Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Hanging Woman (a.k.a. Return of the Zombies, Orgy of the Dead, etc.)

If there’s one thing you can always depend on from old European horror movies, it’s a great atmosphere and setting. Now, while a distressing number of them don’t actually manage to bring anything beyond that to the table, this one fortunately manages to maintain that atmosphere while throwing a plot at us so thick and convoluted that you start to wonder how they’re finding time for all the shots of graveyards and spooky castles.

The film follows a man named Serge who comes to an unidentified European village following his uncle’s death so as to inherit his uncle’s castle. After being tipped off by some villagers that bad things are about, he stumbles across a woman that’s been hanged by the cemetery, and is soon embroiled in a series of murders, seances, feuds, gunfights, chases, and attacks by zombies. I’d also mention the mad scientist and the women’s love of nudity, but that almost seems like too much at this point.

It’s got all the required goofy moments and crazy camera work that one would expect from a film like this. At one point a woman is murdered, and Serge announces “It was my uncle that did it. And I think I know where to find him!” before taking off at a full gallop across what appears to be two counties, dragging on for so long that it starts to become like that ponderously lengthy scene in Ali where he just goes running until he’s had the chance to run past every single person in Africa. He also gets to show off his badass side later on, when he and his girlfriend discover a secret passageway, and he decides that as her protector he must stab a corpse to make sure it’s dead, open fire on a skeleton hanging on a wall, and then start a massive brush fire by throwing a lamp at some passing zombies (okay, that last bit may have been somewhat justified). It doesn’t quite raise itself up to that higher level like Suspiria or similar Euro horrors, but it’s definitely worth watching.

Rating: ***

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