“Movies like this aren’t totally worthless. They provide employment for a number of people.”– Vincent Canby
John Hough directed one of my favorite haunted house movies, The Legend of Hell House, which somehow manages to have a PG rating while still containing all of the lurid, sweaty sexuality of the book upon which it is based. So, I had both high hopes and reservations when it came to watching his adaptation of Incubus, taken from Ray Russell’s 1976 novel of the same name, which is essentially a slasher movie if slashing was replaced with raping.
This is not a sensitive movie, is what I’m saying. Incubus has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the rapiest films ever made, and the sexual assaults that occur within its runtime are always distinctly brutal, even when they take place off-screen. Despite all that brutality, Incubus is also a slow movie, which is where most of the complaints that I’ve seen come in. (No one who is going to be too put off by the sexual assault probably makes it past the logline, to be fair.)
It certainly showcases more blood and nudity than Legend of Hell House but, like that film, it manages most of its luridness through suggestion as much as shock. This is a movie where the implications are as disturbing as anything seen, and a film that is absolutely drenched in what Letterboxd user nathaxnne identifies as “windswept dread” and gothic family secrets, which should come as no surprise from either Hough or Russell.
Incubus also features more recitations of the word “sperm” per minute than probably any other film released outside a medical context. John Cassavetes plays one of the sweatiest, most uncomfortable protagonists in horror movie history, a guy who, at one point, utters the phrase, “I swear to God, there’s gonna be a rape tonight,” and yet he is certainly the “good guy” compared to many of the people around him.
I didn’t love Incubus. The subject matter alone kind of guaranteed that. But I loved the atmosphere that Hough and company conjured. This is small-town gothic at its finest. The witch museum is great, and so are the gothic houses, and so is the incubus itself, when it shows up at the end for all of two seconds. Also, I love that this is apparently supposed to be Wisconsin, a state that is definitely known for its rich witch hunting history.