Sunday, August 22, 2010

Vamp or Not? Incubus

Before I look into whether this is a ‘Vamp or Not?’ I have to give you a reason to watch this come what may… William Shatner performing in Esperanto… That should be enough!

This was a 1966 movie directed by Leslie Stevens and, having received some acclaim, a lab accidentally destroyed the negative and all prints of the film. Eventually one print of the film did resurface, with French subtitles and this restored and re-mastered version has quite ugly blocks for the English subtitles so as to cover over the French.

The film is likened to Bergman's work (though I would have to say it doesn’t really hit his dizzy heights but I can see why that is suggested) and friend of the blog House of Karnstein suggested that this is what a Bergman vampire movie might have looked like – though HofK also suggested it was probably more suited to a ‘Vamp or Not?’ I happened to have the film in my ‘to watch’ pile and hence this article was born.

drinking from the deer well
The film is set on an island, on which there is an ancient deer well. It is said that the well heals but more often it makes a person more attractive and thus the island has attracted the corrupt and the vain. It has also become a place of demons, and succubae haunt the island. Of course there is some cross over between the vampire and succubae mythologies, but not actually in this film I feel. We see a man, Olin (Robert Fortier), take a drink. He spits the water out as it is salty.

A woman, Kia (Allyson Ames), appears and he asks if he is beautiful. He seems drunk and she leads him towards the sea. At one point he falls and cuts his head, he has trouble standing but she suggests that he should wash the blood off in the sea where they will swim naked. At the sea she teases him until he falls and she pins his head to the seafloor by her foot, drowning him.

William Shatner as Marc
She has buried him in sand when a group of hooded persons come. One is her sister Amael (Eloise Hardt). Kia has led three corrupt souls to their doom that very day but is bored. She has powers and wishes to deliver a good soul to her Dark Lord. Amael warns her to be careful as the truly good have a powerful weapon, love. Kia dismisses this, in her vanity, and searches for a good man. She sees monks but they are flawed and corrupt. Then she sees a truly good man, Marc (William Shatner), leave the cathedral.

Kia seems Puckish
Marc is a soldier, recuperating on the island with his sister Arndis (Ann Atmar). They walk, he using a stick, and reach the ancient deer well. For Marc the water is sweet but he dismisses the healing properties as natural parts of his recuperation. Kia follows them, picking up his abandoned staff. As she hides in grasses there is something almost Puckish about her. She follows them to their house ignoring another attempt by Amael to warn her off.

Arndis is blinded
She approaches, spinning a line about being one of six who has become lost and the brother and sister feed her. The day darkens and Marc explains that it is an eclipse. Kia rests her head on the soldier during the eclipse, and eventually says she will have to leave. Marc offers to walk with her. Arndis (who gets a rough deal in this film) looks up and is blinded as the sun reappears. She calls out to Marc but he does not hear her and then Amael uses her magic to steal the woman’s voice away.

confronted by the divine
Marc and Kia travel on and they are clearly attracted to each other. Kia is offering herself in a seduction but he wishes to be with her the right way. He wishes both their bodies and their souls to be as one. She argues that she has no soul but they fall into each others arms. We cut back and Kia sleeps, Marc picks her up to carry her home and Amael sends the blind Arndis to intercept her brother. However Marc reaches the cathedral and takes Kia inside. When she awakens she is accosted by the holy icons and panics, she scratches Marc’s face and runs. Amael calls this a ‘holy rape’.

The Dark Lord
Arndis reaches the cathedral and has regained her voice and is regaining her sight. However Kia and Amael go to their unholy shrine and call upon their Dark Lord. The Dark Lord is effectively drawn as a bat-winged creature seen only in distant silhouette. If I had to liken it to anything it would be the image on the cover of Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi is Dead” single – obviously this came first.

Incubus rising
They call upon their Dark Lord to unleash the Incubus (Milos Milos). Now, an incubus is, of course, the male equivalent of the succubus and thus has a similar amount of lore crossover with the vampire as the traditional succubus does. In this case Incubus is the primary focus of the ‘Vamp or Not?’ He emerges out of the ground, rather like a vampire or zombie rising but, in this case, one would have to say it is more symbolic of rising from the Pit.

He suggests death but Amael wants Marc’s soul and so Kia leads the soldier off on a merry dance whilst Incubus gets Arndis to follow him with, it appears, a use of eye mojo. He gets her to a derelict house where he rapes her whilst a black mass is heard. Of course the sexual aspect is more in keeping with the demonic lore than, necessarily, anything vampiric. Marc then finds Incubus with his sister’s battered body and, enraged, he fights the demon. Amael wants him to kill Incubus and stain his soul with blood (the question of how killing a demon would be a soul losing offence was lost on me, especially as he is still classed as a good man having been a soldier. I know there is the whole rage aspect but it just seemed somewhat off). Nevertheless Marc stabs him, with a wooden stake in the stomach and Kia is meant to lead him to Hell. However, she is in love with Marc and so Amael pulls the stake from Incubus’ stomach and he revives to go after the pair...

goat headed
This is the main vampiric crossover. He was stopped, killed essentially, by a stake. The fact it was through his stomach was more in keeping with traditional folklore and some pre-Stoker stories where the stake would be used to pin the vampire to the Earth. Removal of the stake to revitalise the vampire is common, of course. The only other things to mention is the fact that Incubus does shapechange – into a goat-headed demon and that Marc crossing himself causes Incubus and the sisters to wince.

I can see why this might be thought of as vampiric, due to the use of the stake. The holy objects are as much in keeping with demonic lore as vampiric lore but the stake seemed peculiarly vampiric. Enough to make it of genre interest, certainly, but I am not convinced that this is actually a vampire film. The imdb page is here.


Amy said...

You've just reminded me to watch this movie again. It's been a while.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

and one worth watching Amy - if only for The Shatner ;)