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10 October 2014 @ 09:00 am
Movie Reviewed: Blood of the Vampires  
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Blood of the Vampires
(1966)


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Starring: Eddie Garcia, Amalia Fuentes, Romeo Vasquez
DIR: Gerardo DeLeon

Partial Blurb: Eddie Garcia, a longtime icon of Philippine cinema, here portrays an innocent victim of his family’s dreaded vampire curse. Like Dracula, he prowls by night in his quest to comfort his insatiable blood-lust. Even his amorous seductions take an evil turn from passion to bloody rapine.
  As a mood piece, BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRES proves that even on low budgets Philippine filmmakers have been able to equal large Hollywood productions in the eerie qualities that subjects like this require.

My Blurb: Okay, so it’s a bit verbose and slightly over enthused in trying to compare the production to a large Hollywood film, but I was pleasantly engaged by this film, especially in the mystic qualities that I’m assuming are local flavor to Philippine culture and the use of Bava-like gels that really bring out the supernatural aspect of our soulless monsters. It can certainly be tough going through some portions of it, as things tend toward melodrama and soapy music. And it’s slow to really get into the final horror, but it’s not a bad film if you can get used to the local sensibilities being grafted onto a vampire story.


Before the first scene, let me compliment the theme track full of brass horns, and the title sequence. We have the names of the actors, etc. materializing and dematerializing over the image of an old woman in a coffin that is all in red. It’s nicely creepy, especially as we move further into the production list and we suddenly see she has fangs and her eyes are wide open. The thing that is really capturing though, is the eyes. She doesn’t look menacing, so much as horrified by what she’s become. What a great image!


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Scene 01: After that striking image and wonderful theme, we open on a celebration. Couples are dancing with one another, all smiles as a band plays.

The conversation at this celebration is about a young woman who apparently has grown up really well, because everyone comments on how they can’t believe she’s the same girl that they knew all grown up. She’s Cristina and she’s dancing with an older man who knew her way back when, named Eduardo. There seems to be some possible romantic interest going on.


Scene 02: Meanwhile, outside for some ostensibly fresh air, we find Daniel. He’s walked to a secluded corner of the back yard with a lovely woman named Leonore, who is the sister of Eduardo. Daniel has brought her out here to offer her an engagement ring. Leonore wants to rush back into the party and tell her papa about her engagement, but Daniel is a stickler for propriety. He wants to follow custom and have his father visit her father to officially ask for his permission to join their families in marriage. He assures her that her father won’t say no.


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She looks mildly worried about his intensity, but she does wish to marry him. As they’re about to seal their unofficial betrothal with a kiss, a yell comes out of the darkness somewhere close by. It sounds like an old woman yelling in pain.

Daniel rushes off to see who is in distress.


Commentary: And the first thing that we have to acknowledge is that we’re dealing with post-dubbing, so although the lips are matching up with the words (mostly), it still sounds off which can throw you off-kilter if you let it bother you. This is especially true of Eddie Garcia as Eduardo. On first watch, it took some time before I was involved in the story enough to stop noticing it.


Scene 03: Daniel thinks the sound has come from deep down a hilled path and he and Leonore leave the bright lights of the party to see if they can find whomever needs assistance.

As they reach the bottom of a stone stairway, they hear more sounds of distressed yelling.

At first there is confusion because it sounds like its coming through the wall holding up the manor, but Leonore says that there isn’t any basement rooms that could explain someone behind there.

Whoever the poor woman is, she continues to yell inarticulately, screaming herself near-horse.


Scene 04: Leonore can’t stand it, and takes off running back for the house where she hopes to be able to track down where a room could be that the woman is obviously crying from. Daniel chases after her.


Scene 05: When they arrive back to the party, they rush through the throng into her father’s bedroom. There they find her father, looking equal parts fearful and guilty. Before they can ask about the animalistic cries of the mystery woman, her father collapses, grabbing at his chest.

They’re soon joined by Leonore’s brother, who rushes to his father’s aid, while Leonore looks with fixation at a large painting of her mother on the wall.


Scene 06: The following day at dawn, a priest arrives to the Escodero household. In the master bedroom, Mr. Escodero is under the care of his lawyer and watched over by the household staff, but obviously his condition is grave enough to have summoned the local padre.

