Monday, March 27, 2017

“Even the children threw rocks at me.”

Horror Rises From the Tomb, also known in its original Spanish as El espanto surge de la tumba, is a 1973 eurotrash horror movie. I knew nothing about this going in, which should be fun, I guess?

An Hour and Twenty Minutes Later

Fun” may have been an overstatement. “Curious” might be a better word. “Heavily edited for television to get the juicy bits out” would be several better words.

For a bit of context, the name Paul Naschy looms large in Spanish horror history. Born Jacinto Molina Alvarez, Naschy (a screen name he came up with to better market his films internationally) was a big fan of classic horror films and eventually turned to screenwriting and acting and eventually directing. Incredibly prolific, especially in the 70s, he performed in over a hundred projects, including 12 werewolf movies where he played a tortured soul named Waldemar Daninsky, before his death in 2009 at the age of 75.

Here, Naschy plays three roles in a script he wrote under his real name. The first is Armand de Marnac, a 15th century nobleman who executes his wicked warlock brother Alaric de Marnac (also Naschy). In Ye Olde Times, Alaric was accused and convicted of a litany of horrible and supernatural crimes that made him a Satanist, warlock, werewolf and vampire all at the same time. He had a lover, Mabille de Lancre (played by Helga Line) who was more of a vampire herself, but no less evil. Before their deaths, the two cursed Armand that they will come back and take revenge on his descendants.

Fast forward to modern times (well...1973 Modern, at least). Hugo de Marnac (also Naschy) is a professional bored aristocrat with a bunch of boring and kind of dumb friends. The first is Maurice Roland, descendant of Armand's friend Andre Roland (both played by Victor Alcazar). Maurice is an artist haunted by dreams of a pair of sinister eyes. Maurice is also dating Paula (played by Cristina Suriani), a journalist stationed in Germany home on vacation. Hugo himself is in a one-sided relationship with Sylvia (played by Betsabe Ruiz). Sylvia wants Hugo to settle down and marry her, but Hugo's ambivalent about that.

At a party they all decide to take part in a séance, where the ghost of Alaric messes with the medium, table, and a candlestick to get across the point that he can't rest until his head is reunited with his body. Intrigued by the thought of treasure buried on the property, they all go to the de Marnac estate to look for it out of idle curiosity.

Along the way they get attacked by thieves who are in turn killed by some shifty village vigilantes, reach the estate, find a conveniently head-sized chest, and the spirit of Alaric de Marnac starts possessing people and killing them and its a whole thing as he works towards getting his head reattached to its body and resurrecting his bloodthirsty consort Mabille.

Oh, and we also meet Elvira (played by Emma Cohen). She's the daughter of the caretaker Gastone and sister of Chantal, and the childhood friend/lover of Hugo. And his affection for her is why he hasn't committed to Sylvia.

Anyway, people get killed by sickles, people get possessed one by one and disappear, and there's an interlude where a bunch of people killed over the course of the movie who were dumped into a lake get revived as zombies that unsuccessfully try to capture/kill Hugo and Elvira. Then it reaches a bloody but somewhat standard climactic fight.

The movie was directed by Carlos Aured, and despite being a quickly-produced, low-budget horror, has some nice visual touches. The medieval opening is cold and moody, and the claustrophobic atmosphere of the rest of the movie is well executed despite taking place in a reasonably large estate. The makeup effects are serviceable for the zombies and tricks like teleportation and Mabille's resurrection are achieved with simple editing tricks in a low-budget but somewhat respectable way. Its cheap, but at least an effort was made to overcome budget limitations.

This is, however, a heavily edited version of the film that removed all of the nudity and most of the goriest elements, presumably so it could be suitable for broadcast on American television. The downside is that it makes an already slow burn downright boring for long stretches, since all that's left is people trying to figure out what's going on and making stupid decisions that get them killed in poorly edited ways. A better cut exists, without the editing hack job and with better visual and sound quality, but I can only review what I've seen.

And what I've seen is a ponderous, frequently dull movie with characters that have to act stupid in order for the already thin plot to happen. The script isn't great and steals heavily from vampire, witchcraft and werewolf movies and combines them all into a duo of villains who are quite overpowered except for some very specific weaknesses. Except instead of a holy crucifix driving back the vampire, its an amulet with “Thor's Hammers” on it that can undo the evil warlock's magic.

There are flashes of entertainment, such as Naschy's scenery chewing stare as Alaric de Marnac (a character he would revisit in a later movie) and the atmosphere is often successfully creepy with a few noteworthy setpieces near the end, but man is it a boring journey most of the way. The complete version is probably better, but I'm in no hurry to see it.

Not recommended. 

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