We've had all sorts of nights here at Zombie Club. Hairy 70's bikers, Poor Man's Rambos, people who melt, tough handed Italian Cops, little Weng Weng, John Saxon, and, of course, zombies. And many more. But recently I awoke one night and upon my stomach my girlfriend noticed an area of raised skin which read the words 'zombie club'. Not being one to ignore such intervention, I became possessed with some kind of ZC demon and before long was compelled to seek out some suitable diabolical movies.
First up, Alberto de Martino's entertaining Exorcist rip-off, The Antichrist. You know what you're getting with a title like that. This one really does what it says on the tin, and them some. Tonight's second choice is more of an oddity from the Mexican ally of Alejandro Jodorowsky, Juan López Moctezuma, entitled Alucarda. Possessed nuns and hunchbacks? Yes, please.
Tonight's Zombie Club was brought to you by Zomblee, in association with loads of writhing nuns. And some green vomit.
The Antichrist (L'Anticristo) (1974)
Plot Girl gets possessed.
Zomblee Normally when you see someone on all fours you might surmise, as Rawshark did, that they're looking for a contact lens. But this isn't normality. This is the world of the big, fat Exorcist rip-off, the world of The Antichrist. And you know what? It ain't half bad.
Meet Ippolita, a psychic bourgeois who is paralytic from the waist down. When her old man, played by Mel Ferrer (oh how the mighty have fallen), believes her crippling illness is not only physical, he enlists the help of a psychiatrist, who inadvertently raises the demon who possessed her in her past life and she develops a fondness for seducing (then breaking the necks of) young boys, shouting a lot, as well as all that levitation stuff. It's all good, messy fun, and features enough gutsy showpieces to keep the average lover of 70's horror cinema well entertained.
Joining Mel Ferrer on the has-been corner is our old pal Arthur Kennedy, best known among us lot for his hippy-hating pig in Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. Here, he plays Ippolita's uncle - a Vatican priest who, during a conversation about whether or not the Devil really exists, gets to say, "Yes he does, it was confirmed again next week." Genius.
It's unlike The Exorcist enough to stand on its own two feet (do films have feet?) for the most part, but towards the end is where the real exorcism stuff happens, and even though De Martino and his crew do their best, it's difficult not to laugh at Ippolita's incessent eating-food-then-vomiting routines ("The Devil doesn't seem to like cheesy omelettes. - Jim).
"I've been waiting 400 years but I piss on that time!"
Rawshark As far as Exorcist rip-offs go, this film surely stands up (I like to think films have feet, Zomblee) as one of the best. A classy Italian production, The Antichrist is masterfully shot, well performed, beautifully scored, and pretty well written, with many a line that would make your average Priest preach in disgust. Oh, and lots of nice gory bits, shades of comedy and lashing of nudity too. Seriously, what more could you ask for?
Things plod along very nicely in the opening 30 minutes as we learn about Ippolita and her condition both physically and mentally – handicapped from the waist down and overwrought with jealousy respectively. We learn she was perhaps a witch in a previous life, that her mother was killed in the car crash that paralysed her as a child, and that she hates her father for ‘getting friendly’ with another woman. And then we get to that scene. The scene that had Zomblee, who had seen this film before, utter the words, ”I don’t want to rant here, but this scene is fucking great!”.
You see, as Ippolita lies naked on her bed after a particularly exhausting jealousy attack on a photo of her father, the background of her bedroom melts away and changes into to a mystic wood setting, whereby the now physically able Ippolita encounters a Devil Worshipping ceremony in progress. There we witness naked orgies, the eating of a toad’s head and something very wrong indeed involving a tongue and a goat’s ass. As Jim said, ”It’s like Fresher’s Week at the old Devil Worship Club”.
From here on in it’s all just an excuse to roll out the standard Exorcist moments, and we get them all, from puking green goo, through to levitation, head turns, burning skin blisters, masturbation, incest, and (Zomblee’s favourite), ”indoor rain”. And the comedy? Well, it’s there both intentionally with a funny scene involving an amateur voodoo doctor and windows that keep opening and shutting, and unintentionally, most specifically during the ‘Attack of the Renaissance Paintings’ moment. Top-notch entertainment for all you Exorcist-lovers out there, including you Mr Beetlejuice.
