As the world of staying home and drinking whiskey continues I’m grateful to have a videostore to grab random titles from and take home everyday and check them out. My obsession of revisiting flicks fom the 70s and 80s continues as tonight after my fourth double Jameson Whiskey I sit here infront of my computer compelled to discuss the 1981 film THE INCUBUS starring John Cassavetes. Wow…what a slice of cinema from it’s time.
As always this is not a review because I’m no damn critic or big enough cinema expert to point out all the little proper things that the professionals do. Nope, I’m just a guy with a drink who likes to recommend these very movies the next day at the videostore with a slight hangover to my customers.
So like most horror movies of the era we open up with a couple of sexy young people hanging out at the old swimming hole in the small town of Galen. After some tomfoolery between the two throughout the day shit gets serious when an unseen evil brutally rapes the young girl named Mandy and kills the boyfriend by breaking his spine and ramming a nail attached to wooden board through his head. Yup, seems like a slasher movie so far. But this is only the beginning!
Enter Dr. Sam Cordell! Him and his daughter Jenny have only been in town for a year. They are not locals so they do not fall into the “everyone knows everyone’s bussiness” routine. This is good because Dr. Sam has a tragic past we see though flashes as he still deals with the death of seond wife who was only slighty old than his daughter. The Doctor liked them young apparently. But hey, it’s John Cassavettes. The dude was a Hollywood legend so why not?
Anyways, Sam is called into work to perform life saving surgery on Mandy who has been so brutally raped they, at first, assume it must have been a gang of men. Oddly enough though no sperm can be found. The good doctor now is slowly turning into Detective. Now this change of priorities in a horror film reminds me of another great “doctor” turned “investigator” and if you know me you know I’m talking about the great Tom Atkins as Dr.Daniel Challis in Halloween III: Season Of The Witch.
Anyways, aside from Sam saving lives, trying to keep his daughter safe from this mysterious evil lurking in town, and wanting to get to the bottom of what could have done this to the girl named Mandy,we also find out that Sam is not keen on Jenny seeing a young man named Tim. There is just something he does not like about him. Maybe because he looks crazy, sweaty, and on edge all the time regardless if he lives in a big creepy mansion in town.
Anyways, as far as Sam digging deeper into what the hell is going on in this small town he doesn’t have to wait long at all because the following night the local lady who runs the creepy as shit library gets brutally assaulted by another unkown evil and her corpse arrives at his hospital for an autopsy to be performed. Once again, brutally raped and killed but this time there is semen…lots of it! And the kicker is the sperm is red!? Jesus…shit just real and demonic.
As the murders and rapes begin to pile up people want answers. The mayor is demanding results from the chief of people and the reporter, also not a local, is writing sensational headlines that is really pissing off the authorities. That’s right, Laura Kinkaid owns the local rag and loves the shocking headlines. She always finds a way to end up right outside the hospital room with camera and note pad ready to go trying to get the scoop. She is like Lois Lane in a horror movie setting.
Now while this is going on Jenny is noticing her “boyfriend” Tim is acting stranger and stranger with all the murders happening in town. In fairness to him the first couple were friends of his but still, we see him having these fucked up dreams of a woman being tortured in what looks like a witch trial by men in robes. Hmm…might be a connection.
The only person Tim can talk to about this is his over protective Grandmother who might know a thing or two about what’s going on here and why young Tim is having sleep problems. Also back at the hospital Sam and the local police are waiting for the first and only surviving victim, Mandy, to regain her thoughts so maybe she can answer a few questions. But before that can happen we need to build up the body count because let’s face it, it’s a 1981 horror movie competing in a world where Halloween and Friday The 13th are ruling the box office. So how about a family of three? A father, his one naked daughter having a shower (god bless the 80s), and his other daughter bound to a wheelchair. Really, are they gonna kill a young woman in a wheelchair?
