[a.k.a. EscalofrŪo / Donít Panic]
Review By-Kit Gavin Directed by Carlos Puerto Starring Angel Aranda, Sandra Alberti, Jose Maria Guillen, Marian [Mariana] Karr and Luis Bar-Boo [Barboo]. Source: Mondo Macabro [United States] (DVD NTSC Region 0)
A pre-credits sequence sets up the mood for events to come with a bearded priest overseeing a Satanic ritual. A young woman is lead into the temple and ravished by the priest before being stabbed to death at the point of orgasm. Meanwhile an attractive urban couple, Andres [Aranda], a lawyer, and Ana [Karr], a nurse, decide to go out for the day, taking their dog Blackie with them. Ana is also four months pregnant, having suffered a miscarriage sometime previously. They spend their day taking in sights, have time for a coffee in a busy cafť and even pay a visit to the theater to see STAR WARS. Whilst driving around another couple pull up next to them suggesting that they recognize them, even so much as calling out to Andres by name. Bruno [Guillen] gets out of the car, introducing himself and his wife Berta [Alberti] to the couple, saying that he remembers Andres from their schooldays. The dog seems perturbed and growls angrily at the strangers, and Bruno mistakenly suggests that the Dean of the school was a science master.
Despite this, Andres and Ana follow the couple in the car to their home in the countryside, where Bruno offers cheese, wine and conversation to catch up on old times. Andres is plagued with doubts however as to the validity of Brunoís story for the ride out of the city. Just as Andres and Ana are about to turn back, Bruno and Berta tell them that they arenít far. Soon enough both couples arrive at the large country house. Despite Anaís wishes, Berta lets Blackie out of the house to roam free around in the grounds. Both Ana and Andres glance through a book on Black magic before Ana goes down to the kitchen to see if Berta needs any help Upon arriving in the kitchen she sees Berta eating what appears to be raw meat. Upstairs Andres sees a photo supposedly of him and Bruno from their childhood, but which has their names and address on the back.
Later, the conversation turns to the supernatural and Ana expresses an interest in the subject. Berta suggests that they try a Ouija board. The couple light up cigarettes and set up the Ouija board using a glass to communicate with the spirits. The first contact with the spirits tell Bruno that he will commit suicide, which Berta chillingly intones that he has already tried once, this time he should try and get it right. The spirit then comminicates with Ana, telling her that she is still in love with Juan, Andresí brother. This deeply upsets Ana, who cries out the spirit telling it that it is lying. Ana gets so upset the glass shatters under her finger.
Andres and Ana want to leave, however a storm keeps them trapped at the house and Berta and Bruno refuse to go to the main road in the storm for fear the roads will be dangerous. After fooling around in he bath, Ana and Andres go to bed. Outside, Blackie the dog is killed by an unseen assailant. Unable to sleep, Ana goes downstairs, dressed in only a dressing gown, leaving her sleeping husband upstairs. Once downstairs, however, she attacked by a bearded stranger [Barboo] who tries to rape her. Managing to fiht him off, she runs upstairs in distress. Andres and Anna then proceed downstairs to investigate, however they see Bruno and Berta, naked, in a pentagram, praying to Satan. Both Ana and Andres are lured into the demonic circle by their hosts, who proceed to strip them and smear their flesh with ointment.
After a frenzied bout of love-making, including both couples swapping partners, Berta suddenly screams and passes out. Bruno assures Ana that this is normal however she is concerned and tells Bruno to call a doctor. However the phone lines seem to be down owing to the storm. Berta comes round and makes an advance on Andres, just as Bruno and Ana return to the room. Ana and Andres return to bed whilst Bruno and Berta have rough whilst being watched from the outside, however the voyeur is soon after stabbed by the bearded man who previously had attacked Ana. That night Ana has a nightmare that a sinister doll with blood leaking from itís mouth enters her room before turning into a scantily clad Berta, dressed only in a chiffon nightgown. Berta, then seems to try and stab Ana with a large kitchen knife, before trying to ravish her. However Ana grabs the knife and stabs Berta in the back.
