Kia is a succubus, luring to their final perdition men who already have sinful habits and libertine inclinations. She tires of this, it\'s too easy, and these souls are going to Hell anyway. She wants to match wits and charm with someone who is good. So, against the advice of her sister Amael, Kia seeks out Marc, a man who has already faced death with courage. After a night together, Kia finds that not only is Marc\'s goodness still intact, but she has been ravaged by love. In anger, she and Amael conjure an incubus to deal with Marc. The incubus starts with Marc\'s sister, Arndis. Who will win the struggle for souls?
William Shatner ... Marc
Allyson Ames ... Kia
Eloise Hardt ... Amael
Robert Fortier ... Olin
Ann Atmar ... Arndis
Milos Milos ... Incubus
Paolo Cossa ... Narrator
Ted Mossman ... Monk
Jay Ashworth ... Monk
Forrest T. Butler ... Monk
INCUBUS is a most unusual, and unique \"odd duck\"; a gothic fairy tale screenplay filmed as an abstract horror movie, in the style of the European symbolists.
Filming the script in an unknown language (\"Esperanto\") assures that the film must communicate completely on an allegorical level; INCUBUS is peopled by primal archetypes seemingly drawn from both a Grimms\' fairy tale and a Bergman psycho-pastoral meditation. Characters are either full of wisdom and self-insight, or terror and loathing. They bleat to the heavens as if voicing Shakespeare.
Heavy-handed and pretentious to a fault, INCUBUS is also gorgeous, enchanting and wholly engaging, with sequences of pure brilliance. Haunting and overwrought, INCUBUS appeals to us as grand theatre, and gripping melodrama.
Unfortunately, the story is extremely simplistic, even sophomoric in spots. Although the grand design of the piece is eye-catching and engaging, INCUBUS appears not so much as a movie from another planet as it is a movie from a curiously familiar, yet distant, parallel universe, one with energy and talent and good intentions, but perhaps slightly naive cerebral abilities. There is something missing from the scenario, something subtle but profound.
Yet, where else can one find literal depiction of demons from Hell having theological arguments and fighting over the souls of the living? Supernatural figures come to literal life, something Hollywood doesn\'t tackle too often, except with great fanfare (THE EXORCIST, THE OMEN).
The voluptuous, manipulative music of Dominic Frontiere, and the crisp charicascuro b/w fotog of Conrad Hall, create an art film of unusual depth and beauty. Although distinctly an \"ancient\" period piece, bizarre little anachronisms abound, like cylcone fences in the foreground of certain shots.
INCUBUS is, like the best of \'60\'s film art, pure cinema; a swirling, kinetic carousel of theatre brought to life. It\'s seductive face and overwhelming mythos make it an experience one is not likely to forget, or confuse with another.
How one interprets INCUBUS is another story. It tackles too much and struggles valiantly under its own weight, creating a most unusual piece of film art along the way. The film becomes a bit long-winded and belabored by the end, and one wonders who might have had the mental focus necessary to follow this difficult but rewarding film to its conclusion during its assuredly brief theatrical run.
Imagine an American doing an homage/hybrid of a Bergman film, not the smarmy cheap punches of THE DOVE, but for real, a sincere attempt to appropriate Bergman\'s specific filmic language for use by a newer, less bright culture. While not successful, the results are extraordinary. INCUBUS will be thoroughly disappointing for anyone looking for a cheap fix of \'60s horror. Awash in elementary metaphysical pontification, INCUBUS works least as an illustrated theological discussion, yet that is where it derives a great deal of its energy. Visually, one might call it CARNIVAL OF SOULS done as a Shakespeare play.
William Shatner is surprisingly effective as a simple man who trips headlong into a devastating battle for his life and very essence. A great scene late in the film shows William enacting the suffering implicit at the precise moment he envisions his own eternal damnation; he is a man literally fleeing the devil to save his soul. Not since the Greek tragedies of yore have primal life issues taken such unabashed center stage, and to such powerful effect.
From a dramatic and intellectual point of view, INCUBUS is an unqualified failure. Yet it is one of the most extraordinary and significant failures in all cinema history, a bold and unique document of film on the very cutting edge of its time.
PS: Mel Gibson (and/or his D.P.) stole A LOT of INCUBUS\' structure and sensibility for THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST.
Made by some of the same folks who worked on the great Outer Limits television series, this little-known gem (shot entirely in Esperanto, a failed language conceived to become a universal dialect many years ago) is definitely one-of-a-kind and worth checking out. William Shatner stars as war vet and all-around good and decent guy who lives with his sister (some Freudian implications are present) in a nameless and nearly-vacant coastal village. He is briefly led astray by a seductive, blonde devil-worshipper (Allyson Ames) under false pretenses...he thinks it\'s for the mutual attraction and she is basically plotting to kill him and deliver another soul over to Satan.
