Blu-ray/DVD Review: VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST (1974)

Welcome witches and warlocks,

Today I will be reviewing the horror feature VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST (1974) by Manuel Cano. To best describe the story, I will turn to an edited version of the IMDB plot summary:

“The mummy of a powerful Caribbean voodoo priest gets revived on a luxury South Seas ocean liner and proceeds to terrorize the passengers.” 

To begin with, this film feels like it is very much a product of its era, meaning it is not going to be for everyone. The tone is similar to the Blaxploitation horror movies of the past while the dubbed over dialogue lends this a distinctively foreign flavor. These two factors mean that this is definitely going to appeal to a niche audience, but even those who are not fans will find at least a few things to enjoy.

First of all, the opening is nearly perfection. Through the use of music and choreographing we understand everything we need to without a single word being spoken. Beginning in this fashion piqued my interest in this piece as I liked the subtle exposition and hoped the rest of this picture would follow suite.

Now allow me to get one of the major issues out of the way: the pacing is completely out of whack. The amusing part of this is that, near the beginning they seem to have a firm handle on their plot, but as things move along it seems as if the writers started losing the thread. This led to a second half that had jarring transitions between scenes, moments that felt unnecessary to the story, and then some confusing bits that left me scratching my head as to why a person would act in such a fashion. As the level of odd editorial choices just kept on escalating, these moments transcended their annoyance to become ridiculously entertaining.

While one could correctly assume that with a name like VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST there is going to be some stereotyping at play, it surprisingly was not based upon race. In fact, if anything the generalizations were down to the looks of the cast members as the pretty people are the ones we are supposed to sympathize with or root for while the less attractive cast members are often annoying, dumb, or sneaky. I guess, given the era, it is not a shock to see stereotyping at play, but at least this feature did not base it just upon the color of the actor’s skin.

Apart from the unintentional comedy, the star of this film was the musical score. It has been a while since my wife and I watched this movie, and yet we still find ourselves humming some of the music from time to time. The romantic lamentation portions of the soundtrack are especially evocative as they lean hard into tribal music while still remaining catchy. Granted, these movements are the most often repeated in the picture so it is not hard to see why they would stay lodged in one’s memory.

All in all, this is not going to appeal to everyone, but fans of the genre will probably enjoy this piece. I enjoyed the solid opening, the accidentally amusing moments, and I cannot say enough nice things about the score. Fans of features like Blacula (1972) and The Dunwich Horror (1970) will enjoy this film.

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