AKA Vice Makes a Visit, Violation of the Bitch, et al
Available now from Arrow as part of the Blood Hunger Box Set
Time for a bit of super-Seventies Euro-nonsense in the third part of Arrow’s José Larraz collection. It’s a film which has many lurid titles; just in case you were wondering about the narrative contents. In this instalment the excuse for all the skin on show isn’t psycho-thriller, or vampire related, but instead the occult… or at least I think that’s the general idea. However, despite all of this exploitation genre fans looking to pick up the trilogy should be aware that this is probably the most tepid inclusion. Despite a story of tarot, doomed romances, and sinister uninvited guests, it’s all a bit lethargic. There’s a lot of talk about nightmares and the hands fate but there’s also a whole lot of melodrama in store along the way.
At a remote rural house a middle aged couple dumps illiterate servant girl Triana (Lidia Zuazo) with lonely artist Lorna (Patricia Granada) before they shoot off for a trip to England. It’s all pretty bizarre and the full circumstances are never explained. Maybe that’s just a thing they do on the continent if you’re wealthy enough. But it becomes clear as things progress that Triana has been causing a rift between her previous employers. Maybe it’s because she’s neurotic, maybe it’s because she’s superstitious, but maybe there’s something strange going on that will soon rear its head. Lorna somehow doesn’t actually see anything wrong with this unexpected house guest, and soon she’s left with an eighteen year old maid who keeps having strange nightmares.
Beyond all the gratuitous sex and nudity Triana’s mental state is the focus of the plot, in what little story there is. She’s from some sort of Roma or gypsy background, which just means that she’s often concerned with a lot of clichés about palm readings that tell of death in her future. In one of the more laughable scenes a fortune teller explains that she is ‘the child of the devil’. Her rather unhelpful advice was that Triana has only one purpose in life; to cause the demise of someone she will meet one day. She also has a repeated nightmare about a naked man on a horse, riding towards her through a lake. As you may suspect this is an recurring image that is expanded on as things progress.
As the artwork used in this release shows this is also a film that features a sequence in which Triana is trapped inside a sculpture. A dream about being trapped naked… inside a gold-plated sculpture of a horse. Which is perhaps not quite as relatable as that dream you’ve all had about being lost in a public space without any clothes. It’s undoubtedly a striking image hinting at all kinds of sexual preoccupations, but this isn’t a hint of any deeper or more complicated psychological undercurrents. It’s really the only outlandish image in the whole movie which is otherwise pretty dull, and all the discussions of rape, or the fear of men in a lesbian relationship, are incredibly surface level. Unfortunately in the end it’s all just an excuse for various soft-core scenes and a lot of stilted romantic dialogue.
Maybe I’m expecting too much. But then again the film-makers do offer some visual references to Kaneto Shindo’s masterpiece Onibaba during scenes of lust involving a shack situated just beyond an overgrown field of reeds. If this was even half as dramatic or visceral there might be more to discuss. It’s certainly a hazy looking film with a certain sort of fever dream atmosphere at times, but it’s just too slow to be engaging most of the time. Instead of being suspenseful it’s often just plodding and feels strangely cheap times. Triana and Lorna wander slowly around the house, they sit watching flamenco dancing, they drink wine and so on and so forth. When they do go to bed it feels like an inevitable outcome rather than the result of any heightened tensions or sudden awakenings in their relationship.
The sexual overtones as Lorna changes from reclusive painter to hedonist are not subtle in the slightest. To make things worse the script isn’t nearly sharp enough to pull off the kind of characterisation they seem to be aiming for. If they were actually going for something like that at all that is. Later when Triana’s mystery man steps out of nightmare and into reality it’s just kind of weird and gross. Particularly when Lorna welcomes him into the house… just hours earlier after an attempted rape. Towards the end the writers make an attempt some sort of vague social commentary about the rich and poor, but it’s way too little and way too late. In the end it just comes across as a throwaway idea rather than a way of underlining any meaningful theme about having servants.
With more focus on eerie dream imagery and the (blink and you’ll miss them) mystical elements of the story, this might all have been far more interesting. There are a few good classical guitar riffs in the score and a couple of the motifs feel like spaghetti western tunes, which adds to the sinister vibe in a couple of sequences, but it’s not nearly enough. Adding to this issue it’s strangely tame despite so much flesh on display. There are a lot of lofty ideas thrown into the mix but nothing is really explored in a way that raises it beyond the typical levels of scuzzy Euro trash you’d be expecting. Even the various erotic scenes are just perfunctory. With more horror elements and a lot more style, visually and musically, it could have been far more compelling, but as it stands it’s all just too bland and ramshackle.