May 31, 2014

Movie Review: Vengeance of the Zombies

Jacinto Molina Alvarez. There is a name that trashy horror films needs to be familiar with. Rather, it may be a bit more appropriate to know him by his theatrical name, Paul Naschy. He has appeared in over 100 films, written over 40, and directed 15. Granted, I have only seen but a handful of them and have a long way to go, but there is something about seeing this guy on screen that just feels right. The man exudes confidence, even in the face of ridiculous material. Case in point, Vengeance of the Zombies is a ridiculous excursion into the world of Naschy.

Taking a quick survey, it seems that this is not exactly one of his better liked films. For the life of me, I am not sure why. Next to some of the movies I have seen, this is downright straightforward. The film was directed by Leon Klimovsky, who happened to also direct another Naschy opus I have seen, The Werewolf vs. The Vampire Woman. The funny thing, knowing that little fact, I see some stylistic similarities, such as the timely and haunting use of slow motion. On the writing side, Paul Naschy handled those duties. With regards to its creation, he had this to say in his autobiography: "When I wrote the screenplay of "La rebelion de las muertas" (Vengeance of the Zombies), I must have been under the effects of hashish or, like Bram Stoker, I'd had one hell of a nightmare." Seems about right.

Despite what the title would suggest, this is not a movie about vengeance seeking zombies. It does involve zombies and there is some vengeance, it is just the zombies are more of a tool for the vengeance. The movie, at times, feels like it is related to the Italian giallo, just with more Naschy-flavor. It features a masked killer with black gloves, plenty of dead folks, and an (too) obvious suspect. You could also consider it to be distant kin with Touch of Evil, where that movie has Charlton Heston playing a Mexican character, this one has Naschy playing an Indian character.

Paul Naschy stars as Krishna, a guru who has settled in London to relax and refind his center. One of his students is Elvire Irving (Rommy), when her father is killed, he takes her out to his estate in the country. This is where things begin to get a little strange. When she gets there, she has a vision of zombies, a woman painted gold, and the devil (also played by Naschy). Are there Satan worshipers in the basement? On top of that, the killings seem to have followed her out to the country.

Everything builds until the big reveal, which I will not give away here. I will say the killer is pretty entertaining. He raises women from the dead and then uses them to assist in his killings. He gets things going right from the start with the raising of a zombie prior to the credits, who then tip toes across the tombs as the credits begin to roll. We then meet Krishna and learn what he is about and how he begins to care for Elvire. Killings continue, involving the use of black magic and voodoo to raise the dead and to kill folks using dolls and blood rituals, including a clever decapitation.

Vengeance of the Zombies is a wild and crazy film. It definitely holds the attention and shows a few sides of Naschy as he plays a total of three roles in this movie. It provides plenty of atmosphere, a blend of blood and character, and is just really bizarre. Throw in a crazy and inappropriate jazz score and you have an unforgettable time.


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