It’s been a bit since I covered a movie from our friends at Vinegar Syndrome. So, let’s solve that with some good ol’ fashioned exploitation sleaze!
This week’s movie, Prime Evil, comes to us from director Roberta Findlay. In fact, this is part of a two-movie set from Vinegar Syndrome. The other movie, Lurkers, also comes from 1988 which also marks near the end of her directing career. Findlay is still alive today despite finishing her movie making career over 30 years ago. Interestingly enough, she really got her start in making adult films before getting into exploitation. Her first film, Take Me Naked, was made under the pseudonym Anna Riva when she was only 18 years old!
From the late 60s through the 70s and into the mid 80s, Findlay worked mostly in adult films, though she’d often team up with her husband in the 70s, Michael Findlay, for some more sleazy exploitation flicks like Snuff, a movie actually marketed as a for real snuff flick. I’m not sure you can get much sleazier than that.
Findlay’s work, particularly her more mainstream, exploitation work, has received some re-evaluation in the last few years. Like I had mentioned regarding The Toolbox Murders, present day film buffs seem much more cozy to the idea of exploitation cinema – even in a time of decreasing irreverence and increasing PC-culture influence sensibilities. Prime Evil is one that seems to have a fascinating history with audiences. It holds a pretty awesomely low score on IMDb, but it was released to Blu-Ray with some fanfare from fans of Vinegar Syndrome. I’ve also seen the movie before and it’s pretty basic 80s satanic panic stuff.
With a shit ton of boobs from a pretty hot blonde.
The movie is basically about a monastery in New York City where a group of devil worshipers are looking for victims to sacrifice to Lucifer to begin a reign of darkness on Earth. Also boobs. And gore. And, according to the back of the VS release, “loads of NYC locations.”
Well, holy shitballs, let’s get to it!
Hot damn, we have a Crown International Pictures release. Those are always fun. We get a voice over about the 1300s and the plague and such. It’s a way to show monks freaking the fuck out over whether or not God is visiting upon us a terrible judgment. Some of the monks decide it’s time to jump sides and go over to Lucifer’s team because… why not, am I right? If your team is losing big time, it might be time to pick a new horse. So this guy who looks something like Jonathan Pryce decides to kill any monk who ain’t down with climbing onto the Satan Bandwagon.
Fast forward like 600 years to America. A priest is injured and rushing to meet with the Bishop. He dies and the Bishop finds a satanic talisman in the priest’s hand.
Smash cut to a satanic sacrifice. A guy has offered up his hot tits-out daughter to gain 13 years of no aging, no sickness, no bad shit. All that is good I suppose, but it seems like an awful waste of your hot daughter’s bare breasts and all. Just sayin’. Anyway, Daddy kills his little girl and I we cut again to a pretty girl in a leather skirt and angora sweater who is looking for a creepy janitor in a basement. She gives him a list of supplies. She even orders him that if he has to take out anyone, it HAS to look like an accident.
Cut again to young lovers, Cathy, who was a drug addict who came in off the streets and got cleaned up, and her boyfriend, Sam. Cathy gets placed in a job as a paralegal on Wall Street. She’s not just a recovering drug addict, but a college graduate with some legal education.
Cathy is played by Ruth Collins. She’s gonna show her boobs, big time, but that’s not why I wanted to call her out here. She ended up collecting more than 25 credits between the years of 1987 and 1995. Mostly b-movies wherever a pretty blonde was needed… probably to bare her tits. But we’re not gonna see the last of her, oh no. She was also in Roberta Findlay’s Lurkers which preceded this film. I will likely get to that because, you know… Two pack of movies; might as well do both of them.
But, even better, she was in one of the most utterly bizarre movies I ever did see, 1987’s Doom Asylum. You best believe I’ll be writing about that one before too long.
Yet another cut brings us to two women at a fitness club. The one there in the Spider-Man-inspired leotard, Brett, is talking about going on a date and being pretty optimistic because she bought multi-colored condoms at the Korean Deli. Brett is one of those overly sexual characters who are always talking about getting the sex and having the men. Alex is a little more reserved. Brett is dating a man named Norman while Alex is dating a man named Bill.
