Satanic Attraction (1989) and Ritual of Death (1990)

Well . . . after Sam dug up a Halloween-inspired review of Nick Millard’s obscure Satan’s Black Wedding (1976), I decided to answer the challenge with this Fauzi Mansur low-budget obscurity: an awfully-dubbed mess about Fernanda, an underground radio disc jockey who coos her self-composed tales of the macabre — after one to many viewings of Dario Argento’s Tenebre (1982), well, maybe Michele Soavi’s Stage Fright (1987), sans the books or the stage and a radio studio, instead (and a chintzy one, at that). And as with any Italian or Indonesian horror: You need a love interest-detective of the John Saxon variety on the case: we have one, and he has a sexual relationship with our hot, blonde radio jock.

Okay, so Fernie’s tales of Satanists to serial killers are either: Based on her dreams. Or premonitions of future events. Or her psychic connection to the killer. Regardless: either she’s in the mind of the killer, or he in hers, as it inspires a rash of killings that duplicate her radio tales. Her current story is a continuing tale about a group of Satanists attempting to sacrifice two teenagers. The brother escapes: he goes on to use ritualistic murder to resurrect his sister, Sara. Hey, who is that creepy blonde girl always showing up around the killings? Who is that witch with the purple guacamole face? You mean it’s not the brother, but the sister all along? Yeah, he has an incestuous, “Satanic Attraction” for his little sis. What’s that, Scooby? Why it’s the radio station owner? Those damn, pesky kids ruining the ritual!

Oy! This movie.

Brazilian filmmaker Fauzi Mansur wrote and directed his first film in 1969 and made a total of 41 films (mostly soap opera-styled sexploitation flicks known as “pornochachada” in its homeland), two of which made it to U.S. shores via home video: Incesto (1976) and Sadismo (1983). The first deals in a Giallo-styled noir concerning a family’s manor on a secluded lagoon; the latter with a rash of sexually perverted murders plaguing a city. Those films were issued on VHS as result of Mansur’s final two, American-inspired slashers making it to U.S. VHS shores: Satanic Attraction, and its loose companion film, Ritual of Death — after one too many viewings of Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm (1979).

Sure, it’s a little bit incomprehensible: Again: Is a killer recreating Fernie’s stories? Are her “dreams” really dreams or a psychic connection to the killer? Are the stories of the past she tells, in fact, the past? Me, as a viewer: I think it has more to do with Mansur crafting a tale of gothic ambiguity (Edgar Allan Poe is name-dropped) than filmmaking incompetence to the incomprehensible. Sure, there’s a little too much chitty chat by soap operaish bad actors . . . and the awful English dub doesn’t help. Unfortunately, the dub doesn’t rise to the ADR-craze of those makes-Italian-Giallos-look-in-sync ditties of: “I want to take communion, but not in my mouth, but down in my ‘hoo-hoo,’ you dirty nun ‘boinker” and “When are you going to ‘screw’ your housekeeper,” from the frames of Germany’s Magdalena, Possessed by the Devil (1974). At least the absurdities are all of the “What the fuck, now?” variety of a Paul Naschy joint, such as Horror Rises from the Tomb. But hey, at least a goat head is used like a bar of soap . . . and razor blades flow like water. . . .

Yeah, the Giallo supernatural-to-American slasher gore is cheap, but when the slice n’ dice comes, it is very gory — in a goofy kind of way: Mansur’s style in Satanic Attraction takes me back to such India and Turkish delights as the shot-for-shot The Exorcist copy, Seytan (1974), the Italian cannibal rip of Savage Terror (1980), the Phantasm rip of Satan’s Slaves (1982), The Evil Dead clone that is Mystics in Bali (1981), and the dual A Nightmare on Elm Street buffets of Khooni Murdaa (1989) and Mahakaal (1993). Hey, its better than a ’60s Herschell Gordon Lewis bloody hell.

To think Phantasm had to make cuts to achieve an R-rating . . . and the sphere was questionable. Here, based on uptight ’80s standards, the clumsy gore of Satanic Attraction would have pulled a theatrical “X” on the big screen. That gore includes a masked killer who comes up under a woman laying face down in a garden hammock: he disembowels-by-sword. Two young lovers on a boat get the ol’ shish kabob — and the killer steals the woman’s body because, well, he needs her blood for that sibling resurrection ritual. Another victim is so high, she doesn’t realize the killer spiked her bar of soap with razor blades. Another girl comes to be kidnapped after discovering a severed pair feet standing in her backyard — and her husband’s body next to them.

Whatever. I’m remembering José Mojica Marins and his Brazilian, pre-Freddy “Coffin Joe” romps and Spain’s Bigas Luna with my VHS joys of Anguish and Ignacio F. Iquino’s Bloody Sect. So all is well.

I love this flick in all of its amateur ridiculousness. Trust me. Give this film a chance, as it comes with a nice, little twist. As did Commander Balok: You’ll relish it as much as I.

The ridiculousness continues . . . with an even deeper pinch of Soavi’s Stage Fright . . . along with Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1984) . . . and a soupcon of A Nightmare on Elm Street. This time, instead of a radio jock: we have an acting troupe that steals an Egyptian “Book of the Dead” with an intent to adapt it into a stage play. Brad, the auteur of the thespian travelers: he’s already a bit around the bend as he’s into Satanism and weird text that triggers hallucinations (an ancient Indian ritual under the bowls of a theater) as he scarfs on raw goat livers for lunch. So guess who is cast as The Executioner, the lead of the play?

Yeah, Brad’s been possessed by the book.

Now he is The Executioner, in full costume, hacking and slicing the thespian troupes as he unleashes goat heads, frogs, and a disgusting cases of acne (coping the “mirror scene” in Poltergeist (1982): only more puke-inducing). There’s a John Carpenter-styled gutting-by-claw hammer, a slicing-by-errant-train wheel (actually a large, stage-pully gear), a disembowelment-by-wind machine, and an eyeballs-floating-in-the-bathtub gag. Green goop oozes from faces and hands and there’s a nice face ripping. To what end: Well, Brad’s a ghost, you see, and he wants to return to the flesh — and the bad actors from Rio are all part of the reanimation process. Well, maybe it’s that old dude (a fat Tall Man) in the bowler hat triggering all this dreams-reality-hallucinations tomfoolery.

Yeah, there’s a reason for those “X” and “NR” ratings on the VHS slip cover: The blood is everywhere and it’s nice n’ juicy. The women are hot and the nudity is bountiful — even if they all act like hunks of driftwood — and the gore and the lighting is oh-so-’80s Italian Giallo. So all is well . . . even with a dub that’s worse than the one in Satanic Attraction, if you can believe that: Who was in charge of the ADR? Bill Rebane, with his “the-ac-tor-re-ads-in-this-fi-lm-dr-i-ve-yo-u-to-no-t-li-sten” actors’ emoting? And if you’ve seen a Rebane ditty, such as Invasion from Inner Earth (1974), you know what I mean (especially from Brad the Execution’s mom whom, at first, I thought was Diane Ladd!).

However, considering the corners, the disgusting corners the Italians would cut in their ’80s splatter fests: Is that goat head a prop or the real thing procured from a slaughterhouse? If that’s real goat head, kudos to pornochachada vet Vanessa Alves frolicking in that blood-filled bathtub with said head. I can hear Mansur say to Alves, “Not worry, sweetie. Is prop,” when it wasn’t. Remember Ruggero Deodato and the turtle?

As with Spain’s Bigas Luna and Ignacio F. Iquino seeing the U.S. slasher writing splattered on the wall: Fauzi Mansur took his shot and I think he did alright. He does not suck. So I’m campaigning for Arrow or Severin to double-disc these two Fauzi Mansur’s flicks and pull them out of grey market obscurity. In fact, pack all four of his U.S. VHS-distributed flicks in a nice box set with a biographic booklet.

But, hey. I’m the guy who raves about the slight, SOV-based resume of Wim Vink to the dismay of many a (conventional) horror fan. So what do I know? I’m just a schmuck in Pittsburgh writing film reviews in my mother’s basement jonesin’ for some raw livers and a glass of milk. Damn, this half-hood cowl is hot and making me itch. . . .

You can watch Satanic Attraction and Ritual of Death on You Tube.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and Medium.

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