Director – Leon Klimovsky
Cast – Nadiuska, Alberto de Mendoza, Tony Kendall, Paul Naschy, Maria Perschy, Teresa Gimpera, Emiliano Redondo, Julia Saly, Tomás Picó, Diana Polakov, Antonio Mayans, Leona Devine, Ricardo Palacios
Release Year – 1980
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I love finding rare old horror films, and this is one that I came across one day and decided to give it a go thanks to its Night of the Living Dead-ish plot. Spain has not held a stronghold on the horror realm as other non-US countries like Italy and now France have, but Spain remains a legitimate country when it comes to horror films, and The People Who Own The Dark contains many positive elements that prove that true.
In this film we follow a group of rich businessmen and military higher-ups who hold a party at a local castle. While enjoying their festivities a nuclear war breaks out on Earth, which has an unordinary effect on the local townsfolk outside of the castle. The townsfolk have all been blinded by the radiation, and have been mentally impaired with the belief that all those who are not infected should be blinded, and then killed. When the townsfolk learn that some “others” are holed up inside the town’s castle, they lead a full onslaught against the surviving businessmen and military officials in a war even the nuclear age never saw coming.
For a film I saw via VHS because this lacks an official DVD release, I was left more impressed than I expected to be. Rationality would tell me that if a film lacks a DVD release then there is probably a reason why, and no not a legal mumbo jumbo reason, but a this-film-isn’t-worth-it reason. Of course, there are many quality films out there that unfortunately lack a DVD release, and this is one of them. Originally released in 1976(a longer version titled Ultimo Deseo, only released in Spain), this flick plays on the horrors of the nuclear age, and gives us a nice look at the social breakdown that would ensue, along with some other elements relevant to post-nuclear detonation. The rationale of those infected by the war was truly horrific, and watching them vehemently mob those who are not suffering the effects of the radiation was what really left me impressed with this film. These scenes were perfectly executed and really had me thinking I was watching mankind’s end-result at the hands of our own ingenuity. Had the rest of the film been this awesome I would have given this a higher rating, but these mob and social breakdown scenes are about as good as this film gets, and do enough to give this a borderline-positive rating.
Director Leon Klimovsky really struck gold with the mob scenes I just mentioned, and his direction for the rest of the film remains positive and only really suffers from some pacing issues that may be more story-related than direction-related. Of course, excellent direction can keep pacing on the positive side, but from a guy I had never even heard of before this film I cannot hold him to such high expectations. Story-wise I found this film fun to watch because I am a huge fan of nowhere-to-run scenarios, and being cooped up in an old castle while the world outside the castle walls is looking to tear you to shreds does the job for me. The fact that this film takes place in a castle instead of some random house adds even more fun to this film, and the ensuing events outside lead to some social breakdown at the hands of the surviving protagonists as well. While not a devout rip off, you can see some influences from Romero’s Night of the Living Dead in that nuclear fallout is blamed for turning the antagonists into bloodthirsty fiends, and that our main protagonists are forced to hole up in a residence they themselves do not even live in.
Overall, this is an interesting watch that although flawed does come with some very positive elements and gets the job done in providing true chaos in awesome fashion. If you can find this film then I suggest you give this one a watch, especially if you are a fan of “infected” horror films.