Today’s movie is a little weird. It may be one of the weirdest movies I’ve ever seen. 1973’s Messiah of Evil is one of the movies featured in my Mill Creek 50 Chilling Classics set. It’s been awhile since I’ve watched one of those, right? I let my best friend pick the movie and this is the result. IMDB actually rates this movie at 6.5 stars, which is one of the highest ratings I’ve seen for a movie in my Mil Creek collection.
The movie follows Arletty (Mariana Hill) as she narrates from a mental institution. Very Lovecraftian.
She’s worried about her father and his mental state, based on increasingly incoherent letters she’s received from him. She decides to visit him, despite the fact that he begs her not to find him. He lives at Point Dune, a kind of artist town on the coast. Arletty finds his house is empty and he’s kept a diary where he claims to have an incredibly low body temperature and be immune to pain. He may as well be dead. The diary mentions a gallery which she visits.
The gallery is staffed by weirdos who insist that they’ve never sold his work, don’t currently have any of his work, and no one ever asks for him so stop asking so many dern questions. They lead her to Thom (Michael Greer), a Portuguese-American aristocrat and fan of superfluous “h’s.” He’s living the John and Yoko lifestyle with his girlfriends, Laura (Anitra Ford) and Toni (Joy Bang.)
He also dresses like Tom Wolfe. When Arletty finds Thom, he’s in the process of interviewing local wino/crazy person Charlie (Elisha Cook Jr.) about the town’s local legend about the Stranger.
His story is all rambling about a blood moon and how the Stranger will come back for his followers. After Charlie turns up dead and Thom, Laura, and Toni are kicked out of their motel, they basically invite themselves in to Arletty’s father’s house. Thom is interested in the disappearance of Arletty’s father and in Arletty herself, which pisses off Laura. It’s odd that she’s willing to tolerate Toni, who is absolutely the most annoying person in creation. At night-time, people gather on the beaches and build bonfires. So it may not be her best decision when Laura finally decides to leave at night.
The town appears empty. Laura follows someone into the local Ralphs and finds the locals feasting in the meat department.
They devour Laura. Toni decides to go to the movies. The theater, which is blood red, starts off empty but slowly fills up with the weird ghouls of the town.
The lady next to Toni starts to “cry” blood and that’s when Toni decides to get out. I put cry in quotation marks because it looks like someone dabbed stage blood by the woman’s eyes. This isn’t like City of the Living Dead, where it really looked like Rosie was crying bloody tears. Considering that City of the Living Dead is a Fulci film, I wouldn’t be surprised if he just punched the actress in the eye.
Toni is devoured in front of the movie screen.
Chaos breaks out in the town as a red moon rises and the Messiah of Evil–a preacher who survived the Donner Party through cannibalism and vampirism–comes from the ocean. Very Lovecraftian.
This summary makes the movie sound so much more coherent than it was. There are so many jump cuts in this movie that you’ll get whiplash. There’s this odd narration, where Arletty describes events as we see them happening. The narration feels very intrusive, kind of like when you watch The Creeping Terror and you realize there’s absolutely no dialogue, just narration. Other times, things happen and there’s no explanation. I had to look up half the things in this recap because I had no clue what was happening in the movie.
The sad part is, this movie could be really scary if it were more coherent. The movie definitely has a creepy, subversive feel. It’s atmospheric Every shot looks like someone’s last known photograph, and I mean that as a compliment. But you can only frustrate the viewer so much! When you get that frustrated, events stop being scary and start being annoying.
It also doesn’t help that none of the characters are likable. You can tell Toni is supposed to be a Manic Pixie Dream Girl but she’s mostly just incoherent. Arletty is so incredibly passive. Thom is supposed to be a worldly man but you’re left wondering why he’s hanging with these women who aren’t very smart or interesting.
The one thing I really liked about the movie is that all the zombie/ghoul/vampires look like these Establishment-types. They’re all dark suits and carefully coiffed. It’s a cool statement that they’re feeding on the counterculture. Too bad the film falls apart under its incoherence. It reminded me of Let’s Scare Jessica to Death in the sense that it could be good if it narrowed its story down and chose one monster to focus on.
It looks like Code Red has released this movie on DVD. I’d be open to watching it again if the transfer is good and the sound is cleaned up. Otherwise, I can only recommend this movie for collectors of the uncanny.
- Scarina--the authoress and editrix of this site. I like scary movies and have dedicated my free time to cataloging horror--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes there are books too.
There's film criticism, literary criticism, and humor here. I can be highbrow but there's lots of pop culture too. And feminism.
I fervently love "Twin Peaks" and wish it were a real place so I could move there. I can't list my favorite scary movies because they change depending on my mood, the season, and how much coffee I've had.
I'm an artist looking for ways to blend creepy with cute. I try to channel my childhood nightmares, my love of horror, and my experiences with sleepy paralysis.
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