Here we have an informed documentary on the occult in our society, made in what has to be the early Eighties (I couldn't find a date, so I went by the hairstyles). "Is today's REVIVAL OF EVIL setting the stage for the antichrist?" asks the back packaging for this video by New Liberty Films. If it is, the antichrist is sure taking is sweet time.
Revival of Evil is primarily a talking heads documentary, with talks given by people who have experienced the supernatural in their lives. Some claim to have had psychic powers, one (nightclub owner Mike Putini) discusses the occult in rock music, and then there's international occult expert Dave Hunt. We also get a look inside the First Church of Satan, founded and run by Anton LaVey. It's exactly what you would think - people in dark robes praying to Satan.
Each psychic person tells their story in small chunks, intercut with each other. There's Jim Gold, an entertainer and Gospel singer, who claims he could move objects with his mind. Susan Brooks, a wife and mother, performed seances in her mom's basement. Dave hansen, a teacher, got into Satanism. Carole Carmichael, a spiritual counterfeits counsellor, got astral powers from Yoga, and Mike Putini... well, he basically just went to rock concerts.
And then there's Dave Hunt, the expert. He's seen wandering around inside a library, looking intellectual. There's a shot of him slotting a book back onto a shelf before he starts talking, as if he'd just been reading something quite fascinating. He's clearly done a lot of research, but he still comes off as someone whose only source of 'facts' is the Bible. "The modern western mind is being psychologically programmed to accept the religion of the antichrist," Hunt tells us, "which I believe will be a merger between modern science and eastern mysticism, or occultism." Woah, did he just say that eastern mysticism is the same thing as the occult? You bet he did! And he's just warming up. Next he has a go at Hindu gods, "which the Bible says are demons."
Pick an occult subject, and Dave Hunt's got an answer for you. "The souls and spirits of the dead are either in Heaven or Hell and can't communicate with the living," he says, so therefore all spirits contacted by seances and mediums are really demons. What about reincarnation? "There are only two possible explanations," he says when discussing regression hypnotherapy, used to regress a subject back into prior lives. "Either reincarnation is true, which the Bible denies... or an impersonating demon is speaking through the hypnotized person, spreading the same old lies." Pretty clear cut, eh? It must be a demon spreading lies, because the Bible says there's no reincarnation. End of story.
Everything that isn't Biblical is demonic to him, it seems. "The apparitions from seances, haunted houses and ghostly shapes and shadows that appear on the walls of children's bedrooms, and fascinate and draw them into the occult, are demonic manifestations. So are UFOs." He does have some interesting tidbits along the way, though. He reveals that in 1967, Ouija boards replaced Monopoly as America's #1 parlour game. He also talks about Ouija boards used in lab conditions, where blindfolded people were still able to spell out clear messages with them.
But enough about him. Let's get to the rock and roll stuff! Mike Putini talks about the use of Satanism and the occult in rock music, as if that were a big secret. The band name KISS, he says, stands for Kings In Satan's Service, and the band members were deliberately made up to look like demons. He also talks about rock groups like Led Zeppelin and the Beatles using 'backwards masking' to put messages into their songs. Yep, he's talking about playing records backwards to hear Satanic messages! Anyone else remember that?
Mike's best story is that a friend told him the untimely deaths in the rock world were due to deals with the Devil. Singers like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix died so young because they sold their souls for fame and power, and Satan came to collect. I guess that's a more interesting story than simply saying they overdosed and drowned in their own vomit.
This film was interesting to watch from the perspective of looking back at Christian attitudes from the 1980's, and how they haven't really changed all that much. The stories from the psychic people are also interesting - if you can believe them. Dave Hunt's stuffy intellectualism doesn't convince me, but he might get through to others. The film would be more convincing, however, if there was more discussion from both sides of the issue; we only hear from people who wound up thinking that anything supernatural was bad. This movie clearly isn't out for a balanced discussion on the topic - it's right there in the title. The movie isn't called Revival of Spiritualism or Revival of the Supernatural or even Revival of the Occult - it's Revival of Evil.
"The Book of Revelation seems to indicate," Dave Hunt says, "that in the Last Days, sorcery would be revived." Maybe, Dave, but it's 20 years later and the apocalypse still hasn't happened. The only thing I see that needs reviving is your closed mind.
Likely To Convert - 3
Production Values - 4
Acting/Direction - 6
Likely To Be Sat Through - 6
Unintentional Hilarity - 5
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 7