Wednesday, September 23, 2015

'Succubus' is a confusing, confused mess

Jess Franco Week continues...

Succubus (aka "Necronomicon") (1967)
Starring: Janine Reynaud, Jack Taylor, and Adrian Hoven
Director: Jess Franco
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

Lorna (Reynaud). the star of a successful S&M-themed nightshow act, begins having dreams so vivid they become indistinguishable from reality... and soon dream-murders are mirrored by deaths in the real world. Has she snapped mentally, or is her soul--and body--being stolen by something supernatural?

Often, the questions at the end of those little summary blurbs I open these reviews with is rhetorical. In this case, it's not. It's really isn't clear in "Succubus" what's going on. My best guess is that Lorna is a psychopath with a split personality--something which is supported by dream flashbacks to sessions with a psychiatrist, but equally undermined by the weirdness of the sessions. It may well be one of the most incoherent movies I've seen, as it drifts apparently randomly from scene to scene, most of which are populated with characters who spout random nonsense. In some ways, it felt more like one of Ed Wood Jr.'s film than most of the other Franco movies I've seen--and in this case I mean that as a compliment. The random "film-noir" style voice-overs and characters reciting lists of authors and filmmakers are particularly amusing.

The film's strong point is its engaging visuals, with strong colors and interesting camera angles. The random, free-form  atmosphere that permeates the way the film is put together is also engaging, and it's what ultimately earned it one more star that I was going to give it. Unfortunately, there isn't a scene in the film that doesn't go on for too long, and viewers will spend more time wishing that something else would happen than wanting to find out what's really going on. Even worse, those who patiently stick with the film in the hopes that it will coalese and reveal some answers and explain what the point of it is, will be very disappointed. If anything, the ending makes everything that has gone before make even less sense.

 Somewhere, in the bloated, disorganized mess that is "Succubus," is one of the hour-long episodes of "Night Gallery" screaming to be let out. It's trapped in Jess Franco's slapdash, self-indulgent film, however.

(On a historical note, this was Franco's first color film, as well as the first film he made after leaving his homeland of Spain in disgust over the censorship imposed on the arts by the dictatorship that had ruled there since his childhood.)

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