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Horror Rises From The Tomb/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< Horror Rises From The Tomb
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A group of holy vigilantes cart the shackled warlock Alaric de Marnac (Paul Naschy) and his mistress Mabille de Lancre (Hela Line’) to their execution site, a pre-credits sequence which masterfully sets a somber tone. As the entirely silent procession of individuals traipse across a barren landscape, only the incessant squeal of wagon wheels from the ox cart transporting the accused witches is audible on the soundtrack.

This somber procession stops at a lone gnarled tree where Alaric and Mabille spit curses and invoke the fallen angel, cursing not only their captors and their families, but casting the ultimate "double dog dare yah" spell by condemning entire generations of their yet unborn offspring to lives of continual torment! Alaric de Marnac is beheaded with a sword while Mabille de Lancre is suspended upside down naked from the tree and stabbed to death for her wicked ways.

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Among the executioners is Alaric’s twin brother (Paul Naschy); Naschy takes on the role of no fewer than three characters as the good twin brother, the evil Alaric de Marnac, and present-day Hugo, a smug bachelor whose resemblance to the vanquishing knight reveals that he is a direct descendant of the cursed line of witch hunters. Hugo’s in for a rough time.

Several decades later in Paris, a group of Hugo’s friends, including Paula (Cristina Suriani), Sylvia (Betsabe Ruiz), and Maurice (Victor Alcazar), are invited to attend a séance hosted by Madam Irina Komarova. Hugo scofs at actually contacting the dead, mockingly suggesting that he summon the notorious Alaric de Marnac, whose decapitated head is said to rest somewhere among the ruins of a monastery sitting on Hugo’s inherited property. Typical movie séance shenanigans commence the following evening when the group of friends gather in a darkened room while touching their fingers to form a circle around a candelabra sitting in the center of a round table. Madame Komarova is tied securely to a chair with heavy rope(?), and does indeed summon the spirit of de Marnac, who levitates the table, and tosses the candelabra aside while annunciating to his audience that he remains a restless spirit unable to resurrect himself without the benefit of having his head rejoined to his torso, which he reveals to be buried in an abandoned monastery alongside his beloved witch, Mabille de Lancre.

Maurice, a professional artist, doesn’t participate in the séance because he’s been preoccupied by an elusive image that he tries time and again to unsuccessfully record on canvas. However, the séance unleashes Maurice’s incomplete vision, the successful summoning of Alaric’s spirit allows Maurice to suddenly complete a grisly portrait of a headless de Marnac hoisting his bloodied noggin’ in his right hand. Alaric de Marnac marks Maurice for future evil as he stands transfixed before his painting while blood drops onto the canvas and the leering head of de Marnac laughs maniacally above it.

The following morning, Hugo suggests that the group travel to his country estate to search for the body of de Marnac, using the clues barked by the notorious specter himself during the previous night’s séance. Everyone agrees, and soon the cadre of friends are winding their way through desolate countryside in Hugo’s spiffy Mercedes Benz. Suddenly, a couple of thieves appear in the road and commandeer Hugo’s car with the women still inside, although the girls manage to crash the car only a short distance away.

While fleeing the wreckage, the thieves are apprehended by a group of men who shoot the first bandit square in the face before hauling the second up by his neck from a nearby tree. All of this barbarism takes place before the shocked group of friends, who remain calm enough to persuade one of the men to sell them a car so that they can continue onwards towards Hugo’s home. Only in movies do a group of travelers continue a journey after being beset by murderous thugs and an equally dangerous mob of vigilantes!

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A short time later, Hugo is clearing the dust off of his fantastically furnished country estate with the aid of caretaker Gaston and his pair of lovely daughters, Elvira (Emma Cohen) and Chantal (Maria Jose Cantudo). Later that day, two local men accompany Hugo and Maurice to the ruins of the old monastery where they apparently dig holes at random hoping to uncover a buried head. However, Maurice, now controlled by du Marnac after completing his grisly portrait, ends the thankless task of random digging when the evil head appears to him and leads him to a particular patch of ground. Under Maurice’s instruction, a small trunk is quickly unearthed which bears the inscription, "My nourishment will come from the human heart." How the head of an executed Warlock becomes encased inside a fancy engraved container instead of left out to rot in the elements is never explained; but apparently, du Marnac’s head was rescued by some adoring followers who sealed his cranium in just such a case and had it properly buried.

