November 7, 2010

Night of the Seagulls (1975)

Night of the Seagulls (1975)

(aka La noche de las gaviotas )

Director: Amando de Ossorio

3 / 5 zedheads

For the fourth and final entry in the Blind Dead series, director Amando de Ossorio cherry picked the most effective concepts and scenes from his previous three films and stitched them together for one last tale of the blind and blood-thirsty Knights Templar. As a result, Night of the Seagulls may feel like a retread, but it's got enough of a new focus on idol worship and the secret and suspicious Spanish village setting to work as an effective hook.

FASHION CRIME: Wet paper bags are soooo last year.
The residents of an isolated fishing village in Spain harbour a shameful, dark secret. Every seven years, for seven nights, the villagers lead a virgin woman to the beach where she is sacrificed to the Blind Dead. The Blind Dead are undead Knights Templar who, since the Middle Ages, have been worshiping a demonic sea creature (in the form of a stone statue) and partaking in blood drinking and blood-letting to secure their immortality. In exchange for leaving the villagers in peace, the Blind Dead demand seven virgins a night once every seven years so that they may continue their unholy existence. The villagers do not speak to outsides about their evil pact, but when Dr. Henry Stein (Víctor Petit) moves to the village to take over as local doctor, he and his wife Joan (María Kosty) begin to uncover the satanic rituals. The sounds of the screeching seagulls begin to sound like the wailing souls of the virgins defiled in the name of the Blind Dead's lust for blood.

Between a rock and a hard place.
Night of the Seagulls retreads a lot of tropes from the previous films. A couple with romantic issues (and potential lesbian tensions) stop over in a rural village with a sprawling, ruinous castle (ala. Tombs of the Blind Dead) and must contend with a murderous group of mummified knights who do a lot of horse-riding, hacking/slashing with swords, and stalking of their victims on the street and barricaded in their homes (ala. Return of the Evil Dead). From a mentally-challenged and persecuted villager (ala. Return of the Evil Dead), they learn of the Blind Dead's connection to the sea (ala. The Ghost Galleon in which a nautical setting and atmosphere is most prevalent). Thankfully, de Ossorio has picked the most effective tropes of the Blind Dead mythos -- especially the renewed focus on sacrificial violence. Nevertheless, Night of the Seagulls can't help but feel more like a synthesis of the previous installments than a new story.

Warning to Bra-Stuffers: the Blind Dead 
seem very fond of busty sacrifices.
New to the Blind Dead mythos is the object of the Knights' worship. In previous installments, the Knights worshiped an abstract Satanic power, but in Night of the Seagulls they focus their attention on a stone carving. Shaped like a monstrous demon frog with a hollowed out mouth, the idol is sure to remind any fan of H.P. Lovecraft's fiction of the frog-like monsters and deep ones worshiped in his own weird tales. Take into consideration the secrecy of the villagers, Night of the Seagulls could play very well into Lovecraftian themes had the film wanted to develop a more atmospheric horror.

He's not a picky idol. He'll eat blood sausage,
blood pudding, blood pancakes...
All in all, if you enjoyed Tombs of the Blind Dead and Return of the Blind Dead, you'll probably enjoy Night of the Seagulls. I wanted to seem more focus on the Blind Dead's worship of their underwater deity, but we get more of the standard scenes of Blind Dead menace. There's not much atmosphere, and the Blind Dead are dispatched fairly quickly, but Night of the Seagulls is a perfectly good flick to pass the time if you're into low-budget Spanish horror.

I told him not to sit so close to the TV.