The ‘administrator’ of his estate is flummoxed by Mr. Escodero’s last expressed wishes. Despite having two children who are heirs to his estate, their father insists on his deathbed that he is instructing the administrator to burn the entire manor to the ground upon his death -- stating that he is ordering it for his children’s best interests.


Commentary: It’s a little tough to get a handle on who is who early on as we’re not given much in the way of introduction to all of these folks. I believe that Christina is Daniel’s sister and that the administrator that Mr. Escodero is instructing is Mr. Castillo - Christina and Daniel’s father, explaining why the families seem so connected already. It seems that their families have known each other forever by judging the dialog of Eduardo and Christina while they were dancing.


Administrator apologizes as he passes by Eduardo and Christina telling her that they need to go. Eduardo is obvs a little put out over the confusing instructions of his father to burn their family home to the ground.


Scene 07: With the Castillos out of the way, the padre asks Mr. Escodero to think about matters of the spirit. He excuses the staff and the padre closes the bedroom door on the confused and upset Eduardo’s face for final confession.


Scene 08: As Eduardo walks away, we hear a voiceover of the padre exclaiming that something just confessed to is impossible, but Mr. Escodero swears it is the truth.

He’s insistent that the priest must believe him. The Padre tells him to continue confessing the rest of it, and though we see Escodero’s lips moving, we only get the soundtrack. We get a close up on the painting of Mrs. Escodero -- though since we’ve never seen her, apparently she is deceased [or more likely considering the plot “deceased”].


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Scene 09: Some time later, Eduardo is still stumbling through the house in a state of distraction what with his father getting ready to die on him, and now his being about to watch his home burned to the ground because of some batshit crazy last request.

The priest leaves Escodero’s bedroom, shaking his head in disbelief. He passes Eduardo on his way out, but says nothing of his father’s state of mind.


Scene 10: With the priest done giving last confession, Eduardo barges into his father’s bedroom where the old man is sitting up, but still looks as grey as a ghost. He asks his father how he could’ve changed his last will and testament like this.

His father tries to tell him it’s none of his business what he’s done with his final affairs, but Eduardo heard the whole ‘burn down my house’ plan and isn’t going to just stay quiet about something that drastic.

Meanwhile, a poor servant is stuck in the bedroom frozen in place not knowing what the hell he should do.

Eduardo declares that his father’s last wish makes it clear that he no longer cares about his family. But the look on Mr. Escodero’s face says the exact opposite. Eduardo goes on, and unable to contain his anger, shouts at his father about the promises he had made to make his only son and eldest child the lord over the estate and making the house his own.

This puts Mr. Escodero into a state and the stress brings on another attack. He grabs at his chest again, grimacing. Eduardo is there immediately, begging forgiveness. His father tells him that it’s time for him to know the horrible truth and find a way to live with it, as his father has obviously been living with something for quite some while now.

His father orders Eduardo to accompany him, while he has his personal valet help him stumble over to the chest of drawers and the painting of his wife.

[The valet is both hunched and cannot speak in anything but some grunts, so he’s been the perfect servant to help his master keep his deep, dark family secret that Eduardo is about to discover.]

It turns out that the dresser and painting can be swung aside to reveal a hidden passage to the basement room that Leonore insisted didn’t exist and where obviously Eduardo is about to discover the woman who we heard yelling her anguish the night before… three guesses on who she’ll be and your last two don’t count.


Commentary: I’m of two minds about this scene particularly. On first watch it was about here that I stopped noticing the overdubbing because I could see the shape of where things were obviously headed and I started to get wrapped up in the tale. But, there is some … well, I can only describe it as “soap opera-like” acting going on that gets in the way a bit, too. Things are coming across as overacted on the part of Mr. Escodero and just a tad bit on Eddie’s part. I can’t tell you if this was just the acting style in 1960’s Philippine film or if they’re trying just a little too hard.


Scene 11: Despite currently knocking on death’s door, Mr. Escodero makes the climb down into the secret catacombs under the family mansion, a very confused and dreading Eduardo in his wake.

Eduardo is led to a coffin sitting on the basement floor. He questions his father on what it is doing there and who it could belong to. Thankless, scared valet gets the unenviable task of opening said coffin for Eduardo’s inspection.

