watson), search around a fog-shrouded island and stumble upon several dismembered naked bodies. Then, John happens across a living naked woman, but she is so startled by his arrival that she mistakenly stabs him. The story moves forward and we learn that the surviving woman from the opening scene has been charged with the murders of her friends, but a private detective named Brent (Bryant Halliday) has been hired by her parents to find out if someone else could've done it. Brent joins an archaeological party who are about to set off to the island in search of a Phoenecian treasure. Once there, the archaeologists soon learn that their lives are in grave danger, as they are picked off one by one by an unknown killer.
Tower of Evil has become a cult film, probably because it's so bad that in some ways it's perversely good. Ther are some attempts at atmosphere and suspense, though most opportunities for a jolt are clumsily edited, lessening the shock factor. In Halliwell's Film Guide, the film was dismissed as "an unoriginal little shocker", but unoriginal is probably the wrong word (how many times have you heard of archaeologists hunting for a Phoenecian hoarde off the English coast and and being victimised by a psycho? Absurd, yes. Unoriginal, no). I can't imagine this film being of particular interest to most viewers, but if you like 70s British horror, or are interested in how sex and gore have evolved over the years in horror cinema, then it may be worth catching.
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