Through the transformation of the glorious WTF-Films into the even more glorious Exploder Button and the ensuing server changes, some of my old columns for the site have gone the way of all things internet. I’m going to repost them here in irregular intervals in addition to my usual ramblings.
Please keep in mind these are the old posts without any re-writes or
improvements. Furthermore, many of these pieces were written years ago, so if
you feel offended or need to violently disagree with me in the comments, you can
be pretty sure I won’t know why I wrote what I wrote anymore anyhow.
At some time in the Middle Ages (the film will give us more than one date in
a typical display of the amount of care and thought that went into it) a group
of monks decides to change the object of their devotion to Satan.
Today - well, in the 80s - that very same cult is still active with some of
the original members still running the show (of EVIL). You see, when a member is
nice to the big S and sacrifices a blood relative to him all thirteen years,
immortality and power are granted to him or her. There are "bonus points"
(authentic Satanist terminology) if the victim is a virgin and female, but Satan
doesn't seem too particular about it.
When the Satanists are not squabbling among each other or sacrificing
relatives, they don't seem to do all that much (although I suppose they should
spend a lot of time producing new offspring, what with the high mortality their
Fortunately for viewers with a lust for excitement, the especially ambitious
old fart Satanist George Parkman's (Max Jacobs) second sacrificial ceremony is
bound to come soon. George's preferred victim is his granddaughter Alexandra
(Christine Moore, who also had a very similar part in Roberta Findlay's other
1988 Satanist romp Lurkers). She's quite ideal for the job, for she is
still virginal thanks to the damage her father's paedophilic tendencies did to
her psyche when she was a child. While George was angry enough about his son
abusing her to change him to the preferred victim the last time around, he
doesn't have any problems with killing Alexandra now, it seems. It's a b-movie
psychology thing, you wouldn't understand.
At the same time, the Satanists' handyman/serial killer (George Krause, I
think) goes around kidnapping young women, for some never explained reason all
coming from Alexandra's surroundings, so that they can be indoctrinated into the
cult for no discernible reason whatsoever.
The Satanist leader, evil priest and scenery-chewer Thomas Seaton (William
Beckwith) probably just likes to put his hypnotic mind control whammy on them,
as he does with Alexandra, much to the chagrin of her hissy fit prone boyfriend
Bill (Tim Gail).
What the Satanists don't know is that a courageous undercover nun named
Angela (Mavis Harris) has infiltrated their ranks and is just waiting for the
right moment to stab their favourite Satan doll in the heart, or something like
If all this sounds rather muddled, then it does so because it is. Of course,
one shouldn't expect less (or more, depending on one's perspective) of a Roberta
Findlay directed horror film from the 80s. The muddledness is still highly
impressive even going by the special Findlay standard. The film casually jumps
around between plot threads that seem to exists in a perpetual state of stasis,
lets important things just happen off-camera and never bothers to at least
explain them on camera, just as if parts of the script had been eaten by a dog,
although my experience with Findlay's body of work tells me that she just didn't
care enough about a film in the hated horror genre to bother to make it
coherent. This might not be a praiseworthy way to go about making a film for
most people - I certainly wouldn't recommend it - yet I found myself strangely
transfixed while watching it. It is after all not every day that you find a film
that incoherently jumps about from place to place but in which at the same time
nothing ever seems to be happening, or if something has happened, you
are often not allowed to see it.
For those who like it in their films, there is also some impressive 80s
cheese to witness here. Especially the scenes taking place in a health spa are
quite priceless, with fascinating discussions of multi-coloured condoms and the
philosophy of "poking" which let me imagine Hamlet's great monologue beginning
with "To poke or not to poke", though it's probably better for everyone's sanity
if you don't mind me too much.
Other moments in great dialogue can be found in the seemingly endless scenes
in which George and his hypnotically yellow teeth discuss his future world
domination plans with a female Satanist friend who just doesn't want to be poked
by him. The latter can't have anything to do with George being a raving lunatic
with the enthusiasm for smack talk usually only encountered in white middle-aged
Which brings us to the acting, or what is called acting in the part of New
York the film takes place in. Well, everyone's line delivery is...peculiar, to
say the least, and while Jacobs and Beckwith are keeping their performances well
inside the boundaries of traditional scenery chewing, most of the other actors
have probably been imported from a strange and alien planet where English is
spoken in quite a different way with many...awkward...pauses.
But I'm mostly alright with that, really, something I won't say about Tim
Gail's laid back interpretations of hissy fits, which reminded me of nothing so
much as of an hysterical beagle.
Christine Moore, on the other hand, is nearly alright, at least compared to
most of the others.
I have to admit I was a little disappointed by the film's photography.
Usually, the best thing about Findlay's late period movies are guerrilla-style
filmed location shots of a slowly decaying New York, scenes that grant something
like Lurkers more power of persuasion than it should have. There is a
little of that to be found in Prime Evil, too, and these are the scenes
when the whole film nearly starts to develop a mood and become an actual horror
film, but too much of what is happening plays out in claustrophobic sets, or
possibly Findlay's living room. Even the best director of photography wouldn't
have been able to make much of that.
Still, there is something about Prime Evil that makes it a
satisfying watch for me. It is not so much the film's cheesiness (although the
special effect standing in for the devil is quite priceless), or the pure cheek
of declaring this patchwork a narrative that makes it worth seeing, it is
something a little weirder and a little deeper. I wouldn't blame anyone who'd
just declare this film "crap", but for me it possesses a hard to grasp quality
that sometimes transforms the boring and incompetent into the plain strange. And
how ever you want to call this quality, Prime Evil has it - at least