Thursday, October 09, 2008

Nightmares Worn Like Tailored Dresses

Messiah of Evil (1973)
directed by William Huyck
rating: 4 out of 5 cravats
seen on the screen at the Silent Movie Theatre

The red tint to Cinefamily's "private collection" copy of Messiah of Evil obscured the film stock, makeup, and costume fabric that could collectively date the film to the exact year it was made. But without those tell-tale signifiers of 1973 (and possibly the hammock in the master bedroom), this oceanfront creepshow is a collage of the commonplace. Parking lots, construction sites, backyard pools, and movie theaters. More than that, they're summer scenes: the overrun and empty yards we ride our bikes through on the way to 7-Eleven for a Coke; the short main drag in every beach town, with sea salt on shop door handles and sand piled against the curbs.

Any great low-budget director knows location is everything (even on a set). When the recognizable splinters, mood follows. From Point Dume, California, where no character swims because it isn't even summer, the undead ascension is simply akin to finding out a little bit more about the people you see on a day-to-day basis but don't really know. Neighbors and regulars in places where you are a regular too. And everything you discover is worse than you could ever imagine - so horrible as to seem impossible - and you choose madness like a warm blanket. Horror can be a warm blanket sometimes, and terrible moments make for beautiful scenes.