Escalofrio a.k.a. Satan’s Blood (1977) Review

EscalofrioThere are so many movies about The Devil and Satanism out there.  I mean A LOT!  Frankly I think it’s a great sub-genre.  Satan movies seem to have lots of the stuff I like in them.  Gore, nudity, weird rituals, occult symbols and rites …. I could pretty much watch this kind of stuff all day (and I have, ask my wife)!

Something I’m not too familiar with, however, are Spanish horror flicks.  I’ve seen plenty of genre pictures from all over the world, but the horror output of Spain has somehow often eluded me.  For instance, I only became aware of Paul Naschy’s existence maybe two years ago, and since then have unfortunately only seen a handful of his films, which is a shame, as the ones I’ve watched have been outstanding, and I want to see more.  I have seen “Pieces,” which was terrific, and actually shares a Producer with Escalofrio, but other than that and the few Naschy films, that is it for me and Spanish Horror.

That being said, I’m glad to have seen Escalofrio.  Called “Satan’s Blood” in the US, then later released under the title “Don’t Panic” for some reason, this 1977 Satanic murder shocker is a terrific little gem.

You guys really know how to party!!

You guys really know how to party!!

This is a movie whose whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.  The plot is nonsensical, the special effects aren’t all that great, and by the end you are left with plenty of unanswered questions.  However you barely notice these things while watching the film; you become so engrossed in the goings-on that they hardly matter.  The acting is solid.  The cinematography is well-done.  Even the cheesy 70’s electric organ music somehow adds to the goodness.

Story wise, we are operating on a more dreamlike and surreal narrative, as opposed to one of logic and rationality.  Like the two main characters, it is almost as if we are trapped in a sensual nightmare.

The plot is pretty simple but there is lots of room for interpretation and discussion :

We open with a black mass, featuring robed cultists, pentagrams, skulls, black candles … the whole shebang.  Our lead cultist is an old dude who is mostly bald and with a killer beard.  He and his pals drag in some chick, cut off her clothes, and then the crusty old cult leader goes to town with the raping.  Then he stabs her.  Yep, typical Tuesday night for any self-respecting Satan worshiping organization.  Then we go into our opening credits, and this little scene is never referenced again.

Cult Leader

The face of modern Satanism.

Next we cut to our main characters.  Ana (who is apparently four months pregnant but is skinnier than most non-pregnant woman) and her husband Andy are out having a nice day when they meet Berta and Bruno.  Bruno says he knows Andy from college, but Andy doesn’t remember him, and the timeline of when they would have attended college is all wrong.  But hey, that’s no reason not to drop everything and head out to Bruno and Berta’s creepy secluded mansion.

Once at the mansion, things get stranger and stranger, and any sane, rational person would have left.  Good thing Ana and Andy are not sane, rational people, because then the movie would have been over.

Berta is seen in the kitchen devouring a blob of raw, unidentifiable meat using the hands and teeth.  There are books on satanism everywhere, and are filled with delightful illustrations.  Berta and Bruno have a dedicated Quiji-board table, which has skyrocketed to the top of my Christmas list.  A giant pentagram is engraved on the floor.  Ana and Andy’s dog disappears.  Berta is increasingly rude to the couple, and Bruno appears to be insane.  Still, after all this, Ana and Andy decide to just stay and keep hanging out.

This isn't just a board, but a table, and I want it so bad!

This isn’t just a board, but a table, and I want it so bad!

A storm pops up (of course) and Ana and Andy decide to spend the night.  Later that night, Ana decides to wander about the house, and is attacked and almost raped by a crazy homeless guy that is now randomly in the house.  She runs to Andy, who is very casual about the whole affair, and decides that rather then call the cops, or wake up Bruno and Berta or anything like that, he’ll “take a look.”  So Ana and Andy then jointly wander about the house, looking for a homeless rapist.  Instead, they find Bruno and Berta, nude, worshiping the devil in the living room.  Rather than getting the hell out of there (finally!) they decide to … have an orgy.  Good choice!

Orgy Time!!!

Orgy Time!!!

