arthouse

[Movie Review] Messiah of Evil (1973) ★★★★★

Laura and Toni in the bathroom in Messiah of Evil 1973

Messiah of Evil is an artful poetic horror full of surreal imagery and vampire ghouls.


Messiah of Evil is a supernatural occult horror film with an outstanding artistic cinematography that is both poetic and surreal. Although the imagery is very artful, the events very strange and the plot authentic, it is told in an understandable but beautiful way. With a strong female lead, weird happenings surrounding her, the viewer experiences her hallucinatory downfall into madness and horror. 

Messiah of Evil offers more subtext within style than can be seen at first sight. It’s an excellent tale of horror that goes beyond mere style over substance, but combines a great plot, an elusive story, elegant cinematography and surreal poetic subtext into a compelling tale of terror. 


Plot

Arletty’s father is an artist who lives in a small seaside town, Point Dune. After he goes missing, Arletty goes to Point Dune to find him, only to stumble upon strange occurrences and weird behavior of the village people. Arletty gets help from researcher and dandy Thom and the two of them discover, by reading her father’s journals, that something isn’t at all right in this town and that it has turned people into vampires and that something even more sinister is about to rise.


Why you should watch it

Messiah of Evil is a fantastic amazing piece of horror artwork. It’s stunning to look at, with art as a motif spread throughout the film in different ways. But the story and the plot itself aren’t overshadowed by this poetic and surreal way of filming. The story is told in an understandable manner and the events unfold in a normal way, but are also shown with artful imagery. 

We follow Arletty on the search for her father and she even comments via a voice-over. When she or Thom are reading the journals we also hear the voice-over of Arletty’s father. This technique creates a very intimate and private point of view and reels the viewer into the story. The text from the journals also get more and more intertwined with Arletty’s experiences in the town. 

The cinematography is stunning. It’s surreal and disturbing and creates a highly tensed atmosphere that is evenly scary as weird. The lighting, the colors and the sounds of footsteps create a terrifying atmosphere but very subtle. With creative and artistic camera angles, colored square or triangle planes on the walls, or even light that creates abstract planes on the walls, result in shots that are living paintings on their own. 

Asides from the style and atmosphere that creates a very surreal vibe, the setting and art design are a big element in increasing the tone and authentic voice of the film. Her father’s house is a true artist’s house with drawings on the walls, life-sized drawn people who feel like real people invading the house and staring at Arletty, being silent witnesses. Big faces, and even an escalator drawn on the wall create a very surreal and weird vibe.  

While the real people, or what they have become, are watching her every move. That alone is creepy enough, but it has an even more sinister reason that is revealed at the end. 

The cinematography, the style and tone, the setting and the events all feel very Kafkaesque. The strangely behaving village people behave in a unified way, wearing uniform-like clothing, always watching. The nightmarish feel, the hallucinations and visions that her father recalls in his journals. Arletty soon feels alienated, powerless and surrendered to a higher but invisible power, while the villagers blindly follow this unseen authority. This theme is also connected with consumerism, shown through the vampire ghouls. 

But this power isn’t a bureaucratic government but an occult power, that has a strong hold over the village. It all becomes clear in the end, but also can create more confusion. Although the mythology behind the events that unfold aren’t fully explained, the viewer gets an inkling at an instinctive level of what is going on. That makes the film all the more unsettling and surreal.  

Messiah of Evil is a highly visceral film that speaks to the viewer on an intuitive level. It’s a film that envelops the viewer with its unique tone that is gracefully shown. Without nudity, graphic gore or a lot of blood, it shuns away from any form of shock value making the film more interesting and artful. Add to this a bit of dark humor, some gothic styled scenes and a strong woman who despite of her fierceness succumbs to a greater power, and this film is a piece of horror art that must be seen.


My favorite part

I really like the movie theater scene. It’s such a great scene with a surreal and disturbing setup that gets weirder and weirder, while Toni has no clue. But the way the townspeople are hovering by the meat department at the supermarket and are coming after Laura is very well executed and absurdly frightening. 

I also liked that Gloria Katz has written and directed and produced the film together with her husband Willard Huyck. It really shows, for this film has an unusually strong female lead who is anything but helpless to begin with but is slowly overpowered by evil dark forces. For a seventies film that really catches that hallucinatory vibe of the era with the surreal images and style, it’s also very unique and feminist where women aren’t mere objectified while going mad. The other women are very fleshed out characters too, without a lot of screen time. But they each bring something extra to the story. One is the sexy one, while the other is the quirky one. Both aren’t simple bait to be slaughtered for our pleasure. 

But the style and tone and wonderful cinematography and on top of that the brilliant interior of the house, just creates an amazing artistic vibe where style connects with substance, and that is the best part.


Ratings

Rating: ★★★★★

Gore factor: ★★★☆☆

Scare factor: ★★★☆☆

Surreal factor: ★★★★★

Originality factor: ★★★★★

Entertainment factor: ★★★★★


Cast and crew

Messiah of Evil is directed and written by Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck.It stars Marianna Hill (Arletty), Michael Greer (Thom), Anitra Ford (Laura), Joy Bang (Toni), Royal Dano (Joseph Lang) and Elisha Cook Jr (Charlie).

Duration: 90 minutes. Music by: Phillan Bishop. Cinematography: Stephen M. Katz. Edited by: Scott Conrad. Produced by: Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz. Production company: International Cine Film Corp., V/M Productions. Distributed by: Bedford Entertainment.


Check the trailer below


Support BHG:

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Dear reader, you can support me by making a small donation to let BigHorrorGuide grow and make more content and to keep the site ad-free. Your contribution will be very much appreciated!

Dear reader, you can support me by making a small donation to let BigHorrorGuide grow and make more content and to keep the site ad-free. Your contribution will be very much appreciated!

Dear reader, you can support me by making a small donation to let BigHorrorGuide grow and make more content and to keep the site ad-free. Your contribution will be very much appreciated!

Choose an amount

$3.00
$10.00
$100.00
$2.00
$5.00
$10.00
$5.00
$15.00
$100.00

Or enter a custom amount

$
——

Thank you so much

Thank you so much

Thank you so much