Horror Rises From the Tomb & Panic Beats directed by Carlos Aured & Paul Naschy

Looking for a good creepy double feature to help you pass the time one stormy October evening? I’ve got a doozy for you. Hang tight!

Horror Rises From the Tomb & Panic Beats directed by Carlos Aured & Paul NaschyHORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB

Horror Rises From the Tomb & Panic Beats directed by Carlos Aured & Paul NaschyAs if to prove the old adage “you can’t keep a good man down,” the 1973 Spanish film Horror Rises From the Tomb gives us the story of 15th century Satanist Alaric du Marnac. When we first encounter this demonic figure, he and his consort, Mabille de Lancre (Helga Line), are about to be executed by torture and decapitation in the France of 1454. (This opening scene, it must be noted, almost seems an homage to the similar opening in Mario Bava’s classic Black Sunday, except here, we have a male Satanist and a female helper, instead of the other way around.) Flash forward 520 years or so, and Alaric’s blood descendant (also played by the film’s screenwriter, Paul Naschy … aka his given name, Jacinto Molina) is heading toward his ancestral estate, the Villas de Sade, with his gal pal (the gorgeous Betsabe Ruiz) and another couple (Victor Alcazar and the beautiful Cristina Suriani). Too bad that their innocent and curious desire to find and exhume the legendary Alaric’s missing noggin leads to a resurrection of the demon himself, as well as his unholy partner…

Never pausing for breath once during its entire 95-minute running time, Horror Rises From the Tomb is most interesting in that there is just no way to ever know who our central character is; indeed, no one character in the film has a greater likelihood of surviving than any other, and, similar to the film’s companion piece, 1983’s Panic Beats (which I deem a superior picture, but that’s just me), the body count is extremely high, if not total. The film, with its claustrophobic atmosphere and — as directed by Carlos Aured — style to spare, looks and feels just great, is well acted by the entire cast, and sports some impressive production values. There are any number of gross-out moments for all the gorehounds out there, including beheadings (by ax, scythe and magic amulet), throat slittings, shambling and bloody zombies, a hanging, an immolation, a shooting, several eviscerations, and the eating of still-quivering human hearts! These FX, though realized on the cheap, still manage to impress, although the sight of Alaric’s talking, glaring head sitting in a box is pretty laughable.

The musical score by Carmelo A. Bernaola has also been realized at little expense, consisting solely of organ swipes, but manages to achieve a cumulatively creepy effect. The picture also features a bleeding portrait, an eerie seance, liberal doses of nudity and a smashing windup, in which actress Emma Cohen really gets to shine. “It’s only a horror movie,” Naschy tells the audience in his introduction on the great-looking Deimos DVD (loaded with extras) that I recently watched, but at least it’s a very fine one…

Horror Rises From the Tomb & Panic Beats directed by Carlos Aured & Paul NaschyPANIC BEATS

Horror Rises From the Tomb & Panic Beats directed by Carlos Aured & Paul NaschyThe character of necromancer/Satanist Alaric de Marnac was first introduced by screenwriter Jacinto Molina (aka Paul Naschy) in Carlos Aured’s 1973 film Horror Rises From the Tomb, with Naschy playing both Alaric and his hapless descendant of five centuries later. A decade would pass before Naschy, now director as well as scripter, would revisit the character in Panic Beats, but with some changes in Alaric’s biography. Whereas in the first film he had been beheaded in 1454 by his own brother (and stayed dead … until modern times, at least), in the latter, he is said to have died in 1565, a ghostly figure who would return every 100 years to take vengeance on all cuckolding de Marnac women. In Panic Beats, Naschy the actor does double duty again, playing the demon and his descendant. In modern-day Paris, we meet Paul, an architect who is having major-league women problems. His wife, Genevieve (played by Julia Saly, a beautiful actress who resembles the young Eleanor Parker), has such severe heart troubles that he is compelled to bring her to his ancestral estate in the country for a rest cure. His mistress, Mireille (the luscious Silvia Miro), is putting all sorts of pressure on him. And once ensconced in his country estate, he falls hard for the charms of the housekeeper’s niece, Julie (gorgeous Pat Ondiviela). And then the murderous fun begins…

More a companion piece than a sequel, Panic Beats features, by necessity, all-new characters (virtually no one survived the carnage of Horror Rises From the Tomb!) and is a truly wild ride. Naschy, an admitted fan of the Universal horror films of the ’30s and ’40s, has obviously taken in many other scary pictures over the years as well, as Panic Beats brings to mind, in sections, such wonderful classics as Gaslight, The Spiral Staircase, House on Haunted Hill, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and, of course, Diabolique, to which he adds black-gloved giallo elements AND the supernatural. But the point at which Clouzot’s Diabolique ends is just the halfway point for this truly remarkable film, which, for this viewer, is superior to the initial Alaric outing.

Naschy does a wonderful job behind the camera, the production values are very high, the acting is superb across the board (indeed, Julia Saly’s death scene is one of the most convincing I’ve ever witnessed), and the shocks and surprises just keep coming. This is the type of film in which virtually every character is either plotting against someone or being plotted against, and, as in the first film, the body count is extremely high; practically total. And if some sections are a tad predictable, watching the picture go through its paces still remains great fun. What’s more, the Mondo Macabro DVD that I recently watched looks just fantastic, and is packed, as usual, with extras. In one, the late Naschy is interviewed and exhibits a remarkable memory and pleasingly self-effacing demeanor; an enormously likable gentleman. Bottom line: All horror fans should certainly pounce on this one. And, oh: The film’s best line belongs to Ms. Ondiviela, when she chucks that space heater! Look out!