This is our first review from G.G. Graham. You can find her on Twitter @msmidnightmovie. Be sure to give her a follow, and check out Midnight Movie Monster for more of her content. Please give her a warm welcome, as we hope this will be the first review of many to come!
In the 14th century, the Knight Templars, composed of a group of Satan worshipers, are captured during an unholy ritual and brutally murdered by locals.
Title: Curse of the Blind Dead | Director: Raffaele Picchio | Runtime: 1 hr 27 min | Genre: Horror | Language: English | Release Year: 2021 | Source: Screener received for review consideration. | Unstarred Review | Content warnings at the end of the review.
Of all of the horror properties that could possibly be up for a reboot, Amando de Ossorio’s Tombs Of The Blind Dead series is actually a pretty solid choice. The reimagining of the real life ancient order of the Knights Templar is a far more interesting than average origin for cinematic tales of the lurking undead. The historical angle also allows for a built in sideline into creature feature sort of territory.
While returns diminished over the run of the original films, there was an effectively eerie and atmospheric quality that could be accomplished on a comparatively small budget. The series has enough of a cult following to drive ticket sales, but not such a huge one as to automatically doom any reboot attempts to a losing battle with viewer nostalgia. Plus, the conceptual and visual possibilities of revenant knights riding in on undead horses is an easy crowd pleaser that can paper over a lot of other flaws.
Curse Of The Blind Dead starts off on the right foot, with the opener establishing the basic mythos for viewers unfamiliar with it. The devotees of the occult faith practiced by the Templars are interrupted in the midst of a ritual human sacrifice. The obligatory mob of (rightfully) angry villagers blinds the knights, before burning them at the stake as murderous heretics. The knights promise to return to finish the job, and the curse of the title is effectively established. That’s all of the costume closet period piece related fun there is to be had. There’s a massive time jump post the opening credits sequence, which look uncannily like a promo reel for American Horror Story: Medieval (End) Times.
Michael (Aaron Stielstra) and the heavily pregnant Lily (Alice Zanini) are a father daughter duo, wandering what the radio and the inset shots of oddly colored skies tell us is a post apocalyptic landscape, in search of survivors and shelter. When accosted in the forest by violent bandits, mysterious strangers come to the rescue. The strangers also offer the pair respite in their nearby “fortress”, where there is a small community.
Anyone who has seen at least 3 episodes of The Walking Dead can likely tell where this is going. Just in case you haven’t, the community leaders spout odd religious philosophies, are very fixated on the pregnant Lily, and are ever so subtly named Kain (Micky Ray Martin) and Abel (Bill Hutchens). If you are somehow still lost, Abel fancies himself the priest of an unspecified order, and sports an eyepatch.
In all fairness, the original films also skated along on the thinnest of plots, but had plenty of audio visual style to spare, with psychedelic slow motion shots of the knights in action and a soundtrack that was a haunting mix of gregorian chants, guttural moans and more traditional music cues.
Curse abandons that mod groove for the grimy color palette, slightly shaky camera and industrial throb of early 00’s torture porn. The more violent set pieces are minor breaks from the monotony, but don’t do nearly enough to ease the tedium of underwritten characters bickering as they plod toward foregone narrative conclusions. The knights themselves don’t even show up until nearly the mid point of the movie, and their screen time is unfortunately brief.
It would almost be a better viewing experience if something in this film had enough ambition to be memorably terrible, rather than just derivative. The visual direction, cinematography, and sound design are a bit dated, but adequate. The actors are all doing their best with how little there is to work with in terms of both plot and characterization. The gore and creature effects look decent for the price point.
Writer/director Raffaele Picchio has gone on record regarding his love of both the original Blind Dead series, and horror in general. Yet for all of his passion, his direction and script don’t seem to have a strong handle on why people enjoy any of the elements he’s incorporated here, which are mistranslated to the point of blandness. No one watches The Walking Dead for aimless wandering about in derelict buildings and woods, without the addendum of complex character development. No one watches AHS for the overly stylized credits, or turns on torture porn to see the occasional spot of gore between endless scenes of talky exposition.
Most critically of all, no one watches a reboot of the Blind Dead series to have the Knights Templar appear and disappear from the film in roughly 25 minutes, to make more room for a meandering coda clearly meant to tease a sequel. Thankfully for both the film’s characters and the viewing audience, I don’t see much risk of that happening.
G.G. Graham is a cult film cryptid, horror hag and exploitation film explorer of the dusty and disreputable corners of cinema history. As a street preacher for Z grade cinema, G.G. writes for multiple genre film sites. She is also the head midnight movie monster over at www.midnightmoviemonster.com and can be followed on Twitter @msmidnightmovie.