Written and Directed by: Jordi Gigů
Starring: Silvia Solar, Olivier Mathot, and Josť Nieto
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
There arenít many nice things to be said about Devilís Kiss. It boasts a pretty cool title when itís literally translated from the Spanish (The Wicked Caresses of Satan), and it features a killer logline that makes it a sort of one-stop shop for 70s Eurohorror. Writer/director Jordi Gigo peddles a veritable grab-bag that features revenge, Satan, mediums, Frankenstein-esque science, zombies, and even a rapist dwarf. A few minutes with this one makes it hard to mistake for anything but the combined powers of Eurotrash and grindhouse sleaze, which is certainly a double-edged sword since Devilís Kiss also carries the stigma of the negative connotations all of this entails, too. Think of it as Jess Franco done quite poorly (and if you think that was a setup for a punchline at Francoís expense, you can part ways with Devilís Kiss immediately).
French cult starlet Silvia Solar is Claire Grandier, spirit medium extraordinaire. Recently widowed due to her husbandís suicide, sheís reduced to a travelling circus act that puts on shows for aristocrats. Her latest gig has her performing a sťance for a bunch of socialites at Duke de Haussemontís castle. While some in the audience arenít convinced by her charms, the Duke is so impressed that he becomes her patron and invites her to move in. She leaps at the opportunity and brings her assistant, Professor Gruber (Oliver Mathot), a doctor who specializes in bizarre experiments that mix the occult with pseudo-science. Unbeknownst to the Duke, these two are actually conspiring to exact revenge on the entire Haussemont family due to their complicity in the death of Grandierís husband.
Their method of revenge? Exhuming a corpse with the help of their dwarf assistant andÖwell, letting it run wild, I guess. Gruber actually manages a telepathic link with their zombie (thus sort of bridging the gap between voodoo and Romero zombies), but thereís not a whole lot done with it. In fact, the film really just follows the Frankenstein path by having the creation run amok; in this case, though, itís to its creatorsí advantage, so they keep riding it until another Haussemont heir takes up residence. Devilís Kiss then proceeds to practically repeat itself before basically quitting; usually, such a non-ending would be frustrating, but, here, itís like an act of mercy. After 93 minutes of nonsense, the film sees its way out the door, its head presumably hung in shame for wasting so many cool ideas.
That said, there is a wealth of cool stuff going on here. After all, itís not every day you come across a movie that features a rapist dwarf whoís seduced into the employ of a homicidal psychic. Devilís Kiss is full of bizarre, lurid ingredients like this, but it takes so long to cook them into anything thatís even half-baked. Even the main thrust of the plot doesnít come into focus for a while, so the film has to aimlessly warble about. Like most lesser Euro offerings, this one only reads insane on paper; instead of taking on a fever dream quality that channels its weirdness into real atmosphere, this one just sleepwalks and ambles through an obligatory checklist that features gratuitous nudity and some relatively tame gore. Gigo doesnít even bother to trudge through it with any panache either, as heís content to wallow in the stock badness of Eurohorror: the roughshod photography (complete with dramatic zooms), the jarring edits, the awful dubbing. Devilís Kiss is pretty much every horror film youíve seen out of this mold, only it was taken out after everyone else had their way with the conventions (in fact, this isnít even nearly the most deliriously entertaining female Frankenstein riff).
To its credit, there is something bizarre and alluring about its patchwork quality. Not only does the film cobble together different elements into its plot, but itís a stylistic collage too. Many of its eerier moments recall the gothic qualities that Spanish horror particularly excelled at; the castle setting is particularly moody, and Gigo gets a lot of mileage out of the desolate atmosphere. Itís sometimes broken up with some jarring interludes, though: thereís a funky song and dance number that marks the film as supremely 70s, and Grandierís flashbacks feel like sequences from a silent movie. Not that any of it really adds up to much, as its discordant properties donít make for a sustained feeling that could really tie the film together. Mostly, it just comes off as a bit incompetent, as Gigo lets Devilís Kiss get away from him early on, when it becomes clear that the film going to lope about before getting to its point.
Itís a terrible waste of both the filmís kooky concepts (the melding of science with the dark arts is pretty inspired, and I like how it combines zombie tropes with Frankenstein) and Solar, who is typically striking as the seductive and conniving Grendier. Sheís not a very interesting character, but Solar is an intriguing presence that exudes pity, rage, and even a little sadness. Grendier would be a complex, conflicted character if Gigo really gave a damn about her; instead, he seems much more interested Evelyne Scottís maid, or at least her body, which is on ample display. Devilís Kiss isnít exactly unwatchableóit could do to be a little more swift, and it would benefit from a more thorough vision that could decide if this is supposed to be a character study or an outright shlockfest. It succeeds at neither, which makes Devilís Kiss one of the more ignominious entries in Imageís EuroShock collection. The release wasnít one of the companyís strongest efforts in terms of extras (thereís some liner notes from Tim Lucas), and itís since gone out of print. Netflix will suffice in this case, however, as the film recently popped up on its streaming service; its aspect ratio seems a little off, and the transfer is from a print thatís seen better days, but, like many of its contemporaries, Devilís Kiss benefits from the grindhousey aesthetic that breeds. Only bother with this one after you've run through a few dozen of those contemporaries, though. Rent it!
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