It’s that time of year again! Time to celebrate the Resurrection with a weeklong plunge into all things zombie! Here’s the history: In 2008, Dr. Girlfriend and I decided to spend a week or so each year marathoning through zombie films that we’d never seen before, and I would blog short reviews. And simple as that, the Easter Zombie Movie Marathon was born.

For the curious, here are links to 2008, 2009  (a bad year), 2010, 2011, 2012  (when we left the blog behind), 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

Writer/Director Amando de Ossorio’s fourth and final installment in the Blind Dead series, Night of the Seagulls, serves as the culmination of a four-year odyssey and a completely satisfying one, at that. After three films of undead carnage, this final entry seems to have finally pulled together all the disparate elements of the series into one coherent experience that could, ostensibly, substitute for everything that came before.

The film opens in a moody medieval setting, where a young couple are attacked by the Knights Templar, but whereas the man is stabbed and left for dead, the busty young lady is kidnapped. The Knights take her to their castle, where she is ritually sacrificed. Her heart is cut out and offered up to a weird statue of an aquatic god monster.

It’s not tentacly, so I didn’t get a Cthulhu vibe, but it could definitely be Lovecraftian. The Starry Wisdom Sect website suggests it bears a resemblance to Clark Ashton Smith’s Tsathoggua. I don’t know if this is what Ossorio was intending, but as a Lovecraft nerd, I give him points for including it.

The Templars then converge on her and begin sucking the blood from anywhere they can get their thirsty mouths. Her body is then dismembered and tosses aside as food for the crabs.

Big fucking crabs.

From this point on, we leap to modern day (for 1975, anyway), as Doctor Henry Stein (Víctor Petit) and his wife Joan (María Kosty) arrive at his new post, a remote coastal fishing village where strangers are definitely not welcome, even if they come bearing the gift of modern medicine. The former doctor (Javier de Rivera) is high tailing it out of town and warns Dr. Stein to not meddle with the villagers and to not go outside after dark.

That’s suitably mysterious, and then we get a scare as creepy village idiot Teddy (José Antonio Calvo) shows up peeping in the window at Joan while her husband is escorting the old doctor across the village to where he keeps his getaway donkey. Luckily, Teddy is harmless and just wants some doctoring and shelter, since the villagers like chucking stones at him (much like the kids in Return of the Blind Dead).

The rest of the story is fairly simple, but Ossorio does a great job of building suspense and crafting an unnerving mood. This film leans heavily into the folk horror this time, rather than really spending a lot of time as either a zombie film or a vampire-of-sorts movie. Every seven years, the undead Templars rise from their tombs (although the villagers claim they come from the sea) and for seven consecutive nights demand a total of seven young maidens for sacrifice. If this demand isn’t met, the Knights will raze the village.

Of course, Dr. Stein and company try to save Lucy (Sandra Mozarowsky), the young woman they’ve befriended (and hired as a maid), so the villagers aren’t happy. The good news is that they don’t do anything that angry villagers might in other films. The bad news is that they instead, just pack up their shit and leave town as fast as they can, because they know the Templars are coming to murder anybody who stays.

The Templars look as good as ever, maybe better, even. The characteristic spatulate, skeletal puppet hands are still the highlight in this dojo. I can also report that nobody gets raped in this one, so for me, Night of the Seagulls automatically jumps to the top of the heap when ranking the films of the Blind Dead franchise.

The film is well-paced, and all the actors turn in good performances, maybe the best in the series. The gore is minimal, as Ossorio leans more on the atmospheric horror this time, although we do get another “cutting the heart out of a lady’s chest” gag.

There are also some very nice touches in the script that also help to elevate this film, particularly the notion expressed by Teddy that the seagulls, who uncharacteristically cry at night, are the souls of all the women sacrificed to the Templars over the centuries. There’s also a funny bit where our heroes steal the Templars’ horses (just like in the first two films), but the horses won’t obey them and take them straight to the Templar’s castle/temple.

While the ending of Night of the Seagulls isn’t a bombastic action-packed finale, I wasn’t as dissatisfied as many other reviewers. The destruction of the Tsathoggua idol turned the Templars to dust and caused gouts of blood to pour from their eyeholes, and that entertained me far more than maybe it should.

For a series of films that I had somehow always avoided seeing, the Blind Dead series is well worth watching if you’re a zombie fan. It’s not the most Romero-inspired undead film (although there are touches here and there), and each entry tries to do something different with the concept of immortal, blood-drinking Knights Templar, so there are fun things to discover in every film.

The violence against women is a little too casual in the first three films, and I’m not talking about the Knights and their heart-stealing, blood-sucking ways (although these ritual killings are where you get the majority of your bare breasted women – you know, for the international market). I was glad to see that nobody is even threatened with rape in Night of the Seagulls.

That’s a win, in my book.

When it comes to watching this one, you’re in luck! Shout! Factory somehow got their mitts on the rights to Night of the Seagulls and released it on Blu-ray in September of 2020. According to reviews, the commentary track by Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn of the Podcast NaschyCast is worth the price of admission, diving into the history of the entire Blind Dead series.

If you don’t want to pony up for the Blu-ray, you may just be out of luck. The Blue Underground DVD is out of print and isn’t streaming. I couldn’t even find it on eBay just now (of course, that could change). Your best bet to see this one is to just grab that Blu-ray and hope that maybe Shout! Factory is wrangling the rights to the rest of the series away from whatever spatulate skeletal puppet hands are clinging to them.

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