Scene 35: Valet drags Consuelo’s corpse through the forest with her husband weakly stumbling behind. As the loyal valet covers her body in twigs and small branches for a pyre, Mr. Escodero places the cross he retrieved into her hand and closes her fist around it.
He hands the torch over to valet to set the flame, deeply grieved by finally having to say good bye, even though his wife was obviously gone long before now. As the flames lick up around her, he turns away unable to watch.
Commentary: This scene was nicely acted by the actor who plays Mr. Escodero and I like that little extra of having him hand over the torch to the valet, unable to burn up his wife - monster or no, just as he wasn’t able to simply kill her before now. It has really been up to the valet to be the strong one throughout the whole ordeal, which has obviously gone on for years.
In fact, it’s interesting that you could conclude pretty easily that the valet is closer to Mr. Escodero than his own children and there is something touching in his valet’s unswerving loyalty that even under these conditions, he’s utterly resolute in assisting his master.
I can see why they made the character mostly mute and kept him inarticulate, but I can’t help but feel there would’ve been some really interesting scenes if they’d been able to share some dialog about how valet views their relationship and why exactly he’d remain loyal under such extreme circumstances.
Scene 36: He stumbles his way back to his courtyard, only to be confronted on the steps by Eduardo. Not realizing what has been happening in the house while he’s been in his sickbed, he’s shocked to find his son regarding him with a set of sharp fangs… and he just left that handy cross with his burning wife.
Eduardo hisses at his father, but doesn’t get the chance to put his bite on. Mr. Escodero, on realizing he’d left his only protection behind in the forest, suffers the fatal heart attack that he’d been flirting with all movie and dies nearly instantly as he tumbles down the stairs.
The son rushes out into the night, leaving his father lying on the ground with a rictus of terror on his face….
Commentary: This was also a good scene, with Mr. Escodero’s actor again doing some good work with his facial expressions. And, we FINALLY get his character out of the way. I did find it odd that Eduardo rushes out into the night, but we get zero follow up on why and where he went. Was he dashing off for a villager? Did he go to find and kill the valet?
It seems like the scene was ended prematurely, since they had Eduardo dash out of the courtyard like they did, instead of holding on his glaring at his father’s body for the scene transition. Why show him deliberately rushing out, if we aren’t to get more information on his actions following this confrontation with his father?
Scene 37: Later at the funeral, Leonore and Daniel stand awkwardly with one another. After the padre has done his bit, Daniel tries to once again speak with Leonore, declaring an oath that he would love and protect her forever. Naturally, knowing what she now knows about the curse on her family, she again turns him away.
Scene 38: Later, Mr. Castillo is administrating the reading of the will to Leonore, Eduardo, and Christina. Eduardo is short tempered and impatient throughout.
Especially when it comes to Mr. Escodero’s command that three days after his burial the house be burned down to its foundations. He categorically refuses to carry out the order, despite Leonore reminding him that they both know why their father was making such an outlandish request.
Leonore is, of course, following custom and wearing a cross over her chest. This drives Eduardo away from her, with Christina turning away in revulsion. Though it appears that Eduardo is just angry about their father’s request and Christina upset at the strife going on between the siblings.
In the meantime, Mr. Castillo explains to the hostile Eduardo that as administrator it’s his duty to see to it that his father’s last requests are carried out in accordance with the last will. Eduardo lashes out at the elder gentleman and begins to strangle him until Leonore rushes to him. The huge cross of hers drives Eduardo and Christina out of the room, leaving Mr. Castillo shaken at Eduardo’s violence.
Daniel and Christina’s father expresses his regrets to Leonore and quickly leaves. Meanwhile, Leonore gazes at the cross she wears and looks thoughtfully in her brother’s direction.
Scene 39: The very next evening [let’s be kind and call it dusk, rather than day-for-night], Daniel has come calling on Eduardo as the latter is headed for the horse stables. Without any preamble, Daniel tells Eduardo that he’s going to kill him for what he did to his sister, despite his marrying her in the wake of his attack on her not to mention the abuse he handed out to Daniel’s father.
