Friday, January 4, 2008


I guess it speaks to my love of filth that I was willing to try both Female Vampire and Vengeance of the Zombies without subtitles when my DVD player stopped working. And I guess it also speaks to my love of filth that while watching both of these movies I recognized early on that every little nuance in these pictures wasn’t going to amount to anything by the time the credits rolled. I could tell, for instance that when the badly scarred servant of the guru Krisna shows up, that his facial wounds were never going to be explained, though they both could have and should have been (as they would have made for a much more interesting plot point). Given the fact that I continually trick myself into watching trash with little to no payoff, I wasn’t quite sure who was more bold; Jacinto Molina, who pretends to be an Indian mystic for an half of the film and Satan himself for the other half and who during an introduction claims that Vengeance is the scariest Spanish horror film ever made, or me, who chose to call his bluff and sit through this tragicomedy. Just how big a fucking sign do I need before I stop myself from watching something?

Vengeance of The Zombies
by Leon Klimovski

I have no problem admitting that in my search for movies that have anything to do with Zombies not made in the last ten years, I’ve done my fair share of grasping. I’ll raise myself one more and admit that the only reason I sat through this movie is because the word Zombie appears in the title in big bloody letters. Another thing I don’t mind admitting: I have no clue what the hell Jacinto Molina was thinking when he wrote this. Molina made his career with these films, writing under his own name but acting under the name Paul Naschy…cause we all know how American that sounds. Naschy was sort of like the John Belushi of Spanish horror, but he was unintentionally funny more than half the time. Let’s try something. For every plot point that doesn’t go anywhere, I’ll put a star next to it. The story: an Indian mystic is somehow behind a series of pretty lame murders performed a girl he has recently raised from the dead (legit). This living dead girl returns to haunt her closest friend and cousin Elvire (a name Molina used in at least 3 other movies), who plays right into the mystic’s hands and watches her family slowly fall victim to the mysterious murders*. She believes, because of some dreams she has while staying in his house, that she is being used by an age old clan of Satan worshippers called “Watlies” as a sacrifice to Satan himself, who actually puts in an appearance, a long with a woman painted gold stirring a giant cauldron* (???). All the while, these voodoo type murders are going on, controlled by a man in a black costume who changes masks every scene*. While Elvire falls deeper into the whole murder and Satan thing, her male friend Lawrence tries lazily to figure out the whole mess, just in time to do nothing about it. Then there’s the plot about revenge and…snore***. There’s too much going on for this film’s good and by the time anything pans out, you’ve already called a friend to do something else. The plot is made doubly confusing by the fact that the protagonist and antagonist (Satan himself, I might add) are played by the same guy…Paul Naschy. If I had to quantify how much thought went into this I’d just cut off Paul Naschy’s head with a saw. 

This movie basically defines obscene; there is nudity and violence, both pointless and not particularly striking examples of their kind. It owes plenty to Let Sleeping Corpses Lie and The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave. It actually resembles Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond when it comes to form. There is a scene in a morgue with a little unintentional humour in the signage. There are scenes of investigation that further serve to muddle an already muddled plot; there is a woman in trouble, an unexplained belief system, continuity errors, unintentional character traits, and a lot of make-up for make-up’s sake. Then there are the flashes of 60s style that had apparently taken its time getting to Spain; though made in 1973, it feels like a mid-60s satire and falls flat on it’s ugly face every time this stupid tendency rears its head, which is much more frequent than can be called acceptable. First of all there’s the clothing (HAVE MERCY!) which I believe come close to rivaling It’s Alive for looking the most dated of any 70’s horror film. Then there’s the religious aspect. Molina wasn’t about to ridicule Christianity with Franco still around, so instead we have the most offensive portrayal of Eastern religion I’ve seen in some time. First of all, I don’t remember the last time someone mixed Hinduism and Voodoo, but, then, this is my first Paul Naschy film. There’s the confusion of Satanism and voodoo practice, which are not the same thing (actually from this confusion comes the film’s only smart move, when Elvire dreams she is the center of a satanic ritual even though it’s revealed later the goatman in her dreams is supposed to be Baron Samedi, not Satan. This would make sense because until that point she hasn’t heard of the voodoo God at the bottom of the plot, though I have to assume this was unintentional. Incidentally, I think that's the same goatman from Molina's Inquisition, five years later). Then there’s the music. Sweet Jesus, the music. Free jazz and bad funk from reel one to reel infinity. Watching a goatman seduces redhead dream sequence with jazz music underscoring it makes me wonder if Klimovsky didn’t watch a few John Cassavettes films and then forget which ones he acted in and directed and just split the difference. There’s the continued occurrence of one special effect (the slitting of a throat), which is unconvincing to say the least, but could plausibly have been what made Molina and Klimovsky put the bong down for a minute and make a movie. Finally we have the dream sequences, which don’t make a lick of sense, but also suffer from Klimovksy constantly changing angles. At first he uses a sort of fish eye to disorient the viewer, but then changes back after the initial shock is over. To simulate just waking up, he had someone wave their hands in front of the camera rapidly instead of the traditional fogging of the lens. One of the devil masks is quite literally a cereal box with holes cut out for eyes and with a felt tongue hanging off the front. Klimovsky is in love with himself and this movie showcases that affair rather nicely. There all sorts of thought-out camera actions and shot compositions and such that would have made sense in a better film, but here just show you how ill-served he was as a director. “If I’m going to do it, it’s going to be done right.” “How about character development and a story?” “Well…I was thinking like, shots of meat hanging and stuff and, you know, like ripping off Hitchcock.”
These are all admittedly stylistic deficiencies, which is to say I never mentioned the continuity errors or glaring plot inconsistencies, which are numerous, dear readers. Continuity: Man enters room with scythe, and after 9 seconds the scythe is now a pitchfork. After this clash, the two protagonists flee the scene, and then make out? The zombies seem to be at 10 places at once, but never manage to kill the protagonist. We see a man driving a car, a woman driving a bicycle and then…they crash. Everyone’s ok and they drive back to town. No one seems to be particularly bothered by this at all. My favorite piece of incompetence comes at the end. When the villain is making his last stand, there’s a groovy little jazz number playing under everything. When he is stopped the song slows down like someone is holding the record in place while his zombie slaves fall down in slow motion. Sometimes this is like a Benny Hill movie, I swear to god. 
Maybe I’m asking too much of a Spanish horror film (they haven’t had the best history), but would it be too much to ask for them not to have a Guru turn out to be both a prick and a perverted liar. I don’t know how much more insensitive Molina could have gotten. When asked about the devil-worshippers who used to inhabit his manse, Naschy’s guru replies, “foolish superstition”. Yeah, says the guy in a turban and cheap suit. Thanks for trying, Klimovsky. Oh and to add insult to insult (after insult after insult after insult) the zombies are about as lame as possible. I haven’t seen a movie this unintentionally funny since…well, this afternoon when I watched The Warriors. (Baseball uniforms and clown make-up constitutes gang colors? Puh-leaze!) Do I recommend it? Do I recommend wearing a beehive as a hat? No. No, I do not. 

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