Movie Name: Something Evil
Studio: Belford Productions
Release Date(s): January 21, 1972
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Marjorie and Paul Worden (Sandy Dennis and Darren McGavin) have decided to leave the city for a country farm home. Something is lurking in the home that cannot be seen and it could soon erupt. When the evil takes ahold of their son Stevie (Johnny Whitaker), the Wordens will have to fight to save him from the darkness that could envelop them all.
Directed by Steven Spielberg, Something Evil was a made-for-television horror film. The movie aired on CBS on January 21, 1972 and is primarily remembered as being one of Steven Spielberg’s earliest feature length works (after Duel in 1971).
I am a Spielberg and Lucas baby. Star Wars helped me grow up and Spielberg’s movies also were a constant. While I feel that Spielberg is a strong director, I long for his earlier and rougher days when he took more chances. Though he doesn’t take many chances in Something Evil, it feels like those early Spielberg movies.
The story for the movie is a basic possession tale, but it is notable that it does predate The Exorcist movie. Today, it feels like an Exorcist rip-off but it really wasn’t (though it probably did steal from the novel). TV movies in the ‘’70s were a bit riskier and scarier, but Something Evil doesn’t quite live up to the expectations of movies like Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.
The cast is strong. Darren McGavin made a career of playing the “dad” figure and later the grandfather figure and here is good as the husband who doesn’t understand what is going on with his wife or family. Sandy Dennis also is strong as the wife who questions if she is going crazy and cannot prove that there is something actually wrong in the house. Johnny Whitaker plays the possessed son, but he doesn’t really do anything special with the role, but Ralph Bellamy also has a nice part as the person who realizes the danger of the house.
There aren’t many visual shockers in Something Evil. Spielberg was rather inventive as a director (especially when he was young), but Something Evil doesn’t really try anything new with camera work or storytelling. It is solid but basic.
At this point, there are very few Steven Spielberg touches in this movie. Spielberg was known for working with kids and bringing about strong performances. Johnny Whitaker does an ok job as the possessed boy but Whitaker’s work on Family Affair meant that he was already a seasoned actor by the time of this film. Overall, Something Evil just doesn’t have the bite it needs. Spielberg followed Something Evil with another TV movie called Savage in 1973.