More Like Mediocrity – Messiah of Evil (1973)

Messiah of Evil is a strange and surreal film and even though it is a horror film, it is not scary or frightening in any way, more than likely due to the artsy nature of the picture. The film is more of a curiosity than anything else, an example of a filmmaker trying to do something different than the norm, and at least succeeding on that point.  But it is not exciting or even interesting which is a shame as it seemed to hold a little promise with the basic concept of a Dracula-like figure infecting others with his condition.

One thing that the film does have going for it at the very least is that it does seem to be moving in a linear fashion. We follow the lead character Arletty, played by Marianna Hill, as she travels back to her father’s place where he has gone missing and her various discoveries upon arriving. She meets a man named Thom, with a couple of his followers, and soon realizes that the entire town has been turned into fangless vampires or cognizant zombies. Whichever or whatever they might be.

The acting by those involved in the film was like watching the rehearsal for a stage play coupled with improvisation. It seems almost like they are guessing at what to speak and at times, saying whatever they feel like. We know that it cannot be as such as Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz wrote the film and obviously had a direction they were headed in.  So why the movie appeared to be so lackadaisical at times, both in script and direction, was intentional to further the mood and that surreal vibe that they were going for. Everyone also talks in near monotone, matching the pace of the movie as well as doing so quietly with little to no emotion. Only Hill shows any emotion whatsoever in the film, not counting when others die, at one point almost sedated and then ranging to manic during certain scenes.

One of the few bright spots during the film was the telling of the dark stranger and his wake of death. This was one of the few bits in which the movie really shined and seemed to grasp a hold of something to make it more intriguing and give it a sense of direction.  As the legend is recited, we see him in the past as he comes upon a hunter and he himself tells his story. It was an interesting bit of imagery as he almost resembles Death of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, yet the story still leaves out just what exactly he is – vampire or zombie. It would seem to lean more towards vampire at this point, but it is never defined.

And speaking of not being defined, the movie ends as it opens, with Arletty wandering the halls of what looks to be an asylum, but is actually a representation for her mind. Another bit of imagery, of which there is much in the film, which lends more credence to the zombie theory as she seems to be conscious of who and what she is and what she might possibly do, but unable to speak or say anything as her condition seemingly prevents it.

A very strange movie, one people will most likely be disappointed with if they are seeking out a more conventional form of horror. Again, there are no scares to speak of as the pacing of the movie is so easygoing, even though there are a couple of moments where violence rears its head. If you were looking for something of an art piece or a bit of psychedelia, this picture would be recommended, but as a straight-up horror film, it lacks the punch of its brethren in the genre.

3 out of 5

1 reply »

  1. Does not look like my cup of tea in all honest. Artsy never seems to sit well with me! Sick poster though! I guess it does have that going for it. 3/5 isn’t a bad score, so cool that the bright spots saved it in a way!


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