Tuesday, October 1, 2013

MESSIAH OF EVIL (William Huyck & Gloria Katz, 1971, USA)

A small town is damned by the blood moon, trapped in a synchronous rotation with the dark man whose malevolent curse echoes with cannibalistic fury. The writer/director team of Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz imbue a standard horror plot with artistic flourish, birthing a freakish hybrid akin to Michelangelo Antonioni adapting Lovecraft’s SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH.
Arletty travels to Point Dune, a mysterious beach town that was once named new Bethlehem, and discovers it is a beacon for a new messiah that shall serve our dysfunctional modern times. She is in search of her father, an artist who has severed contact from his family, an outsider in this artist’s colony, a stranger in a very strange land. She becomes a ghost in his empty house, her father’s poisoned mind preserved in a journal and in the cryptic artwork etched upon the very walls: ghastly faces peer from the corners, a still unlife with vanishing points that tilt perspectives, creating a palpable unease. It’s as if his mind, stalked by the hellish strangers, is splashed upon the drywall in a suicidal fugue.
Huyck’s style dominates the narrative substance and becomes an art film masquerading as a B movie. In one wonderfully unsettling scene, a young girl sits in a movie theatre waiting for the feature to begin, ironically titled KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE. When the lights go down and her attention is drawn to the insipid previews, the seats behind her begin the fill up with strangers, their eyes dripping blood, raptors waiting for their communal signal to begin feeding. Huyck cuts to close-up and back to medium shot so we the audience see what is happening before the character does, much like Hitchcock in his famous school scene in THE BIRDS. Not content to pay homage only to the master, Arletty’s possessed father evokes the dispossessed protagonist of Godard’s PIERRE LA FOU with his mask of blue paint. Arletty is often swallowed by the thick fog, a ghost who haunts the composition’s vanishing points, drowned in the ubiquitous crashing waves and howling wind, reminiscent of the beautiful Monica Vitti in Antonioni’s masterful RED DESERT.
In Point Bluff, everyone is invited to the Donner Party…but you’ll have to bring your own dessert.

Final Cut: (B+)