Monday, October 4, 2010

Messiah of Evil

Messiah of Evil, aka Dead People is a 1973 film from director Willard Huyck who is probably more notable for his writing credits than his directing work. Don't let the fact that he directed Best Defense or Howard the Duck discourage you from checking out this atmospheric little known shocker. The story concerns a young woman traveling alone to a remote sea side California community to reconnect with her father from whom she's become estranged. She had been in communication with him via letters he would send to update her on his progress in regards to his work as a painter. His character being an artist allows for some really interesting set design when she finally arrives at his home. As his letters begin to take on a dark and somewhat sinister tone she feels compelled to go investigate the situation for her self. Along the way she begins to have strange encounters with an increasingly curious assortment of townsfolk. The film's sense of oddness within the confines of a seemingly average small town, put me in mind of David Lynch, but the overwhelming influence in my opinion is clearly H.P. Lovecraft. To reveal much more about the plot would be a disservice to you, as the way the story slowly reveals its self is what I found to be such a pleasure about this movie. There are some wonderfully creepy set pieces and the supporting cast all do a good job carrying things along. The film, although clearly a low budget effort, manages to have more of the creeping sense of dread and foreboding, the hallmark of Lovecraft's writing, than almost any film I've seen based on his writing directly. Clearly John Carpenter should have sat down and watched this before wading into Lovecraftian territory with In the Mouth of Madness, a mysteriously overrated film in my opinion. The gore in minimal, but effective and it is much more about the atmosphere and the feel of the film than pure shock value at any rate. I would highly recommend that any fan of 70's genre movies seek this little jewel out.


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