When you have a title like this you know that you’re about to be in for a true creature feature title. It’s definitely a very classic film that isn’t trying to do anything new or different. The heroes fight among themselves a whole lot here which just makes things even easier for the villain. It’s a solid film that flies by very quickly.
The movie starts with Jessica helping some people find treasure using her dowsing abilities. She has psychic abilities that let her know things in general and she specializes in locating objects. That being said, people are skeptical of her abilities and probably a little jealous as well. She doesn’t let it get to her too much though. Unfortunately when they find a haunted treasure chest that Jessica forbids them from opening, nobody listens. A troublemaker tricks someone into opening the chest where they find a the head of Gideon. Gideon quickly enslaves the poor guy with his hypnotic abilities. Now he is trying to locate the rest of his body.
Gideon is one of those guys who is fairly overpowered in this world. All he needs is a quick glance and he can mind control anyone. Fortunately it does seem like he can only control one person at a time though so he has to relinquish his hold over the other person. To defeat him you have to just take him down quickly without making contact or by holding a cross. Gideon gets wrecked twice when people grab their local crosses. He’s not a very intimidating villain though since for most of the film he’s just a head that people are holding up. He really has to bank on the fact that nobody is able to see him.
I thought perhaps the film was going to go for the angle that he brings out the worst in people as well which would explain why everyone was acting so shady. That said, it just turned out that none of the town’s folk liked each other very much. It’s not a particularly strong cast. Take Jessica, her powers are pretty handy but she panics a lot and never elaborates. When they dig up the chest she is quick to say that they better not open it and that she’ll leave but she can’t elaborate more except to say that it feels evil. Of course people aren’t going to take her seriously.
She didn’t do a good job of explaining herself which is normal for psychic users. They always just talk really vaguely and hope people will take them seriously. Then you have the main guy Gordon. His role isn’t all that big though. He is on Jessica’s side the whole time at least like when telling the town to back off when they kept asking her to use her talents. That said, it was a lot of money they were all going to make. Ultimately Jessica got mind controlled so she ended up helping out anyway though.
The characters just didn’t do themselves any favors. The aunt was nice enough at least. She didn’t seem to understand what was happening but did try to chip in. We even get the cops involved at one point which was pretty intense as they showed up to take names and solve this case. Gideon made it awfully easy on them by sending in his first victim. It does seem like he is able to at least give a final order when transferring his hostage possession over to someone else.
There’s also a rather pointless subplot with a painter who is dumped by one of the girls after she is mind controlled. The guy takes it really hard and then decides to go after Jessica as a rebound. Again, this makes more sense if Gideon is basically corrupting the town, but the evil atmosphere Jessica would sense seemed to only apply to Gieon’s mind control itself. Also, she didn’t notice when her best friend was mind controlled so ultimately the psychic abilities didn’t help when they mattered most.
The best part of the film would have to be the climax where they finally get to go up against Gideon. Naturally as you can imagine there was a lot of panicking here but at least we got to finally see the villain in his whole state trying to stir up some action. Now that’s what you want to see here to make things a little more interesting. I’d have been up for more of that action but the general plot of someone basically messing with the town by switching hosts over and over again isn’t bad either.
The movie is just very by the books and what keeps it from being as interesting as other films in the genre is that the character roster is fairly weak. Usually you have really strong writing to keep this at a high level but this film’s writing is more standard. It’s good but it doesn’t jump out at you or anything like that. There’s also a brief flashback for Gideon but it doesn’t really do much for him as a character since you already knew roughly what happened to him in the past.
Overall, The Thing That Couldn’t Die is a forgettable film. It’s a good title but there are just better versions of this kind of story out there as it is so I don’t think this one will stand out for you very much. If you want to see a film with some suspense and thriller elements then I’d recommend checking it out though. At the very least you can see how a small town community could try to handle this development although they aren’t quite aware of the threat for most of the movie. Jessica knows something is happening but everyone else just seriously doubts anything is amiss. I suppose there isn’t much reason to believe a head is going around controlling people though since it all seems like normal crimes going around. The shady townsperson who got bumped off early on was pretty close to becoming a big villain himself.