HEX (1973) Category – Enjoyably bad movie but not fun-bad enough to earn my highest rating Hex, which was also released under the title The Screaming, belongs to that joyously bizarre subgenre of motorcycle horror films.
That peculiar cinematic niche also plays home to flicks like Werewolves On Wheels, about a biker gang that hassles Satanists who transform them into werewolves, to Psychomania, about a biker gang that forms a pact with Satan which permits them to commit suicide and then return from the grave as invincible, soulless marauders and to Blood Freak, about a biker who turns into a turkey monster (no, really).
Hex trumps all of those other films for sheer weirdness, partly because it is set in the early 1920s and partly because its western locale makes it a candidate for my Weird Western series during the Frontierado Holiday season during the summer.
The underrated beauty Cristina Raines stars in this incoherent mishmash as Oriole, a half-breed witch who uses the Native American magic taught to her by her father to defend herself and her sister Acacia from a roaming biker gang.
Devotees of motorcycle gang history are well aware of the link between World War One fighter pilots and motorcycles, the most accessible replacement those returning vets could find for the motorized thrills they used to find in the air.
The biker gang in Hex is headed for Hollywood to find work in Silent Movies as stunt flyers in the flurry of films being made about flying aces of the recent global conflict. The story opens with the gang making their way through Nebraska, where they clash with the local yokels who are still living like it’s the Old West. Seeking shelter from the rabid gang of rednecks on their trail following the nasty encounter, the biker gang forces our witch Oriole and her sister to let them hide out with the pair in their ramshackle “little house on the prairie”.
This is one of those movies in which nobody acts anything like human beings have EVER acted, I don’t care what the time period is, and the weird behavior of the two sisters pales beside that of the biker gang. This is fitting, since the gang members are played by actors who specialize in playing greasy, slimy wackos.
Keith Carradine, who, like his father John, never met a weirdass movie he wouldn’t appear in, plays the biker gang’s leader, Whizzer (insert your own joke here). Whizzer is a poser passing himself off as a World War One ace, but we learn he’s really just a dishonorably discharged loser and drifter.
Whizzer is the only non-would- be rapist in the gang, so I guess we’re supposed to think of him as the movie’s “hero”. He also spends a lot of his time repeatedly saying he and his gang should get the hell out of the area once the supernatural events start whittling down his gang’s numbers. This adds to the laughs as after nearly every death Carradine insists they’re leaving “first thing in the morning”, but instead they just hang around exchanging more of the film’s hilariously demented dialogue.
Gary Busey IS Giblets (again, insert your own joke here), the gang’s most eager would-be rapist and therefore the first victim of Oriole’s hexes. This flick is eternal proof that Busey looked and acted like a crazed woodchuck even before his near-fatal motorcycle accident. The slobbering Giblets is so slimy, repulsive and annoying that you actually cheer when Oriole causes a barnyard owl to claw his eyes out.
(Since all roads lead to Movie Host shows with me I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that Busey appeared in this film fresh off his stint as the second banana on the neglected Movie Host show Mazeppa starring Gailard Sartain as a wizard who showed bad movies.)
Robert Walker Jr plays Chupo, the biker injured during the gang’s scrape with the Nebraskans early in the film. He spends most of the film sitting around, not talking and acting creepy and twitchy. Same ol’ same ol’ in other words. Eventually Oriole turns him into a mindless living zombie (there’s a stretch) and sics him on Whizzer in one of the movie’s many, many, MANY false climaxes.
Scott Glenn steals plenty of scenes as Jimbang (no, not gymbag, Jimbang) who is by turns demented, hickish, leering, malevolent and homicidal. He seems to be trying to out-redneck the rednecks in Deliverance with his portrayal. If you care, and there’s no reason why you should, Jimbang dies when Oriole causes the gun he’s threatening her with to blow up in his face in the film’s goriest scene.
Doria Cook plays China, the female gang member who thinks Whizzer is a deluded, childish loser and seems to feel nothing but contempt for him. So, naturally, she’s in a romantic relationship with him (?). China and Oriole find themselves competing for Whizzer’s affections (Uh, ladies, you don’t have to settle for Whizzer you know … there ARE farm animals on the premises) and China therefore receives the brunt of Oriole’s magic spells. Our witch drives the female biker insane with violent and bizarre hallucinations, ages her horribly, traps her soul in a frog and eventually just kills that frog with a knife.
Dan Haggerty does NOT play one of the bikers, I don’t care how many movie books or erroneous reviews say he does. He plays Brother Billy, one of the hicks who harass the bikers and reappears later as the leader of the in-bred, semi- retarded posse that eventually pursues them to Oriole and Acacia’s place. Brother Billy has a Model T that he has painted flames on (“There are FLAMES on my car!”) and he races a few of the bikers through the old west town of Bingo (Yes, “Bingo”) early in the film.
I know this review has contained plenty of spoilers, but it’s not like you’ll understand anything going on in the movie the first time you watch it, anyway, so the damage is minimal. I’ll close with the biggest spoiler, so stop reading if you actually plan to watch this movie. And if you plan to watch this movie after reading this review, what the hell is wrong with you?
Anyway, the big, BIG spoiler at the end of the flick is that as Whizzer and Oriole putter away from all the bloody horror that Oriole’s powers unleashed at the homestead, we learn that the witch’s power also entrapped the home she shared with her sister in some kind of “time cocoon”. What seemed like a period of days at the farmhouse was really decades in the outside world, meaning Oriole and Whizzer (Y’know, I was hoping those two crazy kids would end up together) find themselves in the 1970’s. The end. Seriously.
Oh, and a guy named Iggie Wolfington plays the bandleader of the town of Bingo, so all of you Iggie Wolfington film completists out there take note.
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