Monday, December 30, 2013

Necromancy (1972)



During the post-Rosemary’s Baby boom, countless filmmakers generated schlocky thrillers mixing sex with the supernatural, although only a few of them actually generated movies worth watching. More typical of the trend is this bland offering from director Bert I. Gordon, best known for silly monster movies including The Food of the Gods (1976) and Empire of the Ants (1977). Featuring a campy plot that’s almost entirely predicated on the heroine being an idiot, Necromancy tells the story of an evil Satan worshipper who wants to harness a young woman’s occult powers in order to bring his deceased son back from the grave. In principle, this concept should be strong enough to support an acceptable frightfest. In practice, however, Gordon makes poor storytelling decisions at every single turn, creating a movie that lacks momentum and overflows with moments that either don’t make sense or fail to engage interest. Even with scenes of all-nude rituals and human sacrifices, Necromancy is dull. Lovely Pamela Franklin, who fared better in later ’70s horror movies—including the creepy theatrical feature The Legend of Hell House and the kitschy telefilm Satan’s School for Girls (both 1973)—stars as Lori, a young woman who moves to the small town of Lilith with her husband, Frank (Michael Ontkean). Upon arrival, Lori discovers that Frank’s employer, Mr. Cato (Orson Welles), is a Satanist with a messianic sway over all of Lilith’s permanent residents. Then Lori learns that she and Frank are expected to join Mr. Cato’s coven, which engages in debauchery and witchcraft. But does Lori, who is already tormented by the loss of a baby, leave town? No, she hangs around until she’s roped into a murder/suicide scenario. Whether she escapes is of zero consequence, because the characters in Necromancy are as forgettable as the storyline. To its credit, Necromancy has quasi-atmospheric photography, a tasty electronic score that’s akin to the sort of mood music later featured in John Carpenter’s movies, and a couple of trippy dream/hallucination sequences. Yet these elements aren’t nearly reason enough to watch the movie, especially since the slumming Welles gives an absurd performance complete with a ridiculous fake nose and an unidentifiable accent. The only magic this movie contains is the ability to put viewers to sleep.

Necromancy: LAME

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