Director: Jim Wynorski
Starring: Nicole Eggert, Lana Clarkson, David McCallum
Deathstalker meets The Crucible. Baywatch meets Tales from the Crypt. Late night Cinemax meets Edgar Allen Poe. Any of that sound appealing to you? That’s what you’re in for when sitting down to watch The Haunting of Morella, a skin flick from the Salem witch trials, soft core set in Colonial America. It’s an odd combination of styles, obviously, and should only be watched with full knowledge of the hundred genres it represents. But even with that knowledge and an understanding of how little the cast & crew may have been trying to achieve with this picture, Morella is still barely watchable. Bad actors, blood, and boobs, that’s what you’re in for here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Gideon married Morella in the days of the eastern colonies, falling in love with her beauty & mystique. She had an alluring presence, a questing mind, and a shocking loveliness that drove this wealthy man to claim her as his wife everlasting. But strange obsessions began to take over Morella’s life that would interfere with the wonderful life she & Gideon had constructed. She became fascinated with dark arts, death, immortality, and the power that evil had over the lives of men. In an attempt to live forever, and after multiple murders, Morella was put to death on the cross, branded a witch, and cursed forever. Before she died, however, she vowed to live again, a promise she meant to keep, even from the grave.
Fast forward 17 years to the same town, the same people, a place that still remembers the supernatural events of almost two decades ago. Gideon has become old & blind, a fragile man living quietly in his mansion. His beautiful daughter, Lenora, has grown up to resemble her mother in appearance, but with a lighthearted grace that was never Morella’s. Her father keeps her in seclusion, fearing the outside world and the curse that was laid upon her so many years ago. But Lenora is becoming a woman, will soon gain her inheritance, and has begun to notice the young men of the town, especially Guy, the lawyer’s son. She will soon start to experience the world outside her doors, unwittingly welcoming the spirit of her mother to carry out her evil plan.
Deathstalker in its use of fantasy and fantasy queen Lana Clarkson, The Crucible in its setting during a suspicious time, Baywatch for casting young heartthrob Nicole Eggert, Tales of the Crypt in its hilariously low-budget ghouls, Cinemax for using breasts & sheets so abundantly, Edgar Allen Poe as a base; The Haunting of Morella is a jumble of cheap thrills and historical nonsense that works on almost no level. Even knowing what kind of film you’re preparing to watch won’t help much, as the silly special effects come fast & furious, the topless ladies die by the droves, and the story limps along behind the content, trying desperately to keep up.
Let’s blame Nicole Eggert mostly, as she played two characters in this film, Morella & Lenora, butchering both with remarkable ease. Not to be over-dramatic, but it’s among the worst acting you will ever see from something that isn’t completely porn. Morella is soft core perhaps, if mildly so, more late-night than gratuitous, Eggert with the world’s most obvious body double standing in for her. And while the film attempts to rise above the other silly skin flicks of the time with a classic story & dark atmosphere, it fails to become anything better than the hundred other 9os b-movies you’ve already seen. Terrible effects, unnecessary nudity, abysmal acting; the only small positive to grab onto here is the fact that all involved were at least trying to produce something with a bit more background & edge than is typical of this genre. That they didn’t shouldn’t be held against them too much, poor guys.
Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, the video quality is as poor as you’d imagine coming for a 1990 erotic horror film whose most impressive effect is turning a woman’s eyes reddish for a minute. The picture quality is grainy, dark, unpleasant, and not at all impressive, even for the era. Don’t watch this film expecting anything other than poor workmanship.
Audio – The audio was done in English Stereo with no options or choices on the disc menu. The sound is about as bad as the picture; warbled, fuzzy, and annoying when you’re noticing it at all. No one should watch this movie for any technical aspects; about the only possible positive than can be expunged from it is nostalgia.
Extras – There are a few special features on the DVD. An interview with veteran producer Roger Corman can be viewed, 5 minutes of his thoughts on the film. The original trailer is available, lasting 1.5 minutes. And a trivia/introduction portion with host Katarina Leigh Waters can be watched for a little more information on the film, lasting about 5 minutes.
Rent It. This film’s only saving grace is its b-movie status. Viewed as an awful movie, it’s not too bad, which is a fun, backward way of thinking. At the very least, people tried to pull this off, tried to deliver a Poe classic, tried to go over-the-top, tried to entertain. I don’t think they quite reached their goals, mostly on account of Nicole Eggert, but A for effort. Or B for b-effort? I don’t know. I did actually like David McCallum here (The Great Escape, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) and it was nice to see Lana Clarkson again, even if she was a bit ridiculous. The video was not good, neither was the audio, and the extras won’t excite anyone. Morella was, overall, an unexciting experience, and I won’t be placing it high on my list of b-movie favorites.
☆ ☆ – Content
☆ ☆ – Video
☆ ☆ – Audio
☆ ☆ – Extras
☆ ☆ – Replay