Sunday, April 1, 2018

Lord Shango (1975)



          Some practitioners of the horror genre argue that logic has no place in spooky stories. Fair enough. After all, one would never argue that the events of, say, The Shining (1980) could take place in reality. Still, there are limits. In the offbeat blaxploitation horror picture Lord Shango, murders happen in plain view of witnesses but authorities never seem to get involved. And that’s just one affront to common sense. Lord Shango is moderately interesting because of the way it forefronts a clash between two belief systems, but the movie is a frustrating mess. In the wild opening sequence, young man Femi (Bill Overton) rushes to rescue his girlfriend, Billie (Avis McCarther), from baptism by a group of overzealous Christians. They respond by drowning him in full view of an entire congregation. This enrages Billie’s mother, Jenny (Marlene Clark), who turns to a local voodoo cult for help exacting revenge. Enter Jabo (Lawrence Cook), a ne’er-do-well who may or may not have mystical powers. He compels Jenny to make sacrifices to “Lord Shango” in order to reincarnate Femi. And if you’re wondering how all this stuff meshes into a coherent storyline, don’t bother, because it doesn’t.
          Lord Shango unspools as a random assortment of moments, some of which are creepy and some of which are merely confounding. In the picture’s best scene, Jabo strolls onto the dancefloor of a nightclub and shimmies toward a pregnant Billie, who’s grooving to one of the movie’s hot Afro-fusion beats. Jabo moves closer and closer to Billie until her movements slow down to match his, and he stares into her eyes, triggering some sort of hypnosis/possession/trance state. Afterward, Jabo frets that he failed to achieve a supernatural task: “It’s always a struggle when a restless soul tries to enter a body not yet born.” Built solely on acting and mood and music, this scene has all the clarity and weirdness Lord Shango seeks elsewhere but usually fails to find. Incidentally, many of the same problems plague the 1973 blaxploitation vampire picture Ganja & Hess, which also stars Marlene Clark.

Lord Shango: FUNKY

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