• The Incubus (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: October 23rd, 2018.
    Director: John Hough
    Cast: John Cassavetes, Kerrie Keane, Helen Hughes, John Ireland, Duncan McIntosh
    Year: 1982
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    The Incubus – Movie Review:

    An odd little film from 1981, 'The Incubus' is a moderately atmospheric piece from John Hough, the director of Hammer's Twins of Evil, the awesome The Legend Of Hell House and the crapfest known as The Howling IV. The quality of this one falls somewhere in the middle, but despite its many and obvious flaws, The Incubus is nothing if not entertaining.

    The late, great John Cassavetes (of Rosemary's Baby and Machine Gun McCain) plays Dr. Sam Cordell, a physician who works in the hospital of Galen, a small New England town. His life gets rocked when a series of bizarre sex/rape/murders starts to occur. See, it looks like Tim (Duncan McIntosh), the young man who just so happens to be dating his daughter Jenny (Erin Noble of Class Of 1984) might be responsible for them. Why does anyone think this? Because he’s been pretty vocal about some horrible dreams he’s been having, horrible dreams that tie into the murders taking place! And his mom may have been a witch! Soon enough, Sam teams up with Police Chief Hank Walden (John Ireland of Messenger Of Death and loads of other film and TV projects) and the local fuzz to try and figure just what the 'Hell' is going on. That was a pun.

    It turns out that the town has a dark and sinister past, as all small towns in horror movies tend to have, and that there is a lot more to the murders than they first suspected. Also, most of the murders involve rape and sperm. LOTS of sperm. Anyway, Sam starts to fall for the local reporter, Laura Kincaid (played by Kerrie Keane, who is best known for lots of different TV roles including the 'Bates Motel' movie), but she starts to seem a little odd once he gets to know her. And as things start to unravel in the town, and its history comes to light, there is a lot more evil stuff going down than Sam first anticipated.

    'The Incubus' (not to be confused with 'Incubus' starring the one and only William Shatner), while not particularly gory, is quite a freaky little film. There are some truly unusual moments, the ending in particular, and some unexpected plot twists along the way. It’s also more than a little bit of a mess. What it lacks in atmosphere and believability, however, it makes up for with reasonably sleazy set pieces (there’s a fair bit more nudity here than you might expect – naked corpses even!) and some occasionally effective atmosphere. That atmosphere comes from some of its Canadian filming locations. Guelph, Ontario, does a decent enough job passing for a small New England town and this only serves to heighten the remote feel of the film.

    The story is an interesting hybrid of a typical murder mystery film combined with elements of the supernatural and the bizarre. This combination makes for a pretty entertaining hour and a half in front of the television, letting us look past some rather questionable storytelling choices – why exactly the cops just let Sam run the whole investigation instead of handling it themselves likes cops are supposed to do, for one.

    Performances are all over the place. Top-billed Cassavetes is the obvious draw here. This was clearly one of those projects he took for the paycheck but he is plenty enthusiastic. He talks with his hands. A lot. But he’s fun to watch here, occasionally chewing the scenery and successfully creeping us out in a few scenes that he shares with super cute Erin Noble. There are some weirdly incestuous overtones in the movie. Noble is really likeable though, she just comes across as sweet. Duncan McIntosh is fine as her boyfriend while John Ireland plays his stereotypical cop character as well as you could ask. Kerrie Keane is also fine in her part, attractive too, despite the goofy, bouffant eighties hair. Oh, and at one-point footage from Samson’s Biceps Of Steel short film (directed by Julien Temple and featuring a young pre-Iron Maiden Bruce Dickinson on lead vocals) is inserted into the movie. It doesn’t really need to be there, but we’re thankful that it is.

    Fun idea: watch this movie with some friends and take a drink any time anyone says ‘sperm’ or ‘rape’ and you’ll be passed out by the half-way mark.

    The Incubus – Blu-ray Review:

    The Incubus comes to Blu-ray ‘newly scanned & restored in 4k, mostly from its 35mm negative, with one reel sourced from a 35mm print.’ That reel is the fourth reel and you can tell pretty easily when the transfer switches from the negative to the print, as there’s noticeably more print damage there. That issue aside, this is a nice-looking picture. Detail is quite strong, easily surpassing past DVD editions from Elite Entertainment and Scorpion Releasing, and offering up some really nice color reproduction and strong black levels. The film’s grain is left intact, everything looks very organic without appearing to be digitally processed in any way. Skin tones are nice and natural and the image is free of any noticeable compression artifacts.

    The DTS-HD Mono track, presented in the film’s native English, is also fine. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. No issues here, the dialogue is plenty easy to follow and the score sounds quite nice. The sound effects also have decent punch to them and there’s about as much depth to this as you could hope for.

    The nice selection of extras on this release start off with a commentary track featuring the guys from The Hysteria Continues! If you’ve heard any of their tracks before or listened to their podcast then you’ll have a good idea of what to expect: plenty of facts and opinion on the film done with an enjoyable sense of humor that manages to be entertaining without disrespecting the film or those who made it. Without delving into MST3K style antics the cover the locations, the effects, some of the themes that the picture toys with and of course the acting and actors in the picture. It’s an enjoyable track well worth listening to.

    From there we get busy with a trio of new interviews, the first with director John Hough last for twenty-seven-minutes and it’s pretty interesting stuff. He’s quite upfront about how it could be occasionally pretty tricky to direct Cassavetes, and he also talks about the score, the writing in the film, the big reveal at the end and how he feels about the movie overall. After that, actress Kerrie Keane, who still looks great, chats for twenty-one-minutes about how she got her start in the business doing commercials in her native Canada to then doing theater and of course eventually film. She shares some pretty amusing anecdotes about what it was like on set, dealing with a script that seemed to be re-written every few hours and interacting with some of her co-stars. Lastly, cinematographer Albert J. Dunk spends twenty-seven-minutes in front of the camera to talk up where he got his training, how he wound up working on film projects in Canada, trying to get the right look for some of the more important scenes in the film and what it was like hanging out with Cassavetes (and in turn his wife Gena Rowlands of Gloria and plenty of other Cassavetes projects). All three of these are really interesting and occasionally pretty amusing. No one involved in the film seems to have any problem discussing its rather convoluted history!

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are two-minutes’ of trims and alternate shots, the film’s original theatrical trailer, four TV spots, menus and chapter selection.

    The Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack comes packaged with some nice reversible cover art and the first 1500 units ordered directly from Vinegar Syndrome will come with a limited-edition slipcover. I’m not one to normally geek out over slipcovers but Vinegar Syndrome really does a fantastic job with theirs!

    The Incubus – The Final Word:

    A surprisingly sleazy but occasionally quite effective horror picture, The Incubus is crazy enough to entreating. Cassavetes and the rest of the cast are pretty fun to watch, we get a few unforgettably bizarre set pieces and the film is paced well, never lagging or losing our interest. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray upgrade is a very good one, presenting the picture in great shape, with solid audio and with a nice selection of extra features to go along with it.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Incubus Blu-ray screen caps!