Messiah Of Evil (aka Dead People)

JULY 11, 2007

GENRE: SUPERNATURAL, ZOMBIE
SOURCE: DVD (BUDGET PACK!)

Messiah Of Evil was recommended by HMAD loyalist Scott, fellow champion of the Mill Creek budget pack. I estimate I’ve gone through about half of the set now, and damned if I’m not gonna be one sad son of a bitch when I watch the last one and never hear that bird chirping as the charmingly pitiful Mill Creek logo (complete with a wheel that is turning the wrong way in relation to the filmstrip coming from it) plays out one final time.

*Wipes tear*

*Watches a film that doesn’t look like it was run over by a broken steamroller before its transfer to DVD*

The film begins as all films should, with a guy who looks kind of like me getting his throat slashed by a cute girl. We are then given a few credits (including the heretofore unheard of “Administrative Executive Producer”) before they are interrupted by a girl in a hospital, giving some off-kilter narration while an equally off kilter song plays on the soundtrack. Then the credits are free to resume themselves and we are off to Point Dune!

Point Dune is apparently a town filled with artists and assorted other hippies. Narrator girl’s (a name less strange than her actual name, Arletty) dad has disappeared, Dune being his last known whereabouts. So she goes about investigating, while hippies have slow dinners peppered with dialogue like “Yuck! This stuff is shitty tasting!” and occasional narration with puzzling lines like “The art dealer was blind” (how the fuck does he know what he’s buying?). You know how on MST3k they would always end the show with a ‘stinger’, which was simply the most ridiculous part of the film replayed again for our enjoyment? The entire first half hour of this film could be the stinger if Mike and the ‘bots ever sat down with this one.

In fact, I began wondering why anyone would recommend this movie to me, as I wasn’t even sure if it was a horror movie. Perhaps it was some diabolical plan to sabotage my whole “Horror Movie A Day!” streak (unbroken for nearly 5 months, that’s 150 movies!!!)??? But then, finally, the horror part began, and damned if the movie didn’t turn out pretty dang good. It’s sort of like a cross between Wicker Man and Body Snatchers. But with zombies. There was still some unintentional hilarity to be had (such as the hilarious sound the zombies make when they attack, which cannot possibly be described as anything but a cat howling), but some really good scenes too, like when a rather dumb looking girl sits down to watch a western and the theater slowly fills up with stealth zombies (patient, these guys are). And a lot of the zombies look like Herk Harvey in Carnival Of Souls, so you know they’re creepy as fuck.

And as much as I love Mill Creek (in a hateful sort of way), I really wish they would just give the films widescreen transfers (when you think about it, it takes more work to pan and scan a movie than not). This is one of the few films in the set that were shot 2.35:1, and strangely, rather than just crop it like a normal asshole would (who the fuck are these people who crop films for a living? Do they have no souls???), they cropped it down to about 1.85:1 and stretched the rest of the image vertically in order to preserve some of the screen information. It’s a nice gesture, but it just makes everyone look like they are playing Christopher Lee (possibly the source of my Wicker Man flashbacks). Sadly, I cannot locate a good copy of the film on DVD. This is definitely one that deserves better.

Pointless trivia: the guy who directed it went on to make Howard The Duck.

Pointlesser trivia: Walter Hill plays a small role. A fact made even more hilarious when you consider the climax, which features the zombies smashing thru a skylight window for some reason, resulting in a minute long montage of endlessly smashing glass. As Another 48 Hours has the world record for most glass broken in a single film, one must wonder if that’s where Hill began his obsession.

What say you?

4 comments:

  1. What I loved about this movie was the slow creep, layering of one bizarre detail on top of another, quietly building up to something really nightmarish in the literal, dream-logic sense of the word. The blind art dealer is just one of those details, as is the strange trio of swingers (I'm not sure I'd call 'em "hippies") Arletty meets.

    There are so many great, weird, unsettlign moments in this for me. Elisha Cook Jr.'s telling of the town legend, for instance, and his Crazy Ralph warning to Arletty; the absolute nightmare factory of Arletty's dad's studio, with all the figures on all the walls, staring--how could anyone sleep in there? The almost Lovecraftian vibe of the townspeople going out to the beaches in the night, lighting fires, staring out into the waves...for me the accumulation of all this built into a pervasive feeling of impending horror.

    And the set-pieces in the grocery store (the girl just barely missing people as she chases them through the aisles, only to find them at last at the meat counter) and the movie theater scene you mentioned are just GREAT. Really spooky shit. And then of course the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari-esque ending, which usually seems a copout to me, but here I think worked. Was she crazy, or not? Are they coming for you, or are they all in her mind? Will no one hear you scream? WILL NO ONE HEAR YOU SCREAM?!?!?!?!

    I'm glad you mentioned Carnival of Souls (another great film), b/c to me this movie combines the best of CoS and Night of the Living Dead, adds a dash of Lovecraft, and throws in Elisha Cook Jr. to blow the top off the awesome-meter. Maybe the constant barrage of flicks has made you a little jaded, but I thought this was top drawer. Loved it.

    Incidentally, I can't believe you didn't mention that the theater-house hippie's real name is "Joy Bang." :)

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  2. Yeah I'm definitely feeling odd effects of burn out... Im kind of liking stuff that CANT be any good (Blood and Chocolate) and feeling meh toward stuff that i should love. I will likely have to take a break when Comic Con comes around (dont own a laptop, wont really have any means/time of watching a movie for 4 days). Maybe that'll help. I think it's safe to say at this point that itll take a 2nd viewing for everything to get a strong grasp on how i feel about it... I can say for sure I already want to rewatch this one though.

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  3. What fun! I loved the Wagner-listening, rat-munching, albino zombie guy. What a cool character. Has he been in anything else? He should be at least as marketable as Michael Berryman.

    I'm torn about the intro scene. Viewed again after watching the movie, it doesn't feel like it belonged. Maybe if the girl would have chomped into his neck rather than slashing it with a razor, it would have made more sense. Then again, that would have telegraphed the zombiness of the story before its time. I think it was somewhat necessary because had it started with the asylum voiceover, I might have checked out after five minutes. At least I knew something interesting would happen eventually.

    I really liked the movie theater scene. It reminded me of Hitchcock's "The Birds" where Melanie is sitting in front of the jungle jim at the school while the birds, without her knowledge, amass in the background. One of my favorite suspense scenes in movie history. While MoE was not quite as successful, they still did a decent job and it pulled the movie up a notch or two in the process. A big part of the ominous atmosphere in this scene from "The Birds" was the creepy children's chorus of "Risseldy, Rosseldy" in the background. MoE fell way short of this mark with a Sammy Davis Jr western on the screen. Also, while Melanie gracefully smokes a cig while the tension mounts, Toni slams handfuls of seemingly endless popcorn in her piehole. Seriously, there's no way that much popcorn could come out of such a tiny bag. And when she gets up to leave, she dumps half a bag's worth on the floor. I don't think mega-tubs of popcorn were invented until the 80s, so I'll cut them some slack. I loved the creepy guy in the front row who turned to stare at Toni just as the lights went down.

    Additional pointless trivia: Anitra Ford who played Laura was a "The Price is Right" model later in the 70s. It bugged the hell out of me where I recognized her from that I had to look it up.

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  4. You should rewatch this for October Extras 3!

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