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Disturbance At The Hippie House
Let’s just get it out there early…
“Hippie Culture” just ain’t my bag, baby. I was born far too late to have experienced that moment in time, and I really couldn’t be happier about that. The clothes were hideous, but I presume they had to be in order to distract from the accumulated bodily fluids that stained them since the wearer’s last bath. The music was awful. Joni Mitchell? Arlo Guthrie? LSD was invented just to make that shit tolerable. Even the drugs were bad. Okay, those were pretty decent.
On top of that, vampire films are also not one of my favorite horror “subgenres”. I’m actually not even that big a fan of the Count Yorga films, which featured Robert Quarry, the star of today’s feature. While there are many vampire films that I do enjoy, including the Hammer Dracula films, vampires just don’t compel me as much as a good monster or demon story. So, any film highlighting a blend of these 2 themes is usually an almost natural deterrent for me. I’m just not the “target audience” for this film. That said, I reviewed it anyway.
As the film begins, some creepy looking brother named Barbado is seen sitting on a beach. He plays a small wooden flute, seemingly lost in his performance of some sort of ritual. He’s no Ian Anderson, but he plays well enough to cause a coffin to rise from the watery depths. Waves wash the coffin ashore, where a passing surfer finds it. He opens it and manages to snatch a quick peek inside, but is quickly throttled to death by Barbado before he can even comprehend just what he’s looking at. Barbado drags the coffin with him down the beach, leaving the dead surfer’s body on the beach sands.
Immediately after, we see a motorcycle gang rolling into the small, California beachside community. The gang is led by a gruff bastard named “Monk” (William Jordan – Project U.F.O., A Man Called Horse). His girl, Esslin (Betty Anne Rees, who also played Quarry’s girl “Celeste” in Sugar Hill), rides on the back of the bike, her arms wrapped around her man. Within moments, he is harassing the locals, pushing and shoving the residents as he walks his way down the sidewalk. He soon makes his way to a little booth where local resident, Pop (John Fiedler, voice of Winnie the Pooh‘s “Piglet”), sells his handmade Native American-style necklace and other trinkets. Monk grabs the man by his lapel and begins threatening him over prices.
This assault draws the attention of Pico, a young, possibly Native American teen who has befriended the vendor. I say “possibly Native American” as nothing about his features say “Native American” besides his hairstyle, and that is very possibly a wig. Honestly, he looks just like most of the white guys that were cast as “Indians” (terminology of the times, folks) in most of those older westerns. Despite his girlfriend, Rona (The Young and The Restless‘s Brenda Dickson), asking him to leave the situation alone, Pico confronts Monk about his behavior and receives a punch to the face for his efforts.
Despite taking the first punch squarely, Pico beats Monk’s ass through the use of some poorly edited kung-fu, an obvious attempt by the film makers to cash in on the then-current kung-fu craze propelled by the likes of Bruce Lee and David Carradine. A police officer arrives on the scene and the 2 men and their girlfriends run for the cover of some nearby woods. Once safely hidden out of sight, Pico invites Monk and Esslin home for dinner with he and Rona. I guess their differences were forgotten once “the Man” showed up.
As might be expected, Pico and Rona live as members of a small hippie community. Granted, it’s a hippie community set up in a rather nice multi-floored home, but a hippie community all the same. As should also be expected, most of the “community” members are just sitting around smoking pot. One “free spirit” is even painting while topless. Okay, so maybe not everything about hippie culture sucks.
Barbado is soon revealed to be a member of this group. He has returned to the house, but a man in a paisley and gold gown is now with him. The man raises a ringed finger towards the heavens, causing rain to pour down and the power to go out. The man enters the house and quietly takes a seat among those gathered. After a few words, he claps his hands and the electricity comes back on. The drugged out, easily mesmerized hippies consider it a highly impressive parlor trick, but nothing more.
The man introduces himself as “Khorda” (Quarry). He comes across as a highly enlightened, almost guru-like figure. Immediately, his words begin to influence this directionless group of souls. In no time, he has become an almost God-like figure to them, and they begin to follow his commands. Even Esslin is taken in by Khorda’s words, and she too begins to act like one of his followers, much to Monk’s dismay.
Like Monk, Pico also isn’t buying into Khorda’s program, aware that his friends are being brainwashed into becoming nothing more than mindless followers. He, however, remains unaware that they are all, in fact, becoming Khorda’s vampiric minions. That soon changes when he is presented with an up-close and personal look at the fangs of a now-turned Esslin.
Pico manages to escape from Esslin’s clutches, but not the house, and he and Rona are soon taken prisoner. Rona is carried away by the obedient Barbado, while Pico is forced to listen to Khorda deliver a soliloquy about the nature of his existence. The audience may also feel like a prisoner when listening to Quarry spew some metaphysical mumbo-jumbo that might as well be a poem by “Maxwell” in Roger Corman’s “A Bucket of Blood”. Quarry, who is also credited as Associate Producer on the film, does his best with the dialog given, but it’s all just some meaningless verbal acrobatics that even 2 geltabs won’t help you unravel the hidden meaning of.
Pico escapes from his conveniently unguarded prison, but Rona is still held captive. Pico seeks help from Pop in rescuing Rona from Khorda’s grasp, but first he must convince the man that he’s not just having a bad trip. Overall, “Pop” is a smaller level character, but Fielder manages to steal the focus from his castmates during his scenes.
There are a few pleasantly morbid turns late in the film, which helps make up for how underwhelming the final confrontation is. While trying not to give things away, it’s fair to say that things are resolved by “accident”. The Deathmaster offers no real scare value, no exploitative value, and no gore value. It’s simply “pedestrian”. It’s a harmless way to kill 90 minutes, but as our hippie friends showed us, so is pot.