Under the cover of night, the two volunteer shovelers sneak into Gaston’s shed and break open the sealed trunk, hoping to find a cache of riches inside. Once opened, the thieves discover a fancy piece of parchment with "Astoroth" printed across an image of the devil. Beneath that parchment is du Marnac’s decapitated head, which pops open its eyes and puts the whammy on shoveler one, commanding him first to attack Gaston, who has just stumbled onto the scene, and then turning the guy on his partner with a nasty looking scythe which gets planted into the side of his buddies head.

Gaston’s daughters discover the carnage the following morning, and spend the rest of their time under the watchful eye of Hugo and his friends at the chalet. Later that night, everyone retires to bed except Chantal, who is stuck cleaning up the evening’s dishes.

Carrying around that huge scythe, the possessed digger creeps into the house and gives credence to du Marnac’s warning that his nourishment literally, "will come from the human heart" by attacking Chantal and unceremoniously ripping her heart out while she’s sprawled across the kitchen table. Continuing a wonderful Euro-horror tradition of heroines stepping cautiously through darkened hallways wearing transparent under things while investigating weird noises, Paula is kidnapped by the killer after carefully traipsing through darkened hallways by lamp light while wearing skimpy lingerie and stumbling upon Chantal’s bloody body in the kitchen.

Rather than calling the police and getting the hell out of town, Maurice and Hugo boat out onto a lake that looks suspiciously like the same one used in Amando de Ossorio’s Lorelie’s Grasp and unceremoniously sink the bodies of Chantal and the two murdered men. Back at the chateau, a lengthy discussion between Maurice and Hugo provides time-saving exposition concerning earlier events surrounding Maurice’s drive into town to recruit a couple of laborers and to use a telephone. Maurice is met with extreme opposition by the townspeople, who fear an old prophecy foretelling the eventual arrival of strangers who will "bring calamity" with them. Maurice is told the phone lines are not working and is refused gasoline for his car. Paul Naschy, who wrote Horror’s screenplay, incorporates this prophecy of doom into his script to create an atmosphere of isolation, a group of friends left entirely to their own devices while dealing with a supernatural threat in a remote part of the country with little means of escape and no one willing to help them.

Much to Maurice’s delight, his girlfriend Paula returns later that evening, beckoning him to join her outside where she puts the whammy on him and sends him back into the house to abduct Sylvia, who is also attacked while doing the dishes all alone late that night! du Marnac has now assembled a handful of disciples, Maurice, Paula, and "the digger," all under the command of Aleric’s telepathic demands which he broadcasts from a stone pedestal while grimacing and rolling his eyes; continuing a legacy of equally emotive "head-only" rulers featured in earlier movie classics like The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, and West Germany’s The Head.

Alaric du Marnac’s next goal is to re-join his head to a surprisingly intact torso contained in a casket, which is hauled from its sarcophagus in the basement of the monastery by Marice. After a puff of smoke magically reunites neck to noggin, du Marnac has the coffin of Mabille de Lancre hauled out of its neighboring sarcophagus, revealing a blond-haired skeleton when the top is pried open.

In a scene executed, perhaps as tastefully as one could expect, du Marnac places Sylvia into the coffin on top of Mabille’s skeleton, stabs Sylvia in the side, and then, well, mounts her to complete the ritual. Suddenly, Sylvia is the skeletal one, having transferred all of her "life’s essence" to Mabille de Lancre, who rises from beneath the pile of bones, emerging from her coffin as a beautiful embodiment of evil. Hungry after several hundred years, du Marnac and de Lancre feed on the heart of digger one.

Realizing they’re fighting against something supernatural, Elvira and Hugo rush to retrieve a talisman called the Hammers of Thor, a large medallion consisting of two mallets bisected by a silver circle possessed by Elvira’s father. That evening Hugo’s home is besieged by the walking dead, an impressive group of pale, decaying, and waterlogged ghouls staring blankly behind translucent white eyes who are revealed to be the animated corpses of those submerged into the lake by Hugo and Maurice. True to genre convention, fire deters the undead, and Hugo manages to corral the zombies back outside by swinging a burning log in their faces and creating an outdoor bonfire to keep them from entering the house.

