I am sometimes drawn to quirky, obscure movies, and so it was that I put Incubus on my Netflix queue. That decision most definitely bit me in the butt. It’s 78 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back.
This movie, filmed in 1966, and starring a pre-Star Trek William Shatner, was definitely a surreal experience. It’s filmed in black and white, and, probably due to its low budget, sometimes night shots were filmed in broad daylight with a filter, and sometimes they were shot at night, and the two variations in lighting would switch back and forth at random moments. That added to the strange atmosphere of the movie.
Then, on top of that, add a musical soundtrack that you’d swear was stolen directly from the creepier scenes of Star Trek. In actuality, part of the soundtrack was from a 1963 episode of Outer Limits called Nighmare. Either way, it made the hair on the back of my neck do an eerie little dance.
But the weirdest thing about this movie is that the entire thing was done in Esperanto. They thought this might bring it to a wider audience, as Esperanto is spoken around the world. While that may be true, they seem to have forgotten that, while widespread, Esperanto just isn’t spoken by that many people. That’s why there are only 4 films, including this one, in the history of film making, that are done in Esperanto.
The actors had 10 days to learn their lines, phonetically, and there was no one on set to correct their pronunciation, so it’s not even done in good Esperanto. You can tell by watching that the actors were so focused on trying to get the Esperanto right that they completely forgot to emote. Everyone except Shatner comes off like a robot. You know it’s a bad movie when Shatner is the best actor of the bunch.
Even if it had been done in English, though, it would have been laughable. Here’s an example of some very typical dialogue:
“I see the heart of darkness… the universe unfolding… taking my breath, my blood, my life… down below, below, below…”
“I’m weary of luring evil, ugly souls into the pit. They’ll find their own way down to the sewers of hell.”
When you first see Shatner, he’s got his arm around a woman that turns out to be his sister. They’re walking through the woods, clinging to each other, practically groping each other, so when you find out she’s his sister, you kind of get the willies. Even more so than when she goes blind from looking at an eclipse and spends the bulk of the movie crawling through the underbrush in search of her brother, on the advice of a total stranger that she cannot see.
But the strangest part in an already strange movie is the final scene, in which one of the main characters gets attacked by the incubus, who has turned himself into a black goat with long curly horns. Close ups of a live goat’s eye and its long, slimy tongue are interspersed with close ups of a goat’s head on what must surely be a broomstick, on top of the screaming actress, as an easily discernible shadow of the camera looms over them both. And this visual violation goes on long enough to make you squirm. But she saves herself by making a sign of the cross, so all’s well that ends well.
There’s much talk on the internet about the curse of Incubus. Shortly after filming, one of the actors killed his girlfriend and then himself. An actress committed suicide. The daughter of another actress was abducted and murdered, her body left in the Hollywood hills. These are just a few of the examples. It’s very disturbing to read about.
But if you ask me, the biggest curse of Incubus is that you can still get it on Netflix, and unwittingly lose 78 minutes of your life. This movie was counted as number one in a list of the Top 10 Shitty Shatner Movies. Another one of his truly horrible ones, Groom Lake, didn’t even make the cut, so you can just imagine how awful this one truly is.