Saturday, November 26, 2011

Messiah of Evil (1973)

Married filmmakers Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz were awfully lucky they met George Lucas while all three were film students at USC, because outside of their work as writers on Lucas’ productions American Graffiti (1973) and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), the Huyck-Katz filmography is filled with flops and oddities. One example: their misbegotten horror flick Messiah of Evil. Huyck’s directorial debut, which he and Katz co-wrote, includes a handful of quasi-disturbing images, but it’s so amateurishly assembled and conceptually cuckoo that it’s impossible to take seriously. The story begins when a pretty young woman named Arletty (Marianna Hill) travels to the tiny beach community of Point Dume, California, where her missing father was last seen. Just before reaching town, she encounters a strange albino at a gas station, and after she leaves the gas station, we see the albino has a truckload of corpses. Clearly, something’s rotten in Point Dume. Upon arrival, Arletty gets the brush-off from spooked locals, but in true bad-horror-movie fashion, she ignores obvious cues to Get the Hell Out. Soon, Arletty gets embroiled with a swinger named Thom (Michael Greer), who travels with two compliant hotties (played by Joy Bang and Anitra Ford). Then, after Thom’s girlfriends meet grisly fates, the incredibly dim Arletty and Thom finally realize Point Dume is infested with flesh-eating creatures that seem like hybrids of vampires and zombies. All of this grinds toward a bloody climax, and even though the movie briefly flashes back one century to explain the source of Point Dume’s problems, the story never makes much sense. Some bits are fun, like the sequence of Bang’s character getting stalked in a theater (which is modeled after a key scene in The Birds), and some of the images are icky, like the moment when Hill discovers a spider crawling in her mouth, but none of it adds up to anything interesting. Furthermore, the acting is terrible, with second-rate character players Elisha Cook Jr. and Royal Dano embarrassing themselves in bit parts while Hill, though gorgeous as always, delivers an inept leading performance.

Messiah of Evil: LAME

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