Review: Messiah of Evil (1973)

A disorienting and unsettling tale of the unfathomable coming to town...

Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz created a surreal, stylish vision that'll give you the creeps. US American independent horror cinema at its best.

A coastal town slipping into madness. This outstanding little movie deserves far more attention than it ever got. Every once in a while, a team of filmmakers comes along, and creates something extraordinary. G. A. Romero's "Night of the Living Dead", the British Hammer Studios' films, Roger Corman's E. A. Poe film adaptations, John Carpenter's "Halloween", Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead", and so on - all of these have become milestones, sub-genre icons in their own right. "Messiah of Evil" easily had the stuff to do so, too. It's surreal, scary, artful, and atmospheric. It merges European gothic cinema and modern American cinema into it's own unique, coherent blend. Why this one remained relatively unknown can to some degree be attributed to it's confusing distribution, and legal problems: it was released as "Return of the Living Dead", "Revenge of the Screaming Dead", and "The Second Coming", before finally settling with "Dead People" and "Messiah of Evil". But upon viewing it immediately becomes obvious there's something going on here, an approach that - at the time - hadn't been seen on such a scale before. Where "Night of the Living Dead" had expressionist imagery in some scenes, "Rosemary's Baby" had a short dream sequence, and "Carnival of Souls" used its premise as a framing for a comparably simple story, "Messiah of Evil" went all out subconscious - the disjointed world on the borders of reality, somewhere between grotesque and dead serious, art, madness, and reality. Your mind is the movie.

If one director comes to mind that has created similar films, it has to be David Lynch, especially with "Lost Highway". But still, "Messiah of Evil" is different. In addition to the unsettling style, it tells a story of some unknown, invisible evil force, creating an experience of cosmic horror a la H. P. Lovecraft. If "Messiah of Evil" had had more success when it was first released, maybe today it would be called the mother and father of films like "Phantasm", "A Nightmare on Elm Street", and "In the Mouth of Madness".

In any case, it's a must-see. All hail the Messiah. 

Verdict: Totally out there. True art. 10/10


Trailer video: 


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Review: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974, Tobe Hooper)

A couple of kids on a trip pick up a creepy hitchhiker, and get stranded at some remote farmhouse. Soon, one of the group is missing, and bit by bit the others get to know the inhabitants of the house... will they make it out?

All-time classic "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" by Tobe Hooper is one of those 70es horror films that shaped the genre and are frequently listed among the best of their kind.

The story sounds like a pretty default low-budget slasher scheme, but the movie is an exceptionally raw, not funny, but genuinely grotesque, and coherent statement. 

It paints a picture of a society in decay, the forgotten leftovers beyond the edges of progress and TV. It has a lot of similarities to e.g. "The Hills Have Eyes" (1977), "Mothers Day" (1980), and "The Devils Rejects" (2005), but very much unlike these, there's an obvious artistic vision here that goes beyond the usual shock-and-awe tactics. 

In fact there's not much gore in "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre". Creepy, foreboding images, quick hard cuts that leave the worst to your imagination, a family devoid of any future, images and sounds of pure terror - it works in your head, long after it's over. Modern civilization has created its own downfall, and as the sun sets, the apocalypse is lurking just beyond the horizon...

Verdict: Raw, brutal, and visionary. 10/10


Trailer video:


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Another Top 10 horror films you've never heard about (2/2)

There's always some more.

France, Italy, Japan, Spain, China, Germany, India, Russia, of course the USA and Britain, ... - every nation has a film industry, and in every part of the world hidden gems of horror film are produced, and sometimes forgotten.

In no particular order, here are five more (=part two) out of another ten horror movies you've probably never heard about:

I Bury The Living (1958)

Director: Albert Band

Working at a cemetery certainly isn't for everyone. "I Bury The Living" is a simple and cheap, but incredibly well made little movie. There's not too much spectacle going on here - but what is going on is surprisingly captivating due to the clever premise, and convincing acting of the main character. There's an underlying sense of inspiration and enthusiasm in "I Bury The Living", somehow similar to "The Evil Dead" (1981), "Assault on Precinct 13" (1976) and other such cult b-movies, only in a kind of minimalist way. This little psycho trip will not traumatize you for decades, but it will drag you in and give you pleasant chills like few other movies of that kind do.


