Shame Man: Seduced By Evil (1994)

Dave struggles to come to terms with Suzanne Somers being hexed by an olive-skinned warlock.

Let’s get one thing straight from the get-go:

If you’re looking for a great ‘90s movie about shapeshifters that was filmed in and around Tucson and the Sonoran Desert, then this isn’t it. Instead, I’d respectfully point you towards J.S. Cardone’s sublime Shadowhunter (1993) with Scott Glenn. SEDUCED BY EVIL pales in comparison to that work of genius; nevertheless, it has a handful of interesting aspects that warrant a momentary shrug of recognition.

Back in 1990, Jann Arrington Wolcott was a keen journalist and aspiring author on the lookout for a story that might kickstart her first novel. It was an assignment in Mexico that got her going. An interview with a sorcerer piqued the scribe’s interest. It gave Wolcott the opportunity to look into her own south of the border heritage, and to frame a story around the mysticism of that culture.

“I wanted to show the contrast between science and sorcery, which is a big part of the cultures in Santa Fe and New Mexico,” said Wolcott during the Albuquerque Journal’s visit to the set of Seduced By Evil [1]. An admirable idea for her debut book, Brujo – which, incidentally, hadn’t even been published when producer Marty Martinson optioned it as a feature for the USA Network. Alas, Wolcott’s tale ultimately struggles with blandness and flat characterisation.

Suzanne Somers takes Wolcott’s semi-autobiographical role of Leigh Lindsay: a journo for a tourist magazine who’s roving reporter, Joe (Doug Coleman), has been killed after interviewing a notorious healer, Cerio (John Vargas). Feeling a degree of guilt (Joe had only gone down there to cover for her) and baffled as to why his Dictaphone came back with no recording on it, Leigh cancels her holiday with husband Nick (James Sikking) and heads deep into New Mexico for an experience that will change her life.

Right from the appealing opening shots, we’re struck by the shimmering heat of the desert and George S. Clinton’s moody score. Indeed, technically there’s a lot to admire in Seduced By Evil – not least João Fernandes’ expansive cinematography. Born in Brazil, the film represented something of a new career chapter for the DP. Fernandes started out in the skin trade, lensing some of the most iconic pornos of all time (Deep Throat (1972), The Devil In Miss Jones (1973)) before venturing into horror (The Prowler (1981), The Nesting (1981)) and, then, television.

Sadly, there’s little else to recommend. Somers really isn’t right for the part, and scenes that should carry serious weight are played as soapy and melodramatic, with the occasional trip into the realm of unintentional hilarity. The presence of Sikking does little to alleviate as he’s so ill-matched to Somers’ glamourous façade. Vargas on the other hand – who Walcott described as “a newcomer” [1] despite over ten years in the industry and a prominent role in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) – seems unsure of Cerio. Stiff and stilted, it’s an awkward performance for a character who needs a measured level of intimidation.

Brit Tony Wharmby directs and, having begun his career in the ‘60s on long-running soap Coronation Street, I’m sure there were elements here he felt right at home with. Bill Svanoe adapted Wolcott’s book for television, and a glance over his career proves far more fascinating than anything his screenplay offers. A civil rights activist in the early ‘60s, Svanoe’s protests against segregation led to a spell in prison. Shortly thereafter he became a member of a folk group, the Rooftop Singers, where he co-wrote the number one hit ‘Walk Right In’. Writing for the stage and screen followed. His story for Tom Holland’s Fatal Beauty (1987) is the pick of the bunch, Seduced By Evil the nadir.

USA ● 1994 ● Thriller, TVM ● 90mins

Suzanne Somers, James Sikking, John Vargas, Mindy Spence ● Dir. Tony Wharmby ● Wri. Bill Svanoe, from the novel Brujo by Jann Arrington Wolcott

[1] Sorcerer Story by Rick Nathanson, Albuquerque Journal, 19th May 1994.

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