Inside is a woman [the very same woman who we saw in the opening credits, in fact] and is of course, Eduardo and Leonore’s mother -- looking very not decomposed, as her son could’ve expected upon seeing her like this.


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Eduardo’s father tells him that he sent his son away after his mother died because he was engulfed in fear and grief, visiting his wife everyday in her mausoleum… and then on the ninth night, he’d realized that the curse on their family had struck.

At this, Mrs. Escodero’s eyes open. Eduardo can’t take it… for a moment he looks around bewildered like he may faint, and then he runs up the stairs back to his father’s room, leaving the elder Escodero and his valet behind to watch Mrs. Escodero’s fangs protrude.


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Commentary: There is so much that I love about this scene. The red filter over Mrs. Escodero’s face when she goes from lying peacefully to opening her eyes as the undead is a wonderful choice for the cinematographer and will be used as a recurring theme whenever Eduardo’s vampire mother is shown in fang mode.

But, I also just love the gothic horror feeling of the whole thing. The candle light, the acting job of Mr. Eduardo and Eddie Garcia (especially), the Hammer-style feel of the scene… I just eat it up.



Scene 12: Upstairs, Eduardo slams his father’s door shut behind him, as if he can close out what he’s just seen with his own eyes.

He stumbles into his bedroom, where he slams the door shut. We stare at his door as we hear him weeping within.


Scene 13: The following morning, the servants deliver bowls of fruit to Mr. Escodero’s room, who is continuing to hang on, despite looking even more sickly than before. [And, yikes! Not only do we get self-conscious rictus grinning from our servants, but one of them plainly cannot stop glancing at the camera.]

Watching over him are the padre, the valet, Leonore and the Castillo clan. Eduardo is conspicuously absent. Mr. Castillo is there following custom in regards to that marriage arrangement, but Mr. Escodero is feeling peevish and impatient to get on with whatever the other man is there for. To their shock, Mr. Escodero categorically refuses permission for Leonore to marry either Daniel or any other man.

Papa Escodero refuses Daniel’s entreaty to tell him what he can do to earn the old man’s favor and everyone is ordered to leave him. Before she leaves, Leonore tells her old man she’ll obey his forbiddance, but she glares daggers at him the whole time.


Commentary: The issue is, somewhat muddily - so I’ll explain, that there is a curse on the family that runs in the blood of the female members of the Escoderos. Leonore hasn’t been made aware of this yet, and Eduardo is too busy hiding out in despair to inform her of anything. Mr. Escodero is obviously trying to protect his daughter from knowledge of her possible future. He’s just going about it in the worst way by trying to keep Leonore from ever being with anyone and not telling her why -- not to mention doing so while just sounding like an angry, bitter old coot.


Scene 14: We again focus on the painting of Mrs. Escodero - before her fang-problem. The painting rattles on the bedroom wall as something in the passageway beyond tries to get out.

Leonore has heard the racket and is approaching the secret passage that presumably she still doesn’t know about, either. But her brother has also heard - presumably his mother - and intercepts his sister, ordering her to stay away from their father’s bedroom.

She wants to know, naturally enough, about what is going on behind their father’s bedroom wall but Eduardo warns her it’s better for her not to know. She stubbornly storms toward her father’s bedroom but Eduardo grabs her arm.


Scene 15: In the cellar, Mrs. Escodero cowers and wordlessly pleas. Also in the cellar is both the valet and her husband. Escodero, Senior is whipping at Consuelo for trying to get out. What they don’t know yet, is that Eduardo has chosen to share their family’s horrible secret and he and his sister are standing on the stairway, watching in horror.


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Leonore doesn’t yet realize who the woman is, only that her father has apparently gone mad enough to have imprisoned some poor, old woman and is flogging her. She rushes past her brother to put a stop to it.

Consuelo reaches for her daughter, wordlessly keening and wailing as her husband and his valet drag her to a wall and wrap manacles around her wrists. Meanwhile, Eduardo tries to drag his sister back upstairs, but she’s transfixed as she realizes why the woman is so familiar to her.

Eduardo finally comes out and confirms for her that the woman is in fact their dead mother and explains her condition. Leonore is left stunned and weeping, while Eduardo - unable to again face this horror - rushes back upstairs to sanity.

