Scorpion Releasing // 1982 // 92 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // March 28th, 2013
The warning: He is the destroyer.
I wonder which of his personal projects John Cassavetes financed with the profits of The Incubus. I'm guessing it would have been Love Streams, unless he was still paying off The Killing of a Chinese Bookie or Opening Night. Whatever it was, or whatever he did with the presumably non-princely sum he received here, I hope it was worth it, because The Incubus is one of Cassavetes' worst "for-hire" films, and his performance reeks of contempt for the project.
Cassavetes plays Sam Cordell, a crazy-eyed, chain-smoking doctor in a small town. It's a quiet, small town, actually, until -- a string of savage rape/murders! Well, most of them are murders, though there is one survivor, a vaguely catatonic girl. Everybody else is dead, some filled with semen, some not filled with semen (I mention this because it comes up a lot, so presumably it's a major plot point).
Since these rapes seem to be happening randomly, the police are pretty much powerless to do anything about them. The closest there is to a clue is a local boy, Tim (Duncan McIntosh, Zero Patience), who has nightmares every time an assault happens, and who thinks he is somehow responsible for the violence. Since Tim is friends with Sam's daughter, Jenny (Erin Noble, Class of 1984), Sam is aware of Tim's dreams, but nothing seems to come of any of this.
That's the problem with The Incubus: Nothing seems to come from any of it at all. We see a crime committed by a clearly supernatural assailant; we get Dr. Sam and Policeman Hank (John Ireland, All the King's Men) investigating and being stumped; we get a reporter (Kerrie Keane, Spasms) for a local paper who ends up involved romantically-sorta with Sam; and we get Tim going on about his dreams. The film just sort of moves the elements around for an hour and change, and then gives us a bizarre resolution -- bizarre, mainly, because it seems to come out of nowhere and doesn't really provide any explanation or satisfying closure.
Fluttering around the edges are some bizarre set pieces and bits of plot, some of which factor in, others that don't. The ones that should be the focus -- mainly involving Tim's grandmother/guardian, who we find out near the end is also one of the most powerful people in town -- are pretty underdeveloped.
But then, there's this other stuff that's just off-kilter. Sam's relationship with his daughter is just plain creepy: he spies her coming out of the shower, fully frontally nude; their affectionate hugs and kisses are ickily intimate; she brings him breakfast in bed, and they make a weird, though chaste, kind of pillow talk; she goes to see him at work when she's been told to stay home, murmuring, "I want to be with you." I figured that in a film about sexual violence -- even if much of it is spermless -- this sexualized interaction 'twixt dad and daughter had to mean something, but evidently, it doesn't; it's just there like a rotting fish.
We also get some startling medical scenes -- startling because they are so unhygienic. Cassavetes walks around in a perpetually bloodstained smock; at one point, he peels off a pair of grue-caked surgical gloves and tosses them across the room. Who's this guy's nurse, Typhoid Mary?
Then there's Sam's kinda-romance with the reporter. You can tell these two belong together because Kerrie Keane is the only one here who, arguably, gives a worse performance than Cassavetes. Honestly, she's just terrible, and given the overall low-level of acting, it's a feat to be singled out.
The Incubus comes to us from Scorpion's Katarina's Nightmare Theater line. The film was previously released by BCI Eclipse, and I suspect that this is the same disc being re-released. The tech is marginal, and the only extra is a trailer (plus trailers for other Scorpion/Katarina discs).
I like Scorpion, I like Katarina, I even like low-budget, early-'80s Canadian horror movies. But I didn't like The Incubus. It's much ado about nothing, a film that drops the ball when it should be running for daylight.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Scorpion Releasing
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1982
MPAA Rating: Rated R