Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Prime Evil (1988)

I know it probably doesn’t need to be said but there’s nothing like a scourge of bubonic plague or the promise of living an extra dozen years or so to get people to renounce the triune God, sell their souls to the Devil, and sacrifice their relatives to eternal damnation. At least that’s the premise of “Prime Evil,” a late 80’s horror flick that tells the story of a Satanic cult which arose in the 14th century, arising out of the fear and superstitions that surrounded the black plague (sort of like how the Jonas Brothers got started). The cult has discovered that by dedicating themselves to the Evil One (Satan, that is, not Mel Gibson) and offering their children or grandchildren up for sacrifice, they are able to extend their lives, not for all eternity, but by a whopping 13 years without aging. Funny thing is I believe Rachel Welch was able to do that exact same thing largely with the help of modern surgery and without all that pesky mucking about with tiresome (and possibly illegal) human sacrifices.

Despite the story’s origins taking place in the ancient past, the vast bulk of ‘Prime Evil’ occurs in the present day where we primarily follow the events of two women. The first that we meet is Sister Angela who becomes involved in the story when she is nearly run over by an obviously traumatized priest (whose trauma, we are shocked to discover, was NOT due to the rejection of his sexual advances by his fifth altar boy that week). She follows the priest into a church only to discover that he has keeled over dead minutes later and is now being looked over by another priest, Father McCabe. A small demonic talisman is discovered on the dead priest’s body which links his death with an ancient Satanic cult, sort of like how multiple empty French fry containers link a heart attack victim to McDonalds. Sister Angela later arranges a meeting with Father McCabe and reveals to him that she knows about the cult that killed the priest. It turns out that this cult not only subjected her to ritual abuse as a child but also owes her 20 bucks for sharing a cab with her once in New York. Because of these sins against her, Sister Angela asks that she be used to infiltrate their group in order to undo them. The priest initially is against the idea but then, in about as much time as it took him to decide what color hat to wear that day, he wholeheartedly embraces it. Father McCabe then devises a plan with the nun. Since a number of the cultists masquerade as Catholic priests, he decides to have Sister Angela play the part of a disgraced nun who has renounced her faith, believing that this will allow her to join the cult. Sister Angela readily agrees to the plan. What is particularly noteworthy about this scene is that these two manage to devise a plan to defeat a Satanic cult that has survived for centuries and has the legions of darkness providing its enforcement arm in about as much time as it takes the average person to order a pizza over the phone.

We now turn to Alex, a woman who works at a local woman’s shelter who is also the granddaughter of one of the members of the Satanic cult. It turns out the grandfather had sacrificed other members of his family in the past in order to extend his life but his latest pack of 13 years is about to run out (and he lost his “Sacrifice 10 Relatives, Get 13 Years Free” punch card). As such, he now needs another descendent to give up to the dark one and begins weaving a web to ensnare Alex as the next victim. What’s more is that he will get bonus points of some sort since his grand-daughter is also a virgin. What those bonus points are is not made clear but I would hope, at a minimum, they involve a Wendy’s Double Baconator. By the way, the reason Alex is a virgin is that her father got her involved in pornography when she was a child and she becomes traumatized whenever she tries to have sex. I don’t know what you think, but a relative-sacrificing grandpa and a child-porno father make for about as dysfunctional of a family as the Lohan’s at a Fourth of July Picnic.

So, in any case, that’s the set up of “Prime Evil,” and for the next hour plus we are left sitting on our couch, covered in Cheeto crumbs, biting our toe nails and wondering: (a) Will Sister Angela be successful in defeating the cult before they kill again? (b) Will Alex escape the evil clutches of her Satanist grandfather? and (c) Is there any of that pint of Ben & Jerry’s still left in the freezer? The suspense is downright unbearable!

