William Beckwith, Christine Moore, Mavis Harris, Max Jacobs, Tim Gail, George Krause, Ruth Collins, Gary Warner, an 80s Cheetos bag, way too many aerobics scenes, and more pervy priests than a Boy Scout Jamboree.
More details here.
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Sometime between Black Plague and the Renaissance, Franciscan monk Thomas (Beckwith) rebels against the church and proclaims his devotion to Satan. He slaughters his fellow monks and forms a cult around sacrifice that will enable him to be immortal.
|Oh Mighty Beelzebub of the $.99 Store!
Hundreds of years later in 1980s Manhattan, Thomas is embedded in the Catholic Church where he poses as a philosophical clergyman, holds sacrificial ceremonies in the basement of a cathedral, and conspires to conceal the atrocities that happen inside the church (gee, imagine that happening).
|"Gaze upon my hairline, and despair!"
Using dark magic to summon demons, Thomas offers his cult members extended life and success, but they must in turn sacrifice a loved one. Alex (Moore) is a young successful manager of a women’s shelter whose wealthy grandfather George (Jacobs) is a secret member of the cult and is grooming her for Thomas’ ritual. But she’s got problems of her own as she receives news of a friend’s mysterious disappearance, who unbeknownst to her is another victim of Thomas’ bloodthirsty cult.
She also has to deal with clingy and jealous boyfriend and Professor of Renaissance History and Convenient Expositionology Bill (Gail) who wants to get more serious.
|Merry Christmas, Yuppie Scum.
Meanwhile, a dauntless nun Sister Angela (Harris) discovers that Thomas is actually an evil shit so she goes undercover and joins the cult to destroy them from within. Grandpa George is also plotting against Thomas and wants to take control over leadership of the cult.
|Every single one of our current problems can be traced to this guy.
But all Thomas wants is Alex to take as his own bride of darkness. The drama between Bill and Alex intensifies as she is seduced by Thomas, old man George steps up his power play against Thomas, and the cult’s unstable henchman Ben (Krause) continues to ogle and kidnap the young ladies of the Lower East Side.
|"DAH, PREETY LADY, DAAHHH!"
But the cult’s fiendish plot is upended by the spunky efforts of Sister Angela, by far the most interesting character who is completely forgotten until the climax where Alex is about to succumb to Thomas' vile desire. Once she skewers the demon in charge, nunny goodness prevails and all the members of the cult revert back to their true age.
|Why have you failed us, Dark Lord Noxzema?
Directed by Roberta Findlay, who along with her late husband Michael Findlay made a series of low budget exploitation and skin flicks in the 70s, Prime Evil is one of several efforts to go mainstream, none of which were particularly successful or memorable. But this movie is fine I guess, in fact it’s pretty harmless. I believe it may have been released towards the low end of the Satanic Panic cycle of the late 70s and early 80s, which started with The Exorcist. But it’s got a cheap soap opera feel, has way too many characters, has a few hilariously and terribly choreographed fight scenes, and is highlighted by lines like “Cut the crap, fart face!” and bad Dana Carvey Church Lady impressions.
Beckwith does his villain shtick with mustache-twirling glee while Moore is pleasant, sympathetic, and believable. The far more interesting undercover nun subplot is set aside for Alex-related drama and needless additional characters who don't advance the plot. But Findlay’s touch is competent, especially in the sacrificial scenes, and she may have managed to drum up more scares with a bigger budget. Interesting to note, at least for me, that this is technically a X-mas horror movie as Thomas’ shenanigans are occurring to coincide with the Winter Solstice. I can recommend Prime Evil for your Halloween binge as a mid-marathon break to chat with your friends, shove a few orange and black M&Ms in your piehole, and WORSHIP SATAN.