Directed by Riccardo Freda
Distributed by Dark Sky Films
Ducking out of a summer storm, four hippies take refuge in the seemingly abandoned Villa Alexander, unaware that their hosts are staging a satanic sacrifice. When the ceremony ends in a blood-soaked orgy of violence, the hippies flee the villa, only to find themselves accused of committing a Manson-style massacre.
Tragic Ceremony is an odd movie. The gore is excellent and the nudity is pleasing, but the story is so fragmented and rushed that even the most devoted Italian horror fan may come out of the experience unsatisfied. During this review we’ll take a look to see what kept this lost film from being a triumph.
There are minor problems involving the dubbing and such, but you’ll find those issues in many classic Italian horror films, so we’ll just skip those. The real problem here is with the story, or better yet, the storytelling. Out of the four hippies, one is the wealthy son of an industrialist with a troubled relationship regarding his mother. The audience is treated to the strained relationship via flashbacks that hint at this being an important part of the story. Even a cursed pearl necklace enters the picture here. However, NONE of this matters when Tragic Ceremony wraps.
Each time we think these two plot points will play into story they are quickly brushed aside. It is almost like there are huge sections of the film that were chopped out. At a run time of 87 minutes it is a likely guess that there must have been more. Too bad the one special feature on this disc didn’t expand on this theory. Even the little info we get about the evil necklace is confusing and under-explained during the film’s wacky climax.
Oh what a climax it was! The Satanists of Villa Alexander want to sacrifice the one female hippy during a black mass. Good thing the other three free-loaders get there just in time to stop the ritual. This causes all of the worshipers to go bat shit insane. I am not kidding either. Instead of trying to recapture their prey, the Satanists start killing each other! Why? No clue! But why is the female hippy acting so strange?!
The quartet is now on the run from the law since forensic evidence clearly points to them massacring everyone in Villa Alexander. They hide out in the home of the rich boy’s daddy until things cool down. One by one the men are eliminated in odd and sometimes hilarious ways, but who is the killer? Holy crap, it’s the female hippy! But why? Wait … what’s this? Now she’s suddenly dead with a knife through here stomach at a hospital? What the fuck is going on here?!
Ah, that little bit of information is explained right before the credits roll. All the events of the film are explained in a very long bit of expostition that no one but the main characters and Satanists should have known. For reasons unknown, a doctor at above mentioned hospital knows everything and is kind enough to explain the ins-and-outs of body switching via Satan worship. Good lord! If you think the review is confusing, just watch the movie. What could have been a pretty simple tale just jumped around way too much with too many ideas.
What did work for this film was one FX shot. Yup, that’s the only thing positive … one really well made head that gets cut in half. Oh, and one of the hippies does turn all smurf blue and falls out of a closet. How he died is totally unknown, but his death left his body with the amazing ability to still blink and breath. Good thing Dark Sky Films always puts in good special features.
Anyone who’s a fan of Camille Keaton’s body or work in the horror genre will enjoy Camille’s European Adventures. This, aside from the film’s trailer, is the only special feature on the disc. All is not lost for those of us who grew up watching Camille run around naked or kill for revenge in her films. The still quite beautiful actress fills the audience in on her career in Italy and the states. There’s a bit to be learned here about Camille; did you know she was in a bad car accident was always afraid she wouldn’t get work in the industry because of her face? I never even noticed her facial scars until she pointed them out!
Tragic Ceremony has a few good moments, but not enough to make it a classic. But, if you’re like many of us who only had this film on an old VHS or bootleg, then make the jump to the official DVD to experience damn good video quality and the brilliant colors Italian horror films are known for.
3 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5