The two men start brawling. Despite Eduardo’s change of condition, he doesn’t have any super strength and though he nearly skewers Daniel with a pitchfork, ultimately Eduardo is beaten. Daniel is about to carry through on his threat of vengeance against his family’s former friend, when Leonore comes across them. She demands that her ex stop. Daniel explains that his father has taken to his bed with sorrow, but Leonore offers herself if Daniel would refrain from staining his hands with Escodero blood. It’s enough for Daniel to cool off and let Eduardo get up and wander off.
Daniel tells Leonore that he wouldn’t trade her brother’s life to force her to do anything. She admits to still being deeply in love with him. He’s angered by this claim and how she continues to refuse to trust him with the truth about what is going on at the Escodero plantation. Leonore can’t take his thinking anything but that she is staying away from him for his own safety and offers to finally tell him of the woe she is going through, taking him up to the house.
But Eduardo hasn’t gone far. He’s enraged by the beating he just took and outraged that his sister is going to expose them and their household’s secrets. He grabs a small machete blade from the wall.
Scene 40: Leonore has taken Daniel to the cellar room, where she believes her mother still wanders from her coffin every night looking for blood. In the meantime, Eduardo stands at the secret entrance and listens in, armed with that blade.
Obviously, all Daniel can see is an empty coffin in an admittedly odd place. He tries to comfort Leonore that it’s all in her mind, but she breaks down into huge sobs and straight up tells him that her mother is a vampire before going on to claim they all are going to be.
He spends some time trying to convince her that she’s delusional, while not putting it so bluntly. She explains her fear that her mother’s destiny will be her own. Eduardo continues to spy on his sister’s blabbing the family’s dark secrets.
Daniel goes on to tell Leonore that they must run away together, but she expresses her belief that it won’t matter where she runs, the curse will pursue them and destroy him. He doesn’t believe that, of course. He tells her that they’ll pray with all of their hearts for deliverance and God will hear their plea. Leonore agrees to try, something that Eduardo is not at all pleased to hear.
Commentary: This is another scene that is severely hampered by the melodramatic music, which rather than enhancing the scene just makes it sound like we’re watching a telenovela, rather than a horror story. The soapy elements of the film overwhelm the horror elements, unfortunately. In addition, this film at 83 minutes is another one which could’ve used some tightening of editing to pare down a bit… or had another attack or two sprinkled into it to liven things up.
Scene 41: After our focus on the painting of Leonore and Eduardo’s mother still dominating her household from the grave, we join Eduardo in the stable. He’s busy arranging an accident by fiddling with the horse drawn carriage.
Scene 42: Later, this same carriage is headed down the winding mountain road. The carriage driver reports to Daniel, with Leonore sitting at his side, that it isn’t responding to his attempts to steer clear of the cliff side.
Before anyone can do anything, the carriage slides over the embankment, breaking free of the horses. As they continue to gallop onward, the carriage rolls over and over down into the stream below.
Leonore and Daniel lie grievously wounded. She calls weakly to him. With Daniel’s dying breath, he prays that God will save Leonore’s life.
Scene 43: After sun up, Leonore lies in semi-consciousness. She dreams or has a vision of Daniel, looking perfectly healthy and carrying her battered body back to her home. In the vision, Daniel tells her that he’ll always watch after her, and if she needs him, she can go to the foot of the hills and call out to him. He assures her that he’ll hear her and come to her.
Scene 44: Leonore awakens to find herself lying in her own bed. She under the watch of her family and the servants. The doctor called in informs her that she’s been unconscious for the past three days. When she asks for Daniel, Eduardo tells him that he’s dead and had been buried the day before, while she was still out. The doctor gives her a sedative.
As she lapses back into a drugged sleep, Leonore continues to whisper Daniel’s name.
Scene 45: Across the hills, her voice echo-shouts his name until well after darkness has fallen. She awakes in a stupor in bed, to find Daniel standing in a corner and looking on her. She’s relieved to find that he’s not dead as they claimed to her and asks him to give her back the engagement ring that she’d returned to him. He places this on her finger.