Leonore tries to insist that her father leave her mother alone, but she’s ignored until Consuelo is tightly bound. She watches as her pleading mother seems to relax into a catatonia [and the red gel light used to emphasize her undead-state is removed, so that she now looks like a tragic, old woman who has been abused].

Leonore struggles to grasp how this can be real, while her father tries to explain that her mother is dead and that the crying, struggling thing that looks like her mother is truly a monster in her shell. Her father asks if she can now understand why he won’t allow anyone else to come into their family.


Commentary: Once again, the scene is hurt by some obvious dubbing and some of the acting swerves a little to closely to melodrama - especially Eddie Garcia’s “freak out”. But the scene is really carried by the excellent set and the wonderful cinematography that makes things look much less silly than they could have. I will continue to maintain that the film is better than it’s generally judged and though I can definitely see the flaws, I still find myself enjoying it.


Scene 16: The following day, Leonore shouts in the woods for Daniel. They find one another and Leonore is about to try to explain why she can’t see him again, but she’s pre-empted by his telling her that whatever her father’s reasons for denying their engagement, he loves her and cannot live without her.

To his disappointment and hurt, she returns the engagement ring and explains that she’s releasing him from all of his promises to her. He goes on telling her how much he loves her but though it breaks her heart, she tells him that their dreams cannot protect them now and he must forget her and move on. She runs off.


Commentary: This scene is pretty rough. The acting is really soapy and the soundtrack just emphasizes how soapy it all is, until it gets a bit painful. In addition Romeo Vasquez just looks wooden and/or mildly constipated throughout this particular scene which doesn’t help us any in trying to get lost in the characters’ dilemma. It’s really an … unfortunate scene.


Scene 17: That evening in the cellar, Consuelo had at some point been returned to her coffin to rest for the day. We hear a moan, and then the red gel light is on her coffin. The lid opens slowly.

She rushes up the stairs to the hidden door, yelling her frustration and hunger at it as she seeks to force it open.


Commentary: What I wish we’d gotten somewhere in here is an explanation - other than reticence - for why Mr. Escodero has kept his wife this way for… years, presumably. It’s never stated why he didn’t take steps to put her to rest long before his upcoming demise. And even if he couldn’t bring himself to do it, it just doesn’t make sense for him to choose to burn the entire house down [with his wife in the cellar, still] rather than ask the priest to free Consuelo for him after he passes away.

Mr. Escodero just sounds half-crazy, and he certainly could be by now, but we don’t see any other indications that his sanity has suffered under the strain, except for his outrageous desire to deny his heirs their home. I wish we’d gotten a scene or two of Mr. Escodero talking about why he won’t put his wife down or have it done by someone else, if for no other reason than for her own sake. And, I’d have liked to see some reaction from Eduardo to having this dropped on his head out of nowhere by his father toward the old man’s decision to do this to him, rather than only seeing the despair that comes with knowing his mother’s fate.

In fact, it’s odd that Eduardo and Leonore haven’t been shown actually discussing what they’re supposed to do with their mother now, or whether they think that one of them can go through with eliminating the vampire she’s become.



Scene 18: As Mrs. Escodero bangs on the hidden door, Eduardo slips into his father’s room where the old man is sleeping.  The valet is napping at his master’s bedside. Eduardo slips quietly to the bureau and painting.

When he opens the secret doorway, we don’t see Consuelo waiting for him.


Scene 19: Eduardo sneaks down the stone stairs into the cellar to see his mother. He wanders over to her coffin, finding the lid open and her missing. But not for long.

As he spins, we see the red gel light on the side of his face indicating where his possessed mother’s been standing. They stare at one another, his mother in full fangs and hyperventilating with need. Eduardo does the usual [i.e. “it’s me; don’t you recognize me; I know you’re in there somewhere”].

Mrs. Escodero rushes for her son, but he‘s been wearing a cross throughout thus far. The sight of this hanging about his neck is enough for her to react with fear and back away. Eduardo wonders at why she’s afraid of him, before he realizes it’s the necklace. He foolishly tears it off and tosses it away, leaving his undead mother to look confused for a moment.


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Eduardo keeps trying to treat the vampire like it is his mother still. This leads to where you’d expect.


Commentary: I really love the job that Mary Walter does as the vampire, Consuelo. Rather than spending all of her time just hissing or glaring, she’s always giving the vampire this look of horror in her eyes that is just plain creepy.

