Thursday, August 12, 2010

Horror Rises from the Tomb

Paul Naschy has a very qualified level of fame. His name is celebrated among those who are fans of 70s Spanish horror movies beyond the Blind Dead films, which is a pretty scant level of fame indeed. Even by that low measuring stick, his fans are mostly devoted to his seemingly endless number of werewolf movies, leaving this so far behind that I suspect I may even have more readers on this blog in a month than see this film in a year. Despite all that, it manages to be one of his more entertaining films, giving us a nice tale of revenge beyond the grave (not unlike the plot of the Blind Dead movies, actually), complete with blood, nudity, and zombies.
The film opens in the Middle Ages, with Naschy and his mistress (Helga Line) tied to trees and accused of witchcraft, vampirism, and lycanthropy, because clearly all of those are thoroughly interchangeable terms. After the pair are condemned to death by Naschy’s brother (also played by Naschy), he places a curse on his brother, condemning his descendants to all be killed by his hand, for he will be back! After his head is ordered separated from his body so he can never return, we cut ahead to the 1970s, where we once again meet Naschy (the guy gets around) as the descendant, who along with his friends is attending a séance. Because that’s what people did for fun back in the day. Just look at Family Plot if you don’t believe me. Anyway, they accidentally summon the spirit of his ancestor, who mentions that he wants his head and body restored again, and present day Naschy decides to visit his family’s ancestral castle with all of his friends just to prove that the medium was a fraud.

Of course, once we get to his ancestral home (seriously, who owns a castle and just never visits it?) the real fun starts, as they swiftly dig up his ancestor’s head, which is of course still very much alive, and his ancestor wastes no time in hypnotizing everyone he sees and turning them into his zombie minions. It’s a surprisingly convoluted plot after that, involving magic talismans and Thor’s hammers get thrown in somehow and they sleep in the lake and I don’t really know what happened but it was brilliant.

I freely admit that this is a terrible movie. However, it is terrible in the best possible way, in that it manages to transcend its own lousiness and become something borderline awesome. I’d hesitate to call it outright good, per se, but it’s certainly fun and enjoyable, complete with all the violence, nudity, and gloomy scenes of crypts and woods that you could want in a film. The music is nicely subtle and not at all over-the-top too, featuring nothing but an organ and some sound effect that sounds kind of like one of those noise makers you get at a carnival. It apparently also spawned a sequel called Panic Beats, which I haven’t seen, but I can only hope it’s every bit as delightful as this one was.

Rating: ***

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