The Incubus (1981) The Incubus (1981/1982) *

     Itís hard to believe the same director could be responsible for both The Incubus and The Legend of Hell House. The latter film is among the uppermost elite of haunted house movies. This Canadian turkey, on the other hand, offers some of the very worst tripe that the Devil Sex subgenre has to offeró and considering that weíre talking about a category that includes The Eerie Midnight Horror Show / Sexorcist / LíOssessa, thatís really saying something. Nevertheless, itís absolutely true; John Hough really did give us both movies. Clearly, the man needs a top-notch script in order to make a film worth watching.

     Itís amazing the extent to which the conventions of the slasher film had infected the horror genre as a whole, even as early as 1981. The Incubus begins with a couple of teenagers hanging out by a gravel quarry-turned-swimming hole while some unseen presence that canít possibly wish them well watches from the dilapidated shack about 20 yards from their beach towels. The kids predictably exchange pranks all day long (What? You mean the boyís going to stay down underwater for an alarmingly long time and then grab his girlfriendís ankle when she comes to see if heís alright? I never would have seen that coming...), and just as predictably, one of those pranks leads both of them to a very bad end. The girl sneaks off to hide while her boyfriend runs back to his truck to get the radio, and of course, she chooses the shack as her hiding place. Who or whatever was already hiding in the shack promptly rapes her, and then bashes the boyís head in with a two-by-four.

     The swimming hole kids turn out to have been friends with the new girl in town, Jenny Cordell (Erin Flannery, from Uninvited and Class of 1984), and her sort-of boyfriend, Tim Galen (Deadlineís Duncan McIntosh). Jenny is the daughter of a doctor named Sam (John Cassavettes, of Rosemaryís Baby and The Fury), who relocated from far away to escape, one suspects, from some bad business related to the barely-legal floozy he started boning shortly after the death of Jennyís mother. Tim lives with his grandmother, Agatha (Helen Hughes, from Visiting Hours and Blue Monkey), and comes from the family for which the town of Galen is named. He also has been beset all his life by recurring nightmares about a Spanish Inquisition-style torture chamber, in which a bunch of hooded monk-types harangue and abuse a young woman whom they have strapped to a table. This is important, because Tim was having this dream at the exact moment that the swimming teenagers were attacked, and he seems to feel that there is a connection when he finds out about the assault the next day.

     Heís right. Over the next couple of weeks, the town of Galen is wracked by a series of brutal rape murders, all of them employing the same MO. The victims all die of ruptured wombs, apparently caused by pressure from the superhuman quantities of sperm ejaculated into their bodiesó the girls are literally fucked to death! And every time this happens, Tim Galen has his dream.

     And as it happens, Sam Cordell ends up serving as the pathologist in each case. In the light of certain pieces of anomalous evidence (the extremely strange red semen, with its curiously vigorous sperm, that shows up in all the victimsí bodies, for instance), Cordell concludes that there is but a single man responsible for the attacks, despite the fact that no human ought to be able to produce such vast amounts of semen. Itís a hard sell, but he eventually convinces police captain Hank Walden (John Ireland, from I Saw What You Did and Satanís Cheerleaders) to see the situation his way, and the two of them collaborate on the investigation, even when that means going against the wishes of the detectives the mayor of Galen brings in from the nearest big city. Meanwhile, events are further complicated by the involvement of a newspaper reporter named Laura Kincaid (Kerrie Keane, of Spasms), who not only makes a big nuisance of herself at all the crime scenes, but bears an uncanny resemblance to Samís ill-fated piece of ass from back home.

     Finally, the two plot threads wind together, when Tim, in the midst of a serious freak-out, tells Jenny he thinks heís been committing the murders. As it happens, this isnít quite the case, but there certainly is a connection between Tim and the killer. As Grandma Agatha is ultimately forced to reveal, Tim isnít really a Galen. The Galens were pretty much the first family of witch-hunting back in the 18th century, and a few of them still carry on the tradition. Agatha herself, for example, tracked down and ďexecutedĒ a witch in Galen some 30 years ago. (You think this might have anything to do with the content of Timís nightmares?) This witch had in her service a demon known as an Incubus, which gets its kicks from having sex with humans. Unfortunately, the demonís sex partners tend not to survive the experience, and sure enough, there was a rash of rape murders in Galen very much like the present crimes, and this witchís Incubus was responsible. Tim, it turns out, was the then-infant son of this witch (nobody involved in making The Incubus seems to have been troubled by the impossibility of an 18-year-old boy having been born 30 years ago), and it would appear that his coming of age has put him in subconscious contact with his motherís pet demon. Iím going to stop here, because I donít want to ruin this movieís one legitimate surprise, but I will say that the climax involves Dr. Cordell somehow inducing Timís dream in an incredibly irresponsible effort to force his more straitlaced colleagues in the police department to accept the truth of this admittedly far-fetched story, and that the results of his little plan are substantially different from those he had hoped for.

     What really ruins The Incubus is a lethal combination of tedium and confusionó not only is the movie incredibly difficult to follow, leaving a trail of unresolved subplots scattered in its wake (you might think it important when the movie hints that Cordell actually killed his teenage girlfriend when he discovered her cheating on him with a man from a more appropriate demographic group, but evidently youíd be wrong), it is also almost unbearably dull for much of its running time. All it really has to show for itself are its extremely grotesque premise and a few satisfyingly vicious gore scenes. On the other hand, itís possible that The Incubus was originally somewhat better than the movie I saw. The tape I rented from the Burtonsville Blockbuster had a running time of 90 minutes, whereas my usual sources for information of this sort credit The Incubus with either 92 or 93 minutes. And given the famous squeamishness of both Blockbuster Video and the MPAA ratings board in the early 80ís in the face of movies like this one, I would not be a bit surprised to find some substantial differences between what I saw and the original Canadian prints of the film. Two or three minutes may not sound like much, but if itís cut out of the wrong places, the loss of even that much footage can have a significant effect on the flow and continuity of a movie. Probably not enough that its reinstatement would turn The Incubus into a good film, but maybe enough to make it a slightly smaller waste of time. Be advised that itíll be a good long time before I go out looking to answer this question myself, though.

 

 

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