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Like if Jenny Holzer wrote film reviews. The Parallax Review is a website dedicated to dissecting movies in terms of cultural context, ideology, aesthetics, and more. From Stalker to Hackers and beyond! Run by your girl, @okaythanksmaria

Messiah of Evil (1973)

 


This review is part of a series: 31 Days of Horror Directed by Women.

Messiah of Evil is certainly a strange trip! The significance of the film's title, in fact, didn't hit me until just now. That name isn't memorable at allI constantly had to ask myself: What's the name of the movie I need to watch tonight? What's the name of the movie I just watched? What's the name of that movie I need to review again? It sounds like it's about a church, or a cult or something. In fact, it was re-released a decade later with a different name: Dead People. Still sucks, I think. Husband and wife director duo Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz's poorly named movie is actually just about a woman named Arletty who goes to a seaside town to visit her artist father. Unfortch, the only thing she finds at his studio are mysterious handwritten pages that hint at something sinister. The rest of the film follows Arletty as she interacts with the strange locals, becomes hostess to a transient throuple (at least, I think it's a throuple?), and tries to unravel the disappearance of her father. 


 
Messiah of Evil 
 
Messiah of Evil


As you can imagine, the sunny beach town isn't as innocuous as it seems, and ordinary activities seem more like booby traps at every turn. The best thing about this film, however, are the vibes. Each setting has an eerie quality, sure, but whether it's a beach, a grocery store, or an art gallery, everything is very stylish and expansive. It's the people that come off as otherworldly. Every piece of dialogue, or interaction between characters is absolutely ethereal. They speak and act as though they're in a feature-length porn. Like whatever they're saying isn't that important, but there must be dialogue because it's a film. Not to say these character interactions aren't important to the plotthey very much are. But they have a disarming, airy quality that underscores the film's brutal scenes of horror quite nicely. 
 
Messiah of Evil

Messiah of Evil

Messiah of Evil

 
For example, Arletty's disembodied voice narrates throughout, and even when she's talking about things that are pretty upsetting, she sounds like an art museum guide chilled out on Xanax. In fact, everyone in this movie is incredibly calm, except when they're killing/being killed. The movie takes it's time getting to the killing, too. For the first 40 minutes or so, we're basically just watching a beautiful woman float lackadaisically through an otherwise perfectly pleasant town. Everything's so quiet you just know something's wrong, but the film's stylish sense of calm is so relentlessly disarming that when things finally get bloody, it's shocking.
 


 

In fact, in addition to the movie's pleasant ambience, I really want to praise the quiet intensity of its horror. Death seems inevitable and inescapable. Characters die isolated, aloneand in the worst way possible. It's such a treat to get a sexy, stylish, 70s horror that totally delivers on the scares, too. While the movie's chill pace makes it feel a bit longer than it's 90 minute runtime, there are splendid surprisesnot twiststhroughout. The ending serves a final blow that brings everything full circle in a quietly disturbing way. If nothing else in my review convinces you to watch this exquisite movie, can I tempt you by saying it features an amazing floating platform bed that's suspended from the ceiling? I know that's all I care about.
 


All film stills via Fuck Yeah, Messiah of Evil.

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