[review by Bengt Wallman]
So you adore the writings of Edgar Allen Poe? You love the traditional Gothic ghost story? Chills run down your spine just thinking about long black shadows flickering over the court yards of castellated abbeys. Picture yourself venturing through those familiar haunting hallways into a great hall: A caped man suddenly descends from somewhere above with a blood curdling shriek! Strumming, strumming... well... an electric guitar, and backed by girls draped in gold lamé playing saxophones - Arguably something is wrong with this picture. But maybe, just maybe it is so wrong it's right? ... I'm getting ahead of myself.
|Did Poe watch FRIDAY THE 13TH? Probably not ...|
Alan Birkinshaw's film version of this classic tale opens with a snow white Volkswagen Golf cabriolet making its way thru the Bavarian country side. Paparazzo Rebecca (Michelle McBride) is speeding towards a scoop: snaps of Elaina Hart (Brenda Vaccaro) a TV actor dubbed queen of the soaps. The road takes Rebecca to a costume party hosted by enigmatic millionaire Ludwig (Herbert Lom): The Masquerade of the Red Death! Menacing as that may sound, its nothing compared to the horrific day dream of Rebecca foreboding her heart being ripped out of her chest. However Rebecca puts the nightmarish vision down to her avid reading of Edgar Allen Poe and happily equips herself with a cupid's costume complete with with bow and arrow with built in camera. Shamelessly this opening is tagged Edgar Allan Poe's Masque of the red death.
If you are indeed anything of a fan of the writings of Poe, I'd suggest you reread this previous paragraph and carefully reconsider sitting down to watch this film. Because I can tell you, in this film you won't get you much closer to the literary original than that. But if you are anything like me, this bizarre opening has tickled a curiosity that just has to be fulfilled and you've already opened up a bookmark to Amazon. ... Undecided are welcome to read on.
Stepping into the impressive Bavarian castle of Ludwigs' surprisingly seems to warp Rebecca all the way to a 80's Hollywood hills villa, complete with assorted discards from the dream factory, most notably “the duke” portrayed, or at least embodied by Frank Stallone. Stealing the thunder, if there was ever such to be stolen from Frank, is that aforementioned sudden shriek of the in-house soft rock band. The party is on. From hereon in the shrieks of the mutilated will mix in with those of the tone deaf. Because if for no other reason than genre profiling there is a masked killer roaming the halls of the mansion, killing off the guests one by one...
|The horror isn't isolated to the kill scenes|
Rebecca, being a reporter of keen perception is the first to note that something is afoot as she follows Elaina Hart, even managing to snap a few frames of her being assaulted by a cloaked assassin wearing a red cape. As Elaina's body subsequently show up on the main stairs, host Ludwig seems unwilling to let a small thing like a murder dampen the mood, declaring to the guests only that she obviously fell on the stairs. But as the party lives on, or dies out as it were, it gets impossible to ignore the fact that someone is seriously decimating the colorful but poorly acted crowd. Panic ensues which prompts the host to lock the automatic gate system, to shut the main guests in.
At this point the story turns into highly familiar but oddly entertaining whodunit territory. With the guests pointing blame at each other just to, minutes later, find the accused with a sharp object stabbed down their back. The death scenes are varied, fairly well executed, if you pardon the pun, and some even moderately inventive. Like the scantly clad fashion victim who in a twisted fate of irony is strung up on a loom. But there's also that old chestnut decapitation by pendulum clock, impaling on electric gate and so on. However, none of the guests goes out with such style as Frank Stallone who swash buckles himself out of the film, and with some flair I must add. … As the night turns into morning only three people are still alive and the script writers manage to tie two and two into an adequate conclusion.
Lets be honest, anyone picking up this movie will know its bad. That aside I can't help thinking that this film has enough going for it, mad as it may sound. Certainly on a cheese level I thoroughly enjoyed it. The party scenes are priceless and what the cast lack in skill they make up for in what best can be described as tongue in cheek charms. Camp even? If it originally really was meant to be funny or indeed scary is a totally different matter, honestly it's impossible to tell. What I do know is that it was made to be entertaining, and in some ways it still is.
female:6 / male:3
1) Male hand cut off then stabbed
2) Female strangled (off screen)
3) Female woven into loom
4) Male stabbed with syringe and face burnt with acid
5) Female decapitated
6) Male dead by the sword
7) Male stabbed and axed
8) Male found with throat slit
9) Male shot
10) Female impaled