Succubus: The Demon is a Finnish horror film, presented as a sort of erotic, occult thriller. Unfortunately, it is neither erotic nor thrilling, though there are some horrific elements, particularly the disturbing, green goop covered orgy we see at the end of the film. Succubus is largely a disappointment, failing to achieve excellence or even competence in almost every way.
First, let's focus on Henri, the main character and erstwhile protagonist, played by Markus Salo. He is a depressive and unsavory character, which causes the viewer to wonder how he was ever able to get married in the first place, even if his wife did kill herself eventually. (More on that later.) Henri has long, stringy hair, a sickly complexion, and likes to decorate his apartment with paintings of topless mermaids and medieval flails. As noted above, he is also an unrelenting sad sack, due to the suicide of his wife Laura (Veera Toivanen) several months ago. Think of him as a depressed, less appealing and talented Ed Norton. For some unknown reason, the producers of Succubus think that viewers will feel empathy for Henri, as he pads around his apartment in the same filthy underwear every day, visits his wife's graveside and moans about how much he misses her to his coworkers.
To liven things up, the producers throw in Patrick (Pekka Oinonen), the bald, leering work pal who is oddly creepy when he talks about his friend's dead wife (and who, at one point, actually rubs his chin in creepy, gleeful reminiscence), Toivanen, the manipulative boss, and a couple of buxom secretary types, Kirsi and Iris, who function more as furniture than actual human agents. Mix vigorously with a gypsy fortune teller, a wiccanish type woman who happens to have "dangerous" books of eldritch knowledge lying about her apartment, and the queen of all damnation, and you have nearly the complete cast.
"But, what happens?" I can hear you asking. "Why isn't he telling us about the plot?" Sadly, it is because there is precious little plot to Succubus, which in any event can be summarized thusly: Henri is sad about his dead wife. He walks around in his underwear. He is annoying at work. He tries to summon the devil. Super evilness and plot twists ensue.
The attempts at the erotic aspects are particularly ham handed. The film's climax of sorts (pardon the pun) is an incongruously graphic orgy of demon women covered in green goop and petroleum jelly with blue painted faces. It is meant to be a terrifying vision of hell, but ends up rather being a terrifying vision of what a nineteen year old D&D nerd who has never felt the soft touch of a woman would think an orgy ought to be like. For all but the deviant, Succubus fails to stoke the smoldering files of lust. And even they will probably just get bored.
The quality of the production is poor, though director Sami Haavisto wisely chose to shoot largely on location. Regardless, it appears that everyone in Finland lives and works in cramped, underfurnished utility. The acting is poor, stilted and unbelievable. (Understandable on a shoestring budget, but not rescued by an engaging story or the kind of verve that helps make many low budget offerings memorable.) The special effects are poor, though the evisceration of a live cat and drinking of its blood are carried off passably. (How this is achieved is detailed in the extra material.) The cat evisceration is probably the only effect that is not laughable on its face. Even with all this, though, the most damning thing about Succubus is that almost nothing happens. It is nearly an hour in before we see even a hint of the eponymous succubus, (Maarit From) who doesn't appear to actually be a succubus at all, but merely a female demon. A more fitting title would have been Henri Wanders Around His Apartment, though I suppose that would have generated significantly less interest among the Finnish horror film fan base.
The short story is that Succubus fails: to keep interest, to thrill, to titillate, to frighten (apart from one or two jump scares) or to entertain. One may ask, what else is there?
The video is in widescreen, but of fair to poor quality. Objects blur when in motion. The colors are drab when visible. Throughout much of the film, the action is swathed in murkiness, which is merely depressing in day scenes, but at times entirely obscures the action in night scenes.
Sound is 2 channel and fair. The music, though melodramatic of itself, comes through clearly and powerfully. The dialogue is not as lucky, and can at times be difficult to hear, which doesn't matter much because of the subtitles available for English language viewers, but is annoying. Only English subtitles are available, and there are no alternate language tracks.
There is almost as much extra material on the Succubus disc as there is film. Unfortunately, the extras are for the most part uninteresting. Let's go over them individually.
Diaries of the Mad Man
Clocking in at 26:21, this consists mostly of interviews with the director Haavisto and select members of the cast. It details the history of Blood Ceremony, the production company Haavisto founded, and the genesis of Succubus. The interviews are unengaging, and often stagy and overlong.
This is another mini-doc, running 16:03, detailing the making of the climactic orgy scene. It is bookended by an interview with a porn actress who was one of the zombie women, and consists mostly of on set interviews with the crew and zombie girls. Not particularly interesting.
Another mini-doc of about seven minutes highlighting Succubus's premier in Helsinki. Very uninteresting.
It appears that this is a behind the scenes look at the sound design and scoring of the film but, since it is presented entirely in Finnish and, unlike the other extras, has no subtitles, it is impossible for this reviewer to verify definitively that the clean scrubbed Finnish gentlemen we see are not discussing the finer points of muffin baking. Twenty minutes of incomprehensibility.
Making of Blood FX
This is the most intriguing of the extras, and one of the shortest. Antti Raisala, the special effects supervisor, goes through all of the bloodier scenes and explains how they were achieved. This is a nice insight on how to show a gypsy being stabbed to death on film and make it look moderately realistic.
Making of Cine Photos
The title of this is one is a little confusing, but it is just a slideshow of behind the scenes photos.
This is simply half a dozen still photos from the film.
Trailers for three Redemption releases: The Nuns, Satanic Sluts and Requiem for a Vampire.
The disc copy declares that, "Succubus is so twisted and insane that it will even have you questioning your own sanity!" This oversells the film quite a bit. This reviewer never once questioned his sanity while screening the film, even a little. Instead of questioning their sanity, the viewer is more likely to question their commitment to wading through ninety minutes of uninspired, murky, depressing miscellanea for a minute or two of disturbing sex and a few violent deaths and feline disembowelments toward the end. Unfortunately, Succubus cannot even be recommended to full throated gore hounds or exploitation fans, as there is far too little gore or exploitation to warrant the investment in time. Those interested in a more effective "descent into madness" film would be better served tracking down a copy of Andrzej Zulawski's 1981 effort Possession, which is sexier, gorier and actually compelling. Succubus is definitely not for children, or adults either. Or anyone who could more profitably spend the afternoon gardening. Skip it.