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Romasanta (2004)

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Plot Summary:
"An uproar is caused when some mutilated cadavers are discovered, giving way to the legend of the "Werewolf of Allariz". A traveling vendor rolls through the forest in his old wagon. A woman from every village on his route faithfully awaits him. He's attractive, intelligent, charming.... But he's also the monster feared by all. His most recent prey, Barbara will soon become the one who hunts him down. The film is based on the true-life story of Manuel Blanco Romasanta, the traveling vendor, who confessed to the murders of thirteen people, using their body fat to make soap. Romasanta was tried in Allaríz in 1852 and avoided capital punishment by proclaiming he was a werewolf. Barbara was the lone survivor of four sisters."

Review by
Ryan McDonald
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Review Date: 30 August 2005 My Rating: out of 5


Set in Spain in the mid 1800s where a nasty creature is believed to be on a killing spree, and we are introduced to Manuel (Julian Sands), one of the major suspects (a travelling salesman and part-time letter writer) know it's gonna be a werewolf, right? But does that mean that Sands is definitely the werewolf? I'm not saying, but the filmmakers definitely want us to think of him as the prime suspect it seems, but what about the pretty Elsa Pataky, whose sister and child were victims of the beast? (whilst they were accompanied by Sands, I might add). John Sharian plays a decrepit man who believes that he is in fact, a lycanthrope- could he be the culprit? Is there, in fact, a werewolf at all? Yeah, like I'm gonna tell 'ya the answer to that question. David Gant (you've definitely seen him before) plays a pathology professor called in to help solve the crimes.

This Paco Plaza (no I've not heard of him, either), Spanish-lensed (and set) horror flick, based on a real-life case, came as a very pleasant surprise. I mean the names Brian Yuzna (Re-Animator) and Julian Sands (Warlock) don't mean as much these days as they used to, and the film was not a big, U.S. financed flick, either. I hadn't even heard of it, until I was sent a copy. And it's a real corker of a yarn.

It actually plays (and looks) more like a 1970s Hammer gothic chiller, with a lovely look to it and an atmospheric feel. Basically, I was in minor movie heaven. The cinematography by Javier G. Salmones is top-notch stuff, and the werewolf transformation scene (done in reverse, for once) would have to rank as one of the best that I've seen, with little evidence of the small budget (in fact, the budget was larger than what Yuzna usually works with these days), and mostly done 'old school', if not entirely devoid of CGI. And that's how I like it to be done, to be honest.

My only gripe, a minor one, lies with the screenplay, despite the actual story being utterly fascinating. It makes it blatantly obvious who the werewolf is very early on, even if there is some mystery as to whether they really are a werewolf or just a nutjob killer. It also would've helped if Gant's character was given a little more screen time.

There isn't a whole lot of gore for fans of that sort of thing, and not a hell of a lot of nudity either (though Pataky's quite the looker, her performances are improving, too), but the acting is pretty good (Sands is perfectly cast and Gant is like a mixture of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee). If you prefer your horror films to come scenic and with a historical bent, then you might be won over by this one, despite a somewhat slow pace. At least it's better than 'Beyond Re-Animator', anyway.

Ambitious horror yarn with a true-story bent, werewolf movie fans (and Julian Sands fans) will get more out of it than most, but it certainly deserves to be more well known. If you're sick of the cookie-cutter post-'Scream' slashers and boring remakes of arty Japanese horror flicks, give this one a try.

Reviewer: Phil Davies Brown @horrorasylum
Location:Scotland, UK
Review Date: 06 September 2004 My Rating: out of 5

Based on the true story of Manuel Blanco Romasanta who was known as 'The Werewolf of Allariz', the film depicts the life of Romasanta as he moves from village to village murdering women.

The film looked beautiful but that is unsurprising considering that it is a European film, but the aesthetics were backed up by great performances from Julian Sands and the gorgeous Elsa Pataky.

The film is slowly paced which allowed Julian Sands to play on his character's mysterious side and he truly was charming. Elsa Pataky was also able to make the damsel in distress into a fearless werewolf hunter whilst remaining believable.

The film used many ideas from other films but successfully made them it's own and even managed to put a simple yet clever and ultimately effective twist on the werewolf legend, and ended up being a solid little Euro-horror effort.

The film's gore effects are superbly handled and effectively realised and kudos to the filmmakers for managing to pull off a solid transformation scene on such a small budget.

Romasanta is not overly gory, is not full of jump scares and is not full of gratuitous nudity, however it includes all of these elements and emerges tastefully as a beautifully realised tale of romance with a taint of terror.

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