Capsule Review Double Shot: ‘A Monstrous Corpse’ (1980) and ‘Curse of the Blind Dead’ (2020)

Let’s call the theme for this double shot review “Foreign Remakes of Foreign Films.”* Curse of the Blind Dead is a remake/re-imagining of Armando de Ossorio’s Blind Dead series. The original films were all Spanish productions, while Curse appears to be an Italian film. A Monstrous Corpse is a Korean film that lifts the plot and characters almost wholesale from Jorge Grau’s Spanish/Italian co-production of The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (AKA Let Sleeping Corpses Lie).

* I know this is dependent on where you live. Those readers in Spain can claim both originals, for instance.

I’ve avoided looking too deeply into reactions to the two films, though the trailer for Curse of the Blind Dead in particular didn’t inspire much confidence in me.

The Mediums
A Monstrous Corpse is available on YouTube via the Korean Film Archive channel. The release is in HD and sometimes looks it, but it is very dim in some spots, faded in others, and has quite a bit of damage/dirt/noise. Koreanfilm.org seems to think the film never received a DVD or Blu-ray release but was available in some markets on VHS. Note: I watched this with the automatic Closed Captioning on, so the translation was probably more off than usual.

Curse of the Blind Dead is available on streaming for subs on Amazon Prime and is free (with ads) on Tubi and Vudu. It can also be rented or purchased via the usual online vendors. For physical releases, there’s a made-on-demand DVD from Uncork’d and a Region B Blu-ray from Germany.

The Movies

A Monstrous Corpse aka Goeshi

A Monstrous Corpse has languished in my “to be watched” list for a few months, ever since the Korean Film Archive posted it on their YouTube channel. I can’t remember where I first read about it, but the article mentioned that it was essentially a ripoff of The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, one of my favorite early 70’s zombie films (and former ‘grail’ film of mine). I’d never heard of anyone even contemplating remaking the film (though I think it could be done well), and the idea of  Korean horror flick from the early 80’s sounded interesting.

I decided to watch it this week thinking that I hadn’t even checked it out, but the red bar tells no lies – I’d apparently watched a good ten minutes of the film and couldn’t remember a damn thing about it! That, honestly, may give you an indication of my reaction to the film as a whole – I’m not sure I’m going to remember much about it six months from now.

Su Ji arrives in Korea after spending several years in the US. She’s going to visit her sister in Suri village and on the way picks up Kang Myung, an environmentalist from Taiwan on his way to a conference in the same village. On the way they come across an experimental station involved in using ultrasonic waves to destroy harmful insect populations.

When I’d heard that A Monstrous Corpse was based on The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue I really didn’t expect how closely the film would follow the basic points of the original. While characters and events are tweaked slightly to accommodate the change in nationality, viewers familiar with Jorge Grau’s film won’t often be surprised – except perhaps at how bloodless the violence is. Su Ji is attacked by the town drunk, who supposedly died a few days before. When she and Kang arrive at her sister’s house it’s just in time to find her brother and law dead, and for her sister, herself and Kang all to get hauled in on suspicion of murder!

Of course it’s the experimental machine that’s to blame. The ultrasonic waves don’t just destroy insects, they agitate the nervous systems of the recently deceased (and, even more disturblingly, destroy the nervous systems of newborns).  Kang and Su Ji can’t get the skeptical police inspector to believe them, and soon they’re on the run, blamed for corpse desecration and the murder of a detective.

The film’s adherence to the original’s points does it no favors, as it compares unfavorably in most points of comparison – it’s blandly shot, the gore is non-existent, the acting serviceable at best and the pacing… well, stately would be an understatement. Be ready to watch someone wander around a house for roughly ten minutes or be menaced by EXTREMELY SLOW zombies for a similar amount of time.

There ARE things that I liked about the film. Kang is a much more likeable protagonist than the Ray Lovelock’s George in the original and his occupation as an environmentalist means his dislike of the experiment has even more weight – insects are part of the natural cycle of life, after all. The Inspector is also less of an asshole than Arthur Kennedy’s version of the same character – he even becomes convinced of the reality of the dead coming back to life once faced with corpses moving around at the local hospital. There’s also a bit of tension introduced by the machine being experimented on at greater and greater distances – with Su Ji heading home with her sister because they’re outside the radius of the machine’s influence. It’s only when the dead brother-in-law shows up at the door that they realized the machine is now working at 3 km distance instead of 1!

The Bottom Line
A Monstrous Corpse doesn’t do much new with the plot of The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue and indeed waters the whole experience down, despite some likeable characters and a few unique touches. If you’re interested in an oddball Korean horror film from the 1980s – this was apparently the first Korean zombie flick – than it might be worth it for the experience. Otherwise, skip this and watch the original.


