Messiah of Evil (1973)
Messia del Diavolo
Messiah of Evil: Second Coming
Messias des Bösen
Revenge of the Screaming Dead
The Second Coming
Nomination Year: 2014
SYNOPSIS: Messiah of Evil is, for all intents and purposes, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" with zombies. It starts out with Arletty driving to a small seaside town in California to check on her father, who retired there to paint after her mother died. The father's letters had gotten stranger and wilder until the last one which basically said "Don't come for me!" which Arletty does. The town is creepily still and Dad's house/studio is closed up tight and dark. Arletty does a little patio brick B&E and then goes about trying to find her father the next day. Somehow she falls in with Thom and his two "traveling companions" Toni and Laura and they all set up camp in Dad's house/studio.
Meanwhile, the town is still creepy and at night the people light a bunch of bonfires on the beach and stare out into the ocean. There is a lot of sea motif going on in this movie; you kinda get tired of seeing breakers roll in at twilight. Eventually we learn that 100 years ago some tall dark stranger came about preaching a new religion, the moon turned blood red and the townspeople started eating each other. Guess what's coming around in the film as Arletty tries to figure out what happened to her dad? Why, it's blood moon season!
This film did a couple things really well. First off, it got creepy on the nose. The father paints huge murals, which are all over the studio, and they are all gray scale pictures of everyday places with people milling about staring outward into the room. Keen décor for some hipster arty store (which is open in daylight hours) but for a house? Thank you no. There was also some decent unsettling camera work and what's more creepy than a group of silent staring people who sort of slowly gather around you in the deepening dusk? Not a whole lot, I say.
As to the 'Messiah', the whole story seemed like an afterthought. "Oh yeah, and there was this guy long ago who was vastly creepy and he caused all the towns peeps to go rabid. Maybe he's come back. Or something. Show some more of those zombie townsfolk!" The movie would have worked much better leaving that part out entirely. Do we really need an explanation for what's going on? I think it would have been even creepier if the explanation was "it just is." Or even "Every now and then, they just go bug nuts cannibal."
There are other problems with the movie for sure. It is really slow to get going and while the acting is OK – more or less – and the dialog is OK – more or less – neither is great. I'd say this is an upper end Smithee movie but to our good fortune, it was an upper end Smithee movie with some decent clips.
Arletty's car keys are missing, so she starts to walk back to town. A red pickup truck pulls up, blaring Wagner, and hauling slack-jawed townsfolk in the back. "Wanna ride?" asks the creepy guy. Arletty soon regrets taking the ride when he starts talking about how great surf rats are to eat.
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