Rojo Sangre (2004)

Paul Naschy stas in a self-reflexive horror film about an aging, forgotten actor. Media Blasters/Fangoria R1 USA DVD release.

The Film

Pablo Thevenet (Paul Naschy) is an aging actor, famous in the past, he now finds himself auditioning for an advertisment; but soon realises that status means nothing if most of the people you meet were not born during your peak. Returning to his agent Thevenet is forced to accept the only other job offer going, to play a doorman entertainer at a luxury club, dressing up each night as a famous historical character. The sinister club owner Mr. Reficul offers him a lucrative deal and curiously, a walking-cane containing a concealed sword. Thevenet signs the contract and all hell is let loose - pissed off by the modern trend of silicone packed models becoming award-winning actresses, and the tabloid television culture, Thevenet seeks his bloody revenge - dressed as Gilles de Rais and Jack the Ripper he mercilessly kills a series of celebrity couples, as well as his lazy agent...

It is often painful to watch famous cult actors in their decline, 'slumming it' for the paycheque. After the great boom of his horror films in the 1970s, Paul Naschy had a series of catastrophic mis-fires in the 1980s and disappeared from the scene for several years, returning in the 1990s only to wind up in straight-to-video productions like softcore nonsense Countess Dracula's Orgy of Blood (2004). His self-penned script for Rojo Sangre develops an idea he first explored in Howl of the Devil (1987) (the film that should have been his big come back, but that due to production problems, never even made it into cinemas), casting himself as a aged horror movie actor experiencing a horror story.

Naschy's script sucessfully transitions between a very personal story, social satire and a splendid horror film. The personal elements are perhaps the most effective because Naschy has suffered many of the problems that face his character - struggling to find work, being overlooked, ignored and forgotten - commendably, he does not make this a wallow in self-pity and several other characters in similar situations appear during the film. Naschy's revolt against the celebrity culture will find many supporters, particularly in his disdain of the glut of modern awards shows - an awards statue is even used as a murder weapon in one sequence. As a horror film, a neat blend of Faustian pact and revenge slasher film provides a number of bloody highlights that although in a tribute to some of Naschy's earlier roles, do not become bogged down with self-referencing. Pacing is solid throughout and the finalé is fitting. The only negative in the script comes from a brief dive into the world of snuff movies, possibly an failed attempt to combine a look at reality TV shows with the porn industry - either one individually would have been fitting for satire, but a satirical take on snuff movies doesn't exactly mean very much. The curious detail of Thevenet's mudered daughter is brushed over a couple of times, but could have used more development or being removed from the script.

As if to completely differentiate this film from Naschy's earlier work, the director Christian Molina uses a very post-modern editing technique and although the film largely eschews CGI, with plenty of practical blood and gore effects on display, the very clever scene transitions make good use of subtle CG and although sounding bad on paper, do merge in very well with the modern look of the picture. The bizarre nightclub set-pieces look very impressive and would make Jess Franco jealous. Camera work is effective with some good use of hand-held shots and boom-cams. A light musical score fits the film well. The gory effects look very good, the cheesy effects of Naschy's 1970s films are certainly not in evidence here.

Paul Naschy looks in fine form as Thevenet, giving probably his best ever performance, particularly excelling in his tear-jerking performance as the depressed actor. Miguel Del Arco is very good as the white haired Lucifer and has a very sinister edge, while his assistant, trans-sexual Bibiana Fernández and their acomplice Tic-Tac (Mehn-Wai) suit their parts well. It is perhaps a pity not to see some of Naschy's other co-stars appear in the film, the only familiar face from the era is Jose Ruiz Lifante (Martin in Spanish zombie film Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (1974)).

Undoubtedly the highlight of Naschy's 21st Century output, Rojo Sangre is a stylish modern horror film with a genuinely heartfelt script. It is a pity that some of his co-stars from the era could not cameo in the production, but it is a relief that the film does not become bogged down in self-references. A must see for all Naschy fans and a generally good film. Recommended.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Paul Naschy - the Spanish horror icon who made his name with Werewolf Shadow (1973)
Directed by anyone interesting? Christian Molina - this is the debut film from the Spanish director who went on to helm the erotic drama Diario de una ninfómana (2008) and the dark I Want to Be a Soldier (2010) starring Robert Englund.
Any gore or violence ? A number of very impressive looking gore scenes.
Any sex or nudity? A few sex and softcore nude scenes.
Who is it for? A must-see for all Naschy fans.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 widescreen. Not anamorphically enhanced. Colour.
The disc is strong visually, good colours, no print damage. But non-anamorphic format means that the image bitrate is lower which can be very noticable when zoomed in.
Audio Spain stereo - strong throughout.
Subtitles English optional subtitles throughout the film and burned English subtitles on all special features.
Extras The disc includes:
  • 'Making Of' - showing background and interviews with major players. 14m 15s
  • 'Interview with Director' - more background tricks and techniques used in the film. 11m 01s
  • Original Theatrical Trailer - anamorphic, with optional English subs. 1m 36s
  • Stills gallery - rolling sequence of photos/artwork, no music. 97 slides.
  • Trailers for: Chocking Hazard, Flesh for the Beast, Duck, Ichi the Killer and Hiruko the Goblin.
Region Region 1 (USA, North America) - NTSC
Other regions? R2 Spanish release from Manga Films, is anamorphic widescreen and includes English subtitles.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Print language is Spanish.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - July 2005 and 11th January 2011.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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