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In a small town, Roy Seeley and his girlfriend Mandy Pullman are camping by the lake. Out of the blue, they are attacked and Roy is murdered while Mandy is violently raped. Dr. Sam Cordell is impressed with the violence and realizes that Mandy has had the uterus ruptured. Then the librarian Carolyn Davies is also violently raped and murdered. Lieutenant Drivas believes that the women have been raped by a gang while Sam and Sheriff Hank Walden believe that only one man did. The snoopy reporter Laura Kincaid is always interfering with the investigation and Sam has a love affair with her. Meanwhile the young Tim Galen, who dates Sam's daughter Jenny Cordell, discloses that he has premonitory visions of the deaths, but his grandmother Agatha Galen tries to convince him that he has nothing to do with the murders. But when Jenny learns about his dreams, she summons her father, Laura and they discover a supernatural secret about the Galen's family.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Effective atmosphere and unflinching violence make up for an unevenly-paced finale in this mythological thriller
John Cassavetes stars as a surgeon in a small New England town where a series of bizarre rapes-turned-murders are occurring left and right against the area's female residents. Thrown into the mix is his teenager daughter whose boyfriend claims to be witnessing the crimes as they are occurring within nightmares he experiences.
As far as I'm concerned, John Hough is one of horror's unsung heroes when it comes to mood and atmosphere— if "The Legend of Hell House" or the marginal Disney thriller "The Watcher in the Woods" aren't enough proof of that, "The Incubus" is. This dreary thriller is considerably more violent than Hough's other horror pictures, but has his signature stylistics that I absolutely love.
Like in most of all Hough's work, the cinematography is slick and thoughtful, making goosebumps-inducing use of POV shots. In the film, the camera follows the victims almost like a predator before launching its vicious assault, and each attack is just as effective as the next. There is also a substantial Gothic feel underpinning the events, and the photography accentuates the beauty of New England landscapes (even in spite of the Canadian shooting locales). The musty and discomforting atmosphere of the film is underlined by an unnerving score, another signature element of Hough's films. A somewhat withered Cassavetes is still on his game here, with John Ireland supporting as the miffed sheriff and Kerri Keane as a nosy local reporter.
The chilly, Gothic autumnal environment in which the film takes place is entirely disrupted by its explicit sexual violence, and it features some of the most disturbing and visceral assault scenes I've ever seen in a horror film (the library sequence near the beginning especially stands out). The script's medley of violence and female sexuality under attack is fascinating in its repulsive representation, and even more bizarre are the incestuous undertones and gender-bending revelation at the film's twisted conclusion. While the finale is irrefutably shocking (and the monster makeup surprisingly scary, even by today's standards), I can say that the narrative build-up could have been a tad better handled as it all does seem to come crashing down rather awkwardly; a bit more finesse in script and editing could have remedied this, but the film still works in spite of it.
Overall, I found "The Incubus" to be a formidable and disturbing film; Hough's handling of the rural New England locale is fantastic in atmosphere and tone, and effective, moody cinematography really establishes a menacing and inauspicious feel. The film's one major flaw is the hackneyed pacing in its last act, but I personally found this a forgivable sin amidst the movie's audacious presentation of sexual violence and generally grim demeanor. This is definitely one of the more aggressive horror films of its era in terms of thematics, but the quaint and Gothic feel hearkens back to a more classical and almost British sensibility. A fantastic thriller best suited for viewing on a chilly autumn night with all the lights off. 8/10.
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