Messiah of Evil (1973)

Not unlike “Suspiria” or “The City of the Dead,” “Messiah of Evil” is one of those movies that weaves a surreal spell over the viewer so quickly that you’re entranced before you even know it. Like “Suspiria,” it has one of the most striking color palettes imaginable, with bright strokes across dark canvasses that have a curious effect, managing to intrigue you while destabilizing you; and like “The City of the Dead,” it has a dead-of-night atmosphere that flirts with the same oppressive tension of “Carnival of Souls,” suggesting a literal nightmare come-to-life that follows lead Marianna Hill everywhere she goes in a small village as she searches for her missing father. It’s a perfect midnight movie in many ways, primarily through the aforementioned dead-of-night atmosphere that’s so powerfully nerve-jangling, but also because the minimalist soundtrack emphasizes metallic clanging over rhythm, which suggests the same universal coldness of “Eraserhead” that makes its own narrative so eerie.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)

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