10/13/14 – 2014 OCTOBER HORROR MOVIE RECOMMENDATION #13 – Black Sunday (1960).

Black Sunday

Sunday, on a Monday. Okay, so this one is another throwback, but holy hell is it required viewing for any true fan of horror. And trust me, for being released in 1960, and shot entirely in B&W, you’ll be surprised at how gruesome it is for that time period. Black Sunday, AKA Mask of Satan, is one of Mario Bava’s crowning achievements. Mario Bava is a master of atmosphere and it’s all on display here. The gothic sets and visuals are so striking that Tim Burton himself considers Black Sunday one of his largest inspirations. What’s interesting is that as you watch, you’ll totally see a ton of Tim Burton influences all over the place, especially in the look and styling’s of the incredible Barbara Steele herself (look at Winona Rider in Beetlejuice especially). And her eyes… Holy moley, her eyes. As the vengeful witch Princess Asa, Steele’s eyes are practically a co-star. Black Sunday is essentially about a condemned witch put to death in the 1600’s who swears vengeance on the descendants of her condemners. In one of the single coolest opening scenes in horror movie-dom, the witch is tied to a post and a spiked demon mask is hammered onto her face with a large mallet. Seriously, so awesome. Now forward 200 years later when she is awakened through a series of missteps by a curious doctor (he even gruesomely pulls off her spiked mask, the dummy), and she begins her journey to return to life. She summons her lover back from the dead to do most of her dirty work, as well as manipulating the stupid doctor who awakened her into becoming her slave as well. But the dummy deserved it. Anyway, from here you’ve got a lot of 1960’s melodrama mixed with some fantastic atmosphere and mood. Set entirely in 1800’s Russia, it has the gothic feel of many of the Universal horror classics, but with a bit more edge and definitely more B&W grue. As you do with any movie from this era, watch it with a 1960’s mentality, NOT a jaded current eye, and you’ll be impressed with this historical horror gem. If it’s good enough for Tim Burton, it’s good enough for you.

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