Scene 46: Eduardo and Christina come in with Eduardo claiming that he’d thought that he’d heard another voice in the room with her, despite the fact that she’s obviously alone. He then commands the repulsed Christina to remove the cross from around his sister’s throat. She manages to grab hold of it enough to yank it off, before quickly discarding it.
Eduardo orders her out, so that he can bring sis into the family fold. Meanwhile, Leonore gets up and stumbles to the window, still calling for Daniel. Eduardo continues to tell her that Daniel is dead, while Leonore shows his ring to him, still on her finger where his ghost had just placed it.
Eduardo gets creepy - with the incest obvs to even a half-out-of-it Leonore. She cries out to Daniel, who then appears -- and even Eduardo can see him this time.
The vampire runs out in a panic [Eduardo runs out in a panic a lot].
Scene 47: He slams a door shut behind him, but when he turns around he finds Daniel’s ghost glaring at him. He’s only able to stay for a moment, before he fades out again leaving Eduardo to consider what is happening.
He senses something behind him, and when Eduardo turns, he finds Daniel there again -- this time looking quite solid. The vampire is backed into a corner, but grabs a sword off the wall. Daniel disappears again, but only to reappear behind the vampire and grabbing a second sword.
Eduardo finds he can’t hit Daniel’s ghost, while Daniel uses the threat of the sword to drive Eduardo back. Daniel plays hide and seek a bit longer and then runs through Eduardo a few times.
But when the servants come in to his yell, Eduardo finds himself unwounded. Further, the swords - both of them - are back on the wall. The entire thing had only happened in his mind.
Eduardo has a freak out. One of the house servants helps him to his feet, but as she does so, her blouse gets torn. This is too much temptation to Eduardo. In front of the other two servants and the arriving Christina, he fangs out and drinks from her in full view.
The servants are frozen with fear [and obedience], while Christina looks away and slowly closes the door on the sight.
Commentary: I have mixed feelings toward the film from here to the ending.
We get the interesting metaphysics of Daniel’s ghost continuing to try to save Leonore but it’s all been carried out through the lens of the soap-opera music and the melodrama that has made it hard to stay invested in it all. Eddie Garcia also has had these manic fits of overacting that hurt our taking his vampire very seriously, as even when his acting isn’t the issue, he simply never has a necessary gravitas to make his count ‘bigger than life’ in a way that is necessary for this role to work. We’ve also lost the gel lighting [although it will make a welcome return in a few scenes, thankfully] that was used on Mrs. Escodero’s appearances as she turns vampiric and it also has acted to steal Eduardo’s supernatural power from his scenes and leaves him looking like a petulant psycho and overgrown brat, more than an imposing vampire.
I like the odds and ends being brought into the typical vampire story from its being a blood curse, to the ghostly intervention [and by implication, the direct involvement of God perhaps in putting a stop to it] but the filming techniques and directing choices once Mrs. Escodero is no longer a presence hurts the overall picture by undermining the central threat to everyone.
So, although I generally like the film, I do feel it’s draggy and Eduardo is never really monstrous enough to engage our continuing interest in what he’ll do next or how Leonore will find escape. Much, much more could’ve and should’ve been done with this scenario which is going to end up hurting my scoring in the end.
Scene 48: Late that night, the still weak and sickly Leonore is in the cemetery. She’s brought a pick axe with her to open up Daniel’s mausoleum and confirm for herself her brother’s claim that her love really did die on that hill, despite her seeing him.
When she finally gets into the coffin, there is Daniel lying dead with his eyes wide open [weirdly, since he died with his eyes shut]. Leonore is terrified by a strange hand on her shoulder and takes off in a panicked run across the cemetery.
The hand had belonged to Valet, not a ghost. He tries to summon her attention, but she’s long gone and he can’t articulate to her that it was just him.
Scene 49: Leonore runs all the way back home, only to run right into her prowling brother. Terrified now, she backs up, but that only leads to Christina’s waiting arms. Things only get worse as the servants are also there in the fog - having been drained and turned after playing witness to the truth of the household.