Here are a few points worth noting (** Warning: Hail! Spoilers! **):

  • “Prime Evil” was one of the last films to be directed by Roberta Findlay (aka Robert W. Brinar aka Linda Michaels aka Ann A. Rifkin and about a dozen other names, both male and female) who is probably best known by horror fans as the co-director (along with her husband, Michael) of the quintessential movie-whose-notorious-reputation-far-exceeds-what-it-deserves film, “Snuff.” She was also known to have directed a number of soft porn films earlier in her career such as “A Thousand Pleasures” and “The Kiss of Her Flesh” which, if the nude and erotic scenes in “Prime Evil” are any indication of her talent in that arena, are probably nothing to run out and stock up on tissue and hand lotion for.
  • In an early scene in the film, Alex is shown at the shelter helping a young woman, Cathy, get back on her feet. Despite the fact that Cathy is a drug addict that has only been drug-free for only a month as well as a prostitute, Alex manages to secure a job interview for her on Wall Street (!) as a paralegal because of Cathy's “good resume.” I’m guessing that it didn’t mention Cathy’s ability to consume illegal drugs or turn tricks on the street or the fact that she has a parole officer (though who doesn’t on Wall Street these days). It must have been a tight job market at the time.
  • Alex’s mother is murdered by the Satanists in one of the strangest (and possibly most ridiculous and inefficient) ways I've ever seen, that is by making it appear that she died by choking on her own vomit by pouring booze into her mouth. You’d think that having Beelzebub covering their behinds these donut-holes could get away with a faster, less cumbersome and more believable murder methodology such as, say, having the victim run herself over with her own car. During the murder it should also be noted that, despite her blood curdling shrieks which could probably be heard in Zanzibar, her daughter somehow can't hear her a few doors down the hallway.
  • This film contains one of the worst on-screen relationships I've ever seen, second only to that of Sid and Nancy. The characters of Alex and Bill (her boyfriend) are continuously fighting and then forgiving each other only to immediately start fighting again! Why these two were a couple was beyond me.
  • In probably what was the director's sorry attempt at creating "atmosphere," a number of the non-scary scenes are shot in rooms that are poorly lit to the extreme, creating large shadows which are cast all over the walls. Such lighting techniques might be effective during a tense or suspenseful scene, but are pointless in moments showing, for example, two cops discussing a case they are working on.
  • The demon, which is very small and looks like the mutated fetus of the Taco Bell Chihuahua, arrives rather nonchalantly to the final scene of devil worship and, despite being one of the powerful minions of Satan, is defeated pretty easily. In fact it’s so anti-climatic that I’m thinking the director should have had Sister Angela dropkick the midget-demon through some goalposts or explode it in a microwave (ala “Gremlins”) just to up the ante a bit.

About the best thing I can say about this movie is that at least it has a title that warns the viewer of its quality right up front because “Prime Evil” is just that. It is 100% LOATHESOME. The plot feels like someone put a bunch of half-baked ideas into a blender and then pressed the “Clusterfuck” button. Furthermore, the dialogue is terrible, the characters are annoying, the acting is horrendous, the editing is a hack job, and the cinematography is uninspired. This is actually the second time that I’ve watched this celluloid power dump. The first time I watched it was a version that was obviously a “TV-friendly” edit because every time there was a scene of someone getting their head cut off or disrobing, the shot would quickly cut away. I originally thought that the edited footage may explain a few of the film’s problems (particularly the horrid editing), though I highly doubted that the few minutes of film that I missed out on could make up for this unforgivable waste of time. My second viewing of the film, which was of the unedited version, confirmed my suspicions as the film remained a rank turd…only with some blood and nipples thrown in. If you are into devil worship films, you can certainly do a hell of a lot better than ‘Prime Evil’ (the gawd-awful “Devil’s Rain” alone kicks this movie’s ass and then, when it’s down, kicks it again). In any case, for lovers of bad cinema, it’s worth at least one viewing though a second viewing may leave you without a soul. With that being said, I have to leave now and go look for mine. Shrew out!

Check out the trailer for 'Prime Evil'! (*Warning* Contains Nudity)