Вий (Viy) (1967)

Directors: Konstantin Yershov, Georgi Kropachyov

Based on the eponymous Nikolai Gogol horror novel from around 1835, this is a fantastic movie from Russia - probably the first Russian horror movie ever. The story is packed with Gogol's imagination, and spooky Russian folklore. "Viy" is a gothic movie, similar to some British Hammer studio productions, but obviously with a different background. Russia has an outstanding culture of the fine arts, and it totally shows in the film. "Viy" looks like an old painting come to life, and takes a couple of clues from drama and ballet dancing. It's partly scary, partly funny, and always perfectly executed, making it an exceptionally entertaining movie to watch.



It's Alive (1974)

Director: Larry Cohen

The tagline says you shouldn't see this film alone. Agreed - but maybe this is not a great movie for a woman expecting a child, so choose your company wisely. "It's Alive" is a dark, nasty, sad, touching, outrageous, slightly gory, and somehow hysterically grotesque low-budget shocker. It was quite a box office success when it came out, got two sequels and a remake, but is rarely seen on current best-of lists. Which is a bit surprising, because the story has actual profoundness, the casting and acting is outstanding, the "monster" couldn't be more iconic, and the way it is put on film is just brilliant. We don't wanna give you too many hints about what to expect from "It's Alive" - it's a damn fine piece of low budget filmmaking, and it's scary as hell.


Les Diaboliques (1955)

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

"Les Diaboliques" was and still is highly acclaimed, often said to be the best Hitchcock movie he never made, was a box office success, got remade in 1996 in the US - and a lot of people still have never heard about it. This thriller from France goes boldly into horror territory, and has an ending you won't forget. That sounds a bit like "Psycho", which is 100 percent correct in terms of suspense, and in fact "Psycho" author Robert Bloch was a huge fan of "Les Diaboliques". But it's a very different experience - Simone Signoret's screen time alone is worth watching "Les Diaboliques", the French style and precision of the movie is just beautiful, and it has it's own original story. Briefly, it's one of the best psycho horror thrillers ever.


Porno Holocaust (1980)

Director: Joe D'Amato

To finish up this list, here's the true gem among trash movie gems. There are a lot of enjoyable or maybe not so enjoyable z-movies worth a recommendation, but... well, I guess somebody just had to do it, go there, film it. The title and poster art literally say it all. It's a Joe D'Amato movie, and yes, he totally went there. The undead apparently are making efforts to reproduce. Or: is making efforts to. It's... beyond words. Mr. D'Amato certainly was a capable businessman. This is by no means a good movie, but if you're a true hardcore (no pun intended) (well - pun intended) trash horror movie geek, then you just must not miss this one.


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Another Top 10 horror films you've never heard about (1/2)

The rabbit hole is deep...

...and there's tons of movies for you to discover. You can spend years digging through movie reviews, cast interviews, archive and video websites, books, and what not else, and still discover hidden gems unseen by the mainstream.

To speed up the process a little, and to make sure you don't miss out on the good stuff, here's another Top-10 selection of little known horror movie masterpieces and near-masterpieces for those with a not-so-mainstream taste.

In no particular order, here are five (=part one) out of another ten horror movies you've probably never heard about:

Mo (1983)

a.k.a. The Boxer's Omen

Imagine William Friedkin had filmed "The Exorcist" somewhere deep in the jungles of Southeast Asia, and before doing so, had taken large amounts of LSD, as had his entire crew. If you haven't seen "The Boxer's Omen", but do have a rough idea about the effects of LSD, this should give you an approximation to what the movie is about. Seriously, for a western culture trained mind this movie is genuinely difficult to process. (It's probably easier for people of eastern culture.) The onslaught of visual overkill is just staggering. "The Boxer's Omen" is to Buddhism what "The Exorcist" is to Christianity. Plus "The Evil Dead", and maybe "The Thing". Or just... things?

