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It appeals to my warped sense of symmetry when a review featuring a horrible Spanish galleon is scheduled to run on Columbus Day.
When you want to talk about Spanish horror movies, there are two series that are going to jump out of the spooky box at you: Paul Naschy’s El Hombre Lobo flicks, and Amando de Ossorio’s Blind Dead movies. I wrote about the inaugural Tombs of the Blind Dead back in the day, and the sequel, Return of the Blind Dead (duh) last year. And with this offering, we see that the Law of Diminishing Returns is sadly in action.
Worthless rich dude Howard Tucker (Jack Taylor) and model agency owner Lillian (the always welcome Maria Perschy) are working an ill-considered publicity stunt: two of Lillian’s models on Tucker’s new boat design will strand themselves in the ocean, be discovered, and Step Four: Profit! Except that the two run afoul of a weird patch of fog and the derelict 16th century galleon adrift therein. The galleon rams their boat, they go on board, and are not heard from again.
So Tucker, Lillian, Tucker’s hired muscle Sergio (Manuel de Blas) and model Noemi (Barbara Rey) head out on Taylor’s yacht to find them. Noemi is the friend of one of the missing models, and has been doing stuff like threatening to go to the cops about the whole thing, completely unaware that this is a bad way to deal with villains and/or rich people. For her efforts she has been kidnapped, raped by Sergio, and brought along for the trip. Also accompanying them is Professor Gruber (Carlos Lemos), a scientist at a meteorological service who assured them there is never fog in that part of the ocean, but there is the occasional ghost galleon.
Well, needless to say, this amazingly doomed quintet is going to find the galleon, and their launch is going to vanish, because the Professor tells us they are in another dimension. Gruber has an almost Russell Johnson-esque grasp of a number of scientific disciplines, including how to do an “exorcism” that will keep the zombie Templars at bay for 24 hours (which is a pretty crap exorcism, if you ask me).
Gruber also finds the ship’s log that explains how the Templars came to be on a ship (I was wondering): the crew apparently picked up a slew of Templar treasure, and brought the bodies, too, maybe? So the satanic templars now drift in their magical fog, drawing in victims for blood sacrifice that will allow them to maintain their immortality.
If in Return de Ossorio opened up the action to encompass an entire village, in Galleon it closes back down again drastically – he gets a lot of use out of those galleon sets, probably built for another movie entirely. We also see way too much of the most woeful miniature ship I have ever seen.
The Templars, so creepy in the last two movies, seem to be pretty perfunctory in their roamings this time, and too often the puppetry is obvious and sub-par. Perhaps they seem less ominous because in their previous movies, they were pretty relentlessly homicidal. This time, they have to drag their victims away to… well, we never find out, which could be terrifying, but first we’d have to care about the characters, wouldn’t we? I admit that all the Blind Dead movies have depended on people making stupid choices, but this time out we are talking about complete imbeciles.
We are spared yet another revisionist origin story, but that also robs us of one of the few things that gives them their identity: no mention is ever made of their blindness, or their reliance on tracking their victims by sound. Noemi’s encounter with the zombies is the one instance of true horror in the whole enterprise, and even then that’s because it is so sadistically drawn out.
This is by far the weakest of the Blind Dead movies (that I have seen. I can only imagine Night of the Seagulls will patiently wait to ambush me next year). Its reputation hasn’t been aided by having numerous other names pasted over its beginning through the years. Most people will recognize it better under the utterly generic Horror of the Zombies, which I believe was the title when it appeared on the USA Network’s Up All Night over and over again. Not to mention the piggy-backing title Horror of the Evil Dead, or the Brentwood disc I viewed where it was called Zombie Flesh Eater. Singular. Not Eaters.
Needless to say, there is no flesh eaten.Whether or not this would have improved the movie, I just don’t know.
“An important film!”