Carlos Aured, 1973
Starring: Paul Naschy, Emma Cohen, Víctor Alcázar
In the Middle Ages, a Satan-worshipping nobleman, Alaric du Marnac, and his mistress, Mabille de Lancre, are executed for witchcraft, cannibalism, human sacrifice, and more. Before being killed by his own brother, Alaric curses the Marnac family, and then his head and body are buried separately. Several hundred years in the future, Marnac’s ancestor Hugo is spending time with his friend Maurice, a painter, and their two girlfriends, Paula and Sylvia. After a night of drinking with Sylvia’s occult-obsessed friends, they all agree to participate in a séance. They attempt to contact Alaric du Marnac on Hugo’s whim, which has some disastrous results. Alaric materializes and gives instructions on how to reunite his head with his body and later haunts Maurice. Hugo insists that they all need a vacation, so they journey to his family estate in the countryside, which – of course – allegedly conceals the remains of Alaric du Marnac.
Hugo, Maurice, the reluctant butler, and some paid workers search for a chest containing Marnac’s head, which they recover due to some mysterious intuition on Maurice’s part. Unfortunately the hired laborers want the treasure for themselves and unleash an evil upon the household. After killing the butler, his daughters are killed and possessed by the spirits of Marnac’s followers. As the reincarnated witches come closer to reviving Marnac, the only thing that can save the survivors is an ancient, powerful amulet…
This is star and writer Paul Naschy’s first film loosely about French historical figures Gilles de Rais. Rais was a wealthy, aristocratic general and a companion of Joan of Arc, but he also allegedly practiced black magic, was a pedophile, and murdered dozens (if not hundreds) of children. Regular Naschy collaborator and director Carlos Aured does a solid job here; he and Naschy also worked on Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll and Vengeance of the Zombies during the same period.
In terms of visuals, Horror Rises from the Tomb feels far more like a Eurohorror film that most of Naschy’s other work, with the possible exception of The Mark of the Wolfman, his first El Hombre Lobo film. The lighting and sets are obviously influenced by European genre masters like Mario Bava and Jess Franco. With some bold framing, candy-colored lighting, the Gothic country estate set (allegedly filmed at Naschy’s country home), and plenty of shots of women in ethereal, see-through nightgowns, this is pure Eurohorror.
Similar to the films of Jess Franco, this has a nightmarish quality when it’s at its best, but makes no sense whatsoever when it’s at its worst. It also has the trademark nudity and erotica, so unfortunately absent from some of Naschy’s werewolf films. This also has the air of weirdness that a lot of Eurohorror shares, which can be effectively creepy at times. Plot elements include an evil, talking head that worships Satan, inexplicable zombies, a search for treasure, witch executions, a séance, and much more.
Aured and Naschy are fortunately not afraid to use long moments of silence, so this lacks a lot of the talking head scenes that plague many of Naschy’s other films. The atmosphere is heavy and effective, emphasized by bleeding paintings, disturbing nightmares, the séance, and an excellent scene where Alaric and his mistress rise from their tombs, finally intact. The zombies seem to come from nowhere and there’s a lot of other randomness throughout the film. This is one of Naschy’s bloodiest films, including lots of death-by-sickle and hearts cut out, but it is not particularly gory.
The film is full of lovely, scantily clad ladies, including Emma Cohen (The Devil’s Cross), Maria Jose Cantudo (Autopsy), Cristina Suriani (Saga of Dracula), Betsabe Sharon (The Werewolf vs the Vampire Woman), Montserrat Julio (The Blood-Spattered Bride), and the sublime Helga Liné (Nightmare Castle) as Alaric’s mistress and satanic sidekick. There are also some familiar faces from other genre films, such as Juan Cazalilla (A Bell from Hell), Naschy regular Victor Alcazar (Vengeance of the Zombies), and Julio Peña (Horror Express).
Naschy himself is entertaining in two roles (technically three: he plays Alaric’s brother, who makes a brief appearance at the start of the film). He is far more watchable as the sinister Alaric and seemed to have a ton of fun with the role. He actually followed this with The Marshall from Hell (1974) and Panic Beats (1983), two other films featuring Alaric de Marnac.
Horror Rises from the Tomb is available on DVD and comes highly recommended to other fans of Eurohorror, as well as anyone who loves Naschy films. If you don’t like Eurohorror, you might not want to give this a shot. On the other hand, if you have no clue what Eurohorror is, this could be an interesting place to start.