La casa de las muertas vivientes (1972)

Whether you call this La casa de las muertas vivientes (The House of the Living Dead), Night of the Scorpion, the Italian title Il cadavere di Helen non mi dava pace (Helen’s Corpse Gives Me No Peace or Helen Is Not Resting In Peace) or An Open Tomb… An Empty Coffin, this is a giallo made in Spain and Italy during the height of the genre. It’s directed by Alfonso Balcázar (Sartana Does Not Forgive, A Noose Is Waiting for You Trinity) from a script that he wrote with Giovanni Simonelli and José Ramón Larraz, the same team that made Watch Out Gringo! Sabata Will Return.

Oliver Bromfield (José Antonio Amor) has lost his father and wife Helen (Gioia Desideri), which causes him to move back to the gigantic ancestral home in the mountains far from the closest village. Despite the fact that they are isolated from anyone else, he makes a point to tell his new wife Ruth (Daniela Giordano) to not listen to what anyone says about his family. If that isn’t enough to freak her out, perhaps the way that Oliver’s stepmother Sarah (Nuria Torray) kisses him will do it. Or maybe it’s the maid (Alicia Tomás) who doesn’t answer questions or the sister who refuses to speak to her. Look, if you marry into a rich family in a giallo, your chances of encountering weirdness and death are absolute.

So yes, Sarah keeps trying to seduce her stepson as well as spying on him as he consummates his new marriage. His sister Jenny angrily stabs butterflies — oh post-Argento giallo and its obsession with animals — as she laments the loss of Helen, who she definitely had an affair with and when Oliver found out, Helen took a dive over the railing. Maybe. Who can say?

Ruth slowly starts going insane, what with being trapped in this house of depression. Wouldn’t you be worried if you watch a kitten die after drinking the poisoned milk that you were about to drink — yes, this movie makes a The Cat O’Nine Tails ripoff while having a cat figured into said theft — and then come back to life?

Everybody in this family wants someone they can’t have and Ruth starts to realize that maybe she shouldn’t have said yes to this marriage deal. She even brings in a private detective (Osvaldo Genazzani) who she says is her Uncle Edgar to figure out what’s happening.

That’s when a killer with black gloves and a blade remembers that we’re in a giallo and not a soap opera and starts stabbing people with just twenty minutes left.

This may not rank in the best of all giallo, but there is that awesome clock that the voyeur stepmother uses to peep through which gives the opportunity for some great shots. And once it picks up, it picks up.

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