Knocking on Death’s Door (1999)

If you’re an avid B&S About Movies reader, then you know Roger Corman ain’t one to pass up a hot film genre without creating a knockoff. And the paranormal was a hot property in 1999 courtesy of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense and David Koepp’s Stir of Echoes.

And Corman, at the very least, owned a solid to Craig Nevius — the guy he contracted to script the abortive tax dodge-copyright retainer that was 1994’s The Fantastic Four. So, yeah, the least Rog could do was greenlight another Nevius script. And remember, way back in the day, when Patrick Dempsey and Helen Slater were “things” that made you go the theater (ugh, chicks and movie date nights)? Well, Craig’s introduction to Hollywood was the 1989 Brat Pack-inspired Happy Together starring the duo.

So, that’s that backstory.

But why Rog didn’t slap an Amityville* prefix on this to sell as a bogus sequel is anyone’s guess. I mean, come on, Rog. Amityville: The Vacancy. Bam! Sequel city. How could you not see it, Rog?

However . . . we’re not reviewing this because of Corman or Nevius. Or that it was a missed Amityville “sequel” opportunity. Or the fact that David Carradine (Night Rhythms) is creeping up the joint. We’re here because John Doe of X is in the support cast as Professor Paul Ballard.

Yes. John Doe. As a University Professor. Yeah, you’re damn right I am watching this one — its Corman ripoffness be damned to the pits of hell.

So, Brad and Danielle (Brian Bloom and Kimberly Row) are two newlywed paranormal psychologists who enjoy their erotic kinks (hey, it’s a Corman ghost romp, after all). And Brad carries Danni over the threshold of the Sunset House, an infamously documented New England residence (actually filmed in Ireland), with the goal of recording the spirits-in-residence. And they discover the ghost of the autistic Samuel, a murdered little boy who likes to play “London Bridge Is Falling Down” on the piano and enjoys scrawling cryptic chalk warnings on the basement floors. And that Samuel sees the memory of his mommy in Danielle. Oh, and Danni’s pregnant and Sammy wants that fetus to keep his spirit warm. And that Sammy isn’t all too fond of sex, so Brad and Danielle “stir the spirits” with frequency. Oh, and Danielle used to get her freak on with her and Brad’s boss, Professor Ballard (you go, Mr. Doe). And the ‘ol town doctor, played by Carradine, only has kinky eyes for her. And so does the local cemetery’s creepy gravedigger. And with that, the ghostly grandfather clocks, red hot fireplace pokers, and axes are tossed around in quick succession.

Uh-oh! Caveat emptor ye David Carrdine fans: this is another marquee-on-the-box cameo boondoggle of the Eric Roberts variety, as ol’ Dave is on board for less than 10 minutes, and John Doe — who I personally came for — isn’t around for much longer. But if you’re into guys with haunting blue eyes of the Meg Foster variety (who doubled as a young “Burt Reynolds” in a gaggle of syndicated, late ’90s Smokey and the Bandit** TV movies) or actresses that look a little bit like Charlize Theron (and appeared in a bunch of soft core flicks prefixed with the words “Justine” and “Emmanuelle” and suffixed with numerals) frolicking inside a Corman house of horrors, then there’s something here for you to stream on a Friday Night.

But truth be told: Nevius’s script, in conjunction with its direction by Mitch Marcus (who also knocked out the 1999 Corman rip The Haunting of Hell House starring Michael York), actually has some nice, creepy n’ chilling visuals in spite of its low-budget effects, and genuine thrilling moments.

And you can watch it courtesy of a free-with-ads-stream on Tubi TV.

* We love our Amityville flicks around here, so much so we cataloged them all with our “Exploring: Amityville” featurette.

** We love our Smokey and the Bandit knockoffs and hicksploitation movin’ piktures ’round ‘ere, Cletus. So check out our “The Top 70 Good Ol’ Boys Film List” featurette, a collection of down-home films produced from 1972 to 1986.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publish music reviews and short stories on Medium.

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