Directed by William Girdler
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
Emily Rose may have been able to twist into all sorts of nasty poses, but her demons were deep inside her. The devil likes to play it safe while the evil spirits of Native American culture have real balls. You see, a powerful medicine man from 400 years ago has been reincarnated … or at least he is going to be. The Manitou, or spirit, can manifest itself into humans or animals as a rapidly growing tumor. Once the fetus has grown to the right size (that of a midget), it rips open from the host’s skin and is ready to raise hell on Earth.
Save me, Tony Curtis!!! Save us all from the terror of The Manitou! It can strike anywhere, at anytime and at anyone! Wait, then why did it choose to attach itself to a woman in the middle of a big city instead of an animal in the woods? Wouldn’t that be a safer bet than risking the medical procedures that can be preformed today on strange growths? Not to worry, The Manitou is capable of protecting itself. Human minds and even laser beams can be put under its control, for you see, EVERY SINGLE OBJECT has a spirit. Yes, everything. The computer you are reading this on has one. Even the toilet paper we use is alive in some sense.
So how does one go about fighting such a powerful being like Misquamacas, the evil midget trickster? Fight fire with fire of course, but it won’t be cheap; and by the time it is over, you may have wished you had just given up.
The Manitou has a lot going for it. It isn’t the special effects or creepy dwarf in make-up. No, it’s the comedy. The film ignites some really fun viewing when Tony Curtis is on, swindling elderly ladies out of their cash by playing the role of an eccentric psychic, Harry Erskine. Harry has a good heart but has got to pay the bills. Besides, if those old blue-hairs can’t tell that Erskine is a fraud just by looking at him, then they don’t deserve all those $50 bills in their purses.
Harry gets mixed into the whole Manitou mess when his ex, Karen (Strasberg), comes to him for some help. She is the one Misquamacas has chosen as his host, but she is unaware of the whole truth as her doctors refuse to inform her what exactly is under that bump on her back. It isn’t long before she starts showing signs of possession, and Harry isn’t going to sit around and wait for the professionals to figure it out.
It’s right about here that the film loses its energy. The last few laughs come from Burgess Meredith’s guest appearance as an absent-minded professor who informs Harry and his psychic friends about the powers Misquamacas has up his stubby sleeves. What could have been a creepy thriller falls victim to unintentional hilarity as a good-natured medicine man does battle using sticks and a circle of sand against the newly birthed Misquamacas. But the real kicker is the final battle between Karen, the evil midget, and a giant eye in space. I don’t want to spoil it, but there are lasers shooting out of her arms, some guy randomly blows up, and someone seriously needed to contact George Lucas about how to run a sci-fi outer space fight sequence.
After watching The Manitou, it is safe to say every form of possession in the horror genre has been exhausted. What starts off as a strong oddball horror/comedy chops off its own legs and drags itself across the finish line … then dies. There is no chance for resuscitation since the DVD is only packing one extra feature: trailers.
3 out of 5
1/2 out of 5
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