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Hex
(a.k.a. The Shrieking)
(1973)
 

Director: Leo Garen                   
Cast:
Keith Carradine, Tina Herazo, Gary Busey, Scott Glenn


If you want a confusing, almost pointless movie to watch, you can't get much "better" than Hex. About the only possible explanation I can think of for why it was made in its unique fashion it was is that maybe the people behind it were indulging in certain pharmaceuticals. If you were to see it, you wouldn't think that last statement was an exaggeration at all. Hex is a movie that constantly changes its tone, is filled with incomprehensible scenes, weird direction, and very little story. It's hard to figure out why a major Hollywood studio (20th Century-Fox) both financed and distributed it. On the other hand, once you've finished watching it, it's pretty easy to figure out why 20th Century-Fox never released it on video on their own label, instead giving the chore to an independent video label that put out more of its share of schlock during its lifetime (including Didn't You Hear.)

It starts off okay, even though I was a little distracted by the significantly darkened print. Charles Bernstein provides a gentle but eerie score, and the setting - a small farm in the grasslands of Nebraska - is both attractive and a little more original than other openings. Two young women (who are sisters) named Oriole (Herazo) and Acacia (Hilarie Thompson) have been struggling on the farm since their father died a year earlier. Meanwhile, in the nearby town of Bingo, the town residents are surprised by the appearance of six motorcyclists - five soldiers fresh back from the World War I battlefields, and a woman. Both the motorcyclists and the townspeople are civil to each other at first, but then when one small boy dares one of the motorcyclists to race his Model T-driving brother Billy (Dan Haggerty) - with Billy subsequently losing the race - the townspeople turn ugly. Driven out of town to comic music (lots of kazoos on the soundtrack), the motorcyclists seek out a hiding spot, and soon come across the farm with the two sisters.

After a few tense moments between the sisters and the motorcyclists, an unspoken agreement is made, allowing the motorcyclists to hide out on the farm. It is here that the biggest problem about the movie comes up. As the night progresses, the sisters fix the wound on one of the motorcyclists. Everyone then eats a good old homemade supper. After dinner, the motorcyclists play a game of cards. One of them is kind enough to fix the old gun that belonged to the women's father. Then the group starts sampling some of that "loco weed" that grows abundantly around these parts. The sisters then tell the bikers about their dead parents, in a weird moment using a B&W photo, the sisters staring into the camera that's pitched at bizarre angles, and their narration fading in and out. Aside from this ludicrous sequence, that's about all that's interesting about this extremely long nighttime sequence, though I did get a laugh out of the "loco weed" vignette, because Gary Busey's character at first refuses to smoke the weed. Not only are all of these activities overall pretty uninteresting, they keep on coming, and go on forever. Hex is one of those movies that, for the most part, nothing happens. Nothing. Though a few things do happen eventually, they are surrounded by slow, almost agonizing endless minutes of padding.

Eventually (at the 1/3 point of the movie), something starts to happen. When Acacia walks outside later that night, Busey's character tries to rape her, but she is saved in time. Later, Oriole makes plans for revenge. Their father was a Native America who was some kind of medicine man. Taking out her father's old costume, she puts it on, and conjures up a spell that causes an owl to swoop down from the sky, and claw Busey's face. It somehow kills him, and the rest of the bikers find his body the next morning. Nobody seems to be that concerned or upset. Some of the bikers bury the body. Everyone then either runs, sits, or walks across the grasslands for minutes on end as the wind blows silently. Sometimes they talk with each other about unimportant-to-the-plot stuff, like about the "dirty" parts of the Bible, or ride their motorcycles around the property. Then another of the bikers gets killed by Oriole's magic. Repeat those last three sentences several times - that's pretty much how the rest of Hex plays out.

Movies like this are very difficult to review. If nothing happens, how can you describe enough of what makes the movie bad to be able to write a full-length review? The answer is that you have to grasp anything, whatever it may be. And that's what I'll do for the rest of this paragraph. Characters in the movie quite a few times speak inane lines of dialogue like, "Up your tweeter with a red hot mesquita!", "What the jim jam are you doing?" and "My my my my my!" Much of the dialogue, dumb or not, is clearly post-dubbed. The townspeople come to the farm at one point, looking for the (hiding) bikers, and leave, serving no purpose for the so-called plot. We see the real birth of a calf. A frog gets its mouth sewn shut. Footage is run backwards during an hallucination sequence. Other times, there are freeze-frames, even in the middle of scenes. There's clues that the shaman costume is driving Oriole crazy, but this is never confirmed or discussed.

Even if you are a fan of Busey, Glenn, Carradine, or Haggerty, or you find the idea of placing them together in a movie interesting, it won't be enough to make this worth sitting through. None of those actors shows any energy or interest, except in one scene when Busey is bitten on the ear and he screams into the camera lens like a stuck pig for quite a long time. There are definite moments of weirdness that catch your eye, but you have to sit through long, long periods of nothingness to see them, and they pass away almost quicker than you seeing them. At the end of the movie, when we suddenly see modern-day jet fighters (!) in the sky, I had a pretty good idea that the pharmaceuticals the production team indulged in must have been some of that easily accessible loco weed. Seems they took their pre-production research a little too far.

Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)

See also: Didn't You Hear, Pushing Up Daisies, Jabberwalk

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