Anyone who knows me is aware of my affinity for horror anthologies. I'm a sucker for any movie whose title includes words like "Tales", "Trilogy", or "Vault" in it. The 1960s and '70s were rife with them, thanks to such production companies as Amicus, with movies such as Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, Tales from the Crypt, and Vault of Horror. The '80s also had its fair share of fun titles, like Creepshow, Nightmares, and Tales from the Darkside: The Movie. After that, the love for such films had seemed to die out, and gradually all but dried up. When I learned that Troma picked up a nigh-lost '90s horror anthology featuring legendary actor Claude Akins in his last film appearance, I jumped for joy.
Originally titled Trilogy of Fear, Where Evil Lives was filmed in Florida in 1991. Akins stars in the wraparound story as Jack Devlin, the caretaker of a mansion once-frequented by Al Capone. He tells a prospective buyer (James Coffey) three stories about the sinister events which took place there; stories which include serial killers, zombies, vampires, and witches.
The first story ("Hubert's Homecoming") is about a nerd named Hubert (Peter Zaff), who went on a murderous rampage, when the building was a college dorm in the late '60s, killing the jocks and pretty girls who used to laugh at him. Just released from prison, he is drawn back to the place where it all started, and he quickly learns that the dead will not rest until justice has been served. Written and directed by Stephen A. Maier, this is an odd little piece. The character of Hubert is completely unsympathetic, yet the actor who plays him, Peter Zaff, is a hell of a lot of fun to watch chewing up the role. Although this one is confusing at times, like when we witness Hubert pull a Barbie doll out of his coat pocket and begin brushing its hair, the story's strength is in the surrealism, giving us a peek into Hubert's psyche. The gore was mostly mortician's wax and Karo Syrup, but I felt that this story didn't need more than that. There are also a bunch of subtleties which I really liked, such as a kitschy ice cream stand, and one sweet classic automobile.
The second tale ("Midnight Date") revolves around an eleven year old girl (Beth McKenzie) with a psychic gift, and her two brothers as they discover that a gorgeous succubus-like vampire is taking residence in the cellar of the abandoned building. Written and directed by Kevin G. Nunan, this one seemed to me like a cross between The Shining and 'Salem's Lot. There are some genuine scares here, and I really liked the special makeup effects used here. Also, the chemistry between the little girl and her brothers seemed very natural, and I have to commend McKenzie's acting chops for someone so young. This episode isn't without its flaws, however, as the voice of the woman who plays the an older version of the girl sounds like she graduated from the Hayden Christensen school of wooden dialogue. In a scene where the girl's oldest brother Tim (Tom Croom) is being seduced by the comely bloodsucker, we are treated to the line "...the hot loins of his youthful passion" delivered with all the gusto of Ben Stein giving a calculus lecture.
Written and directed by Richard L. Fox, the final yarn ("Saved by the Spell") centers around a witch (Louise LeTourneau) who uses Wicca to track down a serial killer (Larry Quadagno), who is killing pretty girls to harvest organs for a local mad doctor (Dan Daly). Got all that? This one was my favorite of the three, and I felt that Quadagno's sleazy performance of killer Nico Moretti was on par with that of Joe Spinell in Maniac. This story had some pretty good gore and gratuitous nudity, but I questioned the choice made to go from a scene of gritty brutality to that of goofy police detective (Larry Silver) eating pastries and making phone calls. I was not entirely satisfied with the psycho killer's fate at the end of the tale, but that may have just been because I wanted to see the character suffer more for his actions.
All-in-all, see this film. See it because it's Claude Akins' last film. See it because it's an independent horror anthology. See it because it's a movie that you can tell was a labor of love for all involved. Just see it.
Where Evil Lives will be available to buy September 11 through Troma's store: https://www.tromashop.com/where-evil-lives-dvd or to rent via Netflix.
I give this film three stars.