|The Plot: The story starts during the mid 1300’s when the Black Death struck Europe and monks across the continent felt their faith was being tested by God during the plague. However, Lucifer decided to use this time to offer a charismatic, faithful former servant of God an offer of eternal youth by rounding up his own faith-hood who wanted to avoid the Black Death; all the recipients had to do was sacrifice one of their immediate relatives. Thus enters brother Thomas Seaton (Beckwith) who is chosen to fill this role with an iron fist and he starts by subjecting his convent to join his side and live eternally or die right there on the spot.|
We now take the story to present day New York where Seaton runs a church and his believers, old and new, are living long by individually sacrificing a relative of theirs every thirteen years. We quickly get acquainted with the soon-to be victims of the thriving cult, the main one being Alexandra (Moore), a social worker for the female criminal frame. Alexandra’s grandfather George and his own Satanic relatives are getting ready for Alexandra’s sacrifice, all the while George has every intention of filling Seaton’s shoes seeing how he’s the oldest living member next to Seaton. In the midst of this, Sister Angela of Seaton’s church is coming on to the cult’s activities as she is familiar with their home wrecking sacrifices and, with the Minister’s help, plans to thwart the up-coming sacrifice before another life is lost. Who will win in the bloody battle of good and evil?
To sound less impetuous in my pessimism, the movie offers a fair premise with a compromising background and one convincingly deep heroine with a small assortment of good acting. All of these were wrapped tightly to a constrictive budget that wanted to do bigger things with its already small production value. Prime Evil is boring and lagging as it presents far more unimportant scenes of dialogue in abundance, making the scenes that are important whiz by in a manner of seconds. Worst of all, the beginning of the film is actually very hard to follow because it starts out with every separate scenario for various characters with quick jump cuts that never bother to tie together until the middle of the movie. Whew, now that I’ve got the summary out of the way, let’s look at what tries to make this movie what it could’ve been, shall we?
The cinematography was a bit varied as the movie starts out with a fairly lucid flashback coupled with some rather tiring narration. The disjointed scenarios following immediately afterwards don’t help our early understanding of the plot’s direction, which makes the movie feel like it has a number of different plot lines in different universes going on simultaneously until characters from each scenario start meeting up with others (sort of like Pod People, except the monster in this movie looks cooler… but more on that later). The lighting is pretty bad as every shot is dependent on natural light and very few artificial lights are used for certain scenes, making it difficult to find the details of many of the scenes.
The music has a half-and-half effect for the movie as the soundtrack is composed from a z-grade keyboard that’s similar to various spiritual mischief films of the eighties (the first two Ghoulies movies come to mind); the nutty evil-mischief sounds however are often coupled with pseudo mystical/evil chant tunes and some neat ambient notes. The sound effects seemed a bit bungled as well: a few sound effects are much louder than the dialogue. The sound shared a cheesy attribute to the movie as there was one scene in which one of the characters swears on screen, yet it’s cut out by the sound of someone’s feet shuffling across tile floors… yet all the characters present in that scene are standing still.
The visual effects in the movie were fair yet revealed a mass of cheapness to them as one character brandishes an obviously fake combat knife in preparation for a kill scene. The gore effects resorted to a few close ups of sharp objects going into flesh and one decapitation, yet most of which are sadly cut out. Apparently the version I got and the only version commercially available on DVD is censored of gore, a few possible breasts and the one curse word in the entire movie, though there’s little information about the possibility of there being an available uncensored version, not that there would be a significant difference (just more breasts and Argento style stab-wounds). The most remarkable effects would have to include some random page burning during a sacrifice that the antagonist performs, in which all of the papers come from a random book that are stuck on a knife and held over a candle, but instead of slowly burning, the pages immediately incinerate into a ball of fire. The pages were obviously flash paper, the kind you use for a magic show or MST3K skit (Manhunt in Space), but it was effective for the scene none the less. The demon I mentioned was fair as well, though far from scary as it was obviously a foot tall marionette used for one scene and a few quick shots. Still, it was refreshing to look at as its skin-less he-goat appearance was ghastly none the less. It didn’t have the same creepy effect as the horny he-goat demon in The Church, but it was still kinda cool.
The acting, though straddling the lines of fair and pretentious, actually had some credible roles to them. Alexandra got to expose a few aspects about her childhood trauma in a wonderfully expositive scene (probably my favorite scene in the whole movie) and the fellow playing Father Seaton, though stereotypically one-dimensional and a little silly, played a wonderfully sinister antagonist; perhaps the only other actor I can think of that could match this actor being John Phillip Law of B-movie fame (Barbarella, Marylin Behind Bars & Space Mutiny). The dialogue seemed to fit for most of the characters: those important to the plot had clear, competent lines while those unimportant to the plot got to fill the screen with irritating, unbearable dialogue. Sadly, the latter group is the one we hear the most from. Halfway through, I was begging for the villains to kill off Alexandra’s friends, relatives, associates and the two cop characters; funny enough, I think most of those wishes came true.
None of the good bits in this movie save it though, Prime Evil is still a stinker. For one, it’s a great exercise in pointless scenes. The number of different scenes where Ben, the burly ‘garbage man’ for the cult (and probably my favorite character next to that he-goat/demon marionette), had to perform the task of kidnapping random young women off the streets and swimming pools of New York to use in the cult. You’d think this unfortunate young ladies would be used in some humiliating ceremony out of a warped John Van Meale painting, but no, this is what they do with the captured women: Padre Seaton gazes into their eyes a la Dracula, hypnotize them into getting into slinky robes, initiate them in horribly cut topless scenes where each girl gets a gash on the wrist and then they spend the rest of the movie standing around holding books for him to read!!
You mean to tell me this cult is so evil it has to kidnap people just to get a bookstand?! What, were actual book stands expensive in the eighties? Furthermore, what the Hell was with the random scenes of Alex talking to her porker friend at the local gym?? It led us into Alex’s character the first time around, juxtaposing her to a seemingly ‘bad’ girl, but later in the movie we get the same kind of scene, with no purpose, yet with deplorable length! Just the two of them talking, while Alex’s friend indulges in junk food as she exercises, expressing bad dialogue and brandishing bad clothes for no other reason than to piss me off!
Stinger: “Well maybe I am just a bit extreme! But you’re extreme too, the OTHER extreme!”