LOL, is this movie for real?
At first I was tempted to dismiss this as Jose Ramon Larraz' attempt at a horror comedy that wasn't quite horrific or funny enough to rate as either. It's more droll social commentary that is perhaps a reaction to WITCHES OF EASTWICK or other high-profile A list horror comedies, but with the catch being that the A list material is being lifted from Euro Horror rather than Hollywood. This isn't a "bad" movie, it's just that the Hollywoodized viewers who have been trashing it are not hip to who is involved, why they should care, and what the point of it all is. See, there are two types of artists: "Hacks" who make work because they are good at it and can make money, and "craftspeople" who have talent and a love for the process of making work. For them the art itself is a by-product of the creative process -- The finished film is only worth whatever other films come after it, or what other art the work results in. The same can apply to basically every trade I can think of except a plumber.
Now back to square one: Jose Ramon Larraz is the fiery, occaisonally brilliant Spanish/British director responsible for VAMPYRES, BLACK CANDLES, WHIRLPOOL, SYMPTOMS and DEVIATION, so don't worry, it has bared tits, sex, shockingly unexpected graphic violence, and a sort of arty flair for visuals that belies the Mastercard budget the film was made with. He is a craftsman who works with film. The movie contains all of the traditional Larraz formula bits such as the creepy house with a former life of it's own, the closed society acting outside of the norms of everyday life, the young woman weaned into the society in a ROSEMARY'S BABY type manner, forced drug usage, barbaric social practices disguised by surface sophistication, a sexy eagerly willing live-in maid, psycho sexual dream imagery, women lingering in steamy baths or showers, characters with dual identities, and the blasphemous corruption of religion to excuse antisocial behavior.
Aside from Mr. Larraz we also get a veritable stable of Euro Horror veterans, at the end of their long careers making dozens of such low budget efforts to be sure but still filled with a joy for making movies that is evident just seeing them on screen, in a movie, together;
JACK TAYLOR: Veteran of more Jess Franco movies than I care to think about, plays an old blind guy with a cane that has a switchblade in the shaft. Steals every scene he is in just by being present.
PATTY SHEPARD: Paul Naschy's Countess Wandessa -- or whatever her name was -- looking downright psychotic as a society matron who carries a meat cleaver with her everywhere. Looking her age for a change but still with that gleam in her eye.
TONY ISBERT: Spanish Euro Horror's answer to Robert Redford, the guy got to do a nude scene with Helga Line and I bet Mr. Redford would give his whole salad dressing franchise up for such a chance. Here he is cast as a sneering Nazi war criminal working as a gardener.
FERDINANDO BILBAO: The Giant from VAMPIRE'S NIGHT ORGY and probably three dozen Spaghetti Westerns Giallo slashers, sort of Euro Cult Cinema's answer to Richard Keil or Andre the Giant. Effectively cast as a Giant.
Yes those are just four members of the cast, but seeing them *TOGETHER* on screen and in character will be a treat for fans of their work. The best part is that they are nearly unrecognizable in their roles: You have to know that Jack Taylor is in the film to know which person he plays, and once you do just his casting in the film earns it the merit to be seen. Same with the others, though the two Americanized leads are about as memorable as an empty box of Kleenex. They are nice I guess, but not the reason to see this, and neither is the plot so I won't bother describing any of it. You've seen that all before.
But Larraz actually did try something "new" for him with the film, which was to go straight ahead and try to make an Americana horror comedy ... in Spain. The cars are all boxy little Euro schnitzel burners with their funny license plates, and the neighborhood the movie is set in shares about as much in common with a California bedroom community as it does with a village of Eskimo igloos. The film has a very strange appearance to it that is closer to a pop art exaggeration than just another stupid horror movie set in Los Angeles, resulting in a visual tension that is best summed up by observing that even the garage door on the house doesn't look quite right.
In the long run this is a movie who's sense of utterly black humor you will either "get" or you won't, and I will give you a pass for not "getting" it if you do not know who any of the people described above are or what they have done. Why not follow their names and that of director Larraz to see what else they have done, track some of those examples down, then come back to this one after you have "The Dracula Saga", DR. JEKYLL VS THE WEREWOLF, WITCHES MOUNTAIN and SCREAM AND DIE! under your belt, which is perhaps one of the objectives of the film: To try and share the rich history of where this movie came from to a bunch of skull-chucked, dim witted American consumers who wouldn't know a Templar Knight from a Chubacabras. REST IN PIECES is an awful movie to be sure but is utterly priceless, stupid, fun, sleazy and empty headed enough to warrant a second or third viewing, and that is often the definition of a cult movie. This one most assuredly is.