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INCUBI AND SUCCUBI


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Ray Russell
Incubus
Sphere, London, 1986
(first published Sphere, 1977)
price: 2.50; 240 pages

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Kenneth Rayner Johnson
The Succubus
Blond & Briggs, London, 1979
(hardback edition)
price: 4.95; 252 pages

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Frank De Felitta
The Entity
Pan, London, 1979
(first published William Collins, 1979)
price: 1.25; 432 pages

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Eric Ericson
The Woman Who Slept With Demons
New English Library, London, 1980
price: 95p; 240 pages


The blurbs on the backs:

Incubus:
Hell Incarnate...
Tim tried to get her to move. He kept talking to her. 'Come on, we've got to get you out of here. What's
wrong?'
He touched her. Melanie's face split in two as her mouth stretched wide in a scream that never stopped...
Galen is an ordinary, peaceful small town - until horrendous terror strikes ... and strikes again and again, each time claiming a female victim in a manner too hideous to imagine.
Julian Trask, student of the occult, is used to thinking the unthinkable. As he works toward the solution of the soul-searing mystery, Galen trembles in mortal dread. For no woman is safe from the lethal lust of the INCUBUS.

The Succubus:
Each night, as the young man lay asleep, he was visited in his dreams. By morning, when he awoke, spent, there was no trace of the beautiful girl who had stripped him and possessed him. Across London, in a luxurious private hospital, a wholesome American girl has been undergoing a major programme of psychiatric treatment. She had been placed there after conviction for kidnapping the young man and raping him. The salacious public interest in the case made her victim, Troy Valens, flee from the overpossessive church to which he belonged...

The Entity:
Carlotta Moran is a widow with three children, yet still young and attractive enough to build a new life ... until something utterly hideous enters her world.
To the psychiatrists she is deranged, a hysteric on the brink of schizophrenia.
To the psychic researchers, she is undergoing experiences beyond the credibility of science.

The Woman Who Slept With Demons:
She sold her soul, and her body for the power of the damned.
Andrew Jarvis found her unconscious, her naked body horribly scarred with bites and scratches, and all the marks of violent sexual abuse. He was drawn like a moth to the flame but it was not she who was the victim - it was Andrew.
Before he knew it he was under her spell, plunged unwillingly into a world of ritual and demonic evil. For she was one of The Apart, a woman who drew her terrible powers from the devils themselves, a woman who slept with demons...


opening lines:

Incubus:
I was born tonight.
How good I feel!
How fine it is to be born out of darkness and know at once the reason one was born.

The Succubus:
She stood in the dock of Number 16 courtroom at the Old Bailey, as straight backed and impassive as the blindfolded golden statue of Justice that surmounts London's Central Criminal Courts.

The Entity:
There had been no warning. No way to predict. Nothing at all.

The Woman Who Slept With Demons:
In times gone by, men and women did not accept the boundaries of the visible world as readily as we do today.


The extraordinary success of The Exorcist in the early-1970s led to a rash of imitators and a renaissance of horror, both in literature and in the movies. A lot of it centred on the central feature of The Exorcist itself - the deranged and dangerous child. So we had The Fury, Carrie, The Omen, Firestarter and the rest, which all seemed to spring from the experience of the '60s generation settling down, having children and being scared of the commitment and responsibility involved. The more liberal attitude towards child-rearing didn't help either.

But there was another side to '70s horror: the fear of women's sexuality. That's broadly the theme of these books, which all draw on the medieval legend of the sexual demons that incarnate themselves in both male and female form, as an incubus and succubus respectively.

Ray Russell, whose Unholy Trinity turns up elsewhere, is a good, competent writer and his tale comes swathed in lust and steamy passion. It's a familiar set-up, with an expert on folklore and the occult investigating inexplicable happenings, in this case a series of rapes so violent that they leave the victims dead. Set in what is effectively a New England town relocated to California, Incubus creates an atmosphere in which the presence of demons and witches and incubi doesn't seem entirely unreasonable, though the idea of half a dozen women being raped and murdered in the space of a week or two, while the case is still being handled exclusively by a small-town sheriff stretches credulity. The twist in the tail, it has to be said, is hardly any great surprise.

Incubus was filmed in 1981 by John Hough, with John Cassavetes starring, but it wasn't really any good, and you're better off sticking with the book.

The same can't be said of Frank De Felitta's The Entity, which is a depressingly long read. The plot is so slight - a woman finds herself subjected to nightly assaults in which she is raped by what she believes to be a spectre - that a short story could have done it justice: 400 pages is absurd. Then there's the underlying tendency to exploit rape for its voyeuristic value, which leaves something of a nasty taste in the mouth. After a couple of hundred pages, we get to a decent little sub-plot as rival psychiatrists and parapsychologists fight for the right to handle her case, but it's scarcely enough to make the thing worthwhile.

The 1981 film - directed by Sidney J Furey and starring Barbara Hershey - did good business, but it was again too long (over two hours) for the subject-matter.

Between those two books came The Succubus, a much more obscure work, which never got filmed. Kenneth Rayner Johnson was better known as a writer of 'non-fiction' occult books about Atlantis and the Pyramids and the like, and this deviation into fiction doesn't suggest an enormous aptitude for the field. The sleeve notes tell you all you need to know about the story - not exactly overwhelming in its creativity. But it gains bonus points for (a) that cover illustration, which is extraordinarily unattractive, and (b) bouncing the narrative off the recent Manacled Mormon news-story. If you've forgotten this latter, don't worry - we've got a whole page dedicated to the fabulous Ms Joyce McKinney.

Mr Johnson had earlier given us the novelization of the ultra-dumb 1977 movie Zoltan: Hound of Dracula, and followed up this book with The Homunculus. More recently he could be found writing the introduction to Creation Books' millennial edition of the Revelation of St John.

To round off this selection, here's The Woman Who Slept With Demons, an absolute classic of its kind. This is tremendously, tremulously trashy in a way that the others can't even begin to match.

Although it's essentially the standard mix of sex and elder gods (I can't help thinking that Lovecraft really has some apologising to do at some point), it's the scope of this book that makes it so wonderful: we start in rural East Anglia in the present, but Ericson's far too restless to stay there, so we take in the Burma campaigns of World War II and the decolonisation of Africa as we explore English mythology, ley-lines and possession. Throw in huge helpings of sex, violence and violent sex - including a nymphomaniac nymphette - and you can only salute the trashy achievements of Mr Ericson. All credit to him.


Incubus:
ARTISTIC MERIT: 3/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:
3/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT:
1/5

The Succubus:
ARTISTIC MERIT: 2/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:
2/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT:
3/5

The Entity:
ARTISTIC MERIT: 2/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:
1/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT:
1/5
The Woman Who Slept With Demons:
ARTISTIC MERIT: 2/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:
4/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT:
2/5

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Maundy

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