The Incubus

Incubus posterThe Incubus  (1982)    Film Ventures International/Horror    RT: 93 minutes    Rated R (language, graphic violence and gore including rape, full frontal nudity, strong sexual content, mature themes)    Director: John Hough    Screenplay: George Franklin    Music: Stanley Myers    Cinematography: Albert J. Dunk    Release date: November 5, 1982 (Philadelphia, PA)    Starring: John Cassavetes, John Ireland, Kerrie Keane, Helen Hughes, Erin Flannery, Duncan McIntosh, Harvey Atkin, Harry Ditson, Mitch Martin, Matt Birman, Beverly Cooper, Brian Young, Barbara Franklin, Wes Lee, Neil Dainard.    Box Office: N/A     

 Rating: fullstar1fullstar1fullstar1star-empty1

 The Incubus stands out in my mind because I remember loathing this flick the first time I saw it. I know, it's hard to believe a teenage boy hating a gory R-rated movie that he really wasn't supposed to see in the first place, it doesn't make sense. I saw it on the afternoon of November 11, 1982, I had no school that day (Veteran's Day) and the local theater- the old Barclay Square twin theater in Upper Darby, PA- had matinees that day. They were showing Halloween III: Season of the Witch (I had already seen it) and The Incubus which my father really didn't want me to see, thanks to my cousin who saw it the previous weekend and explained its sick and sleazy premise to my overbearing parental unit. I managed to talk my mother into giving me permission at the box office and I went in with hopes of seeing a total bloodbath. Well, it wasn't as gory as I hoped it would be and it was a rather sloppy production. Of course, this is well before I understood and appreciated the idea of Canadian-made horror flicks. None of them are any good really, they're low budget quickies meant to make a few dollars at the box office while providing their financial backers with a tax shelter. Many of these flicks played in the lower 48 throughout the early 80s- Prom Night, The Children, Funeral Home, Terror Train and My Bloody Valentine, to name a few- and while some were better than others, none of them could ever be defined as critically-acclaimed film classics. Anyway, I rewatched The Incubus about 12 years later and I actually enjoyed it a lot more. It may not be a bloodbath on the level of Maniac or Pieces, but the sleazy premise- a creature that rapes and mutilates women- more than makes up for that minor shortcoming.

 incubusBefore I get into plot description, allow me to provide a few words of explanation. According to the on-line Merriam-Webster dictionary, an "incubus" is defined as "an evil spirit that lies on persons in their sleep .... one that has sexual intercourse with women while they are sleeping." One of those is terrorizing the residents of the small New England town of Galen. The Incubus opens with a young couple getting attacked while swimming at the town lake. The boy gets off relatively easy, he just gets a rusty nail embedded in his skull. The poor girl gets savagely raped and mutilated, but she survives after receiving an emergency hysterectomy from Dr. Sam Cordell (Cassavetes, Two-Minute Warning). He's only been in Galen for a short time, he moved there with his teenage daughter Jenny (Flannery, Class of 1984) after the accidental death of his much younger wife. This particular case baffles the good doctor because the rapist didn't leave any trace of sperm. A bit later, the town librarian gets attacked and killed. This time, there's a lot of sperm and that leads the authorities to conclude that there's more than one rapist on the loose. Meanwhile, young Tim Galen (McIntosh, Zero Patience) has been having horrible nightmares about a woman being tortured in a dungeon. The dreams just happen to coincide with the murders and it makes him everybody's number one suspect. It doesn't set Dr. Cordell's mind at ease that he's also romantically involved with his daughter. Making matters worse is journalist Laura Kincaid (Keane) who's been printing way too much information in the local newspaper. Then there's Agatha Galen (Hughes, Billy Madison), a descendant of the town's founding family and Tim's grandmother, who insists that her grandson has nothing to do with the murders.

 Dr. Cordell and the local police chief, Hank Walden (Ireland, Messenger of Death), attempt to get to the bottom of the situation and put a stop to the bloody madness in Galen. Eventually, they learn that the killer (or killers, depending on who you ask) is the titular creature and they must figure out who among them transforms into the murderous beast. If taken on its own terms, The Incubus isn't that bad of a movie. It does have some pretty cool parts, like the scene where the incubus kills a young girl in a movie theater rest room while the audience watches some crazy cult flick, a rock opera version of the Samsom & Delilah story (it's called Biceps of Steel). Check out all the posters for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, that's my kind of theater! There's also a pretty cool scene when the incubus slaughters an entire family at a remote farmhouse, although I could have lived without seeing the dog killed. It's interesting to see such a prestigious filmmaker like John Cassavetes slumming in a low budget horror flick like this. I'm guessing he acted in movies like this for the money, so he could finance and direct the types of movies that he liked to make (Husbands, A Woman Under the Influence, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie). Of course, Harvey Atkin (Meatballs, Funeral Home) shows up (as the local D.A.) and it leaves no doubt that The Incubus is a Canadian-made production. As for the acting, it's typical for a movie like this, it's satisfactory but it will never win any awards. The movie is typical grindhouse fare ..... violent, dopey and low budget. You can't take it seriously at all, isn't that the essence of all exploitation flicks? It's a real departure for director John Hough whose filmography includes several Disney movies like Escape to Witch Mountain, Return from Witch Mountain and The Watcher in the Woods. He would go on to direct the bizarre 1988 horror flick American Gothic. He makes a fairly effective horror movie here, it's not great but it works as the kind of movie you'd see on a triple feature at some God-forsaken grindhouse theater in a really bad part of the city.

 

 

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