In the middle ages, a cult of murderous Knight Templars imposed a reign of terror on a rural district of Portugal, before being blinded and burned to death. Every year, the descendants of the villagers responsible celebrate their delivery from evil with a drunken festival. Unfortunately, the custodian of the local churchyard plans to resurrect the Templars and have them crash this year’s party…
Spanish director Armando De Ossorio had enjoyed considerable success with his first movie featuring the undead Templars, ‘Tombs of the Blind Dead’ (1972), so a sequel was fairly inevitable. However, rather than continue the narrative of the first film, he opted instead for starting from scratch and developing a plot along the lines of George A Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (1968).
Our main man is Tony Kendall, late of the ’Kommissar X’ Eurospy/Crime series, who swaps his trademark smirk for a sheepskin jacket, moody stubble and a permanent cigarette. He’s the pyrotechnic expert brought in to give the celebrations a bit of a punch, but instead winds up on the wrong end of some fisticuffs, courtesy of Town Mayor Fernando Sancho and his pet goon squad. The problem? Kendall has previous with Laurette Tovar, who happens to be the Mayor’s intended, and the two rekindle their romance with a wrestling match in the abbey ruins. But all this backstory is quite perfunctory really, as De Ossorio knows exactly why everyone is here, and we get to it pretty quickly.
The undead Templars are as impressive as in the first movie, their slow-motion gallop across the screen providing genuine chills, although, I couldn’t help but wonder where they get their phantom horses? After they scythe their way through the town square and the local population, a small group of survivors barricade themselves inside the local church, and we are firmly in Romero territory. There isn’t a lot of story development after that, which is the film’s main weakness. From the start, there’s been a sense of characters being introduced simply to be killed off, and even the leads are so sketchily presented that it’s hard to have much emotional investment in what happens to them.
The Templars are a scary proposition but, aside from them and the excellent music by Anton Garcia Gabril, there’s not a lot else to get excited about. The action is no more than competently staged, and there are one too many shots of dummies that would have been better consigned to the cutting room floor.
There’s also a disappointing lack of fireworks. After all, that’s why Kendall’s in town in the first place, so it would seem reasonable to expect some interaction between the undead and the pyrotechnics at some point. But it never happens. Furthermore, the resolution of our remaining heroes into a makeshift family unit is so predictable that you see it coming from the moment the Templars surround the church.
De Ossorio certainly had a ﬁne visual sense and there are some truly memorable moments here involving the Templars. They look very impressive and may have inspired SFX man Rob Bottin’s work on John Carpenter’s ‘The Fog’ (1980). However, De Ossorio’s screenwriting ability couldn’t match his directorial flair, and having created the undead horseman, there’s a suspicion that he didn’t really know what to do with them. His script is a procession of very obvious beats; not the worst you will ever see by any means, but bereft of any true invention or personality.
A good, solid Euro-Horror of the period, but with a few more ideas, it could have been so much more.