The next morning when Ana and Andres try and leave, they are unable to find their dog and also their car has vanished. Beyond the kitchen they discover a hidden stairway leading to attic where a strange book has a picture of them both in it. Looking out the window they see their hosts return in their car. However the car seems to refuse to start and Ana and Andres find their hosts eating raw meat in the kitchen. Ana also discovers Blackieís carcass hanging in the larder. Bruno and Berta then promptly have a fight, with Berta accusing him of killing the animal out of cowardice, which colminates in Bruno shooting himself in the head.
Berta returns with a doctor, who promptly accuses Andres of murdering Bruno. He then mumbles a Satanic blessing over the corpse. He believes Andres to be lying, as he has blood on his jacket lapels and there is seemingly nothing wrong with the car. Andres protests that he discovered the leads were loose and that he and Ana have been set up by their hosts. The doctor drives off, telling them not to leave the house. Later that evening they find Berta upstairs in the bathroom, with her wrists cut. However she still seems to be alive and after binding her wrists, Berta is cut to bed. Soon after however Berta seems possessed and Andres strangles her. Horrified the couple try to clear the place of any trace of their presence, however before they leave Berta returns, with a gun. Her first shot misses Andres and he attacks her in self defence whilst however getting shot in the arm in the process. He strikes Berta and her head hits a cudgel, killing her. Stripping the body, the couple leave it in the bath, so her death looks like a suicide. Andres return to the sitting room to get his bag however the undead Bruno attacks him. Ana however saves her husbands life by shooting Bruno in the head. Both flee the house in terror, to the apparent safety of their home in the city.
Performances are not too bad, and above average for an interesting little horror film spiced up with lots of sex Ė with all four leads being suitably attractive and willing to drop their clothes for the numerous scenes of nudity. Indeed there is a protracted softcore sex scene which involves the foursome involved in some fairly torrid loveplay as part of a Satanic ritual on a pentagram which would probably as Dennis Wheatley envisioned his Satanists making out. Of course there is plentiful nudity from both the female leads and though both male leads get naked, there are only really butt shots on display, with a couple of stolen, furtive glimpses of Arandaís private parts in bed. Guillen and Alberti exude an aura of not being quite whom they claim to be, will leave viewers wondering quite what is going on, and the naVve innocence of Aranda and Karr, especially Karr with her expressive blue eyes. Given the puritan values that had been prevalent in Spain, it is almost as if both the cast and the film makers are celebrating this new found freedom with such willing abandon and wanting to push barriers as far as possible.
Viewers familiar with Spanish horror might be wary or give a shudder of when seeing the name of Juan Piquer Simon attached to the film, as producer, given that Piquer Simon was the directing hand behind such monstrosities as SLUGS and SUPERSONIC MAN, and camp classic splatterfest PIECES. In fact, he was apparently initially scheduled to direct this but instead handed the reins to Carlos Puerto instead, choosing to produce the film instead. Given the films apparent minimal budget, with majority of the film taking place in the confines of mansion, Puerto has created a claustrophobic, erotic and highly stylish movie here. Clearly the budget has dictated here, with not many exterior shots other than a few when Andres and Ana have a day out before leaving for the countryside with their somewhat enigmatic friends. But direction is stylish, well edited and shots are well composed, with moments that intersperse eroticism with horror. Some viewers have complained that this is essentially a sex film which contains horrific elements simply to spice the film up, again a device by the film makers to flaunt and exploit the new S rating. This seems unfair and unjust as SATANíS BLOOD, a somewhat lurid monicker, is actually quite an intelligent little movie which is nicely paced and timed, creating a sombre rather than a sexy mood, and with some moments of genuinely creepy, unsettling terror. There is some character development, a uneasy ambience, and a genuinely disturbing and shocking finale, interspersed with some gruesome set-pieces. One of the filmís apparant sources was ROSEMARYíS BABY, but short of the Devil being involved, a Satanic ritual, and the heroine of the film being pregnant (by her husband), the link is tenuous to say the least. The film stands up on itís own, creating itís own feel, and without resorting to plagerism or cliches to orchestrate shocks.
