First announced back in early 2018 (possibly earlier), Curse of the Blind Dead is an attempt to reboot or reimagine Spanish director Armando de Ossorio’s cult classic, four-film “Blind Dead” series. Beginning with 1972’s Tombs of the Blind Dead, de Ossorio’s series focused on the Knights Templar, an order of Catholic knights who were executed for their involvement in witchcraft, devil worship, and other dark arts. Fast-forward to the modern day (or the modern day of the 1970s), and the evil Knights now return as “revenants”, re-animated corpses who rise to torment and kill any unfortunate souls who happen to enter their territory. The “Blind Dead” saga continued with 1973’s Return of the Blind Dead (aka Return of the Evil Dead) and 1974’s The Ghost Galleon, before concluding in 1975 with Night of the Seagulls.
Directed by Raffaele Picchio, who also provided 2011’s Morituris and 2016’s The Blind King, Curse of the Blind Dead saw release overseas sometime back, but has finally made its way stateside (on DVD and VOD) thanks to a distribution deal with Uncork’d Entertainment. The one thing that many potential viewers may quickly notice is the “cover image” used for the film’s release. There’s very solid argument that the image may appeal more to fans of the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise than to old-school fans of de Ossorio’s original series. From a marketing standpoint, this was probably a wise decision as fans of those films are most likely going to hate Picchio’s new vision.
Curse of the Blind Dead opens some indefinable time in the past. Although “when” is somewhat irrelevant, what is relevant is that the world appears to be on the verge of some cataclysmic event. This notion is first implicated by the image of the sun nearly eclipsing the moon, although there is nothing that verifies that this is in fact Earth’s moon, or that we are even on our Earth at all. The important thing to know is that things look shitty, even if they are frequently bathed in the bright pinkish-orange sunlight.
As (at least a couple of) de Ossorio’s “Blind Dead” films featured sequences of the still-living Knights Templar sacrificing young women to their “Dark Lord”, Curse opens with a similar sequence. In this instance, the Knights are preparing to sacrifice the baby that the chosen woman is about to birth. However, the ritual is interrupted by a mob of angry villagers, who proceed to burn the eyes from the Knights’ sockets with flaming torches before executing them. The villagers also kill both the mother and baby, which kinda makes their rage at the situation seem a little redundant.
Unfortunately, I consider this opening sequence to actually be one of Curse of the Blind Dead‘s stronger moments. Sounds promising, huh? Read on! No, really. Don’t leave!
The Templars believed that the sacrifice would have appeased the Dark One, preventing him from rising and fighting for control of our world. By not fulfilling the ritual, it is implicated that such a thing did occur, resulting in… well, resulting in the last 2,000+ years of human history. This is further implicated by the use of images of war, civil unrest, destruction, and death during the film’s opening credits.
The film re-opens in what may be the present or possibly a very near future. Then again, as this may be another world or an alternate dimension, there’s no way to be sure. It’s a movie. Don’t overanalyze it. What is important is all that remains is the aftermath of a war that has ended society as we know it, leaving each person to fend for their own. Enter Michael (actor and filmmaker Aaron Stielstra) and Lily (Alice Zanini), a widowed father and his pregnant teenage daughter wandering the wasteland, following a radio signal promising a sanctuary that might not even exist.
Reviewer’s Note: There is absolutely no mention of what befell the mother, nor is there any mention of the baby’s father, although there is a strong possibility that the child is a product of rape or even incest.
After an incident with some violent scavengers raiding their makeshift camp, the family is taken in by the members of a (respectably-sized) community of survivors living in a nearby decaying temple. And yes, it’s the same damned temple that the Knights Templar also called home! Although these people are quite accommodating and helpful, it’s immediately evident that things “aren’t quite right”… which is usually the case when someone in a horror film offers you a place to stay.
The community is led by Abel (Bill Hutchens, who appeared in The Human Centipede II & III), a prophet-like figure who has taken up the rituals and rites of the Knights Templar in the hopes of stopping (or at least slowing) the world’s decay. A new sacrifice is being readied, and a new mother is preparing to birth the next sacrificial child, but Lily is still taken captive as a “back-up plan”. You know… just in case.
FUN FACT: It is also directly/indirectly revealed that the community has taken up cannibalism since their indoctrination into Abel’s “world view”. However, with the world’s food supply as depleted as one might expect it to be post-apocalypse, I can’t really say that I blame them. Look, I’m not saying that I condone such actions, but if I occasionally throw some Lawry’s Seasoning Salt at you, don’t take it personally.
At somewhere around the 40-minute mark, the actual “Blind Dead” make their entrance. Notice that I did not say “grand entrance”. Instead of riding in (in slow-mo prolonged fashion) across a sandy, moonlit beach or moldering graveyard atop their trusty (yet somehow not also skeletal) steeds as they frequently did in the original films, here they simply step from a darkened passageway. It’s also at this point that Curse of the Blind Dead careens into atrocity.
While I can understand and even accept that there will be “changes” made when it comes to reboots or re-imaginings of older films and franchises, Curse of the Blind Dead just comes off as a little lazy and more than a little “cheap”. While I honestly had no qualms about the production’s CGI effects (which I do not feel are as deficient as some reviewers seem to focus on), I would be lying if I said that the Knights Templar costumes didn’t remind me of something that you might find at Spirit Halloween, complete with a flimsy-looking chest piece protruding from an even flimsier-looking black robe. In other words, it only looks “good” in minimal lighting, from a distance, and when not inspected closely. It also helps if the person looking at it has had more than a few alcoholic beverages. (To be fair, the lead Knight does feature a much stronger facial appliance than his brethren.)
As expected, the Knights soon go on the obligatory killing spree, dispatching multiple nameless cultists. While this may sound fun, Curse accomplishes the task in rapid-fire succession, making the sequence almost seem a little rushed. As most of the (albeit secondary) cast are killed off in the one sequence alone, it leaves our undead invaders with little more to do than wandering around and looking menacing until the film’s final act.
There’s a solid amount of gore on display in Curse of the Blind Dead, but the results vary drastically in effectiveness. Some, like a head ripped open or a drawn-out thumb severing, are really quite gruesome and may even be a little tough to watch for some, while others are just laughably bad (and generally quick-edited, presumably to help hide the fact). Also, since when do the Knights eat their victims? These are not my Blind Dead!
I won’t spoil the ending of the film for you, mostly because I really wouldn’t know how to spoil something that doesn’t make a whole Hell of a lot of sense. In fact, I’m not even sure exactly what it is that is being shown in Curse of the Blind Dead‘s closing moment. As I took my sweet time getting around to writing this review, I was presented with the opportunity to read a few other reviews for the film that had been posted, and it does seem that many of these other critics were left just as perplexed as I. While not the biggest factor in my overall opinion of Curse, confusion is not exactly the ideal way to end a film, especially when it has already managed to leave me bewildered numerous times.
While I can’t exactly call Curse of the Blind Dead an awful film, it is undeniably a massive letdown. While fans of de Ossorio’s films will surely find much to bemoan with this resurrection of the series, I also can’t see many new horror fans giving it more than one viewing. It’s not quite the same level of “smearing shit in the faces of longtime fans” as something like Critters Attack! (fuck that movie), but it may have been wiser to leave these Knights buried.
As mentioned Curse of the Blind Dead is available on DVD, as well as on multiple streaming sites. Then again, so are many of the original Blind Dead films. Go watch those instead.