Paul Naschy, legendary Spanish horror star, creates a triple threat in VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES, playing not one, not two but three different characters. In the realm of bad-good films, this film has a lot going for it. Black masses, Indian mystics, grave robbers, voodoo dolls, hordes of unread women and a chicken decapitation that I actually think is real.
The film focuses on Krisna (Naschy), an Indian mystic who runs a weekend getaway house where people can come to meditate and clear their minds. Elvire, a devoted follower, visits the house and falls victim to extremely violent nightmares. Meanwhile, there is a masked killer sneaking around town murdering women, only to raise them from the dead to do his bidding. And, in the way only a Euro-Horror film can, they’re mysteriously related.
The first thing that I’m sure everyone that has seen the film will mention is the unbelievably inappropriate score. This is what really propels the film beyond the so-bad-its-good category and into the so-bad-its-impressive one. Zombies feasting on fodder? A man getting an axe to the face? A helpless woman getting her blood drank by Satan? Add some swing-jazz and break out the DDR pad, its time to dance! The impression I got from the film is that this was an attempt to capitalize off of the giallo method, more specifically Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. In Bird, Morricone, who is possibly one of the best composers to ever live, uses freestyle jazz for mood and atmosphere. In Vengeance, however, it is just used with little to no thought about where or when the music should be included.
Spotting the different film homages is a blast in itself. For instance, not only does the giallo influence come out in the music but also in the murder scenes. A masked person, wearing black coat, a black hat and black gloves is the culprit in the film. Even the downward angled shots of feet clacking around corners happens several times in the film. Going even further is the obvious reference to Jacques Tourneur with the slow motion zombie shots. However, the film has that special “je ne sais quoi” that changes it from creepy to hilarious, as the victims are thrown into a slow motion vortex when attacked by zombies.
The script, written by Naschy himself, is a an odd piece of genre material that is unfortunately not self aware of itself. It drags in certain spots, desperately trying to make up for its short comings with death scenes and nudity inserted when the scripts knows it needs some excitement. And, there in lies some of the films charm. After seeing the film introduced by Naschy, I can’t help but think he wrote this as a straight laced script. But after actually watching the film, I don’t understand how its possible. Everything from the Naschy playing a Indian mystic, his bizarro twin and Satan to the random characters put into the film for no reason other than to provide distraction to the sometimes slow pace is was surely incorporated for laughs.
VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES is an exemplary reason as to why we should celebrate forgotten films. The film manages to play off of its unoriginality in the most entertaining way possible, catering to fans of deliciously cheesy cinema. And, much like a slab of Mini Chevrot cheese, its light, ages particularly well and will prove to be popular with cheese fanatics.