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Latarnia presents CASTILIAN CRIMSON
The Spanish Horror Film

MAS ALLA DEL TERROR

BEYOND TERROR

1980

 

Director: Tomas Aznar
Screenplay: Miguel Aznar, Tomas Lizondo, Alfredo Casado
Music: CAM Espana
Cast: Francisco Sanchez Grajera, Raquel Ramirez, Emilio Siegrist, Antonio Jabalera, Alexia Loreto, David Forrest, Andree Van De Woestyne, Martin Korda
Running time: 80 minutes
Eastmancolor ~ Panoramico

     

Four thugs (three men and one woman) hold up a diner. One of the men is shot when the cops come but the other three kill not only the cops but most of the diner patrons in cold blood. The remaining three thugs take a young couple hostage along with their car. They take shelter at the residence of an old woman. The female thug beats the old woman and one of the others locks up her grandson in his bedroom before torching the place. As they steal her car, the old woman sets a curse on them (the thugs for the violence and the young couple for not helping). The five find themselves lost and stranded at an old, crumbling monastery where supernatural events occur and the body count starts to increase.

Though the film has its share of lightweight sleaze, sex, shootings, beatings, burnings, ghostly visions, dog attacks, zombie-gropings, and a SCANNERS-like finale, this post-Franco Spanish horror pic is for all intents a conservative morality tale; justifying all the violence and sex with a "revenge from beyond the grave" denouement. The only innocents depicted here are the very old and the very young (of privelege, too). The young thugs are portrayed without a hint of sympathy and the young lower-middle-class couple (with upper class pretensions such as the girl's fur and the guy's flashy car) are apathetic. When they arrive at the monastery, they immediately desecrate it; using various relics to build a fire, masturbating at the altar (while presumably shouting blasphemies), having sex before a fresco of death overshadowing three men and two women - each of whom transform into skeletons as their living counterparts meet their deaths).

The monastery setting is nicely atmospheric as is the underground catacombs with their Templar-like skull-faced, shroud-wearing corpses standing against the walls. The exterior around the monastery is presented as an agoraphobic space-trap (reminiscent of the French countryside in RAISONS DE LA MORT). Though their is nudity and sex, its not particularly outrageous given the the plot itself, nor is the gore (except for the final death scene). It is hard to believe that this film was not dubbed into English (the plot is relatively easy to follow) as it would've been right at home with other obscure early eighties horror gems found on the video store shelves (in my case, usually ten or more years after they first came out on tape just before the domination of Blockbuster Video forced so many other smaller franchise video stores out of business).

Though the film is a Spanish production (produced by Cinevision, the company that also gave us Carlos Puerto's ESCALOFRIO, on OOP US tape as SATAN'S BLOOD [All-American] or DON'T PANIC [Mogul Video] as well as a Spanish language NTSC ex-rental), my source copy was a French SECAM ex-rental from Punch Video titled AU DELA DE LA TERREUR (Spanish titles and French dubbing which makes the film seem convincingly like a low-budget French production). Seemingly uncut, it is a letterboxed presentation (probably 1.66:1 or slightly cropped from 1.85) and is only overly dark during the catacomb scenes (and even then, not enough to obscure important detail). An obscure gem certainly worth rediscovery from the likes of Mondo Macabro.

-- Reviewed by Eric Cotenas