As part of Fantasia Fest, I watched the new hi-definition restoration from Synapse Films of Amando de Ossorio’s TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD aka La Noche del Terror Ciego. The film stars María Arpón (Virginia White), César Burner (Roger Whelan), Lone Fleming (Betty Turner), José Thelman (Pedro Candal). The film is written by Ossorio with additional dialogue by Jesús Navarro Carrión. The director has said that it is based on the tale The Mount of Souls by Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer written in 1861. The film is coming to Blu Ray from Synapse Films for the first time and is in its uncut version, partially in English and partially in Spanish with English subtitles. The good news is that you will be seeing the entire film, not the edited version that is normally available, but the US cut will also be available on the disc. I should note that the streaming version has a slightly lower frame rate, but it still looks gorgeous.
The film starts with Virginia meeting Bet (or Betty) a best friend from her school days, while on vacation with her friend Roger Whelan. Roger invites Bet along with them on their trip and an awkward romantic triangle develops. Virginia is so disturbed by her memories of Bet that she jumps off the train they just boarded and heads towards the locally feared ghost town of Berzano. Virginia is terrified when she realizes why the old church and the area are shunned as the Knights rise from their graves and all are drawn into the ghoulish terror.
I have to note that the regular version of the film is notable for its weird silent beauty, but this remaster, from the original negative, makes the film even more beautiful. The gore isn’t really that bad, most of the creepiness comes from the atmosphere and the violence. Much like the obvious skeleton hands that reach for their victims, this isn’t a high-budget gore extravaganza. It’s more of a strange tone poem of a horror film than anything else.
I’ve seen the film earlier this year because I was very curious about the film and I Iove zombie and undead revenant films. TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD falls more under the second category. While they bite flesh and drink blood, they don’t rise from the grave until they are called by a nearby presence and they have a mystical appearance. The film’s strongest points are its strange empty vistas and ghostly aura, its weird circular narrative, and the actors, for the most part, who give good performances of sometimes unpleasant people. The nature of the narrative kind of gives you the feeling of a bad dream or waking nightmare. The film has a strange hypnotic power if you are open to it. It’s quite a standout Eurocult title. The European zombie, usually the clay-faced or skeletal zombie revenant, is always slow-moving, and in this film, they have that mystical appearance aided by copious use of slow motion. They are coming to get you, but they are confident that they will catch you, which is the worst part. The revenants have a stable of horses despite having been dead for hundreds of years, but that just adds to the Eurocult charm. These revenants wield swords and don’t have any mercy on the weak or the young.
I feel I should give a trigger warning for the presence of rape in the film. There’s the seemingly unwilling lesbian seduction, an actual violent rape, and a symbolic rape of a victim of human sacrifice. It’s not horribly offensive but it is there, in case that is something that is hard for you to watch. Overall, it is a film of strangely affecting beauty with a definite Spanish flair that has a certain hypnotic quality to it. Because the revenants are blind, they track their prey by sound, including your heartbeat. So, unlike a film like A Quiet Place, you can’t just stay quiet. They’ll hear your heart and come for you.
TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD played as a part of this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival.