Wednesday, September 5, 2012

On Second Viewing: The Incubus (1982)

Like it or not, those of us that review movies sometimes end up revisiting ones that we didn't care for when we first saw them. Call it a form of masochism, call it dedication to your craft, or you can call it a momentary lapse in judgement. Sometimes, we find ourselves enjoying said movies upon second viewing, while other times...not so much. Without further adieu, let's take a look at a movie I previously reviewed.

Some directors have careers that never recover after they do one bad or mediocre movie-though it's usually bad. It happened to John Hough. A man whose credits included "Twins of Evil" (which was the best of the 70's Hammer films), "Legend of Hell House", the Roger Corman production "Dirty Mary Crazy Larry" and the "Witch Mountain" movies, it seemed like his career would have been alright.

Then "The Incubus" happened.

It's all fun and games until you need a paycheck

A Canadian production that was an adaptation of a Ray Russell novel, "The Incubus" told the tale of a doctor (played by a slumming John Cassavetes) trying to stop a demonic rapist. The film was torn apart by critics and ignored in theaters. It did gain a cult following on home video, but the damage was done, and his career never recovered. So, is it that bad? Upon revisiting it, I find it to be in a land located between "it's okay" and "it's kinda bad", with the latter winning out.

The theme of sexuality is the most interesting aspect the film has going for it. In this movie, death would be a favorable fate to what the titular demon has in store for its victims. Equally unsettling is the relationship Cassavetes has with his daughter, which borders on incestuous desire. It's all creepy, and that's the point. This is a movie where sex is the real enemy, and not in the usual "sex=death" cliche. Plus, the plot is positively scuzzy. This is the kind of premise you'd get from Italy, France or Spain in the 70's.

That being said, I found it to be less atmospheric the second time around. The direction is kind of spotty, occasionally getting it right, but more often than not it feels stiff, lessening whatever impact the film might have. At times, the film borders on unintentionally comedic, such as the use of Bruce Dickinson's pre Iron Maiden band Samson set to a moment that should be disturbing. Then there's the subplot involving a young man (Duncan McIntosh) who sees visions of the creature in action, and worries that he has a connection. There's tons of potential here, but little of it is realized. Also, while I normally don't mind waiting to see the monster, you only get a glimpse of the evil fucker (pun intended), and...he's somewhat intimidating I guess.

If Billy Corgan had a demonic twin brother, this is what he'd look like.

Then there's the acting. Nobody here does a particularly good job, but you can't help but feel for Cassavetes. Granted, he was never one to say no to a paycheck (usually so he could finance his passion projects), but here he clearly has no interest whatsoever in his role. The fact that he's completely unlikable and more than a bit of a creep doesn't help matters much. Nor does the fact that his character is mostly bland and one dimensional. Actually, scratch that: there's nothing wrong with him being a creeper (that's the intention), but him being bland is unforgivable. This is mostly due to the poor script, which doesn't understand how to properly write characters or a coherent narrative to save its life.

Yeah, I can give ya a ride...

A part of me wants to like this more. There's tons of potential here and it gets some things right (some genuinely disturbing scenes and visuals, a haunting score, effective use of lightning), but the bad ends up outweighing the good. I will say this much for Hough: He got more work than the film's writer, George Franklin got after this. Apart from a TV movie called "Personals", he hasn't done a single thing before or after.

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