Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Una rata en la oscuridad (1979)

... aka: Rat in the Darkness, A

Directed by:
Alfredo Salazar

College professor Josefina Hill (Ana Luisa Peluffo) sinks her life savings into purchasing a huge, beautiful and only slightly run down old house that will only need a little cleaning, work on the electrical wiring and minor repairs to whip into shape. First rule of thumb to all you future home buyers: If you find a mansion dirt cheap there's a reason no one else wanted it... Because it's haunted! Her younger, antisocial, short-haired painter sister Sonia (Anaís de Melo) moves in with her. Sonia has had clairvoyant abilities since a young age and used them to find missing items for family members, predict her mother's car crash and so forth. She immediately senses the place they've just bought used to be a whorehouse. And the painting of a stern-looking woman on the wall hanging over the fireplace? Well, she was the madam of the establishment. Sonia adds to the tale that the madam was murdered by a jealous former lover for cheating on him. Thinking she looks familiar, the two finally realize that she is a dead ringer for the woman who sold them the house, except for her having short blonde hair and the woman depicted in the painting having long black hair. Running low on money until payday, the sisters decide to get out of their apartment so they don't have to pay another month's rent and move in before all the work is done (i.e. no electric, no phone). And then strange and creepy things begin happening... starting with an impromptu topless back massage!

After a long day of moving and cleaning, Sonia whips off her top and has her big sis go to town on her sore back. “That's wonderful! Your hands are so soft!,” says kid sister. Just when things couldn't get any more uncomfortable, the ladies have a long conversation about how Josefina has always been so loving and so caring to Sonia since they were orphaned and how she's always driven away potential suitors just so she could take care of her. Josefina finally leaves and Sonia strips to take a bubble bath. From that point on, young sis has one full frontal nude scene after another. This girl just does not like wearing clothing. While she's in the bathroom, someone sneaks into her room and steals her panties. Has Josefina not gotten around to doing her laundry yet and needing to borrow a pair? Nope. Since she enjoys taking the burden off Sonia's shoulders, Josefina is busy showing tits and ass in her own shower scene so she couldn't be the panty snatcher. Our suspicions are soon vanquished once the underwear bandit reveals herself to be a dark-haired woman in a fur-lined red robe, who shows up again in Sonia's bedroom to sneak a rat into her bed.

The following day, Sonia hears echoing laughter and thinks she feels a hand run along her cheek but Josefina puts her mind at ease by telling her it was probably “a hallucination brought on by the candles” (?) But it's not a hallucination when someone peeps on Sonia while she's sunbathing topless. And it's not a hallucination when the entire house keeps shaking late at night. And the squeaking rats all over the place aren't a hallucination either. The mystery woman with rather large and unladylike hands brings a blue glow wherever she goes and then starts paying visits to Sonia's bedroom for some late night nookie. Sonia stops painting and becomes withdrawn, moody, short-tempered and hostile (“I'll kill you!”) toward her sister. She eventually snaps and starts strangling her, which forces Josefina to bash her over the head with a platter. Sonia's rushed off to the hospital, a doctor (José Antonio Marros) shows up to give Josefina a sedative and then, after he leaves, all the doors lock, trapping Josefina inside.

In an effort to figure out just what's happened, Josefina dresses in her sister's clothes, climbs into her bed and decides to trick the late night lez into thinking she's actually Sonia. Right on cue the ghostly vixen appears... and then comes one of the strangest sex scenes I've seen in quite awhile. The ghost gets into bed, strips her and gets the ball rolling on the foreplay. Josefina starts getting into it so much she has visions of herself joyously dancing around a piano and candelabra in slow motion while white fabric blows in the wind. She's then taken by surprise when the Sapphic spirit suddenly gets on top of her and proves not to be a female at all. Seeing a guy (Ricardo Cortés) in a wig, make-up, jewelry and long pink fake fingernails wearing a lacy gown, stockings and panties thrusting on top of a woman is a sight I don't see too often. Not one to cuddle afterward, the wham bam panty-stealing phantom promptly disappears, leaving Josefina screaming in agony at what an "Impostor!” he / she is. Things lead up to a surprisingly grim fate for our two heroines.

This whole thing is pretty much a cheap piece of sleaze with some downright terrible editing but it was just on the right side of weird and I-can't-believe-somebody-actually-made-this for me to enjoy. There were at least three moments in this one that genuinely took me by surprise, most especially a couple of scenes toward the end that were ridiculous, shocking and crude as hell all in about equal measure. The film also deserves a little credit for being effectively eerie in spots and the score from Alfredo Diaz Ordaz is great. Aside from one brief scene at a hospital about 95 percent of the movie takes place inside the house.

Peluffo debuted in the 1948 American film Tarzan and the Mermaids (which was filmed in Acapulco) and made history in her home country by becoming the very first actress to film a nude scene for 1955's La fuerza del deseo (“The Force of Desire”). She continued to do them throughout her career, including appearing fully nude here numerous times at around age 50. Sure, she was a little long in the tooth compared to the late teen / early twenty-somethings who usually appeared in these kind of films, but when you still have the body for it (and great legs) why not? With age also often comes acting experience and she's able to adequately carry the film pretty much all on her shoulders. Her much-younger co-star, who has that cute tomboy look, is OK, too, though she's not around much in the second half.

Salazar also directed the goofy THE RIDER OF THE SKULLS (1965) and Herencia diabólica / "Diabolical Inheritance" (1994), about a killer clown doll. He's far more prolific as a writer though, and has dozens of credits to his name there, including the Aztec Mummy series and numerous Santo, Blue Demon and Luchadores (wrestling women) films. BCI / Eclipse released this on DVD (paired with La maldicion del monasterio aka Blood Screams here in America) but only in Spanish.

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