Oh yes, all three are killed with much blood. Christ, they even kill the family dog with a pitch fork. And now that I think about this movie killing a person in a wheelchair I remind myself it’s 1981 and she was not the only victim in a wheelchair that year…
So the pressure continues for Dr. Sam and his reporter friend Laura. They get to know each other better through all this as Sam can’t help but think of Laura as his young dead wife. They look identical. Will love come out of all this chaos? Will Jenny and weirdo Tim make it when all this is over? Will Mandy be able to talk soon from the hospital? Before any of that another murder must take place and this time it’s a young lass in a bathroom at the local cinema. I’m such a nerd that as the scene was going on in the lobby of the theatre I just kept looking for what movie posters where hanging on the wall and you know what? I was not disappointed. They had the poster for CHILDREN SHOULD’NT PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS front and center which also confirms what a canadian flick this is. Anyways….
When they get to the scene of the crime it’s a damn mess. Blood and broken mirrors. The young girl never stood a chance. Also earlier we saw young Tim outside the theater looking strange as usually like a junkie needing some meth. But I’m sure one thing does not relate to the other.
Things just get more bizarre when Tim literally tells Jenny that everytime he falls asleep he has these messed up dreams, sees a monster, wakes up, and then another murder in town has happened. Basically he’s telling Jenny to stay away from him because he’s causing these deaths. Tim is a like a kid from Nightmare On Elm Street except if he falls asleep he doesn’t die…we do. Damn you Tim, just damn you and your creepy grandma and house and freaky family history. A family history that we find out had his birth mother killed for being a witch?! What the actual hell? So this movie is in 1981 and Tim is maybe 19-20 years old at most. So does that mean they were having fucking witch trials in the early 60s still? Way to go Galen, USA!
So Jenny tells her dad Sam what Timetold her. Reporter Laura digs up the history of the town to find out the same shit happened 30 years earlier with the raping and murders and no suspects. Sam, Laura, Jenny, Tim, and Grandma all end together with Sam determined to keep Tim awake or at the very least be there with him when he falls asleep to see if it’s Tim doing it or maybe another demonic force caused by his nightamres.
Oh shit, I forgot to mention in the movie theater scene when our latest victim is being killed in the bathroom we keep cutting back to the people in the theater watching either a live performance or a music video on the screen by some sweet Synth/ Glam Rock band. I just had to point that out and two other noticable songs in the movie sung by the band FM who were a big deal in the underground synth sound back in ’81.
As we near the climax of the film all the secrets are slowly leaked out to us ,the viewer, with great moments of exposistion such as the grandma flipping through the ancient books that talk of the “incubus”. That’s right kids, the title of the movie is finally coming into play. And you know who knew from the 25 minute point of the movie that this was a supernatural evil? You guessed it. Dr. Sam Cornell. Medical science be damned, it’s the work of witches, warlocks, and maybe even Satan!
From this point on I really don’t wanna spoil the last 15 minutes of the flick because I thought it was very effective. From what I know the original working script was changed every day during filming and they were making it up as they went along. The actors did not know how it was gonna end until they got there and you can kind of tell. But you know what? That’s kind of the charm with this canadian horror film production.
As my whiskey runs low I just wanna wrap up this small write up of thoughts by saying I love nothing more than to recommend old school horror flicks from the time when the videostores were king and it was the only way you could find such gems. Movies like THE INCUBUS likely will not be featured on Netflix anytime soon or if they were would be buried deep. Well I feel it’s the continuing struggle to let the world know of these crazy, fun, exciting titles when it walks into my store. And as hard as it is for the younger people to believe in the early 80s Canada was king of horror films, mainly because of the tax credit we offered up here, but regardless we were the king! And movies like The Incubus are there to make us remember the wacky shit we were producing during the golden era of the horror movie videostore culture!
So next time you swing by the basement movie shop in town and are not sure what to grab why not take a trip to Galen, USA and spend some time with the good folks of the town as they try and come to terms with the death, carnage, shady history, and demonic blood letting of THE INCUBUS! Much love as always my friends. Stay safe and be kind and rewind my fellow movie nerds.