Saturday, 10 March 2012

Ring Of Darkness (1979)

Very rare satanic horror (Italian title: "Un'ombra nell'ombra") directed by Pier Carpi – a recognised author of giallo novels, who shot only two feature movies – shining with beautiful synth-psych soundtrack of Italian composer, Stelvio Cipriani. A strong genre classic, which undoubtedly falls behind such masterpieces as "Possession" (1981), "The Devils" (1971), "Mother Joan Of The Angels" (1960) or "AntiChrist" (1976), but on the other hand doesn't come up with any pretensions of high-end artistic work, efficiently exploring it's own niche instead. What catches an eye at most is a skilful cinematography, fantastic in it's gloominess, that has a decisive grip on the dark atmosphere... blow by blow pushing the action towards a focal point. What sets it up though is hectic, vibrating Cipriani's music of almost psychedelic quality, at ease pulling the viewer into the diabolical ring.

The story is simple, but easily grabs you by the balls. As secret coven of the witches finds it's purpose in satanic ceremonies offering bodies to the Lucifer, all children they give birth to, inherit satan's peculiar, dark traits. That becomes a real problem, when one by one they start to reveal daemonic powers. Especially one girl – Daria, seems to be in very close contact with the evil one. She kills her miserable father using black magic and then starts to terrorize school mates and a teacher, slowly killing them with the help of satan. That eventually brings the attention of her witch-mother, who decides, that her daughter needs to be seriously dealt with and calls for the coven's quick intervention.

The witches prepare a banishing ritual, for which a presence of the priest is necessary, who is to help in cleansing child's soul by stepping in with holy communion... but it's too late as Daria's evil powers made her immune for any magic and The Lord Of Darkness himself gave her an important mission to fulfill. Sturdy with his support Daria torpedoes coven's effort to strip her off dark powers and then wins over her own mother, who draws the magic ring and evokes the powers of light trying in a desperate attempt to purge the child. When all barriers are broken, Daria can finally follow the call of satan and get the job done! Film gains a lot by it's sudden and unexpected ending!

"Ring Of Darkness" is obviously one of these 70's pictures, which rolled on the high wave of commercial success of "The Exorcist" (1973) spinning and blowing themes, which made Friedkin's flick a box office blast. Nonetheless, satanic horror as a form was worked out earlier by Roman Polański in his brilliant "Rosemary's Baby" (1969), which on the other hand owed a lot to the primal one, a real blueprint of "satan on the reel" – "Mother Joan Of The Angels" (1960), directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz. Although this masterpiece of Polish Film School was never meant to pass as a horror – going rather down the line of historical drama, spiked with extraordinary psychology of the characters, pulled off exuberantly by great actors with deep theatrical background – today it's commonly dubbed a genre classic. Despite there was never a chance for "Ring Of Darkness" to reach this level of professional commitment, it undeniably shakes the pulse... even if in a sappy way.

Despite a lead being played by Anne Heywood, a great treat for B-cinema lovers is a small role of Marisa Mell – one of Lucio Fulci's favourite actresses cast in unforgettable "One On The Top Of The Other" (1969), who beforehand acted in Mario Bava's "Danger: Diabolik" (1967). However vague a screenplay of "Ring Of Darkness" might seem, scouting "Suspiria" meets "The Exorcist" potential, the occult/witch undercurent surpasses both by opening wide to frontal nudity and EXPLOITING ceremonial magick with traditional rituals of daemonology and hint of wicca. That's one of the reasons, for which this movie could be addressed to those ones dwelling mostly in occult cinema and to Anton Szandor LaVey followers as well. Moreover, the movie stands next to giallo flicks, which paved the way for modern Italian and American gore, occult and slasher horrors. Satanic themes diggers will definitely enjoy it!

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