A low-budget picture filmed in Australia and released direct-to-video in 1991, THE WICKED is an uneasy blend of comedy and revisionist horror that recalls Peter Weir's THE CARS THAT ATE PARIS. Though not entirely successful, it's unusual enough to be a welcome change of pace from the average inexpensive genre picture. Cowboy brothers Rick and Bronco are...read more
A low-budget picture filmed in Australia and released direct-to-video in 1991, THE WICKED is an uneasy blend of comedy and revisionist horror that recalls Peter Weir's THE CARS THAT ATE PARIS. Though not entirely successful, it's unusual enough to be a welcome change of pace from the
average inexpensive genre picture.
Cowboy brothers Rick and Bronco are driving through the Australian outback on their way to a rodeo. They pick up hitchhiker Lucy, an independent, knife-throwing kind of gal who brooks no gruffness from the two boys. Before long, their car breaks down (they don't notice that the road was
suspiciously booby-trapped) and they find themselves in an isolated town where everyone behaves very oddly. They're told that there's no mechanic who can fix their car, but that Lord Alfred, who lives in the spooky castle on the hill (that it's called Terminus Manor should perhaps be a warning to
them), will help them out. Once at the castle, Rick and Lucy realize there's something very, very wrong. Bronco, having availed himself of multiple beers at the pub in town, is less alert. Lord Alfred and his family--mother, brother and sister--claim to be the victims of grotesque and disgusting
tropical maladies that force them to live in isolation and eat strangely. In fact, they're vampires. Lord Alfred's mother sets her sights on Rick, while his siblings go to work on Bronco and Lucy. Rick manages to keep his head and engineers their escape. They join up with the townspeople, who
renounce their domination by the vampires, and kill Lord Alfred.
THE WICKED's opening suggests that it's going to tell a story along the lines of Tobe Hooper's TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE or Wes Craven's THE HILLS HAVE EYES: a group of unsuspecting, ordinary types stumble into an enclave of vicious insanity and violence, and have to fight their way out. But once
at Terminus Manor, things take a turn for the peculiar. Directed by Colin Eggleston, who co-wrote the screenplay with David Young, THE WICKED's most interesting conceit is to portray the vampire family as creepy eccentrics. Most movie vampires fall into one of two categories, and Lord Alfred and
his relatives are neither maniacal ghouls nor seductive uber-monsters--they're jerks, misfits and out-and-out weirdos. Lord Alfred's suave mannerisms seem to belong to a vaudeville routine. His sister is an MTV-spawned hellion, his brother a smirking retro-nerd in a brocade smoking jacket and his
mother a harridan who'd fit into an Andy Warhol movie far more easily than a Hammer horror film. For good measure, they all worship bizarre deities borrowed from the fiction of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft (The Shadow Over Innsmouth, etc.).
Protagonists Rick, Lucy and Bronco are instantly likable by comparison, allowing the viewer to empathize even when they do stupid things. Performances are of the utmost importance in a film of this kind, and the performances in THE WICKED are surprisingly strong, if mannered. THE WICKED is not
for viewers interested in a straightforward horror film, nor is it likely to appeal to mainstream audiences. But for genre fans interested in seeing something a little off the beaten track, it's a rewarding excursion. (Violence, sexual situations.)