Wicked Wednesday: Messiah of Evil (1973)

They say that nightmares are dreams perverted.

Beauty isn’t everything, but it certainly counts for a lot. That’s something that many horror films from the 70s understood. Whether it was the blood-red lighting of Argento’s Suspiria or the bright sun of dusty Texas in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, these movies were able to capture both beauty and terror on screen.

Messiah of Evil is an utterly stunning film. But its beauty isn’t just superficial and nice to have, it’s a key part of what makes this movie work.

Arletty is a young woman in search of her father, a painter who hasn’t written to her in some time. She decides to go to Point Dume to look for him there. When she arrives at her father’s home, she finds it vacant. But she does discover his journals and soon learns of his descent into some sort of madness…seemingly.

During her search, Arletty comes across an unusual cast of characters. A man who is mad, but can predict the future. A man and his two groupies. But most odd is the ever-growing crowd of people on the beach, waiting for something every night.

It’s very difficult to describe Messiah of Evil succinctly. The plot is very strange. There are bleeding eyes, haunting paintings and predictions of the future. I’m not convinced I understood everything that was happening, but I appreciate that. This is a movie that will clearly improve over the course of multiple viewings. A movie that you can pull something new with every watch.

Arletty and her new friend Thom realise that not all is well with the people of Point Dume. They’re feasting on raw flesh and are growing ever-colder. It’s not entirely clear what they are, only that they are waiting for the “dark stranger”. Just being in the town seems to be infecting them all.

The eerie and surreal nature of the film just builds and builds to points where the tension is unbearable. One of the key favourites is the scene in which Laura, one of Thom’s companions, enters a supermarket to never exit again.

What I would say, though, was that this suddenly changes when we get a lot of telling at the end of the film. An additional ten minutes would have been great at the end – to see the events more fully instead of mostly hearing about them in a narrated voiceover.

This is the type of movie that I think would benefit greatly from a novelization. There could be loads of lore built into it. I’m truly desperate to know more about the “dark stranger” who survived the Donner Party’s winter.

Messiah of Evil is a beautiful fever dream. One that I cannot wait to bite into again.

One comment

  1. What’s great about this movie is that so many rightfully discovered it on VHS — seeking it out as result of its connection to Star Wars. I’d have to add that The Velvet Vampire (1971) is also a film of underrated, stunning beauty.

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