Thursday, July 12, 2018

In short: Necromancer (1988)

One night in her college’s theatre building Julie Johnson (Elizabeth Cayton/Kaitan) is raped by three of her co-students – well, “only” one is doing the actual deed but the guy who is holding her down and the one who is looking on mildly disturbed without doing or saying anything are not appreciably better examples of humanity if you ask me. Because the shitheels have found a love letter from the time when the naive Julie and her sleazy theatre teacher Charles (Russ Tamblyn doing his thing while looking like a sick poodle with sunglasses) had an affair and are certainly not above blackmail, and because they are also connected rich kids whereas our heroine is studying on a scholarship the guys are in a position to ruin for her, she can’t go to the police. Julie’s boyfriend Eric (John Tyler), even though he is not a terrible guy, is no help either, too involved in his own emotional hang-ups to give her an opportunity to talk to him about what happened to her.

Julie’s gotta do something, though, so she and her best friend and only emotional crutch Freda (Rhonda Dorton) follow a newspaper ad to the garage where a “necromancer” (actually more a Satanic witch, played by Lois Masten) practices. The non-necromancer does at first give Julie the revenge she understandably craves, though the satisfaction will only last for a short time. Julie’s problem is that the demon the necromancer conjures up starts killing off every man who wrongs Julie at all, a couple’s argument apparently being just as worthy of death as a rape in its eyes.

There are a some elements in Dusty Nelson’s “rape revenge, but with black magic!” flick that work rather well: the rape scene is surprisingly well handled, as far as these things go, the film doing its best to portray the situation as the violation it is and never making the impression its trying to titillate with the scene. For example, unlike most exploitation films, it goes out of its way to keep Cayton dressed in the scene. That’s clearly a conscious decision, too, for in later scenes, there’s quite a bit of nudity by the actress, the demon for reasons first seducing her victims while she’s looking like Julie before she’s doing implied nasty things to their sexual organs. This is a cheesy 80s horror movie, after all.

I also appreciate the directness with which the film portrays Julie’s being surrounded by shitty men in positions of power. It may not be subtly done and pretty melodramatic, but it is effective enough that even this guy here felt the unjustness of her situation.

The film has its problems, of course: the acting is mostly on the lower side for a late 80s low budget horror film, the special effects are not terribly great (though also not terribly bad), and the pacing is on the slow side. Then there’s the fact that most of the victims here are more than just “unlikeable” – it’s clear the film is not on their side – so seeing them getting killed off does feel satisfying rather than upsetting, which does not help to produce tension.

However, even though it is flawed, I found Necromancer to be an interesting effort certainly worth my time.

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