Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Hanging Woman (1973)

There's something special with spanish horror from the seventies. They are never stylish in the same way as the italian horror, but still brings the same feeling of dread, darkness and thick atmosphere. The Hanging Woman is a very competent horror-hybrid that mixes mystery, zombie, murder and gothic in a beautiful way. Stelvio Rosi, who have a nice seventies-brit look, plays Serge Chekov who arrives to the small depressing village in the mountains where his uncle has his house. But now the uncle is dead, and left in the house is his strange young wife and a scientist and his daughter. Just when Serge arrives to the village, he finds a hanged woman in the cementary. She was scared to death, and then hanged to make it look like a suicide. More strange things starts to happen in the village and his the house, and the gravedigger, Igor (Paul Naschy of course) seem to be involved in a lot of the occurances. And the fact that he's a necrophile don't help him when he's accused for what's happening...

I heard some bad things about this movie, but I can't agree on the negative things. This is a slow moving story, but it also have an amazing atmosphere and directing that keeps the story going without the audience getting bored. I love directors that can tell a story with the camera, and together with the editor knows the timing to makes everything work with not so much fancy editing. This is very basic craftmanship, but sometime that's just what a story need. Somehow this way of filming makes the stronger scenes even more powerful, and even if the physical decapitation in the movie is off screen, it still looks amazing when the head falls to the ground. The same thing with the zombies that appears in the end. Creepy stuff, and very intense.

But this is also a movie with quite a good script, and the twists and turns works very fine. Even I got surprised sometimes, and the mix of genres made the movie unpredictable. As you understand by now, Paul Naschy is not the lead actor, but his small character is good and Naschy knows how to make a good show even when he's not first in line in front of the camera. He looks like a brute, but he also was a skilled actor who could work without lines and effects. His charisma is enough in a part like this. Over all the acting in this movie was even and no one was bad. I don't have much experience with lead actor Stelvio Rosi, but his job here wants me to see more of his work. The ladies are good to, especially Maria Pia Conte as the weird widow of Chekovs uncle, who probably has the best written and fun female character in this movie.

Gory? Not really, but the decaptitation is lovely and there's also the typical no-budget autopsy where they use the carcass of a pig to imitate human flesh and skin. But the zombie-make up is eerie and cool and the production values are perfect for this kinda movie. Half the fun of the story is the cool location, the small dirty village with the mountains around it it. And it's raining or snowing almost all the time, so the feeling of cold dread is evident all the time.

What about the dvd? Much better than I expected. The print is made from two sources, one lesser tape-version which shows up in the beginning and in the end, and the rest is a good-looking fullscreen movie-print with nice saturated colors and good sound to. I guess the movie was shot wider, but you don't notice any direct cropping except during the pre-credits. The dvd is also loaded with extras, but I haven't had time to check them yet. But if Naschy is involved I'm sure it's good.

I'm very happy to own this movie and finally got a chance to see it, because this was a movie that I connected with directly.

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