Monday, April 28, 2008

d. Carlos Aured
HUMAN BEASTS (1980) d. Jacinto Molina

Reviewed by Simon Oakland

Simultaneously released to DVD March 25th, 2008, I had considered reviewing both HUMAN BEASTS and BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL separately until I had the exquisite pleasure of watching both over the past weekend. It was only then did I realize how well both films complimented each other and that they would perhaps be better served in a dual review format. These are two almost textbook examples of how you can start with one basic central premise and go on two completely different tangents. In both, Paul Naschy stars as a loner on the run who holes up in a remote mountain villa (the same house was used as the shooting location for both films, in fact) that is occupied by beautiful woman who all vie for his affections. From there, the similarities end.

With BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL (best known in the US as HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN) Paul Naschy and director Carlos Aured deliver to us the Spanish equivalent of the Italian "giallo" genre of murder-mystery made popular by Dario Argento. Naschy plays an ex-con haunted by his past who is hired by a beautiful woman with a crippled, deformed hand to be her groundskeeper. Shortly after his arrival, women with blue eyes start getting murdered and their eyes plucked out. But who is doing it? Naschy, himself? The nymphomaniacal sister? The former groundskeeper? These are only a few of the suspects on hand in this, for the most part, "by the books" entry in giallo cinema. If you are at all familiar with the genre then you should know automatically who the killer is... but I don't want to give too much away so I'll stop there. Still... BLUE EYES, while it doesn't cover any new ground, is well worth checking out (as is every other release in Deimos' Spanish Horror Collection) because what it does, it does well. The movie takes a while to get going, but when it does, the bodies begin dropping fast and furious. If you like these types of films, then you're not going to be disappointed.

If I have one negative criticism about the film it's with the score. When I watch a giallo, I expect to either hear psychedelic prog-rock in the vein of Goblin or something by or inspired by Ennio Morricone to enhance the atmosphere. But BROKEN DOLL uses what I would equate with "elevator music" for 95% of the film. The main music cue is far too peppy and uptempo for it's own good, and is used so often that it becomes unintentionally laughable. Think of a horror movie scored by Herb Alpert and you wouldn't be too far off. The only truly atmospheric music comes in when another murder is about to happen, and even then it's effect is hampered because the cue is based upon "Frére Jacques". Really, "Frére Jacques"? How scary is that?

In HUMAN BEASTS, Paul Naschy stars as a mercenary who betrays his girlfriend and the organization she represents. Mortally wounded in a gunfight, he is taken in by a doctor and his lovely daughters to recuperate and hide out from his enemies. But this is far from being your stereotypical family, and I guess I'll stop right there with the synopsis, because what I love best about HUMAN BEASTS is that I never quite knew what was going to happen next. The film starts out as an action movie and slowly transforms into... something else. I don't want to give anything away. I've seen and loved all of Deimos' Spanish Horror releases so far, but I never expected going in how much more I would love this than any of the others. This is almost the quintessential "Grindhouse" film. It really has it all: Action, violence, nudity, sex, S&M, bizarre imagery, ghosts... the works! All tightly packed into 90 minutes of pure solid sleeze. I simply cannot recommend this movie highly enough.

As with all of Deimos' Naschy releases, both BLUE EYES and HUMAN BEASTS are shown in their native Castilian language (BLUE EYES has an additional option for English), have extensive still galleries, come with the original trailers, and are completely uncut (I don't know that for sure, so I'll just have to take their word). BLUE EYES also includes an audio commentary with Paul Naschy and Carlos Aured and moderated by Angel Gomez Rivero.

HUMAN BEASTS includes as a bonus feature a short film directed by Alejandro Ballestros entitled "The Vampyre". It's roughly 20 minutes in length and shot on video. I watched about 7 minutes of this before giving it up due to severe eye strain. A few months back, fellow SFS reviewer Rick Trottier docked HALLOW GROUND several points for being terminally dark, but I don't think he's seen anything like this before. For as far as I lasted, virtually every shot was backlit with the actors in silhouette, their features almost completely disappearing into shadow. Now, that may have been an artistic choice on the part of the director, but it comes across to me as one of the most amateurish mistakes I've ever seen in my life. Especially since with video production all it takes is a simple look into the viewfinder to realize that the image is underexposed. Get out a damned lighting scoop or something already! But at least this extra didn't bump up the retail price so it's inclusion neither helps nor hurts my wholehearted recommendation for HUMAN BEASTS. Pick it up. NOW!

(Also, if you can remember to do so, please consider bypassing Naschy's wonderful intro to HUMAN BEASTS. I feel that he gives too big of a spoiler as to how the film wraps up.)

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