A Movie A Day: Quint on TRAGIC CEREMONY (1972) Prince of Darkness, hallowed be thy name, we elect you to be our God.
Published at: Sept. 7, 2008, 11:05 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Today we jump away from Bava to another Italian genre movie via actor Luigi Pistilli who was the murderous husband who lives until the last scene in yesterday’s TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE and is a Satanic cult leader in today’s movie, TRAGIC CEREMONY.
Let me get this out of the way up front. This isn’t a particularly good movie. It’s cheap, it’s weird, it’s wildly uneven and it hits just as many wrong notes as it does right ones.
But it’s not something I’d necessarily tell you to avoid. It’s going to take a certain kind of taste in film to dig on a movie like this, though. It’s not a classic, it’s not something that should be revered on any level, but it gets some pretty mad points from me for going so fucking crazy.
Basically you have a group of Italian hippies riding around the countryside in a yellow dunebuggy (by the way, TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE had teenagers riding around the country in a yellow dunebuggy, too… wonder if it was the same one or if that was just the thing to do as an Italian teenager in the early ‘70s). Well, maybe not so much hippies, but close.
The alpha male of the group is a long blonde haired rich kid who seems to be rebelling against an unfaithful mother by taking her money and squandering it on his friends, who pretty much are long hair-ed, bearded sandal-wearing hippies playing guitar.
This dude, who looks surprisingly like James Franco, bought his mother a pearl necklace that apparently had a curse on it. Somehow Satan was believed to have possessed this necklace. I’m unclear if he bought this gift for her because he was hoping the curse was real and she would die or if he just wanted to psych her out.
Either way, she rejects the necklace and he ends up giving it to Jane, the girl of the group, played by Camille Keaton.
At this point, I’m not exactly sure what the fuck happened. I know their little yellow dunebuggy runs out of gas and the creepy gas station attendant gives them just enough to sputter out at the home of an older rich couple.
Of course, these people are the heads of a Satanic cult and put the kids up in their servant’s quarters until after their ritual is complete.
Somehow Jane is drawn to them, following their chanting (the necklace?) and is put under some trance. She’s about to be sacrified before the dudes find them, stop the ceremony and all hell breaks loose.
This is 40 minutes into the movie.
And this scene is primarily why I’d give TRAGIC CEREMONY a recommend for people who are into drive-in exploitation Italian horror. The Satanists are all really, really old people, chanting along and when the lady of the house is killed during a struggle for the sacrificial dagger, they all just seem to go fucking apeshit.
They don’t attack the kids, they start killing each other. They grab guns off the wall, shooting holes in each others’ guts, they grab swords and hack each other to pieces, etc. as the kids make their escape.
The rest of the movie is about Jane being possessed by the spirit of the deceased lady of the house… kinda.
It’s not really clear that’s what’s going on, but at the very, very end of the movie a doctor pops up and somehow knows every fucking thing that happened over the entire runtime of the movie and spends 2 minutes explaining to the audience how the evil spirit did indeed possess Jane’s body and where it is going from here.
Oh, yeah… and apparently the creepy gas station attendant was Satan.
It really is bizarre. Sometimes in a dull, dragging way, but for the most part it keeps your attention because you honestly can’t tell where the movie is going and you have to keep up with it so you can find out how nuts the filmmakers are.
Final Thoughts: A bizarre sidetrack of a flick. If you can see it cheap and dig on weird cult cinema, then absolutely go for it. If you like your horror a little more straightforward and less rough around the edges, then maybe not. It’s a decent flick, but probably not one that anyone should get excited about. There is some good gore, including a head slicing that the filmmakers liked so much they show it at least 10 times in the movie. Here’s what it looks like: