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Ever see a movie that scared the crap out of you when you were a kid and that seems really corny today (for more detail about that, see my review of THE GREEN SLIME)? This is not one of those times.
GARGOYLES (a made-for-TV movie) was written by Elinor and Steven Karpf (TERROR IN THE SKY [TV], DEVIL DOG: THE HOUND OF HELL [TV]) and directed by Bill L. Norton (TWILIGHT ZONE [TV], PROFILER [TV], ANGEL [TV], ROSWELL [TV], JOHN DOE [TV], MEDIUM [TV]). It opens with some narration about legends of hell and the devil and how the devil supposedly said, when he was banished to hell, that his offspring, the gargoyles, will rule the world. Like most narration it really isn't necessary to the story (or remotely accurate even as a myth - Feo).
The actual story begins with Dr. Mercer Boley (Cornel Wilde: THE NAKED PREY, THE NORSEMAN) at a small airport. A prop plane lands and his daughter Diana (Jennifer Salt: SISTERS, OUT OF THE DARKNESS) gets out. Conversation makes it clear that Boley is a successful author of several books about ancient legends and superstitions. The father / daughter pair is driving south through Arizona on their way to Mexico for research on the Maya.
Boley's books and talk show appearances result in lots of letters from odd people making odd claims. On the way through Arizona, Boley makes a side trip to check out a such a letter. They stop at Uncle Willie's Desert Museum where Uncle Willie (Woody Chambliss: THE DEVIL'S RAIN) describes the book he wants Boley to co-write with him.
Boley quickly loses interest and is headed out the door when Uncle Willie unveils his "discovery": a skeleton that looks like a man with wings and a horned skull. Boley is still skeptical but decides to listen to what the old man has to say.
Uncle Willie's stories about the local Indian legends concerning the creatures represented by the skeleton go well into the evening. Once it's dark outside Willie makes a point of bolting the door, saying only that he has his reasons - he always locks all the doors at night.
The gargoyle attack that follows is well done and suspenseful and we got here fast, without any slow spots. The story moves and the scenes with the reptilian creatures moving through the dark making eerie noises are still scary. The director made an excellent choice by shooting all the scenes in slight slow motion, making the gargoyles seem more real somehow.
Not that they're perfect. The gargoyles are obviously guys in rubber suits and in many scenes you can see the imperfectly fitting rubber suits bunched up around the joints. How much that bothers you depends on how much you can watch a movie on its own level. This is a very low budget B monster flick from the 70's, after all. Cut it some slack and the story will entertain you.
Boley and Diana go to the police the next day and report what happened, leaving out the part about the gargoyles. When the cops arrive at Willie's place they find a group of dirt bikers picking over the remains of the buildings and decide they must have been responsible for the whole thing. One of the bikers is played by a very young Scott Glenn (THE KEEP, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS).
Boley has kept the horned skull from the skeleton and has it in the motel room with him and his daughter. This leads to an event that gave me nightmares for quite a while - you'll know it when you see it. There are lots of memorable moments, especially involving the King Gargoyle (Bernie Casey: VEGAS VAMPS, DR. BLACK - MR. HYDE, CLEOPATRA JONES). He and the other "winged breeders" can speak and their voices are other worldly.
Winged, you ask? As in, he can fly? To answer that I think we're overdue for a
I hadn't seen this film since it scared me as a kid but I was surprised at how well it held up. Yeah, the rubber outfits are cheesy and the ridiculously well lit caves are cheesy and the actual flying scenes are really cheesy but if you watch this movie at its level you can still achieve suspension of disbelief enough to be creeped out by the gargoyle noises coming from the dark desert. I give GARGOYLES three Shriek Girls.
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