DECEMBER 21, 2010
It's strange, but knowing what was essentially the twist of The Devil's Nightmare (Italian: La Terrificante Notte Del Demonio) actually helped me enjoy it more than I otherwise would have, because the movie was kind of dull and confined all of its action (read: kills) to a 15 minute segment at the top of its 3rd act. So I'm going to discuss that in the next paragraph, however if you haven't seen the movie and don't know anything about it - out of curiosity, try watching it without knowing and report back on how much/little you enjoyed its lengthy "pre-kill" portion.
So the hook (not even really a twist) is that the villain (a succubus!) is killing folks by using their trademark sin against them, and thus each of the seven protagonists represents a different one of the seven deadly sins. This is something she sort of explains in her standard "I'm the villain but before I kill you let me explain myself" speech, but it was also part of the goddamn plot synopsis on my DVD case. Ordinarily I'd be annoyed, but in this case it was beneficial, because nothing happened in the movie's first almost-hour (save a wonderfully odd prologue, featuring Nazis and a baby being stabbed), which would have usually bored me to tears. However, I was entertained by trying to figure who was who - something I shouldn't even have been privy to.
Gluttony was pretty obvious - there's a guy eating what looks like half of a roast chicken while he drives a bus full of the other folks. Greed came in a bit of the way through, when one woman decides she's going to go look for some buried gold in the castle they're all stuck in. Anger was a particular delight, as it was personified by an old man who got, well, angry about pretty much everything. And I was quite tickled by how they depicted sloth - they basically had a girl engage in some lesbian action with "Envy" right after they arrive at the castle (20 minutes in, tops) and then sleep for the rest of the movie. So there was some process of elimination and minor detective work going on in my head throughout the bulk of the first hour, keeping me entertained.
And then the killings start, and they're pretty awesome - a beheading, an old man being tossed out a window, and an idiot backing herself into an iron maiden are the highlights. So I'm just about to write this one off as a surprise win, when BAM! The IT WAS ALL A DREAM! demon reared its annoying and overused head, and the movie completely lost me. Worse, it goes on and on for another 15 minutes after the hero wakes up, because even though it was all a dream there really is a supernatural/succubus/devil plot going on, albeit one that isn't as interesting or entertaining. Though it does involve a 70s standard - a car going over a cliff and then exploding after it landed.
Now, I can give it some leeway because the film is from 1971 and thus this sort of twist hadn't been done to death yet, but it's still lame. Plus, it just throws the whole movie's pace off - we essentially have to start over, including all the talky setup, but with only a fraction of the time. Also, the old man is no longer all bitter; in fact he's sort of the hero, as he is the one to point out an 'accident' to the others, because they, like any sane person, were rightfully ignoring the terrible fencing match going on outside.
Speaking of the early date, this movie, I think, introduced a very traditional slasher movie moment, when a girl is running from the killer, gets to her car, and then POW! He shoots an arrow into her tire, removing the car as a possible means of escape. Though I have no idea how this fit into the movie, since the succubus preferred a sneaky and more hands on approach, and thus I couldn't really see her running around with a bow and arrow, but whatever.
It's possible that there was another killer too. This is a dubbed version of an Italian movie, so there were probably some translation errors. The sound on the budget DVD also left much to be desired, dipping out entirely for a second or two quite often. But I paid 75 cents for this movie (it was a 2.99 budget pack consisting of four movies on the same side of one disc), so I can't complain too much. The video transfer was actually decent for this sort of thing; it was non-anamorphic and won't be mistaken for blu-ray, but it wasn't cropped, and didn't look too bad when I zoomed in to make up for the lack of an anamorphic transfer. If I were to zoom in on say, something from the Chilling Classics set, it would be akin to looking at chunky beef soup from inside the can.
So it's a bit slow and the ending sucked, but I was still entertained through most of its running time (I didn't even doze off!), and it was nice to see a different kind of Italian horror movie, apart from the usual zombie or giallo films. Definitely worth my 75 cents.
What say you?