|The Blood Spattered Bride
||Simon Andreu, Maribel Martin, Alexandra Bastedo, Dean Selmier, Rosa Rodriguez, Monsterrat Julia, Angel Lombarte
||Three and a half stars (Four if you love horror)
Although Dracula is hands-down the most frequently-filmed vampire
story, J. Sheridan Le Fanu's "Carmilla" has been the source of a
surprising number of horror movies. Dreyer's 'Vampyr' is allegedly
based on the story; 'Blood and Roses,' 'Crypt of Terror,' 'The Vampire
Lovers' (and its sequels) and the TV movie actually called 'Carmilla'
all have the Le Fanu novella as their basis. And so does 'The Blood
Spattered Bride,' an unexpectedly intelligent and psychologically rich
Spanish thriller, written and directed by Vicente Aranda. Until the
awkward, incomplete-feeling ending, it's sexy, scary and smart.
Susan (Maribel Martin), still in her bridal gown, is traveling with her
husband (Simon Andreu, whose role name is never given) to his large,
old estate. At a hotel, she briefly glimpses a hooded woman (Alexandra
Bastedo) in a nearby car; the woman seems to be watching her. Briefly
alone in her hotel room, Susan has a short, brutal fantasy of a man
leaping out of the wardrobe and raping her.
At the estate, she's befriended by beautiful Carol (Rosa Rodriguez),
who's about 14. Again and again, Susan catches glimpses of the hooded
woman, now dressed in white. Wondering why all the portraits of her
husband's woman ancestors are exiled to the basement, she learns of
Mircalla Karstein, who murdered her husband 200 years before.
Eventually, Susan realizes that the woman she keeps seeing is Mircalla
She has a horrible/attractive dream of being bitten on the throat by a
white-clad Mircalla (when the light comes on, a black figure swiftly
disappears), who leaves behind a white-handled dagger. Then Susan has a
nightmare of very gorily stabbing her husband to death. Understandably,
he hides the dagger, but dreams keep revealing its location to Susan.
When he buries it at the beach, he finds a naked woman buried in the
sand, breathing through a snorkel. She claims her name is Carmilla, and
that she was SCUBA-diving off the coast, but became disoriented. But we
recognize her as Mircalla....
Too easily dismissed as yet another vampire movie with lesbian
overtones (though this one is more like a lesbian movie with vampire
overtones), 'The Blood Spattered Bride' is actually something far more
complex and interesting. Brides, of course, are traditionally (if
rarely) spattered with the blood of their broken hymen; blood and sex
are thereby not only tied together, but linked too with marriage
itself, the wedding night in particular.
Susan is both intensely attracted by sex -- even rough, sadomasochistic
sex -- and deeply repelled by it. Near the end, she says she hates her
husband and herself ever since he touched her body. It's made quite
clear at the beginning that she is a virgin; the figure that erupts
from the hotel wardrobe is a manifestation of her fears of the loss of
her virginity. But she's also looking, hoping, for thrills; almost her
first line is "I want to go on driving a 90 miles an hour."
Mircalla/Carmilla arrives; no figure could be more in tune with Susan's
powerful but confused feelings about sex than a lesbian vampire. It's
almost as if her own intense emotions have conjured up this figure from
the dark past of her husband's family, but eventually Susan, and we,
realize Mircalla is real.
The husband loves Susan, but he's also domineering, and has a tendency
toward rough sex himself. Their first few weeks together are great --
Susan still likes sex at this point -- but gradually as their desires
for stronger sex increase, she's repelled by his desires and her own.
She locks herself in a pigeon coop to force him to break it open and
ravish her -- but she's disgusted when he wants oral sex from her. It's
not surprising that the husband becomes increasingly puzzled by Susan's
behavior, nor that he feels increasingly threatened by her, Mircalla
and even Carol.
'The Blood Spattered Bride' is strong stuff; the gore scenes are
extremely vivid and bloody; there's plenty of frontal nudity (with an
evident body double for Maribel Martin), and there's a disturbing shot
of a fox evidently really being killed. The dagger is equated with the
penis, and there's a castration by shotgun.
Technically, the disc is below Anchor Bay's usual standards. They were
forced to use a dubbed print rather than the preferred subtitled
version, and as with a lot of dubbed movies, the sound is both
overemphatic and inadequate. Seagulls sound like squeaky toys, and
frogs sound even stranger. Only a couple of tracks were used, and the
background noises are often too loud. But director Vicente Aranda,
virtually unknown in the United States, still uses what sound is
available to him in an imaginative fashion.
The dialog is probably fairly directly translated from the Spanish, and
grows increasingly flamboyant as the film itself veers away from
realism to a more baroque approach. (The shot of Mircalla/Carmilla in
the sand is nearly surrealistic, worthy of Luis Buñuel.) Susan refers
to "the rapture of my vast death," and in a very explicit statement of
the virginal-blood theme, she mentions the "realization of my violated
virgin's shuddering sense of horror." Of course, almost all virgins end
up "violated;" it takes a twisted one to go the route Susan does. It's
significant that Mircalla has not appeared for 200 years; obviously
there were lots of other husbands and wives in this time. It's the
intensity of Susan's desires and her fears that conjure up Mircalla.
'The Blood Spattered Bride' ('La Novia Ensangrentada' in Spain) may
have a grotesquely gruesome title, and writer-director Aranda doesn't
seem to have been able to find an appropriate ending -- it mostly just
stops -- but it's a good, unusual example of Eurohorror.
If you liked this movie, you might also enjoy; Black Sunday, Deep Red, The Vampire Lovers
|Dolby digital mono
|letterboxed (enhanced for 16X9)
||standard extras: trailer, scene selections
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||36-inch Sony XBR