A degree of intelligence has also gone into the making this film as well. Set-pieces and shocks are well orchestrated, and the film has been well directed. The shocking finale actually comes as a real bolt out of the blue and is suitably shocking given events that have taken place before, it is even more surprising if ever so slightly contrived. Some reviews have claimed that possibly the film makers ran out of ideas but this assertion seems somewhat unfair given the context. It also fits in perfectly with the norm for conclusions of horror films at this time. The viewer has to remember that he (or she) is not watching an American horror film with their formulaic endings here. Equally he film is heavily reliant on atmosphere and mood to generate suspence rather than cheap shoddy gore effects. In addition, the location of the house where most of the action takes place is genuinely creepy, together with authentic Satanic and heretic imagery on the walls. The score too plays an important contribution in adding to the suspence and atmosphere of the film.
The film is equally well balanced between being a sex film and a horror film. There is a chilling eerie mood and the flesh on display is attractive as well as erotically shot. This film has none of the low budget excesses of some of the other Iberian directors at the time, such as Jess Franco. The film however has been shot on a low budget, owing to the restrictions in the production by making the majority of the action, horror and sexy, to take place in the large country house. Only a few shots take place in Andresí and Anaís city apartment, and a handful of exterior shots following the couple around the city and in the countryside. The final confrontation between Ana and Andres at the house with plentiful screaming is really full of suspense and is one of the best scenes in a Spanish horror film, similar in atmosphere and horror to Ibenez-Serradorís classic LA RESIDENCIA. There is some clever camera work and a great deal of suspense in the desperation as Ana and Andres desperately try to flee the house with all the doors and windows slam shut, trapping them inside with the silence punctuated by a loud, blood chilling scream.
Another nice touch present in the Spanish language variant is that of the characterís names. The two heroes are presented with their names both beginning with the letter "A" and with their hosts having names that both begin with the letter "B". This device possibly recalls LAST YEAR IN MARIENBAD where characters were simply referred to by letters. However this subtle touch is lost in the English language dub where Bertaís character name has rather inexplicably become "Mary".
The film moves along, to an extent, at quite a gentle pace, from the start, so much so some might consider it slow, with only a handful of orchestrated shocks, including the striking and shocking finale. Some viewers will feel disappointed and possibly by the cheated by the ending, others will see it as perhaps a perverse little twist, a nasty joke played on the viewer by the film makers given how events have been gradually building up, with character development. Certainly a great deal of atmosphere and sympathy for the leads has been built up, together with some very nicely composed images such as the camera looking down on the four leads as they sit at the Ouija Board, the glass exploding in a framed picture of Christ, and a striking image of Anna being terrorized by an unseen assailant (in shadow) brandishing what appears to be a very large knife.
The most recognizable of the main cast players will be Angel Aranda, who had appeared in a number of Spaghetti Westerns and also in Mario Bavaís PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES eleven years before. The blue-eyed Mariana Karr should have gone on to make more films of this nature as her face (and figure) was attractive, and there is promise in her performance here where she plays her role sympathetically throughout. The most familiar face however will be that of Luis Barboo, whose very distinctive features should make most fans of Iberian horror recognise him from various films for Jess Franco, perhaps most notably as the Countess Irinaís manservant in EROTIKILL (a.k.a. THE BARE BREASTED COUNTESS). Barboo also played Janine Reynaudís accomplice who met a nasty end on a roof in Sergio Martinoís THE CASE OF THE SCORPIONíS TAIL. Here he plays a small but interesting token role, with suitable menace, as the sinister looking gamekeeper of Bruno and Bertaís large house. As an interesting aside, the girl who appears at the start of the feature [as the victim of the priest] seems to be the same girl who appears at the end with her boyfriend in the car.
