APES ON FILM: No One Will Hear You Scream— Radiance Films’ MESSIAH OF EVIL

Posted on: Nov 29th, 2023 By:

Lucas Hardwick
Contributing Writer


Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.



5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Marianna Hill, Michael Greer, Anitra Ford, Joy Bang, Royal Dano, Elisha Cook Jr.
Director: Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz
Rated: Not Rated
Studio: Radiance Films
Region: Region A (B, C untested)
BRD Release Date: October 24, 2023
Audio Formats: English: LPCM 2.0 mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC (34.93 Mbps)
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (original aspect ratio: 2.39:1)
Run Time: 90 minutes


Point Dume is one of those spooky small towns where you really want to avoid conversation with any of the locals. Perched up on the Pacific Coast with its beautiful seaside sunset views, a humble grocery store, movie theater, gas station, and art gallery, Point Dume looks like a million other neon stucco towns. Its idyllic qualities are perfect for a cozy Airbnb weekend, but its hollow-eyed, laconic, once tax-paying citizens make Point Dume hardly the place to get away from it all.

Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz’s 1974 feature MESSIAH OF EVIL is the story of Arletty Lang (Marianna Hill) who arrives in creepy Point Dume in search of her estranged father. Arletty quickly gets more than she bargained for from the town’s welcoming committee when she stops at a gas station on the outskirts to find the attendant frantically firing rounds into the night. An albino man with an unpleasant disposition interrupts her transaction, and pretty soon the paranoid station employee is feverishly telling her to scram. The good people of Point Dume only become more troubling as Arletty investigates her father’s whereabouts.

Arletty’s father, Joseph (Royal Dano), is an artist who’s attracted the attention of a trio of Bohemians in search of his work. Thom (Michael Greer), and his “traveling companions” Laura and Toni (Anitra Ford and Joy Bang), are also curious about where to find Joseph and have bumped into their own local weirdo, Charlie (Elisha Cook Jr.), a bum who rattles on about his own birth and some business regarding a red moon dragging people to hell. Just your average street corner wino and his apocalyptic ravings, right?

Arletty and her Bohemian pals lounge around her father’s empty home while pondering the strange temperament of Point Dume’s residents and discuss what could have happened to Mr. Lang. When Thom’s companion Laura allows jealousy to get the best of her, she takes off in the middle of the night and winds up as a late-night snack for a handful of googly-eyed Point Dumers ravaging the meat counter at the local Ralph’s grocery store. Point Dume is even weirder than you thought.

Huyck and Katz’s film boils down to being a slow-burn zombie flick—and like most zombie flicks—with an inexplicable catalyst that’s turning the locals into chalky (but handsome) undead cannibals. The film’s mild epistolary structure reveals that zombification is most likely what happened to Mr. Lang, and in the meantime, serves as an expository WebMD that’s got Arletty worked up into an appropriate level of paranoia and jabbing straight pins into her thighs to see if she too has become afflicted.

The movie showcases three suspenseful key moments that reveal all the weirdness we can stand to know about Point Dume and its denizens of death. First is Arletty’s strange introduction at the service station, the second is Laura’s demise at the checkout counter in Ralph’s, and third is the soul-rattling experience Toni finds herself in at the movie theater. Coated in blood-red enamel, the theater is mostly empty save for a few scattered patrons, one in particular glaring at Toni over the back of his seat. The shot holds on him for a moment before the lights dim signifying Toni’s last chance to beat it before she becomes a featured concession stand item. It’s one of the most unnerving moments in the film.

While Point Dume is mostly devoid of small-town bustle, it’s Arletty’s father’s basement that is strangely the most populated place in the film. Sure, Arletty and her friends are hanging out there eating up all the food in the icebox and making long-distance phone calls, but the gang is joined by the landscapes and people of Mr. Lang’s murals that include Lee Harvey Oswald lookalikes and Supreme Court Justices. Not exactly the friendly faces most of us would select to adorn our ever-sacred wall-space, but still better than the relentless burgeoning hoard that’s festering in Point Dume.

MESSIAH OF EVIL unfolds hypnotically and fosters that good old fashioned “what the fuck did I just watch” vibe that with what little explanation it offers doesn’t make a whole lot of sense—in a good way. It’s a film that reveals itself in moments like a disconnected nightmare that haunts you all night long. However, in spite of its vague narrative, the subtext suggests life amongst art—no matter how dull (i.e., Supreme Court Justices)—versus the zombie-minded vapidness of everyday people engaging in the diabolical act of capitalism. Each instance of undead onslaught or outright weirdness occurs in a place of commerce: the shiny new Mobil station, Ralph’s grocery, and the movie theater. Meanwhile, meaningful moments of revelation occur in the heavily muraled, post-modern realist world of Joe Lang’s basement where the only real live people in this world doing any thinking are artsy non-conformists.

Radiance Films presents MESSIAH OF EVIL with the best picture and sound it has ever had in a stunning 4K restoration on high-definition Blu-ray disc. The limited edition release features an audio commentary by film authors Kim Newman and Stephen Thrower; a new 57-minute documentary exploring the themes of the film; a visual essay by film writer Kat Ellinger; and an archival interview with the film’s co-writer and director Willard Huyck. The limited edition also includes an 80-page booklet with essays by Bill Ackerman, Joseph Dwyer, Amanda Reyes, Andy Marshall-Roberts, and Larissa Glasser. Packaged in a rigid box with reversible sleeve art, Radiance’s release is the best home video presentation of MESSIAH OF EVIL available.

MESSIAH OF EVIL is a bleak aberration that examines the end of the world through the contextually relevant eyes of self-aware beatniks. It is a revelation that exists in the construct of the mind adjacent to the spirit of the horror classic THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI and the films of Jean Rollin. But its detached tendencies are what make it compelling and pertinent to a deeper connection to human paranoia, permitting it to function as a signpost to internal terror.





When he’s not working as a Sasquatch stand-in for sleazy European films, Lucas Hardwick spends time writing film essays and reviews for We Belong Dead and Screem magazines. Lucas also enjoys writing horror shorts and has earned Quarterfinalist status in the Killer Shorts and HorrOrigins screenwriting contests. You can find Lucas’ shorts on Coverfly. Look for Lucas on Twitter, Facebook, and Letterboxd, and for all of Lucas’s content, be sure to check out his Linktree.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

© 2024 ATLRetro. All Rights Reserved. This blog is powered by Wordpress