ANOTHER cut takes us back to the Bishop in which a nun, Sister Angela, is telling him about this group of devil worshipers and how she was part of a ritual in which her mother tried to let this cult use Sister Angela. The Bishop gives Angela a mission to infiltrate the cult to see if the powers of the Catholic Church can take down the cult of devil guys.
Meanwhile, Ben, the janitor the lady in the sexy leather skirt earlier gave that list to, breaks into the place Cathy is getting raw dogged. Ben tries to abduct Cathy only for Sam to bust out some sweet karate moves before he gets a dagger in the back. Cathy tries to run away but Ben pursues and injects her with something that causes her to fall asleep.
You know something… It’s really hard to understand exactly what’s happening in these first 20 minutes or so. There were several jump cuts to very disparate things. We know there were some rebellious monks 600 years ago. And the plague. And then the devil worshiping cult of people killing their daughters. Cathy is this drug addict back on the wagon. Now she’s been kidnapped? And Brett eats Cheetos on a stair stepper machine. The Bishop is looking for an undercover agent to go in and take down the cult so he has this girl who was raped as a little girl by the cult which can’t be a good idea, can it? Alex is maybe a prude, but then we learn she too was sorta whored out by her father when she was a little kid?
Finally, the movie calms down to reveal that Alex’s grandfather is part of the cult and is running short on time to deliver a victim to get his next 13 years of life. She’s gonna give Alex to them, but the main priest of the cult, Thomas, tells him he will get extra bonus points for a virgin – which I think Alex is because she’s been traumatized by her father letting people take sexy pictures of her when she was little. Alex’s grandfather is also wanting to plow the hot leather skirt lady from earlier, and take over as top dog priest.
Speaking of Thomas, he goes to Cathy who has been tied up in what looks like a warehouse or something. It’s probably a warehouse. Anyway, he kind of hypnotizes her…? Like, did he get those powers from Satan or something? Did he always have those powers? Did whatever homeboy inject in her to bring her to this warehouse act on her like the shit she got into on the street so she’s just up for anything now? Maybe Cathy is going to be a sacrifice? Or a new member? I’ll definitely be checking back in on her because… titties.
Alex and her mother go to a party at her grandfather’s. Priesty McDraculaman is introduced to her and he wants to take Alex to another room to tell her some spooky stories or something. Alex’s grandfather, George, wants Alex to move in with him, but her mother is particularly against it. Bill, who accompanied Alex to this shindig, is fairly keen on how much Thomas is monopolizing her company at this party. He tells her how she may not truly love Bill and I guess he puts the whammy on her as well.
Here’s the deal… I think Thomas has these mind powers maybe because he is kind of an extension of Satan himself? Like he’s silver-tongued like the devil? Or maybe he’s like a vampire and lives long enough to develop more of his mind’s capabilities? I dunno.
Anyway, a couple hooded dudes come into Alex’s mom’s bedroom and drown her with booze to kill her. With mom dead, Alex is basically free to move in with George and get closer to George and Priesty McDraculaman. Speaking of our malevolent priest, he’s talking to Sister Angela about the history of the cult and how she is frustrated with the Catholic Church. She goes through a ceremony to denounce God and join the cult.
You know what this movie’s problem is? There are too many pieces on the board here. I get it when you have an evil organization, you can have a handful of people in some sort of hierarchy and they can sometimes duke it out over who becomes supreme bad dude. Sure. But we also have an assload of heroes, or maybe I should say heroines. We have Sister Angela who is working undercover. We have Alex who is apparently a major pawn in one guy’s plans. There’s Cathy who was absolutely set up as the main character in the first 15 minutes of the movie, but now I guess she’s just naked and being controlled and boned by Thomas. Bill is likely going to emerge late in the game to save the day because this was made in the 80s and, even when a woman directs a movie, a woman can’t really be the lead hero. Oh, and, naturally, there’s the Bishop too. Surely he’s not going to spend the second half of the movie completely on the sidelines.