Elsewhere, the reunited tag-team of evil spend their evenings terrorizing townspeople while searching for fresh hearts. Mabille de Lancre looks stunning for a centuries old witch, and has no problem seducing young men using no more than her fetchingly lithe body whose curves are accentuated by a sheer night gown. It’s hard imagining not being trapped by the seductress de Lancre, who invites potential victims into her warm embrace with outstretched arms before ripping into them with razor-sharp fingers. While sex (naturally) is the quickest way into a man’s heart, women apparently, demand more in their relationships. du Marnac utilizes an irresistible hypnotic stare lest he have trouble seducing potentially stubborn mistresses when he enters their bedchamber for an evening’s feast.

The following morning, Hugo is unceremoniously shot gunned to death by Maurice when the two men visit the lake to destroy the drowned corpses before they can return a second time under the cover of darkness. Maurice then attacks Elvira, but is deterred by the Hammers of Thor, which hang around her neck and release Maurice from his evil spell after he grabs the medallion and burns his hand.

Conveniently, a huge book is discovered in Hugo’s library detailing various methods by which the evil they face can be defeated. Aside from the medallion, mention is made of a person pure of heart who can utilize a silver lance to pierce the heart of evil, an idea obviously appropriated by Naschy from the lore surrounding both vampires (the use of silver) and werewolves (recalling dialogue that "even a man who is pure at heart and says his prayers by night" included in Universal’s 1934 Wolfman), which appeared in several Universal monster movies that Naschy admired.

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During the final showdown, du Marnac and de Lancre appear and disappear at will throughout Hugo’s home to menace Maurice and Elvira. Elvira succeeds in piercing the chest of de Lancre with a silver lance while Maurice struggles with du Marnac, weakly tossing the Hammers of Thor towards him before the warlock hurls a large axe into Maurice’s chest. The medallion glances off of Aleric’s shoulder, sending thespian actor Naschy into prolonged death throes ending with his collapse at the top of the chalet’s outdoor staircase where his head drops off and bounces dramatically down the stairs while his body bursts into flame.

Jacinto Molina’s (aka Paul Naschy) screenplay utilizes ghouls, zombies, magic and sex to spin an entertaining tale of revenge from beyond. Unleashing the evil spirit of de Marnac sets off a series of events unfolding in a remote countryside far removed from the bustling city of Paris. Although his film is set during modern times, Naschy’s choice of remote countryside evokes a much older period in history where the exploits of du Marnac and his mate continue seemingly uninterrupted by the passage of time once they are resurrected.

Using limited locations serves the script well in establishing an atmosphere of abandonment, Naschy also wisely included the use of his actual country home to help limit the movie’s production costs. Scenes in Horror Rises from the Tomb develop briskly while complementing future events; the establishing executions, the modern-day séance, Maurice’s encounter with du Marnac’s spirit, the highway bandits, and the discovery and resurrection of the evil witches all quickly cast the characters into an ever-tightening net of supernatural retribution.

Helge Line’ does a fine job as the evil Mabille de Lancre, looking simultaneously beautiful and menacing with a mixture of scorn and desire etched into her sharp features while spending most of her time in just a hint of clothing. Naschy does an admirable job relating the erotic enchantment surrounding de Lancre’s devious intent through one particularly telling scene depicting the horrible demise of a young man visited by Mabille while shifting his libido into overdrive courtesy of a late-night girlie magazine session, placing him into an elevated state of desire for which he pays the ultimate price.

Paul Naschy has always reminisced fondly about his portrayal of the evil Alaric du Marnac, and ably performs as the menacing ghoul in black. Victor Alcazar (aka Vic Winner), a bona fide veteran of Euro-horror, contributes his chiseled good-looks to a cast of engagingly beautiful starlets including fellow Euro-veteran, Emma Cohen. Carmelo Bernaola’s beguiling soundtrack haunts the proceedings from start to finish, providing a motif of sad organ cues which add an additional level of polish to a well-executed tale of horror consisting of equal parts witchcraft, eroticism, vampirism, and zombies simmered to entertaining perfection.

Reviewed by Nate Miner

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