Written by: Paul Naschy
Directed by: Carlos Aured
Starring: Paul Naschy, Emma Cohen, and Victor Alcazar
Reviewed by: Brett G.
The world of 1970s Euro-horror features a host of bizarre sights and sounds that simply were not replicated by their American counterparts during the same period, and one might argue that this output still hasn't been matched to this day. Though some American films did push the limits of raw brutality, sexuality, and gore, few are unable to match the sheer sense of derangement, pleasure, and downright weirdness of European horror. Of course, the Italians are arguably the most notorious culprits here, but their brethren to the west, the Spanish, have been responsible for some Euro-shock classics in their time as well. If there is a Spanish-horror cult, then writer/director/actor Paul Naschy is their king. Associated with dozens of horror films during his career, Naschy is considered by many to be the Spanish Lon Chaney, as he's portrayed horror staples like vampires, werewolves, and mummies.
In the case of Horror Rises from the Tomb, Naschy plays a Medieval French warlock named Alaric de Marnac who is executed along with his wife for committing acts of sorcery (like drinking human blood, among other things). The scene then shift to modern day Paris, where a descendant of de Marnac named Hugo (also played by Naschy) and his friends attend a seance that summons up the warlock's spirit. The spirit informs the group that his remains are buried in two different places on the de Marnac estate (now owned by Hugo), so they all decide to make a trip out to the countryside to find the remains, which will surely be worth a fortune.
Before the group ever arrives, however, things get weird: they're assaulted by a couple of criminals who are subsequently executed before their eyes. Once they finally do arrive, the strange events continue, as there are a series of murders and other bizarre behavior. As it turns out, de Marnac's remains are found with his head fully preserved, which allows him to manipulate events from beyond the grave as he attempts to regain his power by joining his reanimated head to the rest of his body. Soon enough, both the warlock and his wife are resurrected, which leads to a sex-filled, bloody rampage.
Horror Rises from The Tomb is an interesting experience. It's pretty much your typical Euro-horror film, as it's filled with gothic overtones, gore, and eroticism (which means bush--lots of bush). I don't think anyone will ever mistake it for being the best-made film ever, but it's certainly not bad. In the least, it's so bizarre that you can't help but be intrigued by it. Then again, like most horror genres, Euro-horror seems to be a love it or hate it type deal, and if you haven't acquired a taste for it, you probably won't dig the film much. However, if you are a fan, there's a lot to love here: Naschy, of course, is gold, especially as Alaric de Marnac, who can apparently convince a gal to strip for him by gazing at her.
The film's direction should also seem familiar, as Aured makes use of several European staples: quick zooms, lengthy stretches of silence, and an overall sense of detachment from the material. It's difficult to exactly describe the feel of European films like this one, as you quite don't know it until you've seen it. There's always a sense of the proceedings being subdued, despite the fact that wild, outrageous events are unfolding on the screen. Because of this, the film has an off-kilter atmosphere that truly captures Euro-horror in a nutshell, as it's full of its weird staples: zombies, magic, a talking severed head, and more. There's also a fantastic score here featuring ain instrument that sounds like a mix between a synthesizer and an organ; it also has a weird, B-movie stock music vibe as well, but it's perfect for this film.
Of course, the other appeal of Euro-horror is germane to most brands of horror, as you watch these types of film for the gore effects. Horror Rises from the Tomb doesn't disappoint in this respect, as there are numerous decapitations, heart-rippings, and other violent ends. The film also makes good use of editing and camera tricks to bring de Marnac's head to life. Though the film doesn't quite ooze the grue of an Italian zombie gross-out affair and some of the kills get a bit repetitive, Horror Rises from the Tomb should quench a thirst for gore. On top of that, there's plenty of nudity and eroticism that gives the film the feeling of an unrestrained Hammer flick from the 50s or 60s. On top of all of this, the story itself is at least sort of interesting, so there's more to the film than gore and nudity. In short, it all mixes together into quite a bizarre European stew. If you love Italian horror but are not familiar with any Spanish output, I can safely recommend this one as a good starting point. Fans who would like to see the further exploits of de Marnac should check out 1983's Panic Beats, which is currently available on DVD from Mondo Macabra.
Horror Rises from the Tomb isn't likely to ever be regarded as a masterpiece, but it is one of those films that adequately captures the essence of a certain type of genre. It's a film with a certain type of charm that has to be seen to be understood. Unbelievably, the film has received an excellent DVD release from BCI. First of all, the transfer is absolutely outstanding considering the source material. The picture is smooth, and the colors pop off the screen, and there's an adequate amount of grain. The 2.0 mono Castillian mono track is equally as impressive, as it's very clear, and the film's score sounds excellent. There is also a mono soundtrack for an English dub if you don't want to bother with subtitles. The film also features an introduction by Naschy himself, as well as a commentary by the Spanish legend and director Aured. There are also some still galleries, trailers, and the liner notes provided with the release are also excellent. On top of this, BCI has also paired it with another Spanish film, The Loreley's Grasp in one of their double feature releases. Both the double feature and the stand-alone are worthy of your money if you're a fan of Euro-horror, or a Naschy fan especially. Buy it!
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