The rest of the movie is even a bit weirder, and Ana and Andy finally decide to get the freaking hell out of the house.  However, without spoiling anything, a satanic surprise awaits them back home.

There is a lot to like here, but I will say that you have to be okay with the tropes of most 70’s Euro-Horror.  By that I mean that the plot, and the actions of the characters relies heavily on dreamlike or surreal logic rather than reason and rationality.  Characters make bizarre choices that don’t make much sense and there are lots of strange occurrences that are never explained.  This isn’t a bad thing though; the viewer just has to roll with it and not expect everything to make sense.

Even if you do want your movie to be more straightforward there is a lot to love.  There is lots of nudity and sex (this being one of the first movies to receive Spain’s special “S” ranking for sex), and a bit of gore, though admittedly the stabbings and special effects aren’t that good.  The cinematography is handled well and you can tell what is happening in every scene.  So often a film will be do dark or unfocused and you won’t be able to tell whats going on.

Who wants leftovers?

Who wants leftovers?

More than anything, this film has atmosphere.

It is a hard attribute to quantify, but when a film has it, you know it.  The atmosphere of this film reminds me of a dark, fantastic dream.  Almost like a sexy nightmare, if that makes any sense.  We are taken from our mundane existence and put into a world that seems beyond our control, filled with mysterious and dangerous forces.

I would highly recommend this flick to a number of groups:  Satanism movie fans, 70’s horror fans, Spanish or Euro horror fans, nudity fans, and general weirdness loving fans.  If you are a member of any of those groups, or are interested in learning a little more about about that kind of stuff, then check this out.

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday to the King!

Elvis Aaron Presley, born January 8, 1935.  Happy Birthday!!!

In addition to being the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis was an actor, appearing in about 30 or so films.  Probably not the objective “best” of his movies, but one of my favorites, is 1964’s “Kissin’ Cousins.”

You'd think that they'd get all of the "S's" or none of the "S's" backwards.

You’d think that they’d get all of the “S’s” or none of the “S’s” backwards.

So Air Force Elvis and his Air Force pals are tasked with buying some land in the Great Smokey Mountains so Uncle Sam can build a missile site on it.  Unfortunately, the Hill Folk who live there don’t want to sell.  Fortunately, this Hill Folk is kin to Air Force Elvis, and if anyone can talk these rascally hillbillies into selling of their land, its him.  We meet a kooky assortment of supporting characters, listen to a bunch of delightful tunes, and enjoy some wacky hijinks.

Lobby CardAir Force Elvis finds himself torn between two love interests played by beautiful babes Pamela Austin (from those awesome Dodge Rebellion commercials) and Yvonne Craig (Batgirl!).  Elvis also has a dual role in this flick, playing a hillbilly cousin of Air Force Elvis that falls in love with a cute Air Force secretary played by Cynthia Pepper.

Elvis and Babes

Hefting babes is easy if you fill them with helium first.

Also there is an all-girl gang of man-hungry chicks in bikinis roaming the mountainside, assaulting any even remotely good-looking guy they happen to come across.  Because sexual assault is funny when it’s chicks doing it to guys.

Bikini Chicks!This movie really reminds me of a lot of the mid 60’s AIP output like Dr. Goldfoot or the Frankie and Annette Beach Movies.  The plot is light and silly, the songs are fun, the chicks are good looking, and everything is wrapped up with a great big happy ending.  If your looking to turn off your brain and relax, this would be a good bet.

Once again, Happy Birthday Elvis!

Shine on you crazy diamond!

Shine on you crazy diamond!

 

Snow

Home Sweet Home

Good evening my friends.

While Winter Storm Hercules rages outside, dumping inch upon inch of snow on my driveway, I’m inside and thinking about all the awesome snow themed horror stuff out there.

Gotta start with the Shining.  Yep.  Book, movie, miniseries, and the new, excellent sequel novel “Doctor Sleep.”  It seems like the Stanley Kubrick film version is either a love it or hate it affair; personally I love it.  It’s weird, and slow, and there are no easy answers.  Over the years I really grew to love this movie, and it is the perfect watch for a chilly evening like this one.

