Messiah of Evil

Messiah of Evil ★★★★½

Of all the horror films out there, this one probably approaches the atmosphere of the stories of H.P. Lovecraft best - certainly better than any of the movies that were actually based on Lovecraft's tales (as you may have guessed, Messiah of Evil is not). In terms of creating a feeling of unspeakable dread and fear that is seeping through all the pores of the movie, I can only think of Carnival of Souls as being at the same level. There are typical horror tropes such as a "dark stranger" coming back at regular intervals to haunt a small town; the townsfolk falling under his spell and committing terrible acts including murder and cannibalism; and a visitor from outside who has no idea what she stumbles into, but appears to find herself irresistibly drawn to the dreadful fate that awaits her. This film is an art film as much as it is a horror film - the brightly lit gas station and shopping mall recall Ed Ruscha and Edward Hopper, and when Arletty's father attacks her with blue paint all over his face and hands one is instantly reminded of Godard's Pierrot le Fou. This is not a movie that plays the post-modernist reference game, though, because it is completely unique in its depiction of desolation and the inescapable return of fearful things from a dark past. Marianna Hill reminds me of Lana Del Rey somehow, and I can actually imagine Del Rey's songs of west coast fatalism to be used as part of the score in a remake of this film. But nevermind that, let's hope no one gets it in their head to actually get a remake going, as the film is perfect as it stands. Once a rarely seen and almost forgotten cult film, the DVD and subsequent Blu-Ray release by Code Red have done much to bring this movie to the attention of all avid genre fans, as has Steven Thrower's extensive write-up in his excellent and voluminous tome Nightmare USA. You really haven't experienced 1970s American horror until you've seen this film.

Block or Report

Frankco liked this review