Saturday, March 05, 2011

He Is The Destroyer

John Hough, the director of Disney’s WITCH MOUNTAIN movies, also made INCUBUS, a sleazy Canadian horror movie based on a 1976 novel by Ray Russell, the screenwriter of X: THE MAN WITH X-RAY EYES. About a rapist demon with a phallus the size of a man’s arm that splits apart its victims and bathes them in semen, the 1982 film is less graphic and much less involving than Russell’s book.

Set in the small town of Galen, INCUBUS stars John Cassavetes (HUSBANDS), who must have needed some quite bread to bankroll another independent feature, as Sam Cordell, Galen’s physician and coroner who is initially mystified by the brutal rapes and murders. So much discharge is left in and on the bodies that police chief Hank Walden (John Ireland) initially suspects a gang of rapists, although he can’t explain why the semen is colored red.

Also curious is local teen Tim (Duncan McIntosh), the boyfriend of Sam’s daughter Jenny (Erin Flannery). Tim has been experiencing grotesque nightmares and claiming after each one that another rape has taken place. How do Tim’s dreams connect to the incubus—the monstrous supernatural creature that exists to impregnate human women while they sleep? Helping Sam get to the bottom of the mystery is Laura Kincaid (Kerrie Keane), the editor of the town newspaper.

Most of this is also present in Russell’s novel. Cassavetes’ character is an amalgamation of two men from the book, but original to the movie is his interest in very young women. Sam, a widower, is reeling from the death of an 18-year-old girlfriend, and his first scene finds him peeking at his daughter stepping out of the shower. Cassavetes’ quirky performance is not an asset to the film. Though I presume he and director Hough believed it would fit nicely into the skeezy atmosphere, it makes Cordell a bit hard to take as the film’s hero.

INCUBUS is a somewhat entertaining if not completely fulfilling shocker. Hough, a horror vet (THE LEGEND OF HILL HOUSE), skillfully films the attacks as graphically as he can without going “too far” (although some may argue that he did), and he wisely keeps the creature off camera until the end. Hough provides enough style and pacing to balance out the flaws in George Franklin’s screenplay, which would have been better off sticking closer to the book. Franklin introduces plot threads that end up going nowhere, though Cassavetes’ glowering performance may be more to blame for the unevenness of the doctor’s character.

The monster suit by Les Edwards and Maureen Sweeney is pretty good and not used enough. Hough found some neat old locations in Guelph, Ontario in which to shoot, but another of INCUBUS’ weaknesses is that we don’t get to see much of the town or its people, and thus it feels a bit claustrophobic.

No comments: