Messiah of Evil (1973)

“In order to live, they will take you one by one … And no one will hear you scream!” For pure early 1970’s weirdness, few low-budget horror movies come close to the surreal, dream-like Messiah of Evil. Marianna Hill stars as “Arletty,” a young woman who travels to the coastal town of Point Dune, California, in search of her artist father (Royal Dano). There she discovers his abandoned house (full of these strange life-size paintings all over the place), as well as this weird mystical dude named Thom (Michael Greer), who wears a white three-piece suit all the time, and his two beautiful groupies, Laura (Anitra Ford) and Toni (Joy Bang). Apparently, the sleepy beach town has been overtaken by a cult of vampire-like zombies. Legendary character actor Elisha Cook, Jr. has a brief role as “Charlie,” the town drunk who seems be the only one around to have some insight into what the hell is going on. My favorite scene involves Toni sitting in a nearly deserted movie theater without realizing that zombies are filling in the seats directly behind her. The scene in the grocery store with Laura being chased by the zombies is almost as disturbing. Messiah of Evil would make a great double feature with Carnival of Souls (1962). Believe it or not, the film was made by the husband and wife team of Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, who also wrote the screenplay for American Graffiti (1973), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Howard the Duck (1986). Bennie Robinson turns in a terrifying performance as the “Albino Trucker” who enjoys eating rats. Bang (born Joy Wener) had true screen presence (translation: she was totally hot!) and appeared in such films as Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971), Cisco Pike (1972), Play It Again, Sam (1972) and Night of the Cobra Woman (1972). What the hell ever happened to Joy Bang? By the way, Hill appeared as “Lani Kaimana” in the Elvis Presley flick Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966), as “Callie Travers” in High Plains Drifter (1973) and as “Deanna Corleone” (Fredo’s wife) in The Godfather: Part II (1974).

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