Terror you won’t want to remember. In a film you won’t be able to forget!
MESSIAH OF EVIL (1973)
This one starts off with a sweaty, confused looking man apparently running for his life from something. He ducks behind a wall and rests by a fountain while attempting to catch his breath. Then a friendly looking girl in an ugly dress appears from out of nowhere to comfort him, before suddenly slitting his throat with a razor blade. Welcome to the wild world of MESSIAH OF EVIL! You will never be the same again. The haunting theme song “Hold On To Love” that accompanies the opening credits slowly begins lulling the viewer into submission. Then we are treated to an extended out of focus shot of a deranged woman babbling inside a large insane asylum hallway. The mad woman thoughtfully warns the viewers that “They’re coming here. They’re waiting at the edge of the city. They’re peering around buildings at night, and they’re waiting. They’re waiting for you! And they’ll take you one by one and no one will hear you scream. No one will hear you SCREAM!!!”
We are then introduced to a pretty young woman named Arletty (Marianna Hill of “The Baby” and “High Plains Drifter” legend) who goes looking for her missing father and stumbles across an undead cult of cross eyed rat munching murderous maniac albinos. The dead people are slowly wiping out a small town on the California coastline called Pointe Dune while awaiting the upcoming return of their evil messiah. A gun toting grease ball at the local gas station tries to steer Artletty away from Pointe Dune, warning her it’s “dead as hell,” and quickly gets snuffed for his efforts.
As Arletty searches the town in vain for her father she eventually befriends a groovy young swinger named Thom (Michael Greer) and his two sexy female traveling companions – Laura (Anitra “Invasion Of The Bee Girls” Ford) & Toni (the aptly named Joy Bang!). Thom is the son of the Devil. Bored and disillusioned, and with more than a little money to burn. He particularly enjoys paying the town drunk Charlie (the eternally drunken and shiftless Elisha Cook Jr. of “House On Haunted Hill” & “Salem’s Lot” infamy!) to ramble on about the nights when “blood covered the moon.” Charlie tells Arletty that her father is dead, but assures her that he will be back to see her soon, and whatever she does – she must not bury him!
Arletty is horrified by the insane words of the booze addled derelict, but decides to resume the search for her missing father. It doesn’t take long before the town’s infernal madness begins to infect her mind, pollute her body, and threaten her life and the lives of Thom, Laura, and Toni. The ugly, old, but harmless Charlie turns up dead with bite marks all over his body. The zombified townsfolk attack and devour Laura inside a deserted supermarket, and Toni gets dispatched by a mob of maniacs while watching a Sammi Davis Jr western in a grindhouse theater. Then things take a turn for the truly disgusting as Arletty begins puking up lizards and bugs, just as her dead daddy finally shows up to reveal the incredible history of the messiah of evil! Massive amounts of blue paint, fire, and decomposition are unleashed until finally Arletty and Thom somehow wind up in the Pacific ocean desperately attempting to swim for their lives. Terror reigns when he returns!
MESSIAH OF EVIL is one of my all time favorite semi-obscure horror flicks from the early 70′s. This apocalyptic zombie flick is just brutally bizarre and off the wall. It’s also one of the most strangely haunting little films I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Co-directors and writers Willard Huyck (who would later direct the infamous “Howard The Duck!”) and Gloria Katz (who incredibly enough also wrote “American Graffiti” the same year as this!) both deserve much credit for creating such an atmospheric, highly memorable, and uniquely disturbing horror film. Many of the scenes throughout are genuinely creepy and unsettling, the locations and sets are simply breathtaking (especially the incredible paintings used throughout), and there are a number of visually stunning shots and set pieces. This actually reminds me quite a bit of a vintage Dario Argento flick: it’s always great to look at, but doesn’t always make a lot of sense. It might take a few viewings to fully grasp and appreciate what is being presented. I’ve watched this movie more times than I can count, and I always get something new out of repeat viewings.
It’s worth mentioning that this 1973 effort was also titled “Dead People” and “Revenge Of The Screaming Dead”; both titles would make this appear to be a more run of the mill zombie effort. I love the tagline used for “Dead People.” “Meet Albert. Albert likes good music, motor trips by moonlight, and…eating human flesh. Albert is one of the…DEAD PEOPLE!” Gorehounds expecting “Dawn Of The Dead” amounts of blood and guts will be disappointed, but there’s no shortage of bloody violence, and the film possesses an unpleasant dreamlike atmosphere that will keep viewers on edge. The violent death scenes that take place inside a garage, supermarket, and movie theater (one of the best scenes ever!) are all top notch, fantastic stuff that make this sometimes confusing film well worth the effort. There’s also an awesome scene featuring the blood-crazed cannibal zombie-cult attacking the police. All of this morbid mayhem easily makes “Messiah Of Evil” one of the most underrated and overlooked 70′s horror flicks.
MESSIAH OF EVIL can easily be found on dvd, usually for cheap. Penny pinchers should check out the Diamond Entertainment dvd, which includes “The Devil’s Nightmare” (also a great flick!) as a double feature. You can also find this flick in several of those cheap-o “horror collections.” I highly recommend shelling out a few extra bucks and seeking out the special edition, 35th anniversary release from Code Red. This version looks and sounds the best, and features goodies like a commentary track with Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, an audio interview with Joy Bang, the “Remembering Messiah Of Evil” featurette, and the short films “The Bride Stripped Bare” and “Down These Mean Streets.” The only negative thing I can say about this release is the fact that they didn’t include the “Hold On To Love” opening as a bonus feature. Considering the fact that this flick can often be found for as cheap as a dollar, there’s really no excuse for not owning a copy (or two) of this immortal cult clas-sick! Buy or die!
KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!