Amando de Ossario’s 1972 Tombs of the Blind Dead effectively kicked off the Blind Dead series which, in turn, contributed to the Spanish horror film boom of the 1970s. The legacy of the series, along with its influence on the horror genre as a whole are indisputable, to say the least, spurring it to achieve cult status. In an attempt to continue this legacy, director Raffaele Ricchio has unleashed Curse of the Blind Dead, a sordid tale surrounding The Knight Templars in a post-apocalyptic setting. Set in the 14th century, Curse of the Blind Dead posits the Templars as a satanic cult-of-sorts, whose motivations become murkier as the film progresses. Lacking narratorial depth, convincing characters, and a plausible storyline, Curse of the Blind Dead utterly fails the original tetralogy on all ends.
Curse of the Blind Dead opens with an apocalyptic wasteland, the remnants of which are neither spelled out nor visible in the film, which can be understandably attributed to the project’s limited budget. Under a blood moon eclipse, a group of ritual cultists carry out a sacrificial ritual, while a seemingly-possessed pregnant woman writhes in the throes of labor. After the baby is born, angry townsfolk arrive, burning the Knights at the stake, while killing the mother and child. After a time-skip of centuries, the audience is introduced to a man and his pregnant daughter, Michael (Aaron Stielstra) and Lily (Alice Zanini), who find themselves struggling for survival and sanctuary. After a clichéd series of events lead to a group of robbers attacking the duo, they are later saved by two strangers, and Michael and Lily travel to an underground crypt housing a dubious religious sect.
Soon after, the leader of the sect Abel (Bill Hutchens) accosts the duo, claiming to offer the only safe haven amid post-apocalyptic dread and destruction. Having drugged both Lily and Michael, the sect seeks to sacrifice Lily’s child to their masters, the undead Knight Templars, and they proceed to chain her in the cellar. For some reason, another woman in labor is chosen for the ritual, who seems to embrace her fate without much resistance, although it is never explicitly explained why. However, things go awry and the Templars reject the offering. It is interesting to witness how the undead Templars are manifested within the film’s narrative framework, bathed in an eerie-red glow, skeletal and ever-foreboding. Although visually and thematically similar to the Ringwraiths in Lord of the Rings, the undead Templars are not granted clear motivations behind their urge to defy death and sacrifice babies during every blood moon.
Perhaps the only redeeming qualities lurking within Curse of the Blind Dead is its many gore sequences, some of which are executed well with the aid of practical effects. It is the Templars who carry out most of the violence, ripping out spines and gorging on intestines, while lurking amid the shadows and chasing survivors at a painstakingly slow pace. The Templars claim Lily’s unborn child as their own, marking her belly with an ominous sigil. While a few tertiary characters emerge halfway through as integral to the plotline, their shifting motivations are difficult to gauge, and their end goals remain unclear. Several questions remain unanswered: Who is the child’s father, and why has Lily been chosen, or “marked” for that matter? What do the Knight Templars wish to accomplish with the ritual babies, and is there a greater purpose? Curse of the Blind Dead rushes through these aspects without as much as hinting at an answer.
Apart from this, the seminal reason why Curse of the Blind Dead suffers is the wide array of poor performances that lack refinement and conviction. The protagonist the audience is supposed to root for, Lily, spends most of her time shrieking and sobbing, making it difficult to view her in a sympathetic light even during times of extreme duress. Moreover, the film ends on a climactic yet abrupt note, which might potentially be a set-up for a sequel, although the plotline deems it neither pertinent nor necessary. Lacking the Euro-gothic aesthetic of the original tetralogy, Curse of the Blind Dead fails to evoke an atmosphere of genuine, B-horror dread, immersing itself in a convoluted, shoddily-executed plotline instead.
Curse of the Blind Dead is available on DVD and VOD in the U.S. on March 2, 2021, courtesy of Uncork’d Entertainment. The film is 87 minutes long and remains unrated as of now.
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