"THE DREAMS. THE NIGHTMARES. THE DESIRES. THE FEARS. THE MYSTERY. THE REVELATION. THE WARNING. [The INCUBUS] ... HE IS THE DESTROYER."
directed by: John Hough
starring: John Cassavetes, Kerrie Keane, John Ireland, Erin Flannery, Duncan McIntosh, Helen Hughes, Harvey Atkin, Mitch Martin
(back of video blurb):
"Based on the novel by Ray Russell, the ultimate power of evil returns to a small town and only one man can discover the form it has taken. A true supernatural thriller which keeps you on the edge of your seat.
incubus, in'kú-bus, n. the nightmare (q.v.): any oppressive influence:-pl. in´cubuses, incubi (in´kú-bi). [L. inc´bus, nightmare-in, on, cubãre, to lie.]"
The coroner discusses the state the Incubus left one of its victims in.
It starts with business as usual. Whilst a teenage couple frolic by a lake in their skimpy bathing costumes- enjoying the sunshine, they are watched by something unseen lurking far back in the shadows. After the pre-requisite false scare (where the boy- Roy, pretends to have drowned), the couple stay on into the night. Mandy, the girl, decides to slink off into the nearby trees and play a little hide-and-seek. Instead, she's pulled backwards into the blackness- her blood curdling screams bringing Roy rushing to her aid. Whilst he searches in vain Roy is whacked across the head with a nail encrusted plank. … Like I said, it appears to be business as usual…
However, INCUBUS resolutely ain't business as usual. It may be littered with a smattering of the cheesy trappings of early 80's slasher cinema, but this flick is a far few shades darker than your usual teen pruner- it's an example of one of the early 80's most disreputable sub-sub-genres: the rape/slasher movie- albeit one with supernatural leanings.
It turns out that Roy was killed outright- his body lies prone on the mortuary slab, Mandy, however, suffered a different fate. … The small town of Galen, around which most of the film takes place, seems to be in the mood for recrimination and most of the cast we're subsequently introduced to try to justify their movements during the previous night. A stern Mother, Agatha Galen (Helen Hughes) (a woman with a secret of her own to hide), quizzes her twitchy adoptive teenage son about his nocturnal movements- Jim (Duncan McIntosh) (who's been having nightmares of a torture chamber and hooded figures hissing "Confess!"). Across town Dr Sam Cordell (John Cassavetes) solemnly surveys the morning's papers, and his teenage daughter, Jenny (an elfin Erin Flannery) who alludes to his own recent tragedy- the death of his girlfriend (shown in flashback, her body lying in the rain). The town's officials mope around with a look of shock that's rare to see in these kind of movies, as they discuss the night's events; and all the while new in town reporter and owner of the local paper, Laura Kincaid (Kerrie Kean) takes in the grisly details with a reptilian coolness.
Things take a turn for the strange (or I should say stranger) as it is revealed that Mandy, who's lying in a state of shock in intensive care, was raped (described in grisly detail- "…her uterus was ruptured"); and the fact that the authorities were after more than one man, as no one man could be responsible for all that sperm. An autopsy also reveals that her boyfriend was killed by someone (something?) with unnatural strength.
As more rapes begin to occur and the body-count continues to rise Cassavettes sets out to discover who is behind them- he's aided by Kean, who, in a strange twist of fate looks identical to his dead girlfriend. Cassavetes' daughter attempts to try and comfort the increasingly distraught Jim as he becomes more and more delusional and plagued by nightmares. Whilst Jim's Mother pores over ancient text in a dusty tome…
INCUBUS is a strange film which despite its subject matter manages to avoid the sleazy excesses of other similarly themed genre films of the time. For much of it's running time it feels like you are secretly watching someone else's nightmares (especially during scenes in a suitably doomy looking museum)- in fact it would make a great companion piece to that other slice of rural gothic from the same year, Wes Craven's sublime DEADLY BLESSING. In contrast to many of the other films of the time it is pretty sombre- almost mournful. Most of the characters, seem haunted- Cassavetes by his lost love and sexual yearning for his own daughter; and Kean who hisses "I don't want tenderness!", before sobbing to herself when alone in her car- imbuing the film with a rare kind of twisted pathos.
This is at odds with some of the film which seems to have been forcibly moulded into a semi-traditional slasher story- of course it depends which way you look at it. I guess scenes like the one where a teenage girl goes to see the hilariously PO-faced midget rocker Bruce Dickinson do a typically early 80's rock/new wave/art/theatre number on stage (surrounded by similarly dour looking Noo-wavers with Flock-of-Seagulls hair sculptures), could push the film either way- from cheddarville to somewhere altogether darker. … Although, I guess eating cheese late at night is supposed to give you nightmares.
Given the title of the film it is, with no real surprise, that we learn that the villain of the piece is the supernatural Incubus of the title (a devil who assumes a male's body to sleep with women). No, the real mystery is whether or not this demon walks amongst the townspeople in another form during the day- and if so who is it?
The film is based on the book by Ray Russell, and the Aurum Film Encyclopaedia of Horror comments that, "In the novel, the incubus possess an enormous phallus and sexually attacks its victims, a factor which, not surprisingly (even in the climate of 1981), is played down in the movie.". … Played down it may be but this often much maligned and difficult movie is still pretty hard to stomach, but is worth persevering with- finishing with a climactic twist which manages to go beyond the realms of nightmarish into the genuinely unhinged.
BODYCOUNT 8 female:6 / male:2
1) Male hit in forehead with nail embedded plank
2) Female body seen
3) Female killed (actual method unseen)
4) Male half decapitated with shovel
5) Female killed (method unseen)
6) Female killed (method unseen)
7) Female killed (method unseen)
8) Female body glimpsed