The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (Italy, 1971)
I had originally planned to review Lucio Fulci’s A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin today, but it disappeared from Prime Video before I had a chance to watch it. Such are the headaches of the streaming age. This is a real shame, as Fulci tends to be a highlight of any October Horror Movie Challenge.
Looking around at the last minute, I managed to find another Italian horror from around the same time. How well will The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave fill this Fulci-size hole in my month’s viewing?
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is currently available on Shudder in the UK.
Lord Alan Cunningham is a member of the nobility in a parallel England where everyone speaks Italian and drives on the right. At least they read English-language newspapers, although I’m not sure this makes things less confusing.
Alan’s main pastime is picking up red-headed women who remind him of his late wife, Evelyn, then murdering them. While his manor house is badly run down, he at least maintains a torture chamber straight from the pages of Edgar Allan Poe. If nothing else, he is a thoughtful host in that respect.
On advice from his cousin and confidant George, Alan briefly moves to London to look for a new bride. There, he meets a nightclub performer named Gladys and instantly falls in love with her, asking her to marry him. Luckily for Gladys, her blonde hair does not bring out Alan’s murderous side. I’m sure she’ll be fine as long as she never puts on a red wig…
The couple marry and move into the mansion, which is now being renovated. Almost immediately, however, things get creepy. Is there something supernatural happening amidst the unexplained deaths, blackmail plots and mind games that seem to occupy the manor’s residents? Is the restless spirit of Evelyn tormenting her husband from beyond the grave? And is Alan really the monster we have been led to believe?
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is a deeply horny film. There is much more nudity that you would expect to see in a modern horror film. At least half the scenes seem to involve someone getting their kit off. As with The Gore Gore Girls, it comes from that weird age of filmmaking where censorship had fallen away and everyone was getting their freak on. While this is a fairly artfully made film, its sexual content is ham-fisted and almost completely unrelated to the actual plot. This isn’t really a complaint, although I’m not sure The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave works as either an arty Italian horror or an exploitation film.
It was interesting watching The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave so soon after The Gore Gore Girls, as both spend a fair amount of time in early ’70s strip clubs. Of course, this is an Italian film and one with a bigger budget that Herschell Gordon Lewis ever saw in his life. Seeing strippers who don’t just rock back and forth like broken automata made for a nice change, at least.
Another artefact of when the film was made is how aggressively hip and groovy everything is. From the soundtrack to the costumes to the general production design, every aspect is so desperate to be cool that it probably looked dated before the footage had finished developing. At least this element of cheesy nostalgia helps offset the dullness of the rest of the film.
As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, the worst sin a horror film can commit is to be boring. While The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave picks up as it goes on, large portions of it are a slog. I got interrupted a couple of times while watching it and found myself looking for excuses not to start the film up again. If I hadn’t been writing this review, I doubt I would have lasted more than 30 minutes.
That’s not to say The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is without its merits. It’s pretty enough to look at, and the story itself has some weird moments. This is fundamentally a giallo in gothic drag, which is at least an intriguing combination.
For some reason, Alan’s groundskeeper keeps foxes in a huge cage, which end up being used to dispose of a body. The sight of someone being ripped apart by foxes is a lot more comical than it should be. Another murder is carried out using a venomous snake. While this is not exactly unusual in cinema, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one wielded as a melee weapon. And I’m still not sure whether sulphuric acid comes in sacks and why someone might keep one next to a swimming pool.
None of these strange moments is enough to offset the plodding pace and almost complete lack of tension, however. The 1970s were a golden era for strange, transgressive horror films. Sadly, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is not one of them.
And, in the end, there’s no substitute for Fulci.
The October Horror Movie Challenge
Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.
If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:
- Werewolves Within (USA, 2021)
- Crystal Eyes (Argentina, 2018)
- Super Dark Times (USA, 2017)
- Thirst (Australia, 1979)
- A Ghost Waits (USA, 2020)
- Cemetery of Terror (Mexico, 1985)
- I Came By (UK, 2022)
- 100 Monsters (Japan, 1968)
- Sea Fever (Ireland, 2020)
- Mill of the Stone Women (Italy, 1960)
- Glorious (USA, 2022)
- All the Moons (Spain, 2021)
- Broadcast Signal Intrusion (USA, 2021)
- Incantation (Taiwan, 2022)
- The Gore Gore Girls (USA, 1972)
- Luz: The Flower of Evil (Colombia, 2019)
- Butterfly Kisses (USA, 2018)
- The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (Italy, 1971)
- Saloum (Senegal, 2021)
- The Addiction (USA, 1995)
- Good Madam (South Africa, 2021)
- The Freakmaker (UK, 1974)
- The Long Walk (Laos, 2019)
- Eyes of Fire (USA, 1983)
- Errors of the Human Body (Germany, 2013)
- Caveat (Ireland, 2020)
- The White Reindeer (Finland, 1952)
- His House (UK, 2020)
- Tourist Trap (USA, 1979)
- Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (Sweden, 1922)
- Flux Gourmet (UK, 2022)
A Final Note
If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.
- The Night House
- The Changeling
- The Endless
- Our favourite Cthulhu Mythos media
- The Fly
- A Dark Song
- The Thing
- The Ritual
- The Wicker Man
- The Stone Tape
- Event Horizon
- The Witch
- INLAND EMPIRE
- Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions
- Maléfique and The Ninth Gate
- Re-Animator and From Beyond
- Repulsion and The Babdook
- Man Bites Dog, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and S&man
- A selection of weird films
- David Cronenberg
- The films that scared us most
If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!