DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com Awards & Recommendations at Amazon.com.
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Willard Huyck
Mariana Hill, Michael Greer, Joy Bang
Writing Credits:
Gloria Katz, Willard Huyck

When a young woman searches for her missing artist father, her journey takes her to a strange Californian seaside town governed by a mysterious undead cult.

Rated R.


Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English LPCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 90 min.
Price: $44.95
Release Date: 10/24/23

• Audio Commentary with Film Historians Stephen Thrower and Kim Newman
• Audio Interview with Writer/Director Willard Huyck
• “What the Blood Moon Brings” Documentary
• Visual Essay
• 80-Page Booklet


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BDT220P Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Messiah of Evil [Blu-Ray] (1974)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 3, 2023)

In 1973, Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck co-wrote American Graffiti, a small-budget flick that became a major hit – and that also gave director George Lucas the clout to pursue his next project, 1977’s Star Wars. This newfound fame meant a film they wrote/directed in 1971 called Messiah of Evil finally hit screens in 1974.

Arletty (Mariana Hill) finds that she cannot get in touch with her artist father Joseph (Royal Dano). Concerned, she travels to his small coastal California town to attempt to locate him.

While there, Arletty meets a wealthy eccentric named Thom (Michael Greer) who travels with his romantic partners Toni (Joy Bang) and Laura (Anitra Ford). Along the way, all involved start to sense something odd about the inhabitants of Point Dume.

As a screenwriting duo, Katz and Huyck peaked with Graffiti. Though they continued to work for years, they only authored one more script for a hit movie: 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Instead, their filmography comes littered with disappointments or outright duds like 1979’s More American Graffiti, 1984’s Best Defense and 1986’s Howard the Duck.

Huyck’s directorial career fared even worse. He followed Messiah with 1979’s long-forgotten French Postcards and then did Defense and Duck.

Huyck never directed another feature after 1986, though I don’t know if that acted as his choice or became his “punishment” for those consecutive two flops. Perhaps the married Huyck and Katz essentially retired to raise a family, but the timing feels suspicious.

Does Messiah imply that Huyck deserved a better fate as a director? Not really, for though the movie comes with some positives, it largely comes across as a slow dud.

I do think Messiah creates a reasonably creepy tone, especially in its opening act. Those scenes boast an ominous vibe that manages to carry the day.

For a while, but not for too long, unfortunately. The spooky atmosphere promises a level of horror and drama that the rest of the movie can’t deliver.

Given Katz and Huyck made their bones as screenwriters, the spotty nature of the script becomes a surprise. In particular, they fail to develop the characters and narrative in an especially compelling manner.

Really, Messiah comes across as a theme in search of a story, and it drops the ball in a number of ways. As the plot progresses, we assume that Thom and company will offer some intrigue related to the terror.

Instead, they’re just kind of… there. I guess Huyck and Katz figured the movie needed more potential victims than just Arletty, so it brings Thom and his ladies as possible sacrificial lambs as well.

This wouldn’t seem problematic if they appeared to enjoy any purpose other than as cannon fodder. However, they tend to fill cinematic space in this manner and usually do little else.

Not that Arletty gets a whole lot of depth, but at least we understand her need to be in this messed-up little town. Her side of things brings the film’s main exposition as well.

Those plot points show up late in the movie and don’t really help it. While the explain why the locals act the way they do, the narrative beats fails to really give the tale a lot of thrust.

To be sure, I’ve seen worse horror movies than Messiah, and it does occasionally boast some potential. Unfortunately, the end result tends to seem slow and without much impact.

The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B

Messiah of Evil appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie’s press release indicates the 4K scan came from the “best surviving elements”, and that appears to be code for “expect a less than attractive image”.

Which occurred here, as Messiah lacked much visual appeal. Still, I suspect those involved did what they could with the source.

Sharpness turned into a problematic element, as much of the film came across with mediocre delineation. Some shots looked better than others, while others seemed awfully soft, so expect decent but lackluster definition as a whole.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. A healthy layer of grain implied no problematic use of noise reduction, and print flaws remained isolated to occasional specks or lines but nothing notable.

Messiah brought a palette that emphasized blue and red. The hues tended to feel flat and without much impact. The colors can also seem a little pale at times.

Blacks leaned inky, while shadows offered reasonable clarity. For a low-budget 50-year-old movie, Messiah remained more than watchable, but it didn’t bring anything impressive.

Similar thoughts greeted the movie’s average LPCM monaural audio, as it also suffered from these limitations. Speech sounded a little thin/edgy and came with some awkward looping but the lines were always concise and easily intelligible.

Music lacked much range and occasionally felt a bit shrill, but the score usually showed adequate reproduction. The same went for effects.

Those elements seemed rough in their louder moments but they demonstrated adequate clarity overall. This was a decent track for an older flick.

A few extras appear here, and we open with an audio commentary from film historians Kim Newman and Stephen Thrower. Both sit together for a running, screen-specific look at cast and crew, genre domains, influences and inspirations, sets and locations, production issues and their thoughts about the film.

This becomes a decent but unexceptional chat. While we get a reasonable number of insights, Newman and Thrower devote too much time to their own thoughts about the film.

Some of those seem useful, but I’d prefer more about the production. The men also sometimes appear eager to simply name-drop as many genre films as possible. This leaves us with a listenable but inconsistent discussion.

Recorded in 2018, next comes an Interview with Writer-Director Willard Huyck. An audio-only affair, this runs 37 minutes, 34 seconds.

Created for the “Projection Booth Podcast”, Huyck discusses aspects of his life and career as well as elements related to the creation of Messiah. I like the emphasis on that film and this becomes a quality chat.

What the Blood Moon Brings lasts 56 minutes, 55 seconds. It features film scholars Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Maitland McDonagh, Guy Adams, Mikel Coven and David Huckvale.

“Moon” examines the movie’s roots and development, influences and genre domains, aspects of the production and thoughts/interpretation related to the movie.

We get a pretty good mix of concrete domains related to the film’s creation as well as introspective insights. These combine to deliver a worthwhile program.

Finally, the disc provides a visual essay from critic Kat Ellinger. It goes for 21 minutes, 31 seconds.

Subtitled “On American Gothic and Female Hysteria”, Ellinger focuses on those topics. She offers good background in those domains and views their connection to Messiah in this engaging piece.

The set also comes with an 80-page booklet. My review copy lacked this text but I wanted to mention it.

As a low-budget 1970s horror movie, one can do worse than Messiah of Evil. However, the presence of American Graffiti screenwriters Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz raises expectations that the film fails to fulfill. The Blu-ray comes with erratic but acceptable picture and audio as well as an assortment of bonus materials. Messiah acts as an intriguing curiosity but it’s not much of a movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main