ATTACK OF THE BLIND DEAD (1973)
500 years ago, the Templar Knights were finally captured by a small village, and had their eyes burned out so they couldn't find their way back from Hell before being put the stake. Every year since then, the village has held a festival celebrating their victory and have let the Templars' pledge to return from the grave to seek revenge fad into myth and legend, save for the village idiot, Murdo. On the evening of the latest festivities, Murdo sacrifices a virgin, and uses her blood to finally bring the Templars back to life.
The Templars, shrouded in decaying cloaks and riding a herd of dead horses with their swords brandished, hunt only by the sound of their soon-to-be victims' screams. As the village is slaughtered by the dozens, a small group escapes and barricades themselves in a church. But instead of fighting together, they individually try to escape, in hopes of leaving the others for the Templars, only to find themselves surrounded by the bloodthirsty knights. With daylight still hours away, who will stay alive long enough to see the sun rise again? The Mayor? The mother and child? Murdo? Or will each find fall before the night is through.
This is the second film in Spanish director/writer Amando de Ossorio's Blind Dead cycle, which are each stand alone films and not interlinked save for the main antagonists. This film is known by several alternate titles, including RETURN OF THE BLIND DEAD and RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD, both capitalizing on the first movie, 1971's TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD. De Ossorio's dead are different from the then newly-founded flesh-eating zombies that were the rage in America and the UK thanks to George A Romero. Here, the victims are not eaten and do not return to life, and the Templars are dry and brittle skeletal corpses with limited commuting skill and strategic plotting. Their main goal is either revenge or to collect virgin's blood in order to resurrect, depending on the movie being watched.
In this film, de Ossorio blends a mixture of gothic ghost-like atmosphere, using plenty of fog, shadows and a dream quality slow-motion when focusing on the horse-riding corpses, with brutal violence and exposed flesh that were becoming the staples of 70's horror. Most characters meet their end through close-up impalements that does not hold back the red. There is also a familiarity here for zombie enthusiasts, as the final third of the film feels very reminiscent to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and it is probably no coincidence that many of the characters here have a striking resemblance to the barricaded septet in Romero's masterpiece.
ATTACK OF THE BLIND DEAD (which is the original title translated to English) has been plagued by cuts and edits for all of its home releases here in the United States. Even the claimed "uncut" laserdisc and original DVD releases did not contain the full Spanish version, but merely the uncut English language version, which omitted practically all of the gore and even crucial plot points including the scene where Murdo sacrifices the virgin, leaving the viewers to make guesses as to why the Templars finally rise from the grave. Fortunately, sleaze aficionados Blue Underground finally put all that behind for zombie lovers everywhere in 2005 with their DVD release. It features both the Spanish and English versions, and showcases a fantastic print of the film considering the age of the movie and the mistreatment it has received over the years.
De Ossorio's Blind Dead films, and this one in particular, while an interesting take on the living dead genre, still fall a little short to their American and Italian cousins. The film takes a little time to get moving, and even then plods along until the final third of the movie. Horror fans of all things "zombie" and those sentimental for 1970s exploitation should not miss out on watching at least one of these films though for archival purposes at the very least. For casual fans this is not essential viewing, but having one of these movies under your belt will definitely your horizons and is worth at least a rental come the next Dia De Los Muertos.