It’s almost like a deliberate attempt to suggest that Consuelo is still in there and is just as repulsed by her body carrying out these actions as her family is. There is a lot of empathy in her eyes that almost [ALMOST] makes it forgivable that Eduardo would think he could get through to her.



Scene 20: After a protracted feeding, Eduardo collapses against the wall though he hasn’t lost enough blood to immediately die. Consuelo watches with curiosity as he continues to try to communicate with her.

But before she can either kill him or respond to his entreaties, Mr. Escodero and the valet arrive. Eduardo’s father is armed with his whip again, and he uses it liberally against his wife to drive her away deeper into the cellar.

He orders her chained again by the valet.

Eduardo tries to intervene, but his father tells him that they chain her nightly to ensure that she doesn’t escape and victimize the villagers. After she’s chained, she again lapses out of fang mode.

Meanwhile, Eduardo’s father is realizing that his wife has bitten Eduardo. He tells his son that he’s afraid now that Eduardo could become a vampire as well.


Commentary: I like the way that this scene was handled and the way that they didn’t have Eduardo actually die and so there is enough doubt in Mr. Escodero not to take action while there is time.


Scene 21:  Upstairs, Eduardo wanders in a daze through the house.


Scene 22: Days later, Leonore knocks on her brother‘s door. He shouts that he wants to be left alone. Leonore tries to tell him that whatever it is that is troubling him will pass, but he doesn’t open the door for her and sends her away.


Commentary: WHATEVER IS TROUBLING HIM!?! You mean like the fact that his mother is an undead vampire and his father keeps her locked away in the cellar? That, Leonore?… it’s so nice that you’re optimistic about that little problem just taking care of itself in time.


Leonore wanders to the dining table where the servants are waiting. One of these informs her of Daniel’s arrival at the villa. She’s simply not ready to see him with everything else she is dealing with and sends the servant back to Daniel to make her excuses for not meeting with him.

She watches her ex-fiance sent away through tears.


Scene 23: Meanwhile, Eduardo is locked in his room, pacing incessantly in the small, cramped space. He’s suffering from severe chills and sweat. Eduardo rubs his face and feels something disturbing going on with his mouth. Leaping up and checking the mirror, he finds that he’s sprung a healthy set of fangs! As his father worried, his mother has infected him!


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He reacts with horror and dashes out.


Scene 24: Eduardo makes it out of the villa and into the night [horrible day for night, anyway] where he continues running from his home. He makes his way to the village church, but finds himself unable to enter the grounds. In front of the building, he sees the padre pacing and reading while another parishioner is leaving.


Scene 25: We find that our parishioner is Christina. She stops as she senses that she’s being watched. And she is… from behind a tree steps Eduardo. She barely has time to realize that something is wrong, before he’s on her biting her throat.

Eduardo drinks enough to send her into a swoon before carting her deeper into the woods. We hear her final yell….


Scene 26: At the church, the padre also hears the commotion and looks confused and concerned.


Scene 27: Sometime later, Christina has been found by the padre and helped back home. Daniel tries to get her to tell him who attacked her, but she’s unwilling to speak. The padre informs Daniel that he has his own suspicions about what may have happened to his sister but right now he has no solid proof.

Her father tells Daniel that she’s obviously been bitten by some beast in the forest. Daniel decides to hunt said beast down.


Scene 28: Speaking of said beast, Eduardo appears after nightfall and greets Daniel. He’s there to speak with Mr. Castillo. He comes before Mr. Castillo to admit to a dishonorable deed, confusing everyone. Eduardo then asks for Christina’s hand in marriage and when her father asks if he’s aware that she’s been injured, he states that he’s aware and that is why he’s asking for her as his bride.

Putting two and two together, Daniel takes this as a sign of admission that Eduardo was Christina’s attacker and backhands him. Christina meanwhile has summoned the strength to come out. She tells her brother to stop, but Daniel issues a challenge of honor to the death against Eduardo on behalf of his sister.

Eduardo nearly looks to accept this challenge, but Christina throws herself at his legs, much to the consternation of her brother and father. Eduardo repeats to Mr. Castillo that with his permission, he’ll marry Christina as soon as is possible.


