Sunday, October 11, 2009

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT: A Different Kind of Undead, Part 2

What did I tell you? Zombies and vampires are so hip and happening right now that there's even debate amongst the horror community about which poses the bigger threat. Forget vampires and zombies, I'm way more concerned about centuries-old Knights Templar corpses riding around the countryside laying waste to humanity.

Speaking of The Blind Dead, let's return to our discussion of Amondo de Ossorio's quartet of crazy 70s Eurotrash featuring the marauding monsters... like most good monsters you can't keep a good zombie Templar down – even at sea – and the knights were back in 1974's THE GHOST GALLEON (aka HORROR OF THE ZOMBIES and GHOST SHIPS OF THE BLIND DEAD) which, depending upon your mood, can be the best or worst entry in the series.

When two bikini-clad models on a super-secret publicity stunt run into a sinister-looking, decaying ship in the middle of the ocean, it seems like a monumentally bad idea to climb aboard. Naturally, that's what they do, but without the super sexy results one might hope for.

After some surprisingly lighthearted kidnapping and assault, a rescue party – including the publicity stunt's organizer (B-movie vet Jack Taylor) and a Twilight Zone theory-spouting professor named Dr. Gruber – heads out in an attempt to locate the gals. They find the ship and board it, only to discover that it contains the coffins of The Blind Dead. After the Knights attack, chase down, hack and devour various members of the rescue team, Dr. Gruber performs a makeshift exorcism designed to end the curse forever, or as long as it takes for them to get away.

Though I found it less engaging than the rest of the series, GHOST GALLEON gets bonus points for placing the Knghts in a unique setting rather than deliver another variation on the "cursed town" theme. (Think JASON X for a modern example.) Unfortunately, the premise is beyond flimsy and even this hardened horror vet found it tough to buy some of the film's more far-fetched concepts like the bizarre publicity stunt and the poor Knights shuffling around the cramped ship. And just try not to laugh when the fakiest fake-looking toy boat in cinematic history pops up on screen.

Returning from their duty at sea, de Ossorio's Knights had one last cinematic outing in them, the mesmerizing NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS. After a period opening featuring a lost couple, bared titties, a creepy frog gargoyle god, disemboweling, gut munching and even some pesky crabs it's back to the present day and time for Henry the new doctor to arrive in town. Somehow I don't think it's what he and his wife Joan were used to, especially after encountering the less-than-friendly townspeople, an old doctor who can't get out of town fast enough, and the village retard who looks like the bastard child of Arnold Vosloo and Pee-wee Herman!

Despite being told not to ask questions or go out at night, the good doctor and his wife do just that when they hear a procession heading down to the beach at midnight. While it sure looks like a sacrifice in the making to me, the new arrivals blow it off as a wacky local superstition and head back to bed.

Pretty soon the nocturnal ceremonies on the beach become hard to ignore, especially after one girl shows up at the doctor's door screaming nonsense and the townspeople come for Lucy, their housekeeper.

Hypnotic and leisurely paced, SEAGULLS reminds me of Stuart Gordon's excellent Lovecraft adaptation DAGON, which featured visitors to a Spanish town getting caught up in sacrifices and mysterious goings on with dreadful results.

Though they may not have more cinematic outings in their future, author and fan David Zuzelo is determined to keep The Blind Dead alive (?) and kicking for horror buffs. His limited edition chapbook ASCENSION OF THE BLIND DEAD pits the "beardy blind beasts" as he calls them against Silvia Perschy, a myth-busting werewolf.

So, with all the monsters of cinema and literature to play with, why The Blind Dead?

"At the risk of sounding like a total tool," quips Zuzelo, "I would do anything to write something featuring these monsters. I love de Ossorio's work and the series has given me tons of enjoyment. I tried to make sure that it would be faithful to the films and keep the Templars alive and sacrificing."

For more information on ASCENSION and to read David's uniquely enthusiastic musings on trash cinema check out

No comments: