By MICHAEL GINGOLD
Starring Nick Stielstra, Alice Zanini and Francesca Pellegrini
Directed by Raffaele Picchio
Written by Lorenzo Paviano and Raffaele Picchio
You’d think a movie reviving the Knights Templar from Spanish horror specialist Amando de Ossorio’s cult-classic features of the 1970s would make them the center of attention…until you see CURSE OF THE BLIND DEAD. Its titular undead fiends are only part of about one-third of the story, leaving this Italian-made feature feeling like a trite postapocalyptic/religious thriller that had the Blind Dead dropped in to differentiate it.
We begin at an indeterminate time in the past, within a CG castle where the still living and sighted knights have a wailing, pregnant woman crucified in a dungeon. They deliver the baby and are about to sacrifice it when a small group of villagers run in and easily subdue them (some knights they are!) before making them blind and dead. Before this interruption, there’s a lot of religioso dialogue that sounds vaguely portentous without making it at all clear what the point of that sacrifice is supposed to be. After opening credits backed by gratuitous images of Nazis and 9/11, followed by nuclear war, we arrive in a postapocalyptic future and a forest that is still clearly lush even given the movie’s desaturated color scheme.
The two central survivors are Michael (Nick Stielstra) and his daughter Lily (Alice Zanini). She’s pregnant, which means the viewer will likely be way ahead of the story once they wind up at that same fortress, whose initially welcoming inhabitants are overseen by Maestro Abel (Bill Hutchens). Here too, a lot of the dialogue (delivered in English by the British and Italian cast) is awkward and its meaning unclear, as if it had been translated from English to Italian and back again, perhaps more than once. There’s little in the way of plot and almost nothing in the way of characterization before it’s time for another ritual, signaled by lines like “Today is the dawn of a new era, and we are the chosen ones” and “The day of the dark night has arrived.” Beyond the apparent confusion about the time of day, there’s still more talk about prophecies and such that’s just as incoherent here as it is in that prologue; the more they talk, the less clear it is what they’re doing and why.
Eventually, the Blind Dead emerge from the shadows, wearing more elaborate makeup than in the de Ossorio films, which nonetheless somehow makes them less scary, despite all the guts they rip out of victims, along with one poor guy’s spine. Meanwhile, Michael gets chained to a wall in a side room and must free himself to save Lily, and to do so must retrieve a just-out-of-reach knife lying on a table, and unfortunately he doesn’t use a severed arm that is lying within reach to help him secure it. Once he does escape, while he’s in the midst of running through the fortress dodging Blind Dead attacks and trying to find his daughter, someone says to him, “Can’t you see what’s happening? You can’t understand, you can’t!” and you know just how he feels.
CURSE OF THE BLIND DEAD has a certain amount of surface atmosphere but no real mood or suspense, and the acting is pretty lacking, though it must be said that none of the cast are given much to work with. As noted above, the Blind Dead don’t have enough to do either, and they turn out to be so easily dealt with, it plays like a joke on fans of their ’70s outings. You can almost sympathize with these ghouls for being so sidelined in what is supposed to be their movie, and maybe even feel a touch of envy of their sightlessness by the end, as they don’t have to witness the frustratingly abrupt conclusion that leaves nothing explained.