Good vs. evil, epic standoffs, powerful visions, spells, skulls, green slime, other slime, gore, snakes, crocodiles, red shining eyes, bats, bones, all delivered in eye popping colors and forms, at a breathtaking pace - and we're just halfway through the movie. The western audience probably isn't able to decode many of the cultural references in "The Boxer's Omen", but the impact is undeniably there. Compared to Hollywood standards, this is a low-budget movie, but it's still a big Shaw Brothers (Hongkong) production, and it delivers, in spades. You genuinely won't believe your eyes.


Frankenstein's Army (2013)

Director: Richard Raaphorst

Frankestein's Army poster

Out of the ashes of Dutch director Richard Raaphorst's failed, but super awesome film project "Worst Case Scenario", came "Frankenstein's Army". Nazi zombie horror had been around for some time, but this movie takes it to the next level. Insane, obscene creations roaming the factory hallways... medical experiments... now your wildest fantasies about Germany 1945 will even be exceeded. Some of what you see in "Frankenstein's Army" is so dark, sick, and sarcastic, it becomes genuinely grotesque. And, surprisingly, it has a story, a style, and rhythm, creating a coherent arc that leads from the beginning to the end - it has more in common with a sick "Wolfenstein" fan edit than with "Saving Private Ryan", but it's still a very well made movie!


Ecologia del delitto (1971)

a.k.a Reazione a Catena / A Bay of Blood / Twitch of the Death Nerve

Director: Mario Bava

No, it wasn't "Halloween" or "Friday the 13th" that created the slasher genre with its kill'em-one-by-one scheme focused on gruesome, striking killing scenes. It came from Italian gialli, and Mario Bava's "Ecologia del delitto", probably better known as "A Bay of Blood", is the template. Of course there were other influences, but if you had to pick one movie as the prime example of early slashers, it has to be this one. Being the first true slasher movie it's not as refined as e.g. "I corpi presentano..." or "4 Mosche di Velluto Grigio", but being also a Mario Bava movie means it still has atmosphere so thick you can cut it with a knife.


La Chiesa (1989)

a.k.a. The Church

Director: Michele Soavi

"La Chiesa", marketed in Japan as "Demons 3", has very little to do with Lamberto Bava's "Demoni" films, except... demons. A lot of big names were involved in this production, including Bava himself and Dario Argento among the writers, Keith Emerson, Philip Glass, and the band Goblin (of "Dawn of the Dead" fame) as music contributors, and actors Hugh Quarshie, Feodor Chaliapin Jr., and Giovanni Lombardo Radice. Sometimes such big investment doesn't fully pay off, which might be the case with "La Chiesa" - in some parts it feels like a slightly cheesy Italian TV style production that's difficult to categorize. But as you go along it will also send shivers crawling down your spine, with some overwhelmingly beautiful, surreal imagery, and an outstanding soundtrack. This is a Hieronymus Bosch painting come to life, much closer to the universe of Argento's Three Mothers than to the zombie-ish "Demoni".



The Suckling (1990)

a.k.a. Sewage Baby

Director: Francis Teri

Beware. This is one nasty little movie. It touches on a couple of sensitive subjects - respect for unborn life, the process of giving birth, ultimately family values, etc. - and it's far from being sensitive about it. The story is quickly told: A young couple decides on abortion of their baby, it's an ugly affair, some toxic waste is involved, and from there on everything gets completely out of hand, or maybe shall we more appropriately say: grows completely out of proportion. And as if that wasn't enough it adds a stomach-turning little twist at the end. 

"The Suckling" is cheap, and very effective. If you like your b-movies rough, bold, and tasteless, then this one is for you. If you like, you could also write volumes about the social implications of just the first 20 minutes of the movie, or the mere fact that it exists. But, really, don't show "The Suckling" to your pregnant wife.


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Evil Dead's new re-something: Evil Dead Rise

"Evil Dead" has a new sequel titled "Evil Dead Rise", and it's getting quite respectable ratings.

This one was directed by Lee Cronin, who also directed the also quite respectable "The Hole in the Ground" (2019).

If you haven't done so yet, here you can watch the trailer for the new "Evil Dead" movie:


You can visit the movie's website for more information:


...and check out these additional sources: