Messiah of Evil

Messiah of Evil ★★★★½

Messiah of Evil feels like some kind of magic spell. An invocation of the dark otherworld that exists beneath the surface of our own. As in Lovecraft, whose work seems a strong influence on this film, the sea is the gateway to this other realm, but the whole movie seems to conjure it into being.

It’s not the most polished film ever made. It was shot on a low budget by first-time film makers, and you can tell. But the style and flair in the way they put this together is honestly breathtaking. It just looks so good. It’s so atmospheric. And, keeping in mind this is a horror film made by non-horror fans, it unerringly twists the knife into our fear centres when it wants to. There is some amazing horror imagery here.

Some may find it a little slow and oblique. It’s not a conventional kind of cinematic storytelling, but I don’t think it’s so loosely constructed that it falls apart. There is a strong narrative underlying the atmospherics and, despite the strange narrative choices on the way through, this story definitely goes somewhere. Apparently these guys ran out of money before they could shoot the ending, so it’s amazing it’s as satisfying as it is.

I really felt a deep, positive response to Messiah of Evil but I know I am going to have to rewatch it more than once because it’s so beguiling on a first-time watch, I felt like I must have missed a lot. I remember most of it in a slightly blurred fashion, but there are two sequences which have been indelibly stamped in my memory. The first is the sequence where Laura splits from the group, and first catches a ride with the albino who eats the rat. This is an amazing moment on its own, but it then segues into her trip to the supermarket, which is just shot so beautifully and has that great image of the ghouls raiding the meat display.

I figured that would be the highpoint of the film, but it’s surpassed by the sequence in the movie theatre. The ghouls silently entering the theatre behind the girl and filling up all the seats. All I can say is wow.

Special mention needs to be made of the lighting in this movie. It’s just so beautifully done. I wrote a review for Halloween 4 where I made the claim that it was one of the best lit horror films of the 80’s, and the style of lighting in that movie is very reminiscent of Messiah of Evil. It’s not often that a film is shot in true night (which I think both of these movies did a lot) but it’s interesting what possibilities it opens up in terms of lighting. This movie is just beautiful.

There’s something about these coastal town settings. A Shadow Over Innsmouth is my favourite Lovecraft story, and Messiah of Evil taps into its atmosphere perfectly. I think this would make a great double feature with Dead & Buried, which feels like a bit of a riff on Messiah of Evil, actually.

That final sequence where she stands in the water – it looks like the water has turned into something else – something smoother and glossier, and she is lost in it. Cinematic poetry – I love this film.

Block or Report

mosquitodragon liked these reviews