[review by JA Kerswell]
Nico Mastorakis returns to his homeland with a wind machine in tow for this taut, if slight, slasher/suspense mash-up which pits a female novelist against a psychotic handyman at a remote Greek village.
|Not the best getaway from it all for a novellist (Meg Foster)
Successful mystery author Sian Anderson (Meg Foster) leaves her comfortable LA existence and her live-in boyfriend (David McCallum) for a remote getaway to finish her latest opus. For reasons (never really explained) she chooses a seemingly desolate and near deserted costal village thousands of miles away. Met by her eccentric landlord Elias Appleby (a quirky cameo from British actor Robert Morley, who explains he won’t carry her bags as he’s a feminist!), she settles into her new home as he details the dangers of the tunnels that run under the dwellings and gives her a warning not to go out at night. “Beware the wind!”, he solemnly intones. Explaining that the coast gets battered after dusk and she’d best stay inside.
However, the wind is the least of her problems. She is next introduced to Elias’ bug-eyed handyman Phil (a typically gonzo performance from Wings Hauser), who rudely barges into her apartment and begins to menacingly flirt with her. Seemingly intrigued by her trade, he tells her: “Death is a whole lot different than on paper”. Director Mastorakis never really plays EDGE OF TERROR as a whodunit. From the moment Hauser’s character is introduced the audience knows that he’s off kilter. Later that evening, Sian writes a passage in her book which perfectly mirrors an argument, and the subsequent murder of Elias by Phil, that is taking place across the village at that moment (which is little more than a stylistic flourish by Mastorakis rather than a suggestion of a psychic link). Later, Sian stumbles across Elias’ body whilst exploring outside and soon realises that she’s next on Phil’s hit list …
|The handyman (Wings Hauser) who fixes things permanently ...
Despite the expansive, dramatic skies of the Greek coastline, EDGE OF TERROR is largely claustrophobic; with most scenes taking place indoors and in the maze of antiquated streets as Phil launches his sustained game of cat-and-mouse with Sian. Mastorakis is probably still best known for his infamous, ISLAND OF DEATH (1976). EDGE OF TERROR certainly doesn’t challenge that film’s sicko crown. If anything, despite its similar Greek locale, it appears to have more in common with something like Brian Clemens’ woman-in-peril THRILLER TV series from the 1970s. Which is no bad thing at all.
However, tonally, the film is uneven. It never gets gritty, but it doesn’t really hit the popcorn heights either. It doesn’t quite feel fully fleshed out and is missing a certain something. Popper-sniffing, hand scythe brandishing Phil is never given much of a motive apart jealousy over Elias’ property. It’s suggested he has a psychotic past, but this is never substantially developed. Perhaps surprisingly, it is not even really hinted that the ever-present wind has driven Phil crazy (and the director doesn't really do subtlety). In parts of the Mediterranean, a wind called The Sirocco reportedly drives people to commit murder (with people given lesser sentences if it’s blowing). If that was ever part of the story, it was lost along the way.
|Not one for the Greek tourist board ...
Mastorakis takes a few stabs at humour, which don’t quite work alongside the admittedly effective suspense scenes. At one point Sian heats a massive pot of water on an open fire (which seemingly boils in a matter of seconds!), before pouring it from an upper storey onto Phil below, as he tries to smash his way into her rented house. Which leads her to lamely quip: “And you thought you were hot!” In another scene, in a variation of the cat jumping out from the side of the frame, she is given a fright by a falling mop.
Also, recalling Clemens’ series, Mastorakis flirts with the plot device of people not believing Sian (and even herself doubting what she saw at one point). This leads to an unlikely plot development when yet another American (Steve Railsback as a stranded sailor), cuts a deal with local police holding him because of some minor infringement to check out the calls of distress from Sian. Railsback (who had starred in early 80s slashers DEADLY GAMES and TRICK OR TREATS (both 1982)) puts in little more than a cameo, but he at least has more to do than McCallum who quite literally phones in a performance from a pool in LA.
Filmed on location at the picturesquely desolate Monemvasia as THE WIND, the film ends with Elias’ prophetic warning coming true for one character. Despite borrowing many tricks from the slasher movie play box, Mastorakis eschews the visceral violence and sleaze of ISLAND OF DEATH; indeed, EDGE OF TERROR was passed uncut with a 15 certificate in the UK. Instead, he favours sustained suspense. To that end he succeeds on his own meagre terms. Hauser (who went on to chew the slasher scenery in a few years’ time in THE CARPENTER (1988)) has a goofy intensity, but never succeeds in being truly terrifying. The always striking looking Meg Foster (who is no stranger herself to the subgenre either, appearing in films such as THE STEPFATHER 2 (1989) and as recently as JEEPERS CREEPERS 3 (2017)) does the best that she can do with the material, but it’s all too slight and underdeveloped to leave a lasting impression.
EDGE OF TERROR is bolstered by a score by now famous German composer Hans Zimmer (who gets an early joint credit here). Some sources suggest that it got a UK cinema release, but I can’t find any evidence of this. The director also made the slasheresque ZERO BOYS the same year.
1 / male: 3