But what about Cheetos-munching Brett?!? Where’d she go? Did she get to use those multi-colored, Korean store condoms?
Shortly after her mother’s funeral, Kissy McCultleader plants a wet one on Alex. I guess she’s being led by the forked, silvery tongued niceties. Bill is rightfully irritated by how handsy Thomas is. This leads to fighting that causes the rift between them to grow wider and deeper. However, she is having some pretty fucked up dreams about being sacrificed on an altar.
The police drop off a girl at the shelter that Alex works at – which is the same place Cathy used to go to. The girl is “underage”. I guess the shelter is full according to Alex, but knowing that having the cops take the girl to jail will only begin a revolving door of this girl being put in the slammer, Alex decides to bring her to George’s place where she can try to help her there.
Oh, and by “underage” I’m guessing they mean “under the age of 30”. Seriously, this girl, who, sure is pretty for, like, 1980s Staten Island standards, looks like she’s the aunt of her sisters’ 4 kids. You know, the fun aunt that will buy kids all the Pixie Sticks they can eat whenever she hosts sleepovers. She looks like Roseanne Barr’s hotter, younger sister, Ruby.
Sweet beret, though.
At the gym, we do see the return of Brett! She’s still dating Norman because she’s about to meet his parents. She’s not so sure she’s ready for that sort of heavy relationship, but whatevs. After the club closes, somehow Brett is able to use the pool. I… have some questions, but those can’t be answered as Ben the killer man is lurking. He jumps into the pool and injects the sleepy juice into Brett and abducts her.
I’m not sure exactly what the plan there is with the abductions. One girl who didn’t fall for the priest’s whammy powers was told she was going to tempt the sacrifice? I guess that is Alex? But why and what? Maybe they are just to play a part to break Alex down? I dunno… The whammy powers are not a long lasting thing, though, as Ben tries to touch and rub up on Cathy but she awakes crying and really, really scared.
Anyway, Bill tells Alex he’s done some research on the satanic talisman that was found on her mom’s person when she was killed. She thinks Bill is being ridiculous. While Bill tries to get the fuzz involved, Alex goes to speak to Thomas. He convinces her to be with him and to forget Bill and to return the next day – which is the day of a winter solstice that will make it easier to, I dunno, hang out with the devil or something?
I dunno. That’s what the movie said is happening so that’s what’s happening. Oh, and that troubled teenaged, 30-something living with Alex? Ben picked her up so she’s in Thomas’ basement harem of babes I suppose. When Bill barges into the church to find Alex, he gets an awl through the chest and fights with Ben. He’s able to get upstairs in the church while trying to elude the injured but no less persistent Ben. On the roof of the church, Ben over powers Bill and tosses him off to his death.
Damn… I am actually surprised they did that. So I guess broham here isn’t going to save the day. He’s just a greasy spot on the sidewalk.
George and Alison Deveraux, the hot cult babe who likes wearing leather skirts, are toasting to the eventual moment in which George is going to succeed in getting Alex sacrificed and get some more years on his life… and take over the cult from Thomas. Alison says none of that is as simple as he says it will be. It leads into a conversation about exactly how old she is to which she responds, “Only the devil knows for sure.” Oddly enough, this little scene in a sea of scenes this movie has crammed into its 86-minute runtime is probably my favorite. While the movie may have claims of its dubious quality, I’ve not totally been disappointed or frustrated with the movie, but this little exchange between grandpa and great-great-great-great-great-great-grandma is pretty good.
Okay, so we’re in our final stages of the movie. The police know that Bill’s dead and they are on the way to investigate. Meanwhile, it’s a black mass bonanza at St. Michael’s! Father Thomas has Cathy, Brett, and whats-her-face lined up as potential new members of the cult.
