Who knew what darkness lay in the hearts of Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, the screenwriting team that brought us *American Graffiti* and *Howard The Duck*? Huyck also directed this tale of atavistic resurgence run amok.
A young woman travels to a small seaside town to search for her missing father, a local artist. There, she meets a curious *ménage a trois*: An effete researcher into ancient legends and his two female traveling companions. The uncooperative townspeople from whom they seek information resemble somnambulists, especially at night, when they gather on the beach and gaze longingly out to sea under a reddening moon. Other weird and terrifying portents soon appear: An old drunkard warns the heroine that, here, the corpses must be burned, not buried; a man offers a hitchhiker a mouse--when she refuses it, he eats it alive; tears of blood drip from the townspeople's eyes; live insects and vermin spew from their mouths. As the heroine and her companions delve deeper into the mystery, they find themselves engulfed in cataclysmic violence, and the secret of the messiah of evil, as well as the fate of the girl's father, transpires at last.
What this bare synopsis omits completely is the true source of the film's power: Its overwhelming and consistent poetic atmosphere of doom. From the dismal organ and synthesizer music that underpins the heroine's first exploration of her father's empty studio and its strange *trompe l'oeil* murals, to the massed townspeople waiting expectantly on the beach like sleepwalkers in a Delvaux painting, *Messiah of Evil* creates a perfect microcosmic nightmare world. Once seen, it is never to be forgotten: A rare triumph of perfect atmosphere.