In researching the character Misquamacus for my own writing (he was originally a minor character in the H.P. Lovecraft story ‘The Lurker At The Threshold’) I decided to rent the 1978 movie adaptation of Graham Masterton’s horror novel ‘The Manitou’ in which Misquamacus is featured (I’m having a little trouble tracking down the original novel, the first of a series).
It all starts when this lady (Susan Strassberg) goes to see her doctor about a nasty looking lump of a tumor she found growing on the back of her neck three days previously, a tumor that she claims shifts and moves like ‘someone trying to get comfortable in bed.’ The doctors X-Ray the thing and find a human fetus within, a fetus that is growing at an astounding rate.
Karen (Strassberg) consults with her disco dancing psychic huckster beau Harry Erskine (Tony Curtis) and after a presumed night of passion, Harry hears her mutter a nonsensical phrase in her sleep. Karen repeats the phrase on the operating table the next morning, and the attending surgeon promptly takes his scalpel to the back of his own hand.
The tumor grows to a mighty hump, and the second attempt at removal results in a laser treatment scalpel running amok of its own accord, blowing the doors off the ER and slicing a nurse.
By this time, one of the elderly ladies Harry fleeces with phony Tarot card readings has a genuine possessed episode, mutters the same phrase as Karen and floats down the hall, smashing through the stair railing and falling to her death. Harry contacts his legit occult friends who hold a seance in Karen’s apartment, and an Indian’s head rises out of the table, presaging a sudden bolt of lightning that splits the table in two. By a weird series of investigations and interviews with anthropologist Dr. Snow (Burgess Meredith – ‘Dat Manitou’ll knock ya inta tomorrow, Rock!’), Harry consults a Sioux shaman in South Dakota named John Singing Rock, who travels back to the San Francisco hospital and identifies the tumor as a manitou, the spirit of a 400 year old shaman (Misquamacus), so powerful he has been reincarnated five times, and can turn the course of rivers/move mountains/etc.
By the time they’ve figure all this out, Karen is face down on the bed and the lump is ‘hatching.’ Misquamacus is pissed, not only because of the treatment of his people, but because the doctors’ X-Rays have deformed him. He emerges as a mini-Misquamacus, mad as hell, summoning demons, flaying orderlies alive and flash freezing his floor of the hospital.
Now, this is the one of the nuttiest, most original horror movies I’ve ever seen. I know it’s not very good. I KNOW it. But dangit if I didn’t enjoy it. The FX are what you’d expect from a seventies movie, but that sort of thing doesn’t detract from my enjoyment, because you’ve got to expect that going in. There are some effective scenes however. Misquamacus’ ‘rebirth’ is pretty cringe-inducing, and I loved when he ‘erased’ Singing Rocks’ protective circle. The climax is a bit overly psychadelic and reminds one of Gary Lockwood streaming through the Infinite in 2001, but it’s really not that bad of a movie.
OK, it’s bad. But I’d probably watch it again over ‘Predators,’ which was much more forgettable.