When you think of horror, a few choice words will likely come to mind: scares, gore, sex, monsters, psychopaths, among others. Right after those, another word should be bubbling on the tip of your tongue: franchises. Ever since Dr. Frankenstein created a monstrous bride in 1935, studios and production companies have looked to continue the exploits of their monsters and madmen with sequels, no matter how necessary or unnecessary they may be. Universal of course had their famous stable of monsters, and an entire generation of 80s horror fans was practically raised on franchise slashers. More recently, viewers have been able to count on regular installments from the Final Destination and Saw series. Besides these most famous examples, there have of course been smaller, lesser known franchises. Leprechaun, Re-Animator, Critters, Tremors, and Night of the Demons come to mind (plus, who knew that there are 13 Witchcraft movies out there?).
One of the more unsung series is one that no doubt became more infamous within the last decade due to DVD distribution: Armando de Ossorioís Blind Dead franchise. While all the films were scattered across different releases during the formatís infancy, Blue Underground brought them all together in 2005 and housed them a killer coffin-shaped box that caught many a collectorís eye. It was at this point that a whole new generation could discover the films in their complete, uncut glory and get acquainted with their undead antagonists, the Knights Templar, who slashed their way across four films. The Spanish series was certainly full of peaks and valleys, and Iím here to guide you through every step of the way; just tread lightly and hope that the Blind Dead arenít near!
4. Night of the Seagulls (1975)
Like so many horror series, The Blind Dead went out more with a whimper rather than a bang. After a rousing opening featuring yet another medieval virgin sacrifice at the hands of the knights, this final entry quickly descends into tedium. You see, this time out, the undead cavalry has taking residence down by the seaside, and theyíve demanded the sacrifice of seven virgins from the nearby village. Unfortunately, Ossorio tips his hand far too soon, and at times, it feels like heís going to show us all seven sacrifices when weíre treated to a series of repetitive sequences. This one canít even manage a thrilling climax, as it too is simply too long, drawn out, and lacks tension. The film isnít without its highlights--the seaside setting and the eerie shrieks of the titular seagulls provide an ample amount of atmosphere--but itís not a memorable send-off for our undead foes.
Thereís usually one odd film in a horror franchise bunch, and The Blind Dead proved to be no different when the Knights Templar apparently decided to go sailing in this third outing. This one is a bit waterlogged by a slow-moving set up that sees a couple of bimbo actresses get stranded on a mysterious, ghastly boat. Once we get a glimpse of the undead captains of this vessel, business certainly picks up and we see the knights do what they do best. Of all the films in the franchise, this one feels the most like a ghost story, and the spooky maritime setting provides plenty of atmospheric creeps. It all makes for a solid, if not unremarkable outing that manages to do something a bit new with the series, while also remaining faithful to its overall feel.
The opening film in The Blind Dead saga proceeds like any good franchise opener. It relies mostly on suspense and mystery, keeping the nature of its beast hidden for just the right amount of time. The hair-raising first appearance of the Knights Templarsí rotting corpses rising from their graves in a gothic-tinged sequence serves as the perfect introduction for the undead antagonists. They later go on to commit some, gore-filled carnage that also satisfies a more modern cinematic bloodlust. As a narrative, it does everything right by presenting us with an abandoned village that houses the accursed fiends; Ossorio appropriately dresses this setting with creepy graveyards and castles, keeping everything low-lit and grainy to preserve the eerie mood.
For years, I was sure that this sequel was surely some random Euro-horror that was rebranded to capitalize on Sam Raimiís 1981 backwoods horror classic. Imagine my surprise when I discovered this one to be a legitimately excellent undead thrill ride. Not merely content to be a worthy successor to the legacy of the first film, Return of the Evil Dead is the quintessential horror sequel because it refines the formula of the first film. Itís able to dispense with the mystery aspect and pretty much gets right to the action when the Knights Templar crash an annual party thatís held in honor of their ďdefeat.Ē The resultant carnage is a quick-paced, violent thrill ride that outdoes the original film at every turn. Thereís a great, tension-filled setup thatís infused with a slasher-like aesthetic, and it all builds up to one hell of a heart-pounding climax. The world of horror is full of disappointing sequels, but Ossorioís follow-up reveals that Part 2 doesnít always have to be a step down.
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