GOREHOUSE GREATS: Terror (1978)

Norman J. Warren is the kind of director that knows exactly what you want. You aren’t coming to one of his movies to learn some kind of life lesson or to go out to a salon and debate afterward. No, you’re here for all the reasons that you watch horror and exploitation movies. You want to be shocked, scared and stimulated.

What makes this one even better is that the script comes from David McGillivray, who also wrote Satan’s Slave for Warren and Frightmare, House of Whipcord, House of Mortal Sin and Schizo for Pete Walker. He is, to quote British writer Matthew Sweet, “the Truffaut of Smut.”

Also, if you’re watching this and are thinking, “Hey, Warren must have just seen Suspiria when he made this,” then yes, that’s exactly what happened.

The movie starts three hundred years ago, as we watch a witch named Mad Dolly about to be burned at the stake under the orders of Lord Garrick. She then calls on Satan to free her, setting an executioner on fire, a disembodied arm to kill Garrick and for her to rush through the Garrick house with a sword, which she uses to chop the head off his wife before cursing their descendants.

Like I said, Warren knows exactly what you want. That beginning pretty much has everything I watch movies for.

What we’ve just seen is a movie made by director James Garrick — yes, a descendent who lives in the very same house that we’ve seen and for some reason has decided to own the sword of Mad Dolly — and he’s previewing it for his friends and his cousin, Ann. Of course, he also has a mesmerist put her under a spell and she nearly kills him.

This being a Warren movie, of course Ann works at a strip club. And certainly she’s going to be stalked by all manner of ruffians, including Peter Mayhem outside of his Chewbacca costume.

This unleashes a wave of artful violence, including panes of glass chopping off heads, stabbings in the woods, perverts dropped onto spikes, lamps crushing directors and so much more. And the end, well, it’s absolutely bonkers, with levitating cars, more impalings and Mad Dolly’s sword getting used to its fullest power.

As for the Argento inspiration, Warren has claimed that he saw that movie as something freeing, telling Sense of Cinema, “It was just liberating in that you could suddenly get away with doing whatever you liked.”

Since making Bloody New Year, Warren has been promising a sequel to this movie that would be about music and dancers. I hope it happens, because I kind of love this ridiculous movie.

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