Normally a film comes to me via the mail, or lately VOD from a director and PR Firm or even it’s a movie I liked and purchased it to review it, however, that’s not the case this time, rather a fellow reviewer asked for my thoughts and hence produced this review. This mainly centers on my praise for The Witch film from director Robert Eggers, and one they panned on for the lack of action, and the stiffness of the storytelling, either way I welcome these types of review challenges.
The film’s Spanish title, Los ritos sexuales del diablo, translates to “The Sexual Rites of the Devil” in English José Ramón Larraz a renowned filmmaker of trashy Euro-cult cinema epics his undeniable masterpiece erotic horror classic Vampyres, reportedly disowned this film following its release. Larraz’s knack to expose the flesh and creating atmospheric though does not always equal cinematic success, visually all the cues presented but the horror storyline contains hits and misses for the entire movie. Though released in 1982, the styles appear more of the late seventies, with regard to decor, fashion, and the music, it reminds one perhaps a bit like The Love Witch, except that movie contains colorful sets and superb delivery in its horror, as opposed to this flick. This 82-minute film contains true elements of sexploitation (subgenre under exploitation) rarely exposed in today’s works, the closest Tarantino’s Grindhouse homage movie, it tries to mask itself as Satanic Horror, but the veil far sheer for the horror fans.
First, if one is uniformed of the movie and yet to see it, venture forth to the abyss and locate a copy, the title Black Candles (sounds boring) more fans seeking to give a shock to tease use The Sexual Rites of the Devil title. While trying to sell a story of supernatural conquests it mixes voodoo and Satanism, along with drips of witchcraft, thereby piling all into a mishmash story with silly scenes and but contains many sex scenes a few orgies and that goat loving reference. Supernatural films often found in the low budgets as anything might be the infamous devilish incantations, a book or object even a person, however note the fine print, most difficult to do successfully, without appearing corny or in this case campy. While campy plays well at moments, it leaves the audience wanting more than mere shocks, hence settling instead of provoking such as The Devil’s Bride, with Christopher Lee, it leaves the story structure rotting in the ground.
Allow one to set the stage while this sounds as if an adult film, it is not the story Andrew (Mauro Rivera) in bed with a beautiful woman naked and willing for sexual conquests and pleasures this occurring in the opening minutes. Then the camera, cuts to a woman holding a Voodoo doll stabbing it affecting Andrew in a most uncomfortable manner. Larraz’s main story tells of a woman named Carol (Vanessa Hidalgo) who, after the unexpected and unusual death of her brother, heads to London for the funeral with her boyfriend Robert in tow. The couple meet Carol’s now widowed sister-in-law Fiona who lets them stay at the huge creepy family estate out in the countryside all to await the details of the will of her late husband (Carol’s brother Andrew). Carol touring the home particularly disturbed by the abundance of black candles and the bizarre drawings of witches and demons on every wall, while Robert (Jeffrey Healey) finds all occult items very fascinating (a positive nod to set designers). This begins more layering of sexual devious behaviors with equal amount of T&A, and addition tidbit for the old school horror fans Fiona, portrayed by Spain’s scream queen Helga Line who some recalled starred in The Vampires Night Orgy (1973). One must tread carefully as not to spoiler too much of this rare cinema of exploitation running amok in the Satanic lore.
Skipping ahead a few scenes we learn that Carol, indeed who the Satanic coven seeks as the bride to be for Satan, and learns of more gothic mannerisms to complete the rituals. Such as the sleaziest moment, of young woman, licking her lips, submitting the lustful desires of beastiality, a goat representing the manifestation of Satan begins sexual throes of passion and debauchery. Then must not omit the devilish punishment to a turncoat to the coven, just say it involves a naked oversized man bent over a table and a very large sword penetrating him.
The plot seems like it came from Something Weird Cinema, the pacing tends to linger a tad more than necessary and while sexual scenes deliver something for the T&A crowd it doesn’t equal the modern standards, or even that of the film Burial Ground. While the movie provides some great set pieces, atmospheric gothic scenes nicely framed, it loses the satanic horror storyline early into the movie, frustrating the average horror fan, especially with muffled speaking at times. The rules of horror filming remain simple solid story, believable characters, framing tight shots, professional audio, for dubbing reasons and lighting properly everything else works itself out correctly. Herein the audio cripples the movie, some background noise filters in, and out of synching issues, therefore regulating it slightly forgotten, except for those too scenes mentioned earlier.
Although the frank title offers disturbing moments for the less informed horror fans, the devil worship lacks, more found in The Ninth Gate, it leaves one seeking much more, and without any scares, it leaves one’s mind quickly. As for the gore-hounds, vast disappointment, not much here, and far better sounding productions exist to enjoy the sexploitation of this era and genre. Fans of the movie still championed and campaign for the acceptance of it, distribution recently came from BCI Eclipse in the U.S. in 2007 on DVD.