Black Sunday review by The Grim Ringler

Black Sunday

Ahh, this is definitely the poster movie for the phrase – How Can Something So Beautiful Be So Dull? Easy when you have Mario Bava at the helm. And the hell of it is that this is considered a classic horror film, and after seeing it, I want to know why. Sure it’s beautiful, but hell, if you ever see any Bava film (a dead luminary of the Italian horror and giallo directors that seem to flourish there) you will easily see he was a master director and had a way of shooting films that made them very beautiful to see. But that doesn’t make a great movie. Ah, but let us look deeper.

During what we are to assume are the Dark Ages we are shown the torture and death of an accused witch moments before she is put to death. Before she is put to death though she damns the man responsible for putting she and her lover to death, swearing vengeance on he and his ancestors, then a mask of Satan – a mask with spikes pointing inward – is hammered over her own face and thus she is killed. Flash forward two centuries later to two bumbling doctors as they are entering the same area this witch was killed. After their carriage gets stuck in a mud-hole the good doctors head off on adventure and manage to loose the spirit of said dead witch while bumbling in what is essentially her crypt. On the way out the pass a beautiful young woman that appears like a ghost and seems almost in a trance when they speak to her, as if she was drawn mysteriously to the crypt (the woman is played by Barbara Steele, playing both the role of the witch, and the young maiden), and this woman is the great grand-something of the man responsible for the death of the old witch. Which old witch? That wicked witch. Well, seems that old rotten pants witchy-pie still wants revenge after all those years, and really, with her complexion I can see why, and revenge is what she will have. She raises her deceased lover and he serves as her avatar, haunting the household of the ancestors who she has sworn vengeance on, and prancing about with his dreadful ‘stache and ‘do. I mean really, first thing she shoulda done was get his ass to the barber and get him looking like a man again, but what do I know? Well, while these evil forces are hard at work earning their keep in Hell, there seems to be a spirit protecting the family from these ne’r-do-wells (a spirit I believe to be that of the father of the young girl, seeing as how his ass gets smoked rather early on). And there are much hijinx and mayhem and in the end good triumphs over evil, huzzah!

And all that is well and good man, but ya know, it just rings hollow. The movie is really well shot, beautifully put together, and it’s pretty gruesome for such an old movie but, well, it is dreadfully boring. In fact, you’d almost rather have that evil Satan mask hammered into your face than watch this more than once. And the hell of it is that it is lauded as if it is the greatest thing since Spam. And as a work of beautiful film-making, yes, yes it is. As a tale of interest? No. This is essentially a vampire movie, and it’s ok as one, but they don’t know if they want them to be witches, or ghosts, or vampires or what. And it’s a really, well, bland story. We have seen, even back then, the old revenge from the grave scenario played out. This isn’t a dreadful movie, it just says nothing new and is just so dull. I mean, atmosphere is great but it’s better if there are stakes holding up the tent in the director’s pants.

The DVD is uncut, which is neat because as I said, it has a couple gruesome moments, even for a movie so old, but beyond that, the disc is pretty lame. The commentary is absolutely dull. Which matches the movie so maybe it was performance art commentary. And the hell of that is that the guy doing the commentary is a neat guy, named Tim Lucas that has a great video magazine called Video Watchdog, but man, his commentary is the pits. He drones on about what this scene means and that scene means, and then he just stops talking, as if he is so engrossed into the movie he can’t help himself. Beyond that there’s some poster art and such but really, the commentary and the film are pretty much what you get.

Is it a classic? I can’t see why. Which makes me the ass in the farmyard because a lot of people hold it up as a work of genius. Me, if I am gonna watch one of his movies I would watch Twitch of the Death Nerveor the real classic, Black Sabbath, which is everything this movie wants to be – scary, atmospheric, weird, and just pretty to look at. If you are a horror fan or film buff then you might want to check this out for curiosity’s sake, but in all honesty, don’t believe the hype, Bava has done better than this. …c…

5 out of 10 Jackasses

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