Next lets talk about The Thing.  You’ve got John W. Campbell Jr.’s 1938 tale “Who Goes There?,” the 1951 film “The Thing from Another World,” John Carpenters inimitable “The Thing” and it’s recent prequel, cleverly titled “The Thing.”  That isn’t to mention a bunch of comic books, fan stories, and a 2004 video game.  Set in either the north or south pole (depending on the adaptation), this chiller basically follows a group of researchers trapped with an alien creature that may be able to impersonate any other crew member.  If you want some paranoia with your snow, check out Carpenter’s beyond excellent 1982 film.

“That’s all well and good,” you might say, “but everyone has seen the Shining and The Thing!”  Fear not, good reader, I have some wintery gems yet to uncover.

Devil Times Five.  Oh yeah.  You know how bad the Devil is?  Imagine that, but five times as bad.  That’s pretty bad.  In this flick a group of school children are stranded in the snowy wilderness and come across a group of adults shacked up for a long weekend in a large house.  Mayhem ensues.  Also Boss Hogg is in this movie, and that is pretty sweet if you ask me.  Oh, and someone is turned into a human snowman.  And bear-traps are employed liberally on a human body.  This movie is pretty bleak though, the ending kind of infuriated me.  But hey, watching this is better than shoveling snow right?

Ooohhhh them Duke boys!

Pictured: Better than shoveling snow.

Do you feel like some Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing?  Would you like a little Telly Savalas thrown in there too?  Also, would you rather it be produced by a Spanish company and not Hammer for some inexplicable reason?  Well then my friend, Horror Express is your ticket.  Mustachioed scientist Christopher Lee digs up some weird frozen alien in Manchuria and decides to transport it home to England via the Tran-Siberian Express.  Said monster unfreezes, murders passengers, drinks their memories and leaves them with smooth, unwrinkled brains (!!!!).  It’s up to Lee, Cushing, and Telly Freaking Savalas to stop it.

Who loves ya, baby?

Who loves ya, baby?

Do you like Yetis?  Who doesn’t?  It’s like Sasquatch and a Polar Bear had a love child, and now that creature is terrorizing a ski resort in 1977!  Yes, Snowbeast is next.  This made for TV horror flick features …. get this …. a Yeti terrorizing a ski resort in 1977.  It’s up to our heroes to bring this fierce creature to justice before any more winter sports enthusiasts are torn limb-from-limb.  Watch for the scene where the Yeti rolls a bunch of logs onto a camper!

Ahhhh my face parts!!!

Ahhhh my face parts!!!

Here is a new one:  Donner Pass (2012).  I caught this on Netflix a bit ago and hey, you know what … it wasn’t too bad!  A group of high school kids go up to a remote cabin near Donner Pass.  People are murdered.  That sounds pretty formulaic I know, but it’s actually a pretty tight little thriller.  What kind of made it for me was the ending.  Not to give anything away, but I liked the bit when you find out who the killer is and their motivations.  Good atmosphere, decent story, decent acting.  Check it out.

White after Labor Day is a big faux-pas!

White after Labor Day is a big faux-pas!

I’m not sure if I’m the type cut out to enjoy “extreme” activities.  I think it’s really great that people have gone to the bottom of the ocean, or explored cave systems WAY to small for me to fit in, or surfed the biggest waves, or climbed K2.  That stuff is amazing, but not really for me.  So, without further ado … Killer Mountain.  This was made for the … sigh … SYFY channel, so you know its …. good?  watchable?  a movie?  Yeah that will work.  So a group of mountain climbers climb a mountain.  And there are monsters.  Yep.  Still, we have determined that this is “a movie” so why not check it out!

Emmanuelle Vaugier is in this movie and dammit, that's reason enough to post this picture!

Emmanuelle Vaugier is in this movie and dammit, that’s reason enough to post this picture!

Well, looks like that snow is starting to pile on pretty good about now, and I’ve got to lay down some salt.  There are soooooooooooo many more winter themed horror flicks out there it would be impossible to talk about them all.  Or would it?  One day I may try.  Anyway, curl up with one of these and you are sure to keep cool.

I'm sure Kubrick did like 90 takes of this shot.  I love that they went with this expression.

Stay frosty my friends