Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Blind Eye

Come with me readers on a journey. It starts in 1099…I’m just kidding it starts in 1971 when for whatever reason Amando De Ossorio took Spain’s fear of the Knight’s templar and turned it into a horror film which became the only Spanish horror film of any repute until Guillermo Del Toro let Spain ride his coattails. It wasn’t good by any stretch of the imagination, but it was original enough and spawned three sequels, don’t ask how. Meanwhile in 2007 I somehow sat through all of these movies and now, in the comfort of my living room, with the lights dimmed just how I like it, with two pieces of toast and a superior movie on my television, I shall share this experience so you never have to do it yourself, not that I discourage curiousity in the face of a horror film.

Tombs Of The Blind Dead
by Amando de Ossorio

We are given the back-story on the “knights from the east” about how they had their eyes pecked out by crows after raping women in the name of the lord in a flashback we have not seen the last of. And then the ‘plot’ starts up. An ugly Spanish couple are lounging poolside when they meet the girl’s old roommate who another flashback tells us did some of that experimenting guys are always wishing more girls did on their own. Well their reunited friend starts hitting on the guy and it makes the first girl feel like a third wheel. Instead of confronting her problem she jumps off the train and runs off to a nearby abandoned ruin and decides to make a life for herself there. But that gets tabled when really cheesy looking skeletons in tattered costumes awake from, well, the dead I guess and kill her. The scene is moody and spooky and the fact that seemingly endless numbers of the things seem to come from nowhere is at least mildly scary, but the skeletal fiends are just too damned goofy looking to be all that scary. Anyway, the girl is found with bite marks all over her and then she comes back to life in the morgue and attacks her old job only to burn to death, for a second time. So then the girl’s friends and a greasy bandit and his uniformly greasy girlfriend go back to spend the night at the villa and they’re killed in the same slow way except the first girl’s friend who makes it to a train which starts to move again just as it’s boarded and it’s occupants massacred. The train makes it town, leaving room for a sequel, which is exactly what director Amando de Ossorio did not do. Oh there was a sequel, but the only thing it had in common with Tombs was the fact that they have the same villain. This movie is lumbering, ugly and mean. People are killed, slowly, stupidly. The villains are implacable and though not invincible, endless. There is no way for this movie to end but bleakly, and the fact that the people we have to sympathize with are disgusting, piggish, vain and petty doesn’t help this film any.
The Return of the Evil Dead
by Amando de Ossorio

The second car in this train wreck The Return is meaner and approaches legitimate scare value occasionally. This time the love triangle is actually a quadrangle consisting of the Mayor of a town that shares its name with the villa from the previous film, the Mayor’s bodyguard, the Mayor’s secretary and a fireworks expert who the secretary once had a fling with named Jack Marlowe. The fireworks guy and the secretary lead the small party of survivors into a large church after the knights come back to life during a celebration occurring on the same night that they were originally blinded, though, this time it was with a torch, not by crows. Anyway, the dead are brought back by a blood sacrifice provided by one of the most disgusting caricatures of a retarded person I’ve ever encountered in a horror film named Murdo. Murdo, the Mayor, his bodyguard and secretary, a young single woman, an expendable guy, his wife and child all take refuge in a church a la George Romero and are slowly whittled down. The demise of the Knights at the end is unexplained, probably for the better and we are forced to see a retarded guy get his head cut off. Go Spain!