Shockingly, Leonore doesn’t escape this time and with her in the midst of her being drained she isn’t able to summon ghostly help to intervene. After Eduardo drinks his full, Leonore stumbles into the grip of Christina, who also drinks from her.
She finally falls to the ground, to be swarmed by the servants, all under the baleful glare of Eduardo, who is obviously grief stricken at what he’s commanded to happen, after the need to feed has loosened its hold on him.
Commentary: This scene actually works completely. Not only was it a surprise to see Leonore not escape from the vampires, but the music didn’t work against the scene and the red gel light to denote the vampire instinct dominating the person is back in effect.
I loved this sequence, and Leonore’s falling and being swarmed suddenly injects a new interest in just where this story is going to wrap up!
Scene 50: The following morning, Leonore has been placed back in bed where presumably she was left with enough blood to survive long enough for the vampiric curse to take hold and bring her into Eduardo’s fold. She whispers for Daniel, again.
Over her bedside, stands the vampire clan. Eduardo tells Christina that it won’t be long before she’s changed. But somebody has other ideas. As they watch, a yellow light comes in through the window and settles down at Leonore’s side.
Meanwhile, a mob of voices is heard. When Eduardo and Christina walk onto a balcony, they see that the villagers have massed in the courtyard. They’ve brought an entire Catholic processional complete with effigy of various saints, the padre and his alter boys, candles and torches, nuns and novitiates and more crosses than can be counted. All are being led by Mr. Escodero’s valet, with Mr. Castillo joining in on the coming confrontation with the evil that has taken up residence.
Commentary: And here is an example of the local culture I spoke of in the opening blurb. We don’t get a Van Helsing here - we get a whole village, and they’re not armed with a stake and a torch, but with the entire power of the local church. It’s something that I cannot remember seeing in any other vampire film. It’s very neat to see the church playing a central role in fighting against the curse with such a Roman Catholic sensibility!
Scene 51: The village doctor, valet, Mr. Castillo, padre and an alter boy all invade the home going straight for Leonore’s room. The doctor and the padre work together over Leonore’s struggling body.
The priest’s ministrations bring out the vampiric influence that Leonore is becoming dominated by to Mr. Castillo’s shock. Seeing that the evil is too deeply entrenched in the home, a retreat is called for to the outside.
The group is followed by the glaring, but obviously frightened Eduardo and Christina though they remain indoors.
Outside, the small group joins the collective mob surrounding the home.
Commentary: Another interesting twist is how the doctor never argues with the padre over the fact that “the devil” is inside the house and has Leonore. It’s accepted at face value that the church knows of what it speaks and the doctor doesn’t object to the padre’s rituals, nor does he resist leaving when the padre announces it’s time to get the hell out.
There is one thing that really rankles me though -- throughout the picture, Mr. Castillo’s role in things has been very on the margins. You’d think here would be the right time for somebody to comment on his son’s death and Christina’s being trapped in the house of evil but he’s never given any sort of character moment allowing us into his horrible situation. It can be entirely too easy to forget he’s even personally involved in the goings on at the Escodero residence outside of his role as the administrator to Mr. Escodero’s estate. It’s a really weird oversight.
Scene 52: The supernatural echo-voice of the prayers drive the vampires deeper into the house and ultimately drive them down into the hidden cellar. Meanwhile, Daniel’s spirit has made its return as well, kneeling at the bedside of Leonore and praying for her in front of the padre’s cross that he’d left. As Daniel watches, this cross -- with a nicely pointed end -- floats over the bed. Leonore is supernaturally staked by unseen hands under the mystic gazes of the saint statues outside.
With her death, she returns to normal-face and has a serene smile.
Scene 53: Outside, Valet carries out his master’s legacy of containing and expunging the evil that claimed his life by grabbing up torches and throwing them at the manor. Despite Eduardo’s contention, it appears that the home will be burned down to the foundations after all.
