Messiah of Evil Is the Pick of the Week

There are certain cinematic experiences that one is unlikely to forget, even if the film’s plot is almost nonexistent. Willard Hyuck and Gloria Katz’s eerie 1973 psychedelic horror excursion Messiah of Evil is one of those films.

In simple terms, Arletty (Marianna Hill) comes to a remote seaside town of Pointe Dune to locate her missing father and the reason for his increasing insanity. From there. she encounters mysterious stranger Thom (Michael Greer) and his two “companions”, beautiful Laura (Anitra Ford) and child-like Toni (Joy Bang), who are there to investigate a local legend called “The Blood Moon”, a curse that transforms the town’s inhabitants into a cult of flesh-eating, bloodthirsty zombies that cry blood.

Again, it’s not the premise that makes Messiah of Evil such a legendary cult film; it’s the hippie horror approach and the striking visuals, not to mention its two most famous set pieces: Laura’s demise in a Ralph’s supermarket and Toni’s death in a movie theater, instant classics within the film’s legacy. There are also rather interesting cameos from film icons Elisha Cook Jr. and Royal Dano, as well as now-legendary filmmaker Walter Hill as the opening kill that adds to the overall mystique.

Despite the fact that viewers will probably ask questions about the plot, especially the bleeding-eye thing, the film’s imagery will likely hypnotize and overwhelm you during its 90-minute run time and could probably make you almost forget the WTF story.

Although the original limited edition box set with the 80-page book (which was released in October) from Radiance Films is now OOP, you can still own the regular LE, which is being released this week and fortunately contains the same special features: audio commentary with critics and horror experts Kim Newman and Stephen Thrower; archival audio interview with Hyuck; What the Blood Moon Brings: Messiah of Evil, A New American Nightmare documentary; and visual essay by critic Kat Ellinger. If you happen to still own the previoud release from Code Red, then keeping that edition may be a good idea, considering that it has a previous commentary from Hyuck and Katz; Remembering Messiah of Evil featurette; and two short films. Whatever edition you have, you’re bound to get something from the atmospheric albeit near-storiless cult classic.

Other releases:

The Conformist (RaroVideo): Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1970 masterpiece starring the great Jean-Louis Trintignant as an irresolute Italian man turned fascist flunky who goes abroad to arrange the assassination of his old teacher, now a political revolutionary.

Mother’s Day 4K UHD (Vinegar Syndrome): A repulsive but interesting 1980 cult horror classic about a mad matriarch and her two maniac sons kidnapping and torturing three women in their backwoods cabin.

Monk: Season One (Kino): The Emmy-winning mystery comedy series starring the amazing Tony Shalhoub as the beloved Adrian Monk, an agoraphobic but highly intelligent San Francisco private detective who helps the police solve crimes.

Le Combat dans l’ile (Radiance): An underrated 1962 French New Wave gem with Jean-Louis Trintignant (making a second appearance in this PotW) and his gorgeous wife (Romy Schneider) hiding out on a remote island in the house of a friend (Henri Serre) who doesn’t suspect anything. Read my review.


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