Monday, December 24, 2012

La Endemoniada – review

Director: Emilio Gómez Muriel

Release date: 1968

Contains spoilers

This is an obscure Mexican release that, owes a large debt to one of the classic vampire films as well as having traits in common with other flicks. All vampire films borrow themes and tropes to one level or another of course; this is unusual, however, in that it takes rather obscure elements.

If I am going to be fair, beyond the large debt mentioned, the other tropes may have be coincidences. What are these elements, you ask, and what films do they borrow from? I’ll reveal all when we get to them within the review.

Gonzalo and Fausta
We begin in a castle and a man, Gonzalo del Benetto (Enrique Rocha), and masked woman, Princess Fausta de Santillán (Libertad Leblanc), step from behind a curtain and look down at a (rather tame) orgy that is going on below their position. She points at a young man, distinctive in that he has kissed two women rather than just one. Gonzalo heads down the stairs and throws everyone out (bar the young man). Fausta approaches him.

reacting to the unseen bat
He is a little reticent, what with Gonzalo standing there, but Fausta tells him that her servant will leave. The young man turns to look at Gonzalo but he has vanished. He is confused and rushes to the door. In a moment of truly cheap crap bat-ness we get the sound of flapping whilst the camera looks at a reaction shot from the young man – no rubber bat (or even shadow) in sight. It is him, he says and then tells Fausta that Gonzalo is said to be a vampire. She distracts him with sex.

mask of Satan
At the end of their tryst she reaches for a dagger and stabs him. Just then a man (I’m not sure who he was, there was a suggestion of him being her husband but, if so, it was her second husband) runs in and threatens her with the holy office. Fausta ends up chained up in the basement. The Grand Inquisitor is there and tells her that she will be walled up so that her evil spirit cannot escape (go with it), her necklace is ripped away (the sign of nobility, which an unseen Gonzalo picks up) and an executioner kills her with a mask of Satan (spikes on the inside). The big borrow is here then, in the form of a woman killed with a mask of Satan, who will come back and try to body snatch (we’ll get to that) an identical woman with the help of her vampire lover/servant; a plot lifted straight out of Bava’s Black Sunday.

Bertha Moss as the Matriarch
Cut forward 400 years and a storm lashes a condo. Inside a family ‘celebrate’ New Year there is the miserly matriarch (Bertha Moss, Bloody Vampire & Invasion of the Vampires) and with her, her daughter Berta (Adriana Roel), Berta’s husband Pablo (Rogelio Guerra) and their daughter Martita. Also there is the matriarch’s son Marcos (Arturo Martínez) and his wife Lucia (also Libertad Leblanc). They await their friend Ricardo (Carlos Cortés) – though he is actually Lucia’s friend and Marco is jealous of him. Suddenly there is a power cut.

meeting the vampire
There is a knock at the door and Gonzalo is there, claiming to be the new neighbour – having bought the Santillán property. He asks to be invited in and the lights come back on as he crosses the threshold. Martita notes that he is dry, but he says he arrived by car. This mystery is compounded when Ricardo arrives, soaked. He has a tale of lightning hitting the freeway and his (and every other) car stalling and not restarting. He had to walk to the house. The idea of electrics failing, especially in respect of cars, around vampiric activity was previously explored in Cave of the Living Dead.

After Gonzalo leaves, the family find that they can’t remember his name. He goes back to the house and a woman awaits him. She has answered his advert (remember this) for a beautiful young woman from the Capital, without family ties, to come and be his secretary for an exorbitant salary. Of course she is chow. The next day Lucia claims she has had a call from Gonzalo inviting her to the house (which she has always been fascinated with). She goes, even though it is almost dark. We see Gonzalo’s stone coffin opening as he rises – but how did he call her, did he have a phone in the coffin or was it psychic? The film refuses to illuminate. He has a quick chat to Fausta’s corpse.

Libertad Leblanc as Lucia
Lucia arrives and he welcomes her to his home and his time (this is important). There is a portrait of Fausta and he says that the artist was said to be a warlock who captured the subject’s soul in the canvas (this is important). He places the necklace on Lucia and gives her a drink. She falls into a trance and Fausta appears, wearing identical clothes. Fausta finishes the drink and Gonzalo places the necklace on Fausta before awakening Lucia and leading her out. Over the next year Fausta attempts to destroy the family and pretty much succeeds.

serial killer and the vampire
Now the film is also known as “A Woman Possessed” and so you would guess possession. Not so, at least not entirely. Gonzalo and Ricardo explain what has happened in their dialogues but it still is a muggy concept. The year is a “Black Year” and this has allowed Gonzalo to return from the dead and perform a ritual to bring Fausta’s spirit back. How the vampire died is never tackled, nor is how he placed an advert in the paper before he was brought back. The ‘Black Year’ has also restored the castle to its formal glory – hence welcome to my time – and later we see it in its corrupt state. Restored buildings are a common ghost/vampiric ghost trope and appear in films such as Castle of Blood. However, Fausta does not appear to be vampiric – just a serial killer with a vampire lover.

fangs on show
It is explained that this is a case of bilocation, where a body is inhabited by two spirits causing an almost Jekyll and Hyde personality split. Except we see the two women acting in different locations at the same time. This is then explained, in a paranormal version of technobabble, as dual ubiquity – so that the two can be separate and yet both physical. However, when Fausta is burnt and Lucia feels it and gains burns to her arms, it is explained it is because Fausta is spirit (rather than physical) and Lucia is physical.

the portrait
Sometimes they wear identical clothes, sometimes different clothes - though Fausta always has the necklace on so we can tell the difference. The (at first botched) murder of Marco is identical - a failed stabbing and then strangulation (or smothering with a pillow) - as the murder of Fausta's first husband, and it is suggested that the present has to mirror the past, but other murders are for gain or for fun and the past isn't referred to. To make matters more Perplexing, remember the portrait... well it appears that damaging that will damage Fausta, so perhaps it contained her spirit - the one trapped with her corpse by walling her in. It is all a tad confused.

As for the vampire, he can mesmerise with his eyes, he can turn into a bat, he drinks blood, he has to be invited in and he is killed by staking. In this case an iron poker rather than wooden stake is used.

All in all the film is confused. They could have straightened out the lore and got on with it but never did. The acting has no particularly stand-out performances but nothing that stinks either. Yet it is a fairly early Mexican vampire movie and that is worth something – if you can track it down, as it is rather obscure.

4 out of 10 is probably generous.

The imdb page is here.


BloodRedHeroine said...

Sounds not a masterpiece but something which could offer some silly fun.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi BloodRedHeroine

yes, you could say that though there are some Mexican films that are more fun that this one it does still have some merit