The term “atmospheric” gets abused all too often when it comes to horror films if you ask me, but that is the first word that came to mind after I finished my viewing of Giorgi Ferroni’s brilliantly claustrophobic Night Of The Devils. With my month of Halloween Horrors coming to an end I squeezed this one in just under the wire, and it may be the best “horror” film I’d seen all month. I found the entire film spooky and became totally sucked in to the story from the very start.
Nicola (the always welcome Gianni Garko) stumbles out of a wooded area in terrible condition, collapsing. Obviously something BAD lurks wherever he is coming from and he has escaped. After being taken to a hospital and going through a battery of tests his photo is passed around. When a beautiful woman comes to claim him, Nicola flips out and she vanishes. It appears evil has followed him and has no intention of letting him escape.
The viewer is drawn in to a series of flashbacks as Nicola relives his trauma. He sure seems normal enough, driving about until he has a car accident that strands him in what feels almost like a scene from a time past by one hundred years! And it certainly doesn’t help that he walks in on a weird burial ritual that includes a bloody corpse having a crucifix placed upon it like some kind of seal. Is it time for him to panic? I would, but Nicola is made of sterner stuff. He looks around a bit and comes across a cabin in the woods. Oh oh. Creepy kids appear, one of which is Cinzia De Carolis, the babysitter from Cannibal Apocalypse and the snake “charmer” of the head clonking Libidine. A bizarre family lives here, which thankfully includes a beautiful daughter named Sdenka that may be our heroes only way out. I’m doubly thankful for Nicola and myself, because Sdenka is played by Agostina Belli!
Remember that burial? Well, it seems that the family is hiding a little secret-it’s THE WURDULAK at W(v)ork! Madness begins to swirl around Nicola as the family breaks down, turning against each other in the hopes of surviving the nights of mysterious noises and terrifying walking corpses. Sdenka and Nicola find themselves attempting to escape this weird time displaced house in the middle of nothing, but can either of them afford to trust the other? The house is full of death and just as Nicola finds his way free of the nightmare, the mysterious woman in the hospital finds him. The question becomes not only who the monster is but who is a murderer in the end?
Night of the Devils has a lot of strengths, and the first one is pace. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted a film to move along as slowly as this one does, but it works to perfection. The unraveling of the mystery of Nicola and his present predicament peels away the same way his modern sensibilities are pushed away as he finds himself absorbed in to the cursed family in the woods. A knock on a door becomes scarier than any zoom shot through the woods could ever be, and the great first confrontation with what may be an evil Wurdulak standing in front of our disbelieving modern man is priceless.
The cast is great as well, Garko never lets me down, and Agostina Belli makes it easy to understand why Nicola would stay at first, and then become terrified of her later on. She is easy on the eyes and has a knack for playing the innocent girl that she becomes suspect right from the start.
Director Giorgio Ferroni is better known for another film that wears that “atmospheric” label on it’s sleeve, The Mill of the Stone Women, but for my viewing dollar, this is a much better film. Where the earlier film is interesting because of the time it was made, it does not measure up to the suspense of Night of the Devils-so if you enjoyed Stone Women thanks to the lovely Mondo Macabro DVD, then you should definitely go on the hunt for this film. I had no idea that Ferroni also directed Hercules Against the Moloch, which is another favorite of mine-I guess it is time to pull that disc out!
When the term Eurohorror is mentioned I have to admit that I usually think of the big classics by Argento, Fulci or Bava, but Night of the Devils is easily as good-if not better-than many of those directors works! So I will now add Ferroni to my Big List of Great European Horror Cinema Directors…give it a try and you may do the same.