Commentary: The attack sequence didn’t make this clear, but there is the implication that Eduardo may have also sexually assaulted Christina -- that the honor lost was her virginity and that is what was occurring off screen during her yell.

I also have to admit that the story has been inconsistently paced and this section of the film has been a bit slow. We’re still building up to our main villain, which will obviously be Eduardo as he grows more and more vampiric and attacks the villagers -- now apparently with Christina at his side but we’re 34 minutes in now and we’ve only had two actual attacks. It’s also weird that we haven’t seen nor heard from Eduardo’s and Leonore’s father who had been hanging on for an awfully long time and was pretty energetic with that whip on his undead wife for being at death’s door.



Scene 29: We skip forward with celebratory bells our sign that the marriage has taken place.

Christina hesitantly, in her bridal gown, enters Eduardo’s bedroom under his baleful gaze. She slowly closes the door, while he sits alone contemplating.

He takes a quick drink of alcohol and then marches into his bridal suite. There Christina sits on the bed waiting -- she’s clutching her throat, in the grip of a horrible fear of him. He commands that she is his property and he her lord and her life. She agrees that she is his slave.

He begins to softly kiss her face, but when he attempts to kiss her on the mouth, she resists just enough to shake her head. But then she turns her throat to him and allows him to feed on her again.


Scene 30: Meanwhile down in the cellar, Mama has awoken once again. She takes a moment, seemingly sensing that something has changed in the house because this time when she mounts the steps to the secret passage entrance, she doesn’t make a sound. She pushes on the entrance door, and it slides open for her revealing that her husband is still lying in his sick bed sleeping with his valet also asleep at his bedside.

She stares at her husband for a moment, but he’s protected by the cross around his neck so she instead heads silently out of the bedroom. She gazes around at the home she used to be mistress off, all the while bathed in her red-theme-lighting.

In the bedroom, Valet stirs from his uneasy slumber.


Scene 31: Presumably, Valet noticed the secret passage doorway opened because next we see he’s halfway down the stairs to the cellar and looking wildly about for Mrs. Escodero. Confirming that her coffin is empty and doing the math, he rushes back upstairs.


Scene 32: In the meantime, Vampire Mother has wandered into her daughter’s bedroom where she sleeps… along with the servants.


Commentary: This must be a Philippine thing: I had assumed that Valet was sleeping at Mr. Escodero’s bedside because his master was at the end of his life and he wanted to be there should he need anything at the end. But now, Leonore’s servants are also apparently expected to sleep sitting up on the floor at her bedside -- which doesn’t seem all that restful. Would a cot be too much to ask, here?


Vampire Mother grows gleeful at the sight of her daughter’s tender neck.


Scene 33: Meanwhile, Valet has gotten his master up and they’ve started a search of the house for the former mistress of the villa. Mr. Escodero is still up and at ‘em for somebody who has been lingering on his death bed this whole time.

Valet sees his former house mistress in the doorway to Leonore’s bedroom.

The former Misses wanders to her daughter’s bedside as the Mister sends Valet to subdue her. Fortunately for Leonore, she rolls over in her sleep and Consuelo is met by another of those horrible crosses around a victim’s neck that keeps her from sating her hunger.

As she stands frozen between need and fear, Valet is able to clamp a hand over her mouth and drag her out of Leonore’s room.


Scene 34: In the parlor, however, Consuelo breaks free and runs out into the night with her weak husband and his valet on her heels. At first they’re able to restrain her again, but she’s taken with the strength of the desperate and she breaks free and runs off again, hiding nearby out of sight.

Her husband finds her, armed with his walking stick but Consuelo has had enough of his bullshit. She claws him across the face, shocking him and sending him stumbling back. She claws again, double handed, and snags the cross from his neck, gazing at it in fascination and dread - transfixed.


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She finally tosses it away and runs again, right into the arms of Valet who tries to hold her long enough for Mr. Escodero to get her under control. She throws him to the ground and then turns on her husband. Without the cross around his neck, she presses her advantage and closes in on his throat despite his struggles to hold her off.

Valet sees where this is going, and finally does what should’ve already been completed long before now. Grabbing up a fence post, he stakes Consuelo Escodero finally ending the thing that she’d become.

The master of the house orders his wife to be dragged into the hills for burning.


TBC


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