That does beg the question, though… Does it really count if these girls aren’t acting on their own free will? They are clearly whammied by Father Dracula. Wouldn’t that be cheating? Does it not matter because it’s Satan’s deal? That doesn’t seem right. Wouldn’t it make more sense for these girls to be sacrificed or something? I get that the real deal of power comes from virgins or something. He even asks if they join with their own free will to which they respond they do, but that’s not true. Like that should just be removed. Just take control of the people and make them ghouls or something.
Whatever, it’s nearing midnight and Father Thomas calls for Alex to join him. The cops have figured out what’s what, and when Detective Dann Carr, the primary cop involved in all these shenanigans, enters the church, Thomas claims there’s nothing going on to which Carr simply responds, “Cut the crap, fart breath.” Brilliant. The cops try to shoot Thomas, but nothing seems to hurt him. I… guess… he kills the cops…? No, he just knocks them out because we see them get up later. Why not just kill them? You’re slipping in your really really old age, Tommy Boy!
Anyway, the cult starts working on the sacrifice and as the girls prep Alex for the stuff to go down, we got a Satan prepping himself to… to… Well. You’ve kind of got me there. I never really did wrap my head around exactly what the plan was here for the cult and what the sacrifice does for them to get close to Satan. But whatever, doesn’t matter… look at this guy!
Just drink that motherfucker in! He’s blood red. He’s veiny. He’s got a ramen noodles draped over him. His wings look like angel wings but also like bat wings. He is a fallen angel after all… That part makes sense. But look at that goat face that also looks like an evil goat Muppet. Those horns look kind of sad. This. Guy. Is. AWESOME.
Before Thomas asks George to plunge that dagger into Alex’s sweet, sweet flesh, he makes out with her a little bit. We see Sister Angela looking around like she’s gotta figure out when she’s going to make her move to, like, stop all this shit…? Which makes me think fuck her for doing nothing to help those girls that got brainwashed into the cult. Oh whatever, she kills George before he can kill Alex, and then stabs Satan which causes all the cult members to grow old and wither away.
Not quite a Devil’s Rain style melting, but whatever. Thomas escapes and shouts to Sister Angela, “You win! THIS time!” I wish Thomas had a twirly mustache to roll while he was saying that line. The three girls wake up from Thomas’ spell, which means that was completely and totally unnecessary to include in the movie, you know, because they supposedly went through an entire ceremony to pledge themselves to Satan, and I assume it is like the deal Sister Angela supposedly made that can’t be reneged, but whatever… Oh, and, of course, Alex is all cool and shit, but she doesn’t seem all that bothered by three people who are part of her life in some fashion are all there and dressed like slutty angels. Nor does she seem to be hampered by the fact that her mom, her boyfriend, and her grandpa are all dead. Oh whatever… Sister Angela wins the movie, I guess. Good for her!
This movie isn’t great. But it’s fairly innocuous. It’s clear that Findlay was mostly an adult film director. There are weird shots that are far too close up on the characters than necessary for that scene’s particular need, but as just this little devil cult movie with some sweet tits in it… You can do a whole lot worse.
At times, it was a little disjointed (as indicated by the number of times I threw my hands up in this article with a “oh, whatever”), like those hooded guys who knocked off Alex’s mom that were basically never seen before or after, or how she has friends brainwashed into the cult that really didn’t mean anything considering they were going to use a literal whore on the street that didn’t fall for Father Thomas’ bullshit, but there are a couple twists and turns that I didn’t expect – like the cops being completely ineffectual, or the Bishop not moving a needle in any direction, or the boyfriend being tossed off a building by a dullard serial killer. To that, I say this is worth a look.
That Satan monster, though… They were really proud of that. I didn’t mention it earlier, but right after the title screen, they showed that guy. You know the designer and everyone behind the scenes making this movie was counting on that being a real hook to bring people in. Titties? Devil Black Mass? Dracula like fallen monk? Nah… None of that shit is as cool as that fucking Satan monster someone spilled their ramen noodles all over!
However, it’s getting near mid-September around these parts, so I better head back to school to rush some frats and panty raid some sororities! Join me here next week where I’ll take a look at 1989’s killer mystery Rush Week!