”So Priest, why don’t you dip your limp bird into the Holy Water”
Jim I was initially a little sceptical, mainly because I'm one of the few that, while understanding the significance of The Exorcist in movie history, actually thinks that it's a bit of a boring film. So imagine my delight when The Antichrist turned out to be anything but.
Starting with a scene involving a lot of mad people behind bars screaming, the film soon introduces Ippolita, the emotionally disturbed heroine, and her dad Mel Ferrer (who used to be married to Audrey Hepburn you know, but I think we've told you that already). Now, the way I understand it is, Ippolita, being immobilised as she is, has struggled to meet guys over the years and so has a worryingly close relationship with her father, and as such she flips when daddy cops off with that attractive blonde older lady. And then she gets sexually assaulted by the devil and a frog gets its head bitten off in that scene, which Rawshark thought would "look great in 3D!" He was, of course, referring to the frog thing.
After that the new, improved semi-possessed Ippolita has loads of fun seducing local boys with her new found legs ("Look into my eyes, look into my eyes..." - Rawshark) and then killing them. Then she has a crack at seducing her brother and dabbles in levitation ("Paul Daniels would never go that far!" - Rawshark), before resorting to "proper exorcist" (Rawshark) stuff like vomiting and masturbation and very bad language.
All in all, The Antichrist is loads of fun, if you've had a drink or two and are in the right company, of course. It's wonderful to see that cheesy Italian overdramatic acting style applied to the Exorcist format and, as usual, it's great to see the old industry has-beens propping up the genre like Mel Ferrer and Arthur Kennedy. Especially Arthur Kennedy, who looks a bit worse for wear. ("Looks like Arthur Kennedy hasn't done his Exorcist homework!" - Zomblee)
Oh, and special mention also has to go the scenes in Mel's house with all the statues looking down the corridor (you'll know what I mean if you see the film) and the way they manage to finish the film in the coliseum, which is great because that's where Bruce Lee beat up Chuck Norris.
Director Alberto De Martino
Cast Carla Gravina
Runtime 112 mins
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Plot Demonic possession, Satan worship, and vampirism.
Jim Next up Alucarda which tells the story of how a young girl named Justine goes to live in a convent after her parents die, how she meets a mysterious new friend called Alucarda and how they like to run around the garden and have innocent teenage girly fun together ("It's all very Heavenly Creatures, eh?" - Rawshark). This, of course, doesn't last long. Before you know it they've entered into a creepy death pact, there's a bit of running and chasing, the nuns get involved ("All those crazy nuns look the same." - Zomblee) and before you know it we're in the middle of a really big devil worshipping scene for the second time tonight (where Rawshark pulled out his "look into my eyes, look into my eyes..." line again too). Although this time there's a big gypsy hunchback involved which Zomblee was really excited about.
Anyway, as I remember Justine comes out of that experience a tad traumatised, goes nuts in a confessional and is diagnosed possessed. Naturally an exorcism ensues carried out by the priest with the help of a doctor that's played by the same actor that plays the hunchback (no, he doesn't have a hunchback when he's playing the doctor) and the exorcism goes, err, fairly badly I think, because Justine, right, turns out to be a vampire.
Yes, I don't understand and wasn't really following at the time either. But the scene where Justine climbs out of the bloodbath and slaps a nun around is great though, so who cares? And things get even more fun as this baby ends with a massive but really confusing scene involving Justine reigning carnage from her fingertips and killing loads of nuns ("There's lots of the same people running forwards and backwards!" - Zomblee).
Alright, so I don't really remember the end. Second Film Syndrome had kicked in, the wine bottle was all but empty and the ashtrays were overflowing, so I was just happy to make it home on the last train. Great stuff though, and for what it's worth I'd recommend this to anyone who likes exorcism rip-off nunsploitation hunchback movies.
"I'm pretty familiar with all the terrible things that happen in this hospital, what is it now?"
Rawshark Yeah, you know, I’m not sure how many films fit into the ”Exorcism rip-off nunspolitation hunchback” genre Jim, but I reckon that Alucarda is probably the best of all of them. Featuring lots of nudity, exorcism, vampirism and ample blood-letting (lots of blood on breasts here, which must have annoyed the BBFC back in the day), this obscure Mexican 70s treat is consistently entertaining and throws in an intelligent commentary on religious fervour too boot. Oh, and it also has a funny ol’ hunchback which always goes down well at Zombie Club.
