Monday, May 25, 2009

Ataque de los muertos sin ojos, El (1973)

...aka: Attack of the Blind Dead
...aka: Blind Dead 2
...aka: Mark of the Devil 5
...aka: Night of the Blind Dead
...aka: Return of the Blind Dead
...aka: Return of the Evil Dead

Directed by:
Amando de Ossorio

I've said it once and I'll say it again - Without the ghouls there's precious little else to recommend about most of the 'Blind Dead' series. Sure there's some atmosphere to be had and some lightweight fun if you approach these films with low expectations, but there's also that continual feeling that they could have (and should have) been so much better than they actually are. This one opens with a brief pre-credits sequence showing what those pesky Templar Knights were up to before becoming musty and undead; drinking the fresh warm blood of a female sacrifice. They're hunted down by angry townspeople a la FRANKENSTEIN, tied up and have their eyes burnt out with torches, which totally contradicts what we were told in the first film. One hisses "We are immortal!" and promises to come back some day to destroy everyone in the village. The Templars in their zombie knight form; lumbering, hooded bags of bones who shuffle about at an incredibly lethargic rate, aren't only slow when it comes to moving about. They're also slow arriving to get their revenge, as it takes them about five hundred years. But they've picked a mighty good time for it; during the village's annual centennial celebration. While everyone's dancing, drinking, eating, burning Templar dummies and setting off fireworks, the ghouls are quietly crawling out of their tombs, saddling up their zombie horses and making sure their swords are sharpened for their descent on the town.

It's a standard, but enjoyable set-up. Watching the Templar's chasing people around on their horses and entering the very busy city square and immediately starting to hack up everyone in sight is a fun concept. Like I said, though, it's not done in a way to make it as fun and effective as it could have been, which I blame on a combination of uninspired direction, piss poor editing and a general lacking of red stuff. When I see a massacre I expect to see a massacre, not some badly choreographed scenes of people frantically running around and falling over. Some guys eventually jump in with pitchforks to try to fight them but come to the conclusion that it's pointless fighting with reanimated corpses. Those who survive that battle unsuccessfully try to flee town, but end up barricading themselves inside a church instead for the remainder of the movie, making this switch gears and become a second rate rehash of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Well, except it's not chilling or compelling, and the principals continue to do the most boneheaded things imaginable.

Characters trapped inside include American fireworks expert Jack (Tony Kendall) and his old flame Vivian (Esperanza Roy), who find time to rekindle their romance while everyone around them is getting slaughtered. There's also Mayor Duncan (Fernando Sancho), a jack-ass who tricks an idiot into going outside to get the car at one point, and his silver-haired assistant Howard (Frank Braña), who is obsessed with Vivian and attempts to rape her. And who could forget voyeuristic village idiot Murdo (José Canalejas), whose attempts to warn everyone earlier fell on deaf ears? And beautiful blonde Monica (Loreta Tovar), who was crafty enough to manage to escape from the Knights earlier on, but dumb enough to stick her head out a hole where someone was decapitated about five seconds earlier. There's also married couple Burt (Ramón Lillo) and Amalia (Lone Fleming), and last but not least, their little girl Nancy, who gives Cathy in BEAKS: THE MOVIE a run for her money when it comes to doing stupid little kid things that end up getting other people killed. At the very end of the film, Jack notes, "The legend of the Templar's says that they return to their graves by dawn." Maybe if he would have thrown that bit of trivia out a little earlier in the film everyone wouldn't have died by doing stupid things to try to escape. They were just fine where they were and the zombies never once tried to go inside the church. I know, I know, I know. It's just silly, escapist entertainment after all, but these things still annoy the piss outta me!

Putting common sense and general annoyance aside, this one comes in around average for me. The zombies sure do look great, the cinematography is decent (Anchor Bay's DVD release seems to have the best picture quality), the use of slow motion during the horse riding sequences is clever, stylish and eerie and there are a couple of OK gore fx (including one pretty good decapitation and a very well done hand-getting-chopped-off). Other aspects are fair (the performances) to below average (the script). The series seem to have a decent sized cult following, but after seeing three out of four of these I sure ain't jumpin' on the Blind Dead bandwagon anytime soon.


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