Curse of the Blind Dead

I’ve watched all of Armando Ossorio’s Blind Dead films – Tombs of the Blind Dead, Return of the Blind Dead, The Ghost Galleon and Night of the Seagulls. While I can’t say any of them are truly good films, they each have a certain atmosphere of dread that’s effective and the Blind Dead themselves – resurrected members of the (fictionalized) Knights Templar – elevate everything when they’re on the screen. While it can be trying to get through the constant low-level misogyny and ludicrous behavior, the desiccated knights really are worth the price of admission, riding in on their black steeds or (in one film) boarding a train with their swords raised to take public transportation to the apocalypse. Yeah, the effects are quite stiff and the fact that they’re blind makes them – theoretically – easy to escape from. Just their presence seems to mean people will be loud and stupid, though.

The cursed Templars have shown up in other works occasionally – Wikipedia lists half a dozen appearances, most unofficial. With their distinctive look and origin I’ve sometimes wondered why no one has attempted to resurrect (sorry) the franchise. I missed the announcements about Rafaelle Picchio’s re-imaging of the original series back in 2018, and was surprised to see it show up on Amazon Prime. After viewing the trailer I was honestly not expecting much, but the opportunity to see the cursed Knights on the screen again was too strong.

The Templars as presented in the original Blind Dead films were always a twisted, evil sect, given to human sacrifice and other dark acts. In Curse we see that they’re also an apocalyptic cult, hoping to bring about the return of Satan on earth by the sacrifice of a newborn child. They’re interrupted by a mob of local villagers, carrying pitchforks and torches naturally. The Knights are tied to stakes and ritually blinded before being burned alive. This opening sequence is handled fairly well (despite some dodgey CGI fire) and actually calls back to the opening scenes of Return of the Blind Dead.

From there we watch a nuclear apocalypse occur via voice over and stock footage during the opening credits. The original Knights were always threatening an apocalypse – despite their zombie-like appearance they were more like vampires, thirsting for blood and causing their victims to rise as well – but the world they existed in was recognizably the modern world (for the 1970’s). Curse takes place AFTER an apocalypse – one of our own making rather than one of supernatural destruction at the hand of satanic Knights.

It’s an intriguing idea, unfortunately it seems to have been one made primarily for budgetary reasons. It’s the end of the world, after all, so there’s no need for a lot of extras or scenes set in a modern city. Instead, we get scenes straight out of an early episode of The Walking Dead (with lower production values). Michael (Aaron Stielstra) and his pregnant daughter Lily (Alice Zanini) are introduced walking through undistinguished forests looking for some mythical Paradise they heard about on the radio. They’re attacked by scavengers and only saved by the timely arrival of a group that has managed to weather the end of civilization in a nearby fortress. Or nearby abandoned factory. Maybe a factory built on an old fortress?

Unimportant, sorry. Except, you know, that it’s the same place where the Templars were burned to death all those centuries ago.

This new group takes Michael and Lily in, but of course there are ulterior motives. This group is particularly religious, not too picky about where they get their meat, and hiding a secret in the basement. That, you see, is where they sacrifice children every once in a while to keep the undead Knights Templar from chowing down on their bowels. There’s a mother already about to give birth, but it’s always good to have backup. (Oh, great, I see they ported over the misogyny intact.)

When the Knights finally do show up – after roughly 40 minutes of “humans suck” post-apocalyptic cliches – they’re ALMOST as good as the original. Finally, you think, finally this will get good. And it kinda does for a few minutes as the Knights reject the sacrifice (the child is stillborn) and draw swords. Picchio doesn’t scrimp on the gore and we get severed thumbs, tons of intestines and (distressingly) a baby torn in half. It’s inconsistent, however, with some detail and care taken with some scenes and in others you’ll swear you can see the edge of the bucket as someone tosses blood into a scene.

The Templars themselves are… just as stiff and unrealistic as their 1970’s brethren. At first the increased detail seems like an upgrade, but these Knights have little of the presence and eeriness that made the original films work. They’re like expensive Halloween decorations, with about as much flexibility. There is a little made of their blindness – two characters are able to hide from them momentarily by being still and quiet – but it’s not relied on much and they’re given a low-rent version of the blind-sense of the creatures from Pitch Black, as they ‘see’ in a blurry black and white.

The initial flurry of bloody violence is over far too quickly, meaning there’s a lot more screaming and running and a lot less undead violence. The few survivors need to escape, especially Lily as the Knights are now focused on HER unborn child, and even cult members will see the wisdom in getting the hell out of Dodge. There are fights, and escapes, and twists, but it all adds up to WTF or maybe “who cares?”

Don’t get attached to anybody – not that anyone is given enough time to develop into a character you would get attached to.

The Bottom Line
If you’re waiting for a decent re-boot of the Blind Dead franchise, I’m afraid you have to keep waiting. Curse of the Blind Dead doesn’t contain much of the mood or appeal of the original series and is too cheap and derivative of much better post-apocalyptic films/TV shows to appeal to horror fans in general. While there is the occasional decent shot or gore effect the overall production is sub-par and leaves you feeling like maybe rewatching an original Blind Dead film might have been a better use of your time.


The Bottom Bottom Line
Unfortunately, neither film was really an enjoyable experience, and brought little to the table as far as new or intriguing takes on the films they’re remaking.

Author: Bob Cram

Would like to be mysterious but is instead, at best, slightly ambiguous.