Friday, October 23, 2009

More vidia obscura for your Halloween pleasure...

Messiah of Evil is what's been called an 'unknown gem' from the early 70's, made by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz (friends of George Lucas who wrote AMERICAN GRAFFITI, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM and dialog punch up for STAR WARS -- more widely known as the team responsible for HOWARD THE DUCK). This gets released next week in a deluxe DVD package, but I found a barebones copy and decided to see if it lived up to the hype.

It's not totally bad - it's sort of a Lovecraftian story without anything to do with Lovecraft per se; but it's just hampered by some really bad decision making, such as the song sung over the main and end titles - has nothing to do with the film whatsoever, but if you weren't scared by a totally unnecessary murder as the movie starts (to show that it's a HORROR MOVIE), you'll be scared before the song is over.

A very convoluted story which involves a daughter searching for her missing artist father, who leaves behind a journal recounting sinister doings in the town, and some very strange townspeople who are zombies awaiting the titular 'Messiah', who apparently is a preacher from the late 1800's who's a survivor of The Donner Party, and pledges to spread his religion before walking into the sea, vowing to return in 100 years.

Uh... yeah. Logic is not the strong point of a good many horror movies, but this is pretty batshit on its own terms.

The movie works best when it attempts to create this sort of unreal reality, and there are plenty of surreal touches: the house and artwork of the artist/father; a really menacing albino who likes Wagner and chewing on rats; tears of blood, and a doomed man covered in paint... there are two really good setpieces that the movie is known for.

First, a sequence in a supermarket...

And the movie theater scene.

I suspect that the movie would be better had it been done by people who truly understood surrealism - or if they'd hired a European director. At least they're ditching the song in that DVD release. Worthwhile for a chill, or if you're an Argento fan and don't have access to any Argento.

SHADOW FALLS was a webseries on The Horror Channel a few years back... I vaguely knew the people involved with this, essentially two people, Kendall Sinn (writer) and Sally Cummings [now Sinn] (producer), but never had any idea of what the show was supposed to be.
Finally, I found the dvd on Netflix and got to see for myself.

Not bad.

Shadow Falls is a series of 8 short films that portray very strange events happening involving the titular town, which apparently died out in the mid-1980's... or something. It's a mystery.
Watching it brought back memories of watching TWIN PEAKS, except that Shadow Falls doesn't have that Lynch quirkiness -- it does have it's own mood and atmosphere, sort of like SILENT HILL.

It also was a bit like watching LOST - the 8 films are basically backstory and set-up for what's to come... and while some will find this intriguing, others may find it extremely frustrating to have no minor payoff at the end of the cycle. Others will also be frustrated at the method of storytelling, which is non-linear and oblique for the most part, while some will see it as a breath of some needed fresh air.

This queued up at just the right time -- The Horror Channel may be in limbo, but the show isn't; it will be resolved in a feature, SHADOW FALLS MEMORIAL that has its premiere in Kansas City on October 30.