Sunday, January 24, 2016

Huntress: Spirit of the Night (1995)

Upon the death of her father, Tara (Jenna Bodnar) returns to the mansion in the small Welsh village in Romania where she grew up for the first ten years of her life before her mother died, when her father shipped her off to the US at once. There’s something rather strange going on in the village, for her father’s old friends warn Tara not to stay for too long, giving all the signs of Crazy Ed characters who never help anyone by muttering extremely vague warnings that sound even crazier than what they’d say when they’d just actually told a protagonist what’s going on.

Well, at least Tara’s childhood friend Michelle (Blair Valk) is greeting her with open arms (and an open blouse, if push comes to shove). Of course, as we will soon learn, she and Tara’s old childhood crush have plans on acquiring Tara’s family estate for cheap to get at something much more valuable that’s supposed to be hidden there, even if it means a bit of seduction and aphrodisiac use is necessary.

These plans will be a secondary problem for our heroine, though, because she soon finds herself afflicted by an old gypsy curse that make her eyes go black, provokes the dry-humping of furniture, and loosens her formerly tight inhibitions up for quite a few sex scenes. There might also be a killing spree in her future, but the film keeps things vague regarding that point.

When it comes to late night cable TV style softcore movies with a horror base, Huntress is certainly one of the more watchable ones, seeing as it actually bothers to have something of a plot, aims for style (even if it mostly arrives at kitsch and blue light, but that’s more than a lot of films I’ve seen manage), and makes mightily mood-improving use of the not at all Welsh looking locations in Romania where it was shot.

There’s a pleasant degree of the Gothic about Tara’s family mansion, there’s a gypsy curse, and those parts of the film not concerned with the obligatory and often quite hilarious sex scenes (though the film really prefers Tara having her way with furniture than with people) are even somewhat atmospheric. Plus, in which other sub-sub-genre would anyone think having one’s protagonist pressing herself against taxidermied animals would 1) be a good idea and 2) be sexy?

I’m also kind of on board with director Mark S. Manos’s (no relation to the Hands of Fate, one hopes, though the Master is silent about the matter) attempts at keeping ambiguous how bad the curse of the Beast Tara is suffering from actually is for her? Sure, it makes her hump furniture but it also gets her in touch with her sexuality and her cursed person that isn’t quite a werewolf superpowers do save her life at least twice.

Less great are the whole semi-gaslighting angle, as if an old gypsy curse just weren’t enough for a film, and the film’s interpretation of an open ending, which in this case consists of it simply ending one or two scenes before its story is actually finished. On the other hand, being actually watchable as a movie that’s visibly striving for and sometimes even achieving a gothic atmosphere (with added nudity), is more than I can say about many of the sub-sub-genre colleagues of Huntress I’ve seen.

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