Latarnia presents CASTILIAN CRIMSON
The Spanish Horror Film





Director: Ignacio F. Iquino
Screenplay: Juan Bosch, Ignacio F. Iquino, Jackie Kelly
Music: Henry Soteh (Enrique Escobar)
Cast: Mery Kerr, Carlos Martos, Josephine Varney, John Zanni, Henry Ragoud, Diana Conca
Running time: 89 minutes
Gevacolor ~ Panoramico


Ignacio Iquino's version of ROSEMARY'S BABY by way of Lucio Fulci takes no hostages. It's as brutally violent and gory as its English language title suggests and seems the antithesis of Polanski's subtle, incremental approach to very similar material. Nonetheless, this remains a very powerful horror-thriller which may prove demonically difficult to track down outside of gray market dealers.

Iquino and Juan Bosch (both Spaghetti Western veterans) co-scripted under pen-names along with Jackie Kelly and what the scenario lacks in originality it makes up for by daring to go to places which subvert our illusions of safety. A man relaxing after sexual intercourse suddenly gets his eyes gouged out by an insane woman. Later, a couple leaving an abortion clinic are slashed to death with a fearsome looking straight razor, while back at the office the abortionist is repeatedly rammed by a satanically animated gynecological examination table until she vomits a bloody mess directly into the camera lens! So much for subtlety. Yet it's almost impossible to stop watching as one transgression follows the next, deepening a sense of physical and emotional violation.

The film takes a graphic, ultraliteral approach which results in a sense of events spinning out of control within a delirious, surrealistic context. It begins with car headlights piercing through the dark as an electrical storm rages overhead. A woman arrives at her lover's isolated villa for a night of love which will turn into a gradually unfolding nightmare. The eerie, atonal music by Henry Soteh (Enrique Escobar) disturbs any sense of propriety, suggesting a piano synched through raw nerves. After the aforementioned eye gouging our frazzled young couple visit an artificial insemination center in hope that having a child will mend the past trauma. Don't bet on it. A local satanic cult already has a henchman on staff who slips the devil-authored sperm into a vaginal gun which is then inserted into the unknowing host. This is all presented in the minute detail of a medical documentary, making the sense of violation all the more disturbing.

Then there's Margaret, Lucifer's midwife who shows up clad in jet black attire while her own personal windstorm rages around her. You see, these Satanists seem to exist in a parallel dimension with its own constantly inclement weather and hellish, crimson light. Margaret's eyes are drowning pools of obsession and malice as terrifying as Manson's. Her ever-present smile and nonstop twitching would make her the perfect mate for Norman Bates. But this woman in no mere human monster and will in the final reel become a ferociously efficient killing machine capable of anything and everything in the service of her Lord and Master.

Equally imposing is the murderous giant, Iranzo (John Zanni), the cult's enforcer who chuckles in delight as he slashes, crushes and hacks to death anyone attempting to interfere with the Plan. Every signifier of domestic comfort and joy is systemically defiled as the birth approaches. A pet bird succumbs to a hurricane in the living room, the refrigerator becomes a bloody pit of horror, the eye gouging madwoman strips nude, hanging herself in the room where toys and Halloween masks are stored.

The final scenes sternly deny any safe haven and even gravitational, magnetic, climatic orientation as the house and surrounding hills are engulfed in spontaneous windstorms, lightning and fires. Imagine what occurs in that bedroom in THE EXORCIST expanding on a grand scale so that there is nowhere to run, the only hope is to stay and fight the evil on its own terms. Ironically, it takes a blindman and a terrorized child to undo the cult as Margaret is skewered in high style while the newborn is incinerated upon exposure to a simple twist of fate. Undercurrents of sexual perversity swirl throughout, but Iquino seems eager to rain blood on flesh and torture sensuality into Sadean tableaux. This is Spanish Horror at its most intemperate: raging, excessive, unapologetic, pulling up the roots and tearing down the walls. Look out, you either have to see it or avoid it at all costs.

-- Reviewed by Robert Monell, 2002