Friday, June 3, 2011

The Incubus (1982)

What's an Incubus? Why, they're a band who came to fame in the late 90's/early 2000's who had several hits and maintain a loyal following. Okay, so other than that, what's an Incubus? Long story short, it's a male sex demon. I say all of this because demonic and supernatural rape is nothing new, going on through mythology, literature and films for years (as Hentai has shown us.) Besides, the mere idea of a demonic or ghostly presence raping somebody is horrific as it is. Well, John Hough tried his take on the sexual demon in his 1982 Canadian film "The Incubus."

In a small New England town, someone or something is raping and murdering women for impregnation reasons (he or it is also killing menfolk.) Dr. Sam Cordell (John Cassavetes) is perplexed by this, as is police chief Hank Walden (John Ireland), as well as the fact that local boy Tim Galen (Duncan McIntosh) is having strange nightmares that involve rape, murder and the occult. So, are these just dreams? Of course they aren't.

What's interesting about "The Incubus" is that unlike many of the genre films of this era, this is not a slasher movie. Nope, this is a Gothic tale that owes a tip of the hat or two to Euro Horror. Hell, if this had been made in the 70's, you'd expect someone like Jean Rollin, Jesus Franco or Paul Naschy to be involved. Anyways, the movie does offer some nice atmosphere and some some mild but decent enough gore. The most intriguing aspect of the movie however, is its grim look at heterosexuality. The Incubus and the carnage in it's wake is disgusting, and only exists to impregnate women, while Dr. Cordell has an somewhat incestuous attachment to his daughter. In a genre where sex and death are always linked, the content in "The Incubus" is appropriately revolting, taking place in a world where Eros is a worse fate than Thanatos.

Yet despite the offensive content, little in the film is actually that disturbing or scary. The rape scenes are rarely that graphic, and one is set to footage of Bruce Dickinson (of Iron Maiden fame) and his old band Samson. Maybe it's just me, but taking a potentially disturbing scene and splicing it with the sound and images of New-Wave-of-British-Heavy-Metal ruins the impact. (not a knock on the music though.) The acting is also nondescript, with Cassavetes in particular not interested in any of this, as he's clearly available for a paycheck and nothing more. The ending is also really bad. Sure, it's a downer, but you see it coming a mile away and are left thinking "Wait, hold on. That's it?"

So, is "The Incubus" worth seeing. Well, as a curio maybe, but it's not really a hidden gem or colossal failure. It's a movie that's just there.

Rating: 5/10

*John Hough has had quite a varied career, starting out on TV until he got a break in horror with Hammer's "Twins of Evil" and his most celebrated title, the classic haunted house film "The Legend of Hell House." After doing three movies for Disney ("The Watcher in the Woods" and both "Witch Mountain" movies), he directed this movie, which was savaged by critics and most likely ignored by audiences. His career never fully recovered, and other than "Howling IV: The Original Nightmare" and "American Gothic", he stuck mostly with TV. His last movies were the drama "Something to Believe In" (which has nothing to do with the Poison song) and the forgotten direct-to-video movie "Hell's Gate."

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