BlackCandlesAnother fun dollop of trashy horror from Spain’s Jose Ramon Larraz, of WHIRLPOOL and VAMPYRES fame. BLACK CANDLES isn’t in the same league as those others (doesn’t even come close, in fact), but does satisfy in the sleaze department. In other words, there are worse ways to waste 84 minutes.

This film, which is also known as LOS RITOS SEXUALES DEL DIABLO and HOT FANTASIES, has a copyright date of 1982, but plays much like the trashy British-made seventies-era sexploiters—which include DEVIATION and THE HOUSE THAT VANISHED—with which Mr. Larraz made his name. Interesting, then, that Larraz reportedly disowned the present film after it was completed, utilizing his standard pseudonym “Joseph Braunstein.”

Carol and Robert, a young couple, travel to England in the wake of Carol’s brother’s shocking death. The latter was part of a satanic coven, who killed him with a voodoo doll in an apparent effort at luring Carol into the coven’s clutches.

Carol and Robert stay with Carol’s sister-in-law, who lives in a secluded mansion in the English countryside. The place contains several weird accoutrements, including black candles and satanic etchings. Clearly not all is right with Carol’s sister-in-law, as is proven when she masturbates while spying on Carol and Robert screwing in the guest bedroom. There’s more sex to come, with Carol dreaming of being ravished by her deceased brother in the mansion’s court yard while her sister-in-law watches—and eventually joins in.

It seems Carol is being inducted into the satanic cult that took the life of her brother, and before long she’s force-fed a vile herbal tea and made to take part in perverse sexcapades—one of them with a lamb! One of the sect’s more kind-hearted adherents tries to rescue Carol from her tormentors but is caught in the act, and gets a sword rammed up his ass as punishment.

Robert, meanwhile, is himself being inducted into the cult. He’s seduced by Carol’s sister-in-law and made part of a weird sex ritual in the mansion’s basement, with lots of naked people standing around watching. This turns Robert into an abusive, anal sex loving freak who readies Carol for a final blasphemous initiation.

BLACK CANDLES has many Jose Ramon Larraz trademarks—strikingly gritty photography, an extremely frank approach to sex and violence—but isn’t one of his better works. It’s a none-too-disguised rip off of ROSEMARY’S BABY spiced with elements (the remote mansion setting, etc) borrowed from Larraz’s most famous film VAMPYRES.

Its raison d’etre, of course, are the copious soft-core sex scenes, which are noteworthy for their sheer variety: rape, voyeurism, masturbation, sodomy, lesbianism and plain old heterosexual coitus all come into play. I guess it’s inevitable that the narrative is a confusing jumble and the acting uniformly shitty (with one supporting performer constantly glancing offscreen, presumably at cue cards), with crappy English dubbing adding to the awfulness. Such things certainly don’t make for a good movie, but BLACK CANDLES is an attention-getter without question.

Vital Statistics

BCI Eclipse

Direction: “Joseph Braunstein” (Jose Ramon Larraz)
Screenplay: Jose Ramon Larraz
Cinematography: Juan Marine
Editing: Harold Wallmann
Cast: Jose Luis Barcelo, Christopher Bright, Julia Caballero, Carmen Carrion, Anastasio de la Fuente, Jeffrey Healey, Vanessa Hidalgo, Lucille Jameson, Paul Kendall, Helga Line, Alfred Lucc