The Devil’s Nightmare

February 9, 2011 at 2:20 am (7 Heads, Devil's Nightmare) (, , , , , )

The Devil’s Nightmare – 1971 – Belgium/Italy

The Devil’s Nightmare is a Belgian/Italian Judeo Christian supernatural screamer/steamer. Starring is Erika Blanc, a sizzling redhead also in The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave and an Emmanuelle movie. Despite clichés and hokum, Devil’s Nightmare is a fun, sexy, and occasionally classy slice of gothic grue.

In an unnecessary flashback with thrilling WW2 stock footage, a melancholy Nazi knifes his newborn child. Flash forward: a tour bus carting an unhappy couple, two lesbians, a priest, and other boring characters is stranded at a gloomy castle on a thunder-crashing night. Completing this classic/overworked setup is the castle’s “alchemist” master and his morbid staff who pleasure in describing the history of grisly murders in each room. Soon enough, the master reveals a family curse (alluded to in the WW2 flashback) and things get interesting as a smoking hot succubus appears, leading the seven tourists (apparently representing the seven sins, but not really) to ironic deaths. A glutton is poisoned and a greedy woman is buried in gold, but it’s mostly unclear—without reason, a snake bites a seemingly nice girl and an obnoxious old man is tossed out of a window. The succubus also tries to seduce the priest until he bargains with the creepy Nosferatu-like Devil to swap his soul for the lives of the others—this is noble since he is the only likable character. In a dreamy open ending blurring fantasy and reality, the tourists wake up the next morning as if nothing happened. The bus drives away and drops off a cliff before we see the priest in the succubus’s arms.

Devil’s Nightmare is ludicrous garbage rife with clichés—i.e. the storm cuts out the power/phone and (surprise) the tourists are locked in. The characters are one-dimensionally boring and despicable—i.e. a cheating husband to a slutty girl “Do you have a hobby?” “I collect men.” “Even men who are married?” “Especially.” Or in the case of a girl with only two lines, not developed at all. Still, Devil’s Nightmare overcomes this with passion and poise that make it memorable. Erika Blanc’s foxy performance is chillingly erotic, enhanced by simple but transformative make-up. Mostly the effects are uninspired, but some moments pack punch. While a Theremin wails, the priest fantasizes about the succubus while she flickers around the room losing her clothes with a cheap but eerie cut-away effect.

Devil’s Nightmare is technically sound enough. The compositions are formally elegant with lots of foreground/background depth and intricate camera movement. The castle and countryside locations are atmospheric (even if overly bright) and the score is appropriate (even if unimaginative).  But Devil’s Nightmare is better than the sum of its parts. Examining the hackneyed plot, tired characters, and conventional style, it’s a forgettable mess. Yet somehow it entertains. It could be the comforting Euro horror familiarity, or maybe just Erika Blanc, but Devil’s Nightmare’s ghastly sensual world engulfed me. There’s no accounting for taste.

Rating: 7/10 Shrunken Heads. Like an Apple Jacks ad: “Why do you like it?” “We just do!”

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