As is par for the course with releases from Mondo Macabro, both audio and video quality are of high quality. The film is presented in a dual language track, with the export dub in English or the original Spanish with clear and easy to read, and follow, subtitles in bold white text with donít intrude on the picture. There is a moment however, when Bruno starts communicating with the spirits at the Ouija Board which oddly is missing subtitles. The film is presented in the original mono (I believe) as opposed to the stereo advertised, without the need to resort to a 5:1 stereo presentation which would make the sound, well sound contrived. Both tracks work well, and even the English dub works well, with a familiar cast of Euro-dubbers doing the honors, without sounding imposed as often was the case with Iberian fare. Character names however have been slightly altered for the export version for no really obvious reason other than perhaps to make the film seem more international (?)/ The film looks fantastic, with the odd glitch, slight speckling at times, here and there, owing to the age of the film but nothing at all distracting, in fact the film looks great. It is also presented in itís original aspect ratio, and in an anamorphic format for purists. The film is presented fully uncut, complete with the original lecture (in the extras) at the start of the film, as discussed below. The film is bright, vibrant, with deep blacks and natural looking flesh tones, and given the ample quota of flesh on display here Ė thatís kind of handy.
The first of the extras included is a lecture which was made by the film makers intended for a Spanish audience, where the laws had just been relaxed allowing nudity, sex and violence to be acceptable for a Spanish audience, following the death of General Franco. Previously films of this nature had been either banned or severely censored and generally removed from film releases all together. Here Mondo Macabro allows the viewer to decide whether to watch the film with the introduction, or without (as was the case with the export version of the film). In it a scholarly professor discusses (in an optional Spanish Ė subtitled Ė or English track) the subject of Satanism in a slightly patronizing tone to the films intended audience. When viewing the film with this prelude (which is given as an option) it is slightly amusing to see such a serious and slightly self important, precious discussion given as an introduction. However as a historical oddity, it is good that Mondo Macabro have given viewers the option to view this interesting little tidbit as it adds to the curiosity value of this enjoyable movie.
The primary extra is a documentary/featurette, lasting 20 or so minutes, entitled "The Devilís Disciples" featuring an in-depth discussion of 20th Century Satanism presented and discussed at depth by author and Church of Satan reverend Gavin Baddeley. Although the subject matter might offend some with Baddeley dismissing many peopleís outlandish urbane view and opinion of Satanism, and in his normalising of Satanism and belief in the Devil. Those expecting a closet freak will be sorely disappointed as Baddeley comes across as intelligent, well read and reliably well informed when discussing the various permutations in which the Devil has been misinterpreted, and how writers such as Crowley and [Dennis] Wheatley have formed peoples opinions of Satanism and Satanic ritual. An interesting, illuminating and informative featurette, never boring, packed with interesting facts, and interspersed with clips here and there from SATANICO PANDEMONIUM, ALUCARDA, SATANíS BLOOD and the forthcoming DONíT DELIVER US FROM EVIL.
There are extensive liner notes written by Mondo Macabroís Pete Tombs with the usual gusto and knowledge that is found is notes on the other titles in the range of titles available on the label.
A nice extensive photo gallery of color, and black and white photos are included, together with some behind the scenes photos and publicity materials from around the world such as video sleeves, and the original Spanish press book. The extras are nicely rounded off with the Mondo Macabro showreel, incorporating most all of their scope of titles to date, each of which is an enjoyable cinematic experience and at least one copy of each of these films should be in any true aficionado of bizarre world cinemaís collection. And with this hugely enjoyable oddity, a genuinely creepy and atmospheric little gem, nicely packaged with Satanic symbolic (rather than lurid) artwork on the cover, add this one in for good measure.
Story Film: 4/5 BITCH SLAPS Picture: 4.5/5 BITCH SLAPS Audio: 4/5 BITCH SLAPS Extras: 3.5/5 BITCH SLAPS Overall: 4/5 BITCH SLAPS
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