Night of the Devils (1972)

Posted: July 21, 2021 in Uncategorized

I had somehow remained ignorant about Night of the Devils until reading about it the other day in Jonathan Rigby’s magnificent Euro Gothic. So I got hold of the blu-ray and watched it last night. It’s another adaptation of “The Family of the Vourdalak” by Aleksey Tolstoy. (The most famous version, of course, is Mario Bava’s take, one of the stories in Black Sabbath.

The film is set in the 1970s, but our hero’s journey into Yugoslavia appears to take him back centuries, as car trouble lands him in the care of a terrified family, the only people left in the forest. They live in fear of an undead woman (the vurdulak here are rather deliberately vagueuly, in that creepy nether zone between witch, vampire and zombie). The patriarch heads of to kill the vurdulak, and it is agreed that if he returns after 6 pm, he should be killed immediately. He enters the house at the last stroke of 6…

While Night of the Devils doesn’t have the sumptuous pictorial beauty of Black Sabbath, and its undead children, while creepy, aren’t quite as disturbing as the little boy in the earlier film, it chooses to ground itself in a recognizable world, rather than imitate Bava’s fairy-land. It makes great use of its locations, and of the idea of a modern, rationalist world held at bay outside the frame of the main action. There’s some extraordinary imagery here (the opening minutes are nightmarishly surreal), and Rigby is quite right in his estimation that this is one of the bleakest Italian horror films of the period. Good stuff.

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