I: The Incubus (1982)

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You know, this was supposed to be my “I” entry last year, but I decided to watch I, Frankenstein instead, mainly so I could get it posted before everybody forgot that I, Frankenstein even existed.

By the time I finished finally watching The Incubus, I really wished I had just watched I, Frankenstein all over again.

John Cassavetes is Sam Cordell, a surgeon who has recently moved to Galen Village, a small New England town, with his teenage daughter Jenny (Erin Nobel). Seems he’s the only doctor, as he’s going to wind up being medical examiner and resident Quincy. Something is violently raping women and murdering men; the first victim, Mandy (Mitch Martin) will be the only survivor, and then only because Cordell performs an emergency hysterectomy to remove her ruptured uterus.

“We can’t close the town! It’s the 4th of July!”

The rapes and murders continue, as the local police, as represented by John Ireland, are useless. After Mandy, our rapist starts leaving a prodigious amount of semen behind – analysis can’t identify it except to say it is faster and more aggressive than normal sperm, and red. The County Investigator (Harry Drivas) feels the large quantity of sperm points to a gang of perps, though Cordell isn’t so sure. After all, his daughter’s boyfriend, Tim (Duncan MacIntosh) is having headaches and bad dreams that coincide with the incidents…

Oh, yeah, a similar series of rape/murders happened in the town thirty years ago, which is something you might think is pertinent to any investigation, but noooo, it has to be brought up by local crusading journalist Laura Kinkaid (Kerrie Keane), who, incidentally looks just like Cordell’s last girlfriend, who he may have killed accidentally and oh say also Tim’s creepy aunt Agatha (Helen Hughes) is from a long line of witch hunters and

This movie will give you a headache. It’s based on a novel by Ray Russell, which should be a pretty fair indicator of quality, but that is a hope that will be dashed (yeah, it’s tempting to say that hope will be insert terrible thing that happens in the movie but it doesn’t deserve that much effort). What it does feel like is one of those gaudily-covered horror novels chronicled in Paperbacks From Hell (for all I know, it is) that glutted the market after The Exorcist and The Omen made bank, except those authors, even at their hackiest, had a firmer hand on story and character. This script does nobody any favors (least of all the audience), and John Cassavetes seems genuinely pissed to be forced to say these lines.

The decision was also made to not show the title character until the closing scene of the movie, which is a classic approach (that’s a pretty good monster, though) – but that means we spend a lot of time concentrating of the agony of the victims during the rape. A lot of time. Too much time. Dario Argento would call it excessive.

I also expected a bit more from director John Hough, who had delivered a decent horror flick with The Legend of Hell House, but he can’t get a grip on a slippery, nigh incomprehensible story that loses brain cells the longer it goes on. I have tried to figure out the timeline that is set out in the closing quarter of the movie, and though I like puzzles, I am not adverse to throwing the damn things across the room when they’re missing pieces or just too shabbily constructed to fit together correctly.

In conclusion, the 1966 Esperanto movie Incubus, starring William Shatner, is much scarier and makes more sense.

Next, please.