The lord of darkness
Sandy Dennis (Marjorie Worden)
Darren McGavin (Paul Worden)
Ralph Bellamy (Harry Lincoln)
The lord of darkness is a 1972 film directed by Steven Spielberg.
Paul Worden (Darren McGavin), a famous New York commercial, moves with his wife Marjorie (Sandy Dennis) and two young children, Stevie (Johnny Whitaker) and Laurie, to a country house. Paul is often forced to stay away from his family to travel to New York, while Marjorie takes care of the children and the house. Everything starts to go to hell – literally – as soon as Marjorie begins to hear a baby cry during the night and to perceive an evil presence in the house, obsessed with the house and convinced that the devil himself wants to take possession of her. The lord of darkness (Something Evil) is one of those films that, if you are over 40, must have remained somewhere hidden in your memory, and some fright must have caused you as children. For example, that statuette of the devil remained etched in my mind for a long time, even before discovering in adulthood, that that strange, disturbing film, seen on television, had been shot by the father of ET. But it’s not just a question of affection, or if you want rogue nostalgia, Spielberg’s film is a little cult to be rediscovered, for many reasons.
When 23-year-old Steven Spielberg turned The lord of darkness, the Lutz of Amityville Horror (1979) had not yet arrived on the screen, Regan still dreamed of having a horse, before Pazuzu settled inside her, and the presences of Poltergeist (1982) had not yet begun to manifest on little Carol’s television, let alone our own Who are you? (1974) – exorcistic masterpiece by Ovidio G. Assonitis – where one of the children remembers the little Johnny Whitaker (the bimboccio of the series Three grandchildren and a butler). Yet the very young Spielberg, something must have seen him before Rosenberg and Friedkin, and before familiarizing himself with the real fear of The shark and especially with Poltergeist, paired with Tobe Hooper. After Duel, a fulminating TV movie that demonstrates how Spielberg was able to pack great things with very few means at his disposal, the Cincinnati director is confronted for the first time with psychological horror. The exorcist by William Peter Blatty had just come out in bookstores and Spielberg appropriates it in some way, creating suggestions and concerns that will become an imprint of his cinema, with the writing of Robert Clouse (The three of Operation Dragon), and lighting master Bill Butler (A quiet weekend of fear, Someone flew on the cuckoo’s nest), closing the characters and the viewer in a space that is gradually more and more claustrophobic.
Possession in Something Evil it’s just a pretext, a way for Spielberg to play with the camera and study its potential. While moving within the confines of the low budget, Spielberg exploits the television matrix to tell fears and anguish within the home, the discomfort of motherhood and all the neuroses of the bourgeois American family. Spielberg treats the television media in an almost Polanskian way, expanding the times and exploiting dynamics already tested with directorial solutions and shots that reveal a lot of his cinema, before becoming the director of the blockbusters we all know. The lord of darkness, Also known as Something diabolical, is a small film, perhaps not entirely successful, especially in the finale, but which manages to deal with the theme of the haunted house by dosing horror and suspense, instilling in the viewer an ever-increasing feeling of unease. A little gem of the television horror of one of the most important directors in the history of fantastic cinema.