Messiah of Evil (1973)
Criminally overlooked 70′s horror gem, Messiah of Evil, presents a highly unconventional take on zombie films. Interestingly enough, the opening scene gives more of a giallo tone when an unlikely killer slits a mans throat. Following the opening credits, however, the film takes on a different direction. The story is told as a retrospective account from an asylum resident, Arletty. She begins the story at the point when she traveled to visit her estranged father, only to find his residence abandoned. Instead she then stumbles upon Thom, his two female companions, and, briefly, a delusional Elisha Cook (House on Haunted Hill). As the town anticipates the appearance of the Red Moon, members of the group run into hordes of the undead.
The brilliance of Messiah of Evil is in the atmosphere and storytelling. Most of the acting is very good, and all the effects are well done. But the sheer anticipation of every new plot development is what gives this film an edge above any like it. The chaos of a standard zombie story isn’t present here, and is instead replaced with a cold and calculating horde intent on taking over the town. As Arletty recounts her story, it appears that her situation is following the path laid out in her missing father’s journal, which gives the story an entirely new dimension.
I can’t say it enough: this film is brilliant. And I have no idea why it is so universally overlooked. In fact the movie has suspense and atmosphere comparable with 1940′s Val Lewton film, I Walked With A Zombie. On the other hand, its underrated standing makes it a very easy film to acquire. It is in several of Mill Creek’s horror box sets, and I’m sure it’s available to watch online. So get on it, this is not a film you want to miss. And thanks to our friends at bmovies.com, you can watch it for free here.