A Visit From the Incubus recreates four Technicolor hued genres in less than half an hour. It opens in a sunlit parlor where a pair of corseted ladies lament their nightly visits from a local incubus. It next shifts to a crimson boudoir where a gust of wind unshutters a latched window and grants nocturnal access to the unconscious Lucy. Rather than wallow in her newfound fallen state, she takes on a job at a local saloon. Shortly thereafter, Anna Biller’s 2001 short film pivots away from its sinister opening half. She soon finds every goldpanner in the Yukon in her thrall as the finale reveals the spirit of MGM musicals.
That these jarring tonal transitions appear effortless is a testament to Biller’s grasp of material she evokes. While her Queen triptych was promising and charmingly homespun, it is here that she demonstrates that, if provided with modest resources, she can not only recreate the look of the mid-century silver screen, but bend its rules and create work which stands on its own merits.
Notably, until seeing this short, I’d never considered the horror of the incubus. At the time of this production I spent many a late night playing Capcom’s Darkstalkers 3 in a college dorm. In it, I found Morrigan, a green maned Scotish succubus who made the prospect of a witching hour visit an appealing prospect. The tinted hand of Biller’s incubus immediately revealed the naivety of that perspective. That a film can be simultaneously so formally intriguing, deeply unsettling, and consistently entertaining is an impressive feat and one which only increases my interest in what is to follow in the Criterion Channel retrospective.