Loosely based on Black Sunday (1960), a group of skiers get lost in the mountains, and come across the snowy tomb of a centuries-old witch. They accidentally awaken the witch's vengeful spirit, who then proceeds to possess them one by one.
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In this loose remake of Black Sunday (1960), a group of skiers in Northern Italy land in a huge crevasse where they find the body of a long dead girl covered by a mask. Out of curiosity and nothing better to do they remove the mask and start playing games with it. Turns out this dead girl is the witch Anibas who had been condemned to die by burning and the mask put on her face to prevent her return.Written by
DEMONS 5: THE DEVIL'S VEIL (Lamberto Bava, 1989) **
When I had rewatched the entire Luis Bunuel filmography in 2011, I opted to complement it by viewing movies directed by his son Juan Luis. I intended doing the same with Lamberto Bava's work on the occasion of the centenary marathon devoted to his father Mario; however, after checking out the title under review – which is actually a remake of the elder Bava's BLACK Sunday (1960) – I decided against it, given the utter disappointment the experience proved to be! Whether by accident or design, Lamberto was virtually Mario's age when he adapted the Nikolai Gogol story "The Vij" – but the latter already had a full 10 years' practice directing movies, whereas his Dad's effort had been his official debut; still, watching the two films back-to-back one would think the reverse was true in view of the overall amateurishness of the 1989 version compared to the extreme confidence and dazzling artistry displayed throughout the 1960 one! For the record, I will be getting to yet another rendition (made on its homeground in 1967 and, by far, the most faithful) of the same source material
A word on the title: the younger Bava is perhaps best-known for helming the gross and grossly overrated DEMONS (1985) and DEMONS 2 (1986); for some odd reason, a handful of unrelated contemporaneous Italian (and one American!) horror films were released in Japan as if they were subsequent entries in what could only be termed an unenviable franchise – namely Michele Soavi's THE CHURCH (1989; which became DEMONS 3) and THE SECT (1991; DEMONS 4 followed by Bava's effort despite that one being actually shot prior to it!), Luigi Cozzi's THE BLACK CAT (1989; DEMONS 6 ditto!), Freddie Francis' U.S.-made DARK TOWER (1989; DEMONS 7 and again!) and, once more, Soavi's CEMETERY MAN (1994; somehow retitled DEMONS '95)!! Truth be told, a couple of these are genuinely superior genre flicks but, while I have never watched the Francis movie (and, since it is readily available on "You Tube", I just took the plunge and acquired it!), Cozzi's and now Bava's own are certainly worthy of comparison with the official DEMONS pair – both in their similarly incoherent narrative and the absolutely dire end result!
Well, to go back to the matter at hand: in this version the diabolism-related events are updated to our times and re-set (not ineffectively) to an icy mountain landscape. BLACK Sunday had gotten off to a hell (pardon the pun) of a start depicting what was possibly the last word on the oft-used stake-burning of a female witch invoking a curse upon the descendants of her executioners; here, this sequence gets relegated to an unprovoked flashback and, needless to say, generates little of the impact that Bava Snr. imbued in that iconic set-piece in his film! Incidentally, too many horror flicks of the era put a number of annoying youths at their center: with respect to Italy, for instance, there were not only the DEMONS movies themselves but Bava Jr.'s own made-for-TV GRAVEYARD DISTURBANCE (1987) and Lucio Fulci's execrable THE GHOSTS OF SODOM (1988)! The group here, though, is among the most irritating of this lot (one of whom being the afore-mentioned Michele Soavi!) – especially after they have been possessed by the spirit of the witch Anibas (as it happens, the first letter of their individual names make up the witch's own appellation, while one other girl is called Sabina, i.e. no prize guessing what it spells in reverse!); the latter is played by Debora Caprioglio, then married to the much-older Klaus Kinski (and billed as such), whereas Eva Grimaldi – a popular starlet of the period – appears as Anibas. While the witch in BLACK Sunday had a couple of acolytes, here the sheer amount of these minions is ridiculous – since they are made out to exact revenge on just one of her 'tormentors', the priest presiding over her public punishment (who is the man himself, albeit blinded, and not a descendant!), even if his grisly demise has them adopt literally demonic features and eat him alive (after surviving getting crushed in his confessional when the kids form an ever-tightening circle and dance around it)!!
All of this, however, begs the question of why a young man in their midst escapes the witch's influence just so he can assume heroic status: maybe the woman had set him apart in order to personally defile him (apparently, he is a virgin, as is the "Kinski" character) which she does repeatedly during the last half-hour or so, in the guise of Caprioglio herself (but, curiously enough, never Grimaldi's!) and, most memorably, a filthy hag with large chicken feet!! To be fair to the film this late in the game, it does incorporate a few elements from the Gogol tale (after all, there was only one victim in "The Vij", and he was a cleric whom the witch had seduced!) and, as I said, the snowy milieu was intriguing (though little is done with it in the long run); besides, the Mask of Satan (to which the original Italian title of both Bava movies translates) gets extra mileage here by coming in handy during the climax as well. With this in mind, it should be noted that Massimo De Rita – the co-writer of DEMONS 5: THE DEVIL'S VEIL – had also been the producer of BLACK Sunday!
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