Our two girls (Justine being the innocent newbie, Alucarda the dark and mysterious vampire) meet and after telling the local gypsy hunchback their ‘secrets’, they make a pact (”A pact too far!” - Jim) that they should die together. They’re only 16 years old, so you can perhaps forgive their naïve romantic morbidity. Anyway, the hunchback soon reappears, the girls strip (”70s minge!” - Jim) and taste each other’s blood, and then we get the obligatory (for tonight at least) forest-set Devil Worship orgy scene, but this time with the added benefit of levitating nuns who sweat blood. Ah, it’s not often you get to write the words ‘levitating nuns who sweat blood’.
A large part of why this film works (for me at least) is that it seems to be intentionally ambiguous with it’s period setting. The opening and a large part of the film seems like it belongs in the 18th century, which explains the panic that sets in within the convent upon the initial suspicions of possession. As punishment for uttering the words ”Satan! Satan!” in class, the girls are first given the suction cup treatment, before being stripped (again), tied to wooden Xs and stabbed with needles. It’s a harsh group of scenes that you would expect to see in something like The Name of the Rose or any film dealing with the Spanish inquisition.
It’s not until later when the nuns are discovered with their brutal methods (which does include self-flagellation by the way), that it transpires that the film does actually have a modern-day setting, and that this semi-isolated religious community is almost as dangerous as the vampiric (and possessed) Alucarda herself. Chuck in a brilliantly bloody vengeance ending and an extremely impressive ‘melt’ finale, and there was one very happy Rawshark come wine glass and ashtray cleaning time tonight.
”Do you know how small creatures love each other?”
Zomblee Yeah, this movie is pure insanity. Two young girls, a cavernous monastry full of nuns who "dress like mummies" (Jim), old Nick, and one freaky lookin' hunchback. Welcome to the fucked-up, crazy world of Alucarda. This warped little offering is one of those movies you've never seen anything quite like. Apart from The Devils perhaps - quite a lot of the imagery here is clearly inspired by Ken Russell's seminal horny nunfest.
The nun imagery on show here is memorable stuff indeed. Dressed, as Jim says, like mummies, their white bandage habits initially appear quite pink in colour, and it is not until a later brutal scene of self-flagellation that we see why this is, their deep wounds running thick with holy blood. They even have the bandages wrapped around their heads, and it looks totally unsettling.
Most of the acting here is quite laughable most of the time, though I liked Claudio Brook’s (who has previously appeared at ZC in The Bees!) dual roles of the hunchback (who you won't forget in a hurry and the local doctor, whose blind daughter is unwisely put in the care of Alucarda near the end of the movie. Which brings me on to Alucarda herself – Tina Romero - the star of the show. She makes up for a lot of the duff acting throughout, with her thorough creepiness and unnerving manner. Jim quite rightly pointed out that her black dress didn't help either ("Could you possibly wear something less creepy, Alucarda?")
With an wierd 70's synthesizer score strangely at odds with a nun possession context, Alucarda should press all the right buttons if you want something truly different in the possession sub-genre, even though, as Rawshark observed, "it goes a bit wicked witch of the West" in the finale. But what a finale. And all without a need for the synth score, which it wisely dispenses with for the final reel.
"It's as if the Devil himself were speaking through her!"
Director Juan Lopez Moctezuma
Cast Claudio Brook
Runtime 85 mins
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It's all over again. The dust slowly settles. The whirring of the projector dies down. I have been exorcised of my ZC demon, am back to my former self, and have cleaned up the green puke from the walls. Jim and Rawshark have changed from their respective hunchback and priest costumes, and have embarked on their perilous journey homeward. The stench of an exorcism still hangs in the air like a deathly reminder of our bloody ordeal with the dark power of Italian Exorcist rip-offs and dodgy nuns. Tune in next time for Jim's Massacre Night. Carnage. Pure carnage.
4th Oct 04 With its fine blend of dark humour and shock horror, you will barely be able to avert your gaze from the screen; from the opening sequence on the desolate moors, to the thrilling finale in Piccadilly Circus.