Friday, August 3, 2012

Return of the Evil Dead (1973)

Return of the Evil Dead (El Ataque de los Muertos Sin Ojos, 1973) is part of a wonderful horror film quadrilogy by Spanish director Amando de Ossorio. It's a good thing that the films are available in a DVD box set with the original Spanish language intact, because as usual the English dubbing is awful. I can't think of a single film I have seen dubbed that was enhanced by the fact that it was in English. In fact, I don't think I have seen a dubbed film that was even adequate. If you rent this one, definitely watch it with the subtitles. 

The series of films that this is a part of is known as The Blind Dead series. All four films feature the reanimated zombie corpses of members of the Knights Templar. According to this film, they each had their eyes burnt out before being executed in the Middle Ages. Now, they come back on the anniversary of their death to avenge their deaths by killing anyone who gets in their way. Lucky for them, the town has a big party to commemorate the event. The premise sounds really ridiculous, but Amando de Ossorio handles the subject matter better than anyone could possibly expect. 

Ossorio is obviously a fan of George A. Romero, as he should be, there are tons of references to Night of the Living Dead (1968) all throughout the film. I think most people agree that Romero makes the best zombie films. But The Blind Dead films as well as the films of italian horror maestro Lucio Fulci have the best looking zombies. The corpses actually look like they've been dead a long time and they've been rotting underground. This is important to get this detail right. Most of the Romero zombies are newly dead, so they aren't quite as decomposed. 

Something else you need to know about Return of the Evil Dead is that it's less horror and more action. The zombies are also Knights so they carry swords and remember how to use them. They still move really slow, but there are a few sword fights in the film. However, the best scenes are the quiet ones. The humans are actually smart in these films. They realize that these zombies are blind so if they're really quiet, they might be able to escape. The long scenes of silence build the appropriate amount of dread for the viewer. When the sword fights come it's a bit of a release, like comic relief. 

Amando de Ossorio was a more than competent film maker. He made these films around the same time that Italian cinema was producing some of the most interesting work. And the look of all of the films in this series are right up there with Leone, Fulci, Argento and Lenzi. I really hope that viewers can overlook the basic premise of the film and see it for what it really is.

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