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"Who knew what darkness lay in the hearts of Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, the screenwriting team that brought us *American Graffiti* and *Howard The Duck*? Huyck also directed this tale of atavistic resurgence run amok.
A young woman travels to a small seaside town to search for her missing father, a local artist. There, she meets a curious *ménage a trois*: An effete researcher into ancient legends and his two female traveling companions. The uncooperative townspeople from whom they seek information resemble somnambulists, especially at night, when they gather on the beach and gaze longingly out to sea under a reddening moon. Other weird and terrifying portents soon appear: An old drunkard warns the heroine that, here, the corpses must be burned, not buried; a man offers a hitchhiker a mouse--when she refuses it, he eats it alive; tears of blood drip from the townspeople's eyes; live insects and vermin spew from their mouths. As the heroine and her companions delve deeper into the mystery, they find themselves engulfed in cataclysmic violence, and the secret of the messiah of evil, as well as the fate of the girl's father, transpires at last.
What this bare synopsis omits completely is the true source of the film's power: Its overwhelming and consistent poetic atmosphere of doom. From the dismal organ and synthesizer music that underpins the heroine's first exploration of her father's empty studio and its strange *trompe l'oeil* murals, to the massed townspeople waiting expectantly on the beach like sleepwalkers in a Delvaux painting, *Messiah of Evil* creates a perfect microcosmic nightmare world. Once seen, it is never to be forgotten: A rare triumph of perfect atmosphere."
wade wainio | Hancock, Michigan USA | 01/12/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"[Note: I have only seen "Messiah of Evil"].
I approached "Messiah of Evil" without expecting much, but the movie delivered a great deal more than expected. Considering the relatively unknown status of this film, it has many standout psychological horror scenes. The scene in the supermarket is genuinely disturbing. And the scene in the movie theater terrified me for reasons I don't fully understand (and few movies frighten me). And who can deny the wonder of the off-the-wall "beach-mouse" scene?
This is an unconventional zombie movie with genuine artistic value (as far-fetched as it sounds)."
Bindy Sue FrÝnkŁnschtein | under the rubble | 01/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"MESSIAH OF EVIL begins with a young woman in a mental institution. She tells of her search for her missing father (played brilliantly by Royal Dano). Her quest takes her to a tiny beach-town called Point Dune. She is joined by a strange trio (Michael Greer and two beautiful women, one of whom was the queen of "The Bee Girls") who seem to be seeking answers of their own. Together, they encounter a town population gone mad! Increasingly, we see townfolk who have been slowly transformed into a horde of flesh-eating zombies! In one memorable scene (of which there are many), a girl goes to the movie theatre to see "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye", where she is slowly surrounded by eerie-looking zombie patrons. This flick is an excellent twist on the undead theme, with many genuinely scary moments and a building atmosphere of dread that is almost suffocating. The "Messiah" himself is a man in black who first appeared a century ago, killing people and turning them into zombies. He called this his "new religion". He left, vowing to return in a hundred years (now) when people would be ready for his rancid gospel. We never get a good look at his face. A macabre, apocalyptic tale of horror. I loved this movie! Highly recommended..."
European Gothic Masterpiece and an Atmospheric American Zom
- Durrkk | Ohio/PA border USA | 09/01/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"THE DEVIL'S NIGHTMARE (1971; 93 minutes; Belgium/Italy)
THE PLOT: Seven people are forced to spend the night in some eerie castle. The devil sends a succubus to kill each one that indulges in one or more of the seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath [unrighteous anger/hatred/grumbling], envy/jealousy and pride).
COMMENTARY: WOW, this is a real hidden gem of gothic horror. It has a great cast & story and was filmed in a real castle. The people and the sins they indulge in are as follows:
(1.) Bus driver: gluttony.
(2.) Angry wife: greed, jealousy (although her husband gives her good reason to be jealous), envy (of the beauty of the other women) and anger (I don't think she smiles once, except when she's literally swimming in gold).
(3.) Husband: lust (adultery).
(4.) Brunette: lust (lesbianism & adultery).
(5.) Blond: sloth, lust (lesbianism).
(6.) Old man: wrath (excessive grumbling, mean-spiritedness & negativity).
(7.) Priest-in-training: Although he flirts with pride (listen to him during the chess match) and lust (for the redhead) he evidently never commits a mortal sin (or, if he does, he humbly & quickly repents rather than revel in it like the others).
[MINOR SPOILER ALERT] Note that the minister willingly sacrifices himself to perdition to prevent the other six from being damned. This is an example of agape love and displays a true Christ-like heart. Paul the apostle had the same spirit as evidenced in Romans 9:3. [END SPOILER].
