La novia ensangrentada AKA The Blood Spattered Bride (1972)

director: Vicente Aranda
release-year: 1972
genres: horror, sexploitation
countries: Spain
languages: Spanish
fests: Sexploitation Horror Fest (2022)

Spanish sexploitation horror, more on the horror than on the sexploitation. Despite less nudity than similar euro films of the era, you can rest assured that all of it is entirely gratuitous and serves zero relevance to the plot. And, on that note, you can also be pleasantly surprised to learn that there is, in fact, a plot.

A bride and groom check in to a hotel after their wedding. The bride makes eye contact with a mysterious lady in a car, goes up to her room, and is immediately strangled and raped by some guy who wears an entirely see-through stocking on his face, defeating the purpose of wearing a mask at all.

They immediately leave the hotel, I think, and end up at the man's ancestral mansion. But was the rape real, or is the bride just hallucinating inexplicably? It's not so clear... our first mystery (which is literally never mentioned again). Relatedly, I suppose, the bride is a bit resistant when the groom tries to consummate the marriage, but gives in pretty darn quickly. The camera pans down to her pubic hair, and then cuts to a scene of a gardener wildly trimming some bushes in the garden.

Room service includes two hotpots and a flagon of wine, which looks just marvelous. There is also an extremely racist clock, and a 14-year-old girl working as some sort of servant in the house, to whom they feed giant soup bowls of coffee.

Some sort of discord and mistrust starts building up between the bride and groom, I guess, though it's really unclear why to both me and the groom. When his wife starts going crazy, he seems to think the best course of action is to grab her breasts, and she doesn't seem to disagree. Maybe there is a cultural disconnect here, but I don't understand anyone's motivation or behavior.

The actors aren't particularly bad at delivery, but the script seems to be written by somebody who has never experienced human conversations before. This is simply not how humans speak, or think, or react. At least the story is told linearly and the scenes actually fit together, something that is certainly not guaranteed in sexploitation horror. The filmmakers have the basics of visual storytelling down, with some lively camera movements that keep the story flowing and make nice use of the mansion's large scale.

They give a bizarre introduction to the ghost story: 200 years ago, in this very same house, a husband tried to force his new bride to perform "indecent acts" and she stabbed him to death and... was buried alive in a catatonic state? It's somewhat unclear, the husband is not a great communicator. The bride has a vision of the ghost, who gives her a dagger and a vampire bite (!?) in a strobe-flashing scene of epileptic proportions. Shortly thereafter, there are visions of some quite aggressive stabbing and a lot of blood spatter on our bride.

Strange feminine behavior is always treated the same way in these films: the town doctor comes in, proclaims delirious hysteria to be completely typical, injects the lady with some mystery drugs, and prescribes some walks in nature. Surprisingly, it doesn't work.

Suddenly, it jumps into crazy surrealism when the groom finds a naked woman completely buried in sand on the beach with snorkel gear to breath while underground. He dusts the sand off of her face mask and breasts, and then takes her home. She is, of course, not just any old random sand lady, but the bloody ghost bride from the past. Nobody seems to notice, or find sand ladies odd in any way, so they invite her to dinner. She explains that she was simply diving alone on an island and woke up buried in sand, and also doesn't remember who she is or where she's from. Still, nobody finds this particularly unsettling. It can probably be fixed by a nice walk in nature.

The bride's fully-anticipated descent into madness happens quickly, without much explanation or fanfare, and is accepted pretty damn nonchalantly by the husband she tries to kill. There might be a horror theme, but these characters don't seem capable of being horrified, nor even mildly surprised. But he does very matter-of-factly solve the not-so-mystery and explain in detail that the sand lady is, in fact, the 200-year-old murder bride.

Three-fourths of the way into the film, and wouldn't you know it: vampires! Just simple supernatural ghost murderers wasn't a good enough explanation, I suppose. There is an unexpectedly great scene of the 14-year-old learning about blood in school, connecting back to both the vampirism and a completely unexplained scene from earlier in the film. While not enough to justify the fragmented storytelling, it's at least nice that they tried to pull off some non-linear elements. In the very next scene, this whole subplot proves entirely unnecessary. But they tried, and that's nice.

The post-vampire plot really chugs along uninterestingly, despite greatly escalating the violence. It's vamps with knives versus men with guns, and nobody wins, especially not the viewer. There's a surprise twist ending, I guess, in which it is very strongly implied that the groom cut off the vampires' breasts, and the final scene is just a 2-second zoom-in on a newspaper headline.