MESSIAH OF EVIL (1973, Willard Hyuck & Gloria Katz)

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Messiah of Evil is the kind of surreal, low-key oddity that doesn’t really get made anymore. Thankfully, once upon a time (the 1970s to be exact), there were not only people making these films, but there was a market for them too.

It must have been a wonderful time to be alive.

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This one has a little bit more of a cache than others of its ilk, having been written and directed by the husband and wife team that also wrote Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. They also wrote Howard the Duck, but you can’t win ’em all, I guess.

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The story concerns a young woman called Arletty (is that even a name?) coming to the small coastal town of Point Dune to find her artist father, who lives in a wonderful pop art house decorated with his works. Check this place out!

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That’s some sweet wallpaper there. Anyway, the townsfolk are, inevitably, rather unwelcoming. What, you expected something different? Jog on! See, it seems that the residents are awaiting the return of the Blood Moon, which will herald the coming of a mysterious man in black, who might be the antichrist, I don’t know it wasn’t clear.

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They gather on the beach each night, bleeding from their eyes and lighting fires to help him find his way. If I was reading this review, then that sentence right there would be enough for me to close my laptop and go seek out this film. Then, I’d probably have to come back and open my laptop and order it online, because how else would I find it? The point is, that’s a great set up for a story.

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And they don’t drop the ball! I’m always a sucker for any horror movie set in a small coastal town. Jaws, The Fog, Dead and Buried, it’s always a great, atmospheric location. The use of location throughout is excellent, in fact. We get several wide shots showing the isolation of the characters in the deserted town, and there’s a terrific sequence in a supermarket that foreshadows Romero’s Dawn of the Dead with its cannibalistic orgy chase sequence.

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Okay, despite the chases it’s a slow moving film, but it’s not a boring one. It was the 70s, before the days of fast cuts and lightning paced narratives. The characters are given time to breathe. There are no false jump scares. It’s refreshing!

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But that doesn’t mean that the filmmakers don’t know how to crank up the tension when required. There’s a long sequence in a cinema, where the best named actress in the film (Joy Bang!) doesn’t notice that the seats behind her are filling up with the zombie-like townspeople.

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And from thereon in, things get crazy, with our two heroes racing around town from the homicidal residents. There’s a pretty obvious twist, and then a prolonged siege that has extras throwing themselves through windows in a rather dangerous looking fashion.

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The whole thing feels a bit like a lost Lovecraft tale, with its cult of townsfolk worshipping some creature who will rise from the sea. It’s even narrated by an asylum inmate, and it doesn’t get much more Lovecraftian than that, my friends.

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This is an easy recommend for me. It hits my satanic sweet spot. Coastal town? Devil worshipping cult? Moog soundtrack? Perfection.

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OVERALL: 4 paws out of 5

WHAT BORIS THOUGHT: Boris prefers Temple of Doom, because the chilled monkey brains sequence makes him hungry.

 

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6 Responses to MESSIAH OF EVIL (1973, Willard Hyuck & Gloria Katz)

  1. Despite this not being a “great” film, I did enjoy the different style of filmmaking it represents. The 70’s had a wide palette of storytelling options from a film standpoint and it’s actually a shame that those options have been dwindled down to about 4 or 5 styles covering all the genres these days.

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  2. For less than $4 you can get this and The Devil’s Nightmare on Amazon. And by that I mean, for less than $4 I got this and The Devil’s Nightmare on Amazon. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  3. lysette says:

    That silhouette against the stained glass is gorgeous. This has all of my hits too – Lovecraftian/cultists/monsters/synth and I haven’t seen it!! At this rate, I’m concerned how much longer my ‘Need to watch’ list is going to get through your October horrorthon31 😉

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