Thursday, July 25, 2013

In short: Escalofrío diabólico (1971)

Sometimes, it makes little sense to summarize the plot of a movie here, because the narrative (such as it is) not only makes little sense but is presented in a way custom-built to let it make even less sense. This is of course something my beloved European genre cinema of the 60s and 70s was particularly good at, leading to a lot of films that have the quality of hallucinations and dreams.

Actor and only three-time director George Martin's Escalofrío diabólico belongs to a slightly different sub-type of these films, the sort where a hallucinatory script wildly throws Gothic tropes, needless distractions and pulp Satanism at the audience but loses a lot of its potential power of confusion and delight through a horribly bland direction style. There are moments when the script's sheer loopiness wins out over Martin's lack of visual imagination and money but at other times, it's a bit like watching a fever dream through the eyes of the most sober man alive.

When the film works, it delights with scenes like that of our main baddy Alex's (Mariano Vidal Molina) mute, crazy (everyone in the film is the latter) servant dancing with a manikin he has hidden away in a ruined castle, the wild rantings of Alex's mother (who keeps her dead husband in a rocking chair in the cellar; while Alex keeps his step brother drugged up in a different cellar), frequent Euro horror actress Patty Shepard making excellent panicked horror heroine bug-eye faces while wearing a collection of mildly disturbing 70s fashion, and weird shit happening with all the dramatic sense of a film made by people who have never seen a movie before. The awkwardness of the direction is rather inexplicable given that Martin had been in the acting business for ten years at this point, and certainly must have learned something about filmmaking.

When the film doesn't work, it becomes very boring, very fast though, with scenes that drag inordinately, never ending on a shout when they can end on people doing nothing of interest five minutes later. Because of this, Escalofrío diabólico is more of a film for the advanced fan of European horror of the era, the sort of thing that has enough scenes of delirious idiocy to recommend it to viewers of a certain experience but won't ever turn anyone into a fan of this sort of thing.

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