The Ghost Galleon
by Amando de Ossorio

Movie number three has even less to do with the knights templar than either of the first two combined and the fact that its called The Ghost Galleon ought to have been my first clue. I thought they might have tried explaining it somehow, but I guess the idea is that the Knights are something like Spain’s Godzilla, just out there somewhere, waiting to attack whatever be-make-upped 30 something that should cross their path. Anyway, some models are performing the worst thought out publicity stunt in history by pretending to be stranded on a dingy awaiting rescue. This plan is being thought out in a dungeon somewhere where the model’s only friend is raped by one of the men behind the scheme, but she seems ok with it, all in all. Anyway, the girls encounter some kind of Ghost Galleon and are killed. The rape victim and three of the heartless ugly Spaniards behind the publicity stunt go looking for them, find the ship and are also killed. Notice the one guy, he's played by Jack Taylor (That sweater! THAT MOUSTACHE! GODS!) What are the bodies of the knights templar doing on a boat? Why does it become dark whenever one boards the titular galleon? Why is there treasure on the ship? What causes the professor’s heart attack? Anyway, this film has one thing that works and one thing only and that is the obviously soundstaged boat exteriors. The boat looks like it’s in the middle of a forest but it is actually creepy, unlike everything else about this piece.
Night Of The Seagulls
by Amando de Ossorio

Ok, film number 4 is actually my favorite and not just because it has a slightly more favorable view of retarded people. The prologue to Night of the Seagulls has some foreboding but is completely irrelevant, both to story and the templar mythology. A man and his buxom bride stop to knock on the door of a house for help of some kind, we’ll never learn why. The help they receive is actually from some horseback riding gentlemen with crosses on their white robes. These guys provide as much help as the blouse the girl sports, which is soon ripped off to give us the film’s first in a long line of forcibly topless women. In the present, a doctor and his wife move into a seaside town where they are most certainly not welcome. The first night in town the doctor’s wife is visited by the town’s retarded man, named Teddy. In Spain. His name is Teddy. Yeah. Anyway, that night the couple hear seagulls and a strange chanting, neither of which make sense given the late hour (someone’s been reading real books). They go to the beach to investigate the noises and witness the first half of a ritualistic murder but leave before the end. Some of the town’s folk try ignoring them completely except for a young brunette named Lucy who offers to be their maid. The doctor tries to get to the bottom of the weirdness when a girl comes to their door seeking refuge and is taken away by the black hooded procession from last night’s beach party. They do the same thing as last night with this new girl, except they outfit her in a see-through silk nightee. Anyway, they try to kill both Teddy and Lucy, but the doctor stops them from being killed initially and bring ‘em home for some Night of the Living Dead and then they both get killed anyway. The doctor and his wife escape on the blind dead’s horses who don’t obey their orders and then they discover their weakness is the giant stone idol in their seaside castle. This is the one movie that could actually work as it’s own film were it not for some much needed exposition. If they had added some other explanation for a town-wide agreement to sacrifice virgins, instead de Ossorio expects people to rely on the evil already set-up in his first three films. Happened once, why not again? But this has a coherence the others do not. Easily the strongest of the series in that some of the images are pretty cool and frightening and the film feels a lot less mean and a lot more tactful. But to say any film is tactful because it doesn't feature explicit rape, children murdered and a scheming retarded person isn't saying anything.

The internet might have just about everything you want but what it lacks is a statement from the late de Ossorio explaining how he arrived at the conclusion that prompted him to make these movies, because I for one have some questions. The series as a whole: FUCKING TERRIBLE. Why make such a big fucking deal about the fact that these guys can only hear you if everybody screams and whimpers like a puppy being hit with a baseball bat. Gimmicks are supposed to mean something. Then there’s the everyone dies thing. What a mean-spirited bully this guy is. Also, the knights templar never change from film to film, but their stories do. How do they get there? And the knight zombies are NOT SCARY! Their hands most glaringly so. They are frail little plasticy things that never bend in any way as if to accentuate the falsehood. Then there’s the pacing; slow as the day is long these movies are. This stems from the impossible slow speed the knights themselves move at. All of this makes for four screamingly awful films, and that’s not even bringing in the atrocious day-for-night photography that accompanies every attack not done on a studio lot. And why is every sound echoed whenever the knights attack? For scare value? Cause all it does is make the film feel like an endless chasm of boredom and like the movie itself will never die, even with fire.

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