Scene 54: Inside, the vampires continue to huddle in terror unable to make an escape. A wailing that apparently only they can hear begins, driving the women to block their ears in pain. A servant notices the smoke from the building fire and Eduardo leads them in a dash for safety.
But Valet is ahead of them. He’s come into the burning building to place a giant cross at the threshold of the secret passage, driving them away from their only exit. There is no escape from the cleansing fire.
Scene 55: Out in the pre-dawn, grey light, in the foothills where Daniel died, we see the spirits of he and his love Leonore rush into one another’s arms. They hold hands as they walk away to their destiny….
The Good: First, although it doesn't impact scoring I have to compliment the opening theme and the title credits which nicely set a creepy vibe for us.
I absolutely loved Mary Walter as Consuelo. She's not given any dialog but inarticulate yells and growls, so her performance is all in her gestures and especially in her eyes. She's really great at seeming like a victim of her vampire affliction and driven to things that she doesn't want to do.
I also loved the choice of using the red lighting to depict when an afflicted person is no longer in control of themselves, but under the vampire's dominance. In fact, the cinematography [except for one caveat] is very well done and the locations look fantastic.
I found it interesting that the vampire mythos is given some new elements: They don't have supernatural powers, they infect others - not kill them outright, they're still impacted by religious symbology - specifically Christianity, they're driven by needs they don't understand rather than being outright villainous, consciousless killers and they seem relatively simple to defeat if they don't stay hidden.
I really like the scene of Mr. Escodero finding out his son has succumbed to his wife's bite too late to do anything about it.
I also like how the film was able to shock me -- I didn't see both Daniel and Leonore dying before the film was over. In fact, of the major players, nobody survives! [Although at least our two lovers get their just 'happily-ever-after'... it's just not here.]
The Bad: There are times when some of the acting, when combined with the musical score, turns the ostensibly horror-story into a daytime soap and it's really undercutting the mood.
The biggest problem that the tale has is the pacing. While the elements are interesting and there are scenes that really grab me, a lot of the story feels stretched for time and there isn't enough "evil" going on to keep first Mrs. Escodero and then Eduardo a threatening presence.
As mentioned, there is a caveat to the cinematography praise above: the day for night is so blatant, as it usually is for this time period in filming.
Other Thoughts: I wish that we'd gotten a bit clearer set up for our main characters to begin with; it was left to us to sort out who is who and how the family's relate to one another as we went along and was mildly confusing.
It largely avoids 'The Bad'... but some of the acting is wildly melodramatic and can get in the way of the story.
I like the role of religion and curses in the story, but the vampires themselves felt too mundane for the threat they were supposed to represent. Eduardo doesn't seem to have any specific abilities that would make him any more of a danger than your average serial killer, which isn't helpful to the plot.
Although I liked the intensity and heartbreak of Mr. Escodero -- his continually running around while supposedly near death started getting really distracting. The man's role was taking up too much of the story that should've gone toward Eduardo's change after being bitten and then becoming a terrifying force in the village -- none of which we actually get because we spend so much time on Mr. Escodero and the wandering vampire wife.
One of my small issues with the plotting of the story is that we seem to leave out some much needed explanations that are never brought up: Why is Consuelo's bloodline cursed? Why has her husband been keeping her in captivity using brutal violence, but won't just kill her for mercy's sake? Why does Mr. Escodero believe the entire home needs to be cleansed with fire, rather than simply his undead wife? And a big one, how is it that Mr. Castillo is so tangentially involved in goings-on when this directly affects his family and causes the deaths of both of his children?!
I enjoyed the twist of having Daniel's ghost refusing to leave Leonore's side and directly engaging against Eduardo, but I wish that we'd have gotten more out of it. It could've been much more interesting than it turned out to be.
I also found it pretty unique to have faith play so directly a role in stopping the vampire infection and destroying Eduardo. AND -- the dialogless valet plays the big hero!
The Score: This could've been so much more fascinating than it turned out to be alas, and the film is hurt by some draggy pacing. But there is enough unique elements in the story to keep my interest on what I'll see explored next and the film looks great from lighting to sets to costuming.
3.25 out of 5 stars