Loosely based upon the Edgar Allan Poe story of the same name, THE HAUNTING OF MORELLA becomes nothing more than an excuse for its female characters to take off their clothes and kill each other. As the story begins, Morella (Nicole Eggert, playing both Morella and her daughter, Lenora) is

crucified by the local priest and townspeople for practicing witchcraft. Prior to having her eyes put out, she pledges to return to haunt the body of her newborn. Her husband, Gideon (David McCallum), hides behind a tree, meekly watching the crucifixion with baby Lenora in his arms. Seventeen

years later, we find him living as a recluse, and blind. Lenora has grown into a striking young woman, but is kept at home, where she is instructed by the mysterious Miss Deveroux (Lana Clarkson). Miss Deveroux and the serving girl (who are having an affair) place Gideon's diary on Lenora's bed,

leading to an inevitable flashback in which it is revealed that shortly after Lenora's birth Morella discovered witchcraft and began to seek immortality, helped by an unknown accomplice. She had killed a serving girl and was about to kill Lenora when Gideon stopped her and the townspeople took

their revenge. It's not hard to guess that Miss Deveroux was Morella's accomplice, especially since her every line is accompanied by a sidelong glance, quick exit, and burst of foreboding music. She spends most of the film using her witchcraft to bring Morella back to life; meanwhile, Guy Chapman

(Christopher Halsted), a young lawyer from a nearby town, arrives to inform Gideon that Morella's family has set up a trust for Lenora, to be handed over on her 18th birthday. He is dismissed by Gideon, but the sinister governess sets up a meeting between the lawyer and her charge. The young

couple fall in love, but Chapman's presence is nothing more than an excuse to stage an energetic love scene between him and Lenora, who has been possessed by Morella. A dramatic lightning bolt flashes throughout the film whenever witchcraft is being practiced, and it appears to be a tenet that

witchcraft must be practiced without clothing.

Rated R, but apparently designed to pique the interest of high schoolers by displaying plenty of flesh and hinting at a number of lesbian relationships, THE HAUNTING OF MORELLA contains the important message that healthy people should stay away from corpses that seem to be coming back to life. It

seems that women would particularly benefit from this moral, since, although one young man is killed in the effort to bring Morella back to life, women are the victims throughout THE HAUNTING OF MORELLA. Eggert shows some depth in her portrayal of the wholly innocent Lenora and the equally wicked

Morella, and one wonders how she got herself into this softcore horror film to begin with. The brightest star in the film's ensemble, however, is the ubiquitous lightning bolt, which not only appears throughout the film but also dramatically concludes it. Sadly, this dreck was produced by Roger

Corman, whose Poe adaptations of the 1960s (especially THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH and THE TOMB OF LIGEIA, both from 1964) are horror classics. But Poe is less than ill-served here, and while the thought of Poe's rolling over in his grave is an intriguing one and fittingly macabre, it's disturbing

to think that a film as poor as this might elicit even that much interest. (Violence, nudity, sexual situations.)