The remastering job is a crystal clear b/w print, gorgeously shot by Conrad L. Hall (AMERICAN BEAUTY) around picturesque Big Sur locations. Director Leslie Stevens achieves some amazing shots, throws in some great camera-work and the films has faint echoes of CARNIVAL OF SOULS and many Mario Bava films. The plotting (Shatner falling in love in the course of an afternoon and some heavy-handed religious themes) is often at odds with the is lyrical and poetic tone of the film, but it has many standout sequences (including a winged demon seen only in shadow, a solar eclipse, the human \"incubus\" rising from the grave, an opening murder of the succubus drowning a drunken man in the ocean...) to recommend it.
Writer/Director Leslie Stevens was previously best-known as the man behind the TV series \"The Outer Limits\", and it shows. Everything about this film is moody, atmospheric and vaguely threatening, while still tinged with beauty. The real surprise is that \"Incubus\" is much better than just an extended Outer Limits.
Shot in Big Sur on the central California coast in just two weeks and under a very small budget, the film more than makes up for those limitations with an imaginative script, fantastic visuals and well-nuanced acting. William Shatner gives what I consider to be the most subtle, unmannered performance of his career as the protagonist -- a weary, wounded soldier. The succubus who aims to cause his downfall is more than ably portrayed by Allyson Ames, who would\'ve been quite at home in any Bergman film.
Bergman is, in fact, a reference point, with a few scenes obviously inspired by \"Persona\", \"The Seventh Seal\" and perhaps \"Wild Strawberries\". Other influences seem to be some of Kurosawa\'s early work and even Greek tragedies.
Many people consider the fact that every bit of dialogue (and even the credits) were in the Esperanto language, to be merely a gimmick. In fact, it was an inspired decision, and makes the film independent of time and place; perfectly complimenting the otherworldly mood. Most of the actors do quite well with it, and after a few minutes it sounds natural, and a bit like a cross between Swedish and Latin.
There are a few niggling problems: the actress who portrays the older succubus has a terrible declaimatory style, there are occasionally irrational plot turns, and worse -- the obtrusive subtitles that block out a large swath of the screen. This was necessitated by the fact that only one print of the film survived, and it had had French subtitles printed on it. When the print was rediscovered, director Stevens had to restore it for English-speaking audiences by blocking English subtitles over the top of the French!
I must mention the score, by Outer Limits composer Dominic Frontiere, which perfectly compliments the film. Conrad Hall\'s cinematography is at times breathtaking -- especially in one scene where Shatner wanders through a field by moonlight, the grasses swirling around him.
The film\'s denouement stays just on the better side of moralizing and manages to avoid heavy-handed Christian references. Indeed, the statues of Jesus, Mary and various saints in the village chapel seem just as threatening as the demons outside.
Although not quite as morally ambiguous as \"The Wicker Man\" (and probably shot for 1/10 the budget and in 1/10th the time), Incubus nevertheless is one of my favorite \"horror\" films of the 1960s, and well worth viewing. By the way, I disagree with the other poster suggested that Incubus is best viewed in a large group. I suggest that the intimate scale of this film works best when watched alone on a rainy night. Prepare to be frightened, disturbed and surprised.
A macabre footnote: within a year, both the actress who portrayed Shatner\'s sister and the actor who played the incubus would commit suicide.
* After this film generated acclaim in film festivals around the world and in successful theatrical showings in France, a lab mistakenly destroyed the negative and all prints; it was lost never released on video. Then, after years of searching, one print was discovered in the permanent collection of the Cinémathèque Française in Paris. From that sole surviving print, this film has been digitally restored with remastered sound.
* All the spoken dialogue was in Esperanto (to date , the only such American film).
* Just one year after this film came out, as its prints were being destroyed, William Shatner was cast in \"Star Trek\" (1966), cinematographer Conrad L. Hall got his first Academy Award nomination, actor Milos Milos murdered the estranged wife of Mickey Rooney and then killed himself, and actress Ann Atmar committed suicide.
* In Esperanto, an Incubus (a male demon who seduces women) is \"inkubo\" (een-KOO-bo). But when Arndis says she\'s had a nightmare, nightmare in Esperanto is also \"inkubo\", or preferably \"inkubsong^o\" (een-koob-SON-jo).
* Shatner grew up in Montreal, Canada, and probably because of this he keeps pronouncing certain Esperanto words as if they were like French. Listen for him saying \"sen\" (without) pronounced as if it were French \"sans\", or \"sento\" (feel) as if it were French \"sentir\" (to feel). For the record, Esperanto has no nasal vowel-sounds like French does.
* Reuses music from \"The Outer Limits\" (1963) episode \"Nightmare\".