HIGHLIGHTS: The film features three incredibly gorgeous women -- a blond, brunette and redhead, no less. The succubus is the redhead, played by Erika Blanc. All three are voluptuous; each possessing a very distinctive beauty. (Their NATURAL curvy-ness is refreshing in comparison to too many modern American actresses, whom often appear nigh anorexic and artificial, if you know what I mean). NOTE TO MEN: It goes without saying that, if you have a lust problem, you might want to stay away from this one, especially in light of a fairly overt lesbian scene (which they end up dying for, so no one can argue that the film advocates the practice, no more than it advocates any other sin depicted, like gluttony, adultery, greed and grumbling).
Another highlight is Erika Blanc's subtle make-up as the succubus combined with her amazing ability to contort her face from stunningly sharp to utterly hideous. Seriously, I NEVER get frightened by horror films, but when Erika morphs into the succcubus and hideously contorts her face, it's absolutely CHILLING.
TECHNICAL INFO: Thankfully, this rendition of the picture omits the tasteless and unnecessary porno-horror "intro" that was tacked on to some versions of the film. This "intro" is not a part of the original picture and simply has no business being there; in fact, it horribly mars it. No doubt it was tacked on by some latter-day DVD producer in order to excite pre-pubescent boys ("Oooh, that's coooooool!!"). The video quality is fine but, unfortunately (as other reviewers have noted) the sound isn't very good. If quality sound is important to you, you might want to look for a different version.
FYI: The original title translated to English is "The Long Night of the Devil" or "The Devil's Longest Night." I feel the title "The Devil's Nightmare" is weak and much prefer another alternative title: "The Devil Walks at Midnight."
BOTTOM LINE: Since this is a European film from the early 70s it's understandably dated, dubbed and slow-paced. The viewer must keep this in mind to appreciate it. Many themes are touched upon: Does God exist? What about the devil and his demonic servants? Can he be trusted to make a deal with? (Yeah, right). Is there such a thing as sin? And, if so, what are its consequences? Another fascinating theme touched upon is human nature and the continual conflict between spiritual and carnal qualities that we can all relate to. The film also powerfully addresses the incredible self-sacrificial nature of agape love -- love in its highest and purest form.
Make no mistake, this is a powerful piece of gothic-horror cinema, perhaps even a masterpiece.
THE PLOT: A woman (Marianna Hill) goes to the California coastal town of Point Dune to visit her artist father. She can't find him, but runs into a guy (Michael Greer) and his two female companions (Anitra Ford & Joy Bang). They all soon discover that there are mysterious and peculiar things going on in town. The people are somnambulistic and mysteriously stand at the shore every twilight looking out to sea. Things eventually take a deadly turn.
COMMENTARY: The film is highly atmospheric, effectively combining elements of "Carnival of Souls" (1962) and "Night of the Living Dead" (1968). Personally, I feel it's better than "Carnival" but not quite as great as "Night," which is a classic horror masterpiece, of course.
HIGHLIGHTS: As noted above, Marianna Hill is the doe-eyed protagonist. You may not remember her, but she's one of the most beautiful women to ever appear on the Original Series of Star Trek, specifically the episode "Dagger of the the Mind" as Dr. Helen Noel. The film is a must for fans of Ms. Hill (like me) since she is prominently featured.
TECHNICAL INFO: Both the sound and video are very good for such an old & obscure picture. This is no doubt the best version of the film out there and, as far as I know, the ONLY version available on DVD, unlike "The Devil's Nightmare."
FYI: The original title is "Dead People," which is more fitting than "Messiah of Evil," but way too generic. The title "Messiah of Evil" gives the impression that the story prominently features a weirdo dark Christ-figure, but this is hardly the case. The dark messiah is ambiguous and barely featured. A more fitting title of the film would be "Village of the Dead" or something along those lines.
BOTTOM LINE: Many hail this as a moody horror masterpiece from the early 70s and I can see why. This is mandatory viewing for mystery/horror aficionados and admirers of the lovely Marianna Hill.
PERSONAL RATING: 4/5 Stars."
I am please to see others really appreciate these films
Kind of a Movie Fan | Tacoma, WA | 12/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Messiah of Evil is an excellent film, I rented years ago on VHS and was so blown away, then I forgot the name of it. When I came across it on DVD I was very happy. This film has such a quite, warm, Dario Argento feeling to it. The Art director Jack Fisk's (long time David Lynch Friend) work is great in this film. The supermaket scene stands out in my mind as one of the best scenes in horror. Devils nightmare is a very funny film. But don't let that put you off, the scene with the bus driver eating that banquet prepared by the Succubus is classic. This guy was eating the way you are suppose to really eat when no one is looking. I have both these films several times over on different dvds including this one. Easily worth the money, buy it. BTW Dario Argento is not the Director, but it definately has his feel to it, pretty strange."