The little movie that could. Sure, there's plenty of horror movies out there that want to be that, both past and present. There are plenty of examples of this - "Night of the Living Dead", "The Evil Dead", "Basket Case" and "The Deadly Spawn" for example. Tiny budget independent horror films that nonetheless managed to pave the way for many a horror movie, and always by accident. Well, Dennis Muren (who went on to head Industrial Lights and Magic) did just that in 1967 with "The Equinox...A Journey Into the Supernatural", which was re-cut and given new footage by legendary producer Jack H. Harris for it's 1970 release as "Equinox". As it stands, it's a movie that's far from perfect, but it a shining example of what to do with a budget that costs less than the average movie stars night out can accomplish.
The plot deals with for friends - David (Edward Connell), Susan (Barbra Hewitt), Jim (Frank Bonner) and Vicki (Robin Christopher), who end up finding out that the cabin they where going to stay in is missing. Well, they run into a scary old man, who gives them a book with all kinds of spooky looking occult writings and symbols. The next thing you know, they have to deal with an evil park ranger named Asmodeus (Jack Woods, who directed the re-shot footage) and various large monsters and demons that all want the book.
Shot as a student film for approximately $6,500, with much of it shot in the director's backyard, "Equinox" is the precursor to so many DIY horror films that would come in it's wake. To be honest, the acting is strictly amateur hour, the direction is spotty at best, the re-cut version has all kinds of inconsistencies, and it's pretty unintentionally amusing at times. That doesn't hurt the movie too much though, as this is one of those rare examples of a micro-budget horror film that works because of the sheer enthusiasm, go-for-it attitude and love lavished on it. This is clearly not an overly ambitious vehicle - this is a movie made for the cheap by kids that loved "King Kong" and Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. Plus, it's influence can be seen in several movies, such as "The Evil Dead." Come on, you just know the fact that both movies have a largely similar plot (kids get involved with occult book, bad shit goes down) can't be a coincidence.
Oh, and then there's the effects. Believe it or not, they look great for a movie with such a minuscule budget. The creatures created via stop motion animation (ah, the good old days) are all impressive, especially the Taurus creature, which owes a huge debt to the work Willis O'Brien did for "King Kong" (the creature looks like a demonic version of Kong.) Granted, the cave giant doesn't impress as much, and a few of the effects that don't revolve around matte paintings and stop motion animation don't impress much, but that's beside the point. So much clearly went into crafting the effects for this movie, watching it makes you want to applaud them.
So yes, "Equinox" might not be one of the best genre films of the 60's or 70's. It is however, an influential item nonetheless, and is the definition of the "little movie that could." You'd have to have a heart as dark as coal to hate this.