domingo, 6 de septiembre de 2009

Black Sunday

Our story begins in 1630, in Moldavia, where a witch burning is about to occur. Asa Vajda (Barbara Steele) and her sidekick, Javuto (Arturo Dominichi) are about to get themselves killed for worshipping the devil, in a witchhunt led by her own brother. But before getting her face crushed by a metal mask with spikes (and a hammer to make sure it stays on, gulp), she curses her brother and his descendents, claiming she will come back and cause havoc. Cue two centuries later, and Professor Kruvajan and his young pupil Andre (John Richardson) are on their way to a medical conference. On their way their tire breaks, and so they walk around the abandoned crypt where the remains of Asa Vadja sleep the sleep of death. Of course, the Professor ends up getting cut with some glass and blood falls on the corpse, soon getting itself re-animated, and so does Javuto. Now they must protect young Katia (also played by Steele) and her family, as the witch returns and start murdering the family one by one, soon hoping to possess Katia’s body and abandon her rotting shell.
Based on the story by Gogol, the Vij. If there’s anyone out there who actually reads this blog, they’ll know I’m a huge Bava fan and Italian cinema fan in general. This was his first film, and is considered by many to be his best, as it encapsulates everything that was great about the master director. Being a cinematographer and set-designer by heart, he places a lot of detail into these sets and the lighting, and creates atmosphere that has very little times been equaled. There are many scenes that show this, such as the famous and celebrated scene where Javuto rises from his tomb in a cemetery that looks like something out of a Goya painting. It’s creepy and ridiculously scary, and the slow rise of the creature with it’s diabolical mask and putrefactive liquid dripping from his claw-like hands really sends a chill down the spine.
This is the film that introduced the world to Barbara Steele, and boy was it love at first sight. She was always beautiful, but I don’t think beauty and talent is all of it. I believe the reason Barbara Steele captivated the world and became the huge scream queen she would be known for was her uncanny ability to look like she’s in both pain and pleasure at the same time. This movie received a lot of censorship when it first came out, as it had more violence in it than most people were accustomed to in the cinemas, but even with that they weren’t able to hinder it’s power. The film is a true classic, and it shows that horror cinema could be considered art.

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