Claymation - This goes to 11
Not knowing a whole lot about the film industry and it's machinations, when I hear "student film" I assume it's analogous to "demo" in the music world. My take is that a student film is rough, unrefined and cheap because it has to be, the point being to develop the skills and vision required to make a "good" film. One may find themselves saying "that was great" or "that was really impressive", but invariably, those statements are always followed by "...for a student film."
Equinox is a student film that a cheapo film producer saw and enjoyed enough to tack on some additional scenes and roll out in drives ins across the U.S. in 1970. Legend has it that the bulk of the film was actually shot in 1967, the remaining scenes done later which explains the weird continuity errors, odd fashion changes and horrible sound dubbing.
Being a student film, it's very safe to state that this film sucks. It's ok to say this because the expectation is that it will, so in that sense, mission accomplished. It's baffling to me that this would be mass marketed however and distributed as a "real life" motion picture - by Janus Films no less! And, if you are interested, you can find the Criterion Collection version of this on DVD. So someone out there, probably much more knowledgeable about the film world than I, seems to think this is a classic film. Again, equating all of this to what I know and understand - the music world - I say "fair enough". I own the ZZ Top box set so I get the general idea.
Equinox stars Frank Bonner, who would later find fame and fortune as the tacky and crass Herb Tarlek on WKRP in Cincinnati. It also stars a dude with enormous eyebrows, two blonde girls who are absolutely defenseless and weak (pre-women's lib I guess??) and tons of claymation, including a kick-ass claymation Satan who flies around picking people up with his devlish talons.
An obvious influence on Evil Dead, the storyline follows 4 students who head out to the remote wilderness of the San Bernardino hills to meet up with the geology professor for a picnic. When they arrive, they find his cabin destroyed and are met by a satanic looking park ranger who tells them the Professor hasn't been around for weeks. The students head off to enjoy their picnic, spot an old castle and wind up in a cave fighting with a creepy old man. The man gives them a leather bound book and runs off, laughing like a little girl. The book, it turns out, is 1000s of years old and includes all kinds of spells and evil stuff.
The popularized flirtation and fascination that the late 60's and early 70's had with Satanism and the Occult is abundant here - the Lord's Prayer is read backwards and it opens some sort of portal for example. And, as we soon discover, the park ranger with the evil eyebrows, who is also named "Mr. Asmodeus", turns out to be Satan himself. He starts cornering the girls and forcing himself upon them, as well as fist-fighting the two dudes. Seems he wants the book for some unspecified reason and, being the Lord of the Underworld, an angel cast out of heaven, apparently has no other means of taking it from 4 young kids than by fist fighting them and sending claymated beasts after them.
Don't see Equinox because you think it will be awesome. See Equinox because it is as far from awesome as one can get. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 rating is high here - you can literally make fun of every second of this movie. And the claymation is tremendous...for a student film. Admittedly, I fell asleep during the middle and missed about 10 minutes. I don't think it mattered.