The opening to NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS of a woman being brutally sacrificed by the not-yet-undead Knights Templar is effective but not surprising to those already familiar with Ossorio’s films. During the sacrifice ritual while these evil men stand around observing the terrible act, I found myself shouting aloud “don’t you guys have anything better to do than torment, stab, and eat this poor young lady?!”. It truly is a disgusting scene that was still very well done. Afterwards, the poor mangled and severed body is left to the crabs in a chilling sequence that I primarily remember this film for.
The shock and unpleasant feeling from the opening is shifted to a more melancholic vibe when the story transitions to present day while a mood setting synthesizer plays over the introduction of the two main characters, Dr. Henry Stein and his wife Joan Stein, played by Victor Petit and the always welcome Spanish horror regular Maria Kosty. The seaside village they’ve arrived at doesn’t feel like present day, in fact the film feels like an era piece, but Joan’s mall fashion wardrobe as well as the car they arrive in serves as a reminder that we are still in modern day Spain, just in a village that time forgot.
The reason Joan and Henry have decided to live in a place that Joan immediately describes as primitive and horrible is so Henry can work as the local Doctor. Henry sort of plays this off as his duty as a doctor, and as he claims these villagers have a right to be treated. This is very admirable, but unfortunately the town harbors a dark secret that the inhabitants have kept under control using unspeakable means, and they’ll be damned if the new arrivals disrupt it, lest they suffer the destruction of their village.
Though slow at times with less than convincing dubbing and a very old fashioned feel, NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS manages to be interesting. The mysterious sleepy village has an authentic feel of sorrow and pain, and its isolation has resulted in something unnatural and horrible to take place that has remained unnoticed by the rest of the world. This almost feels a bit like something out of a Lovecraft tale, in fact NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS is considered to be the Lovecraftian of the Blind Dead tetralogy, which makes sense if one considers the ghoulish sea god statue as well as the presence of flying seagulls at night being the damned spirits of the sacrificed girls, an idea that is not that far from the whippoorwills in Lovecraft’s THE DUNWICH HORROR.
The frequent use of day-for-night filming is a result of the limitations of the filmmakers, but it ends up working in the movie’s favor by adding a lot of atmospheric value. Those moments when Henry and Joan come outside of their home in the middle of the night to investigate strange noises coming from the beach only to stumble out in what appears to be the middle of the day doesn’t come off as silly in this case but very surreal and enjoyable.
About midway through the film, viewers are treated to a scene that is similar to the sacrificial sequence from the beginning of the movie with one of the young village girls, Tilda Flanagan played by Julia Saly. The sequence is practically redone in its entirety with crawling crabs and all (minus the flesh eating, ironically), but this time the Templar Knights are in their undead form which more than makes up for the repetitive feel of watching it all over again. Saly seems to me an actress who endures a lot for horror fans, such as allowing these crabs to crawl all over her; and who can forget when she took a painful looking hit to the back by being slammed into the side of a giant cauldron by Paul Naschy in a slow motion action scene from THE NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF? Way to take one for the fans Julia, seriously.
Like in RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD, Ossorio makes use of the creepy and questionably harmless village idiot. In this case, it is the pitiful Teddy, played by José Antonio Calvo, whose facial contortion, ridiculous dubbing, and highly abnormal gait cause him to forever be etched into viewer’s minds. However, there ends up not being any comic relief with Teddy because, in a way, he is another tragic victim of the occurrences in the town and is abused, beaten, and at one point nearly killed by the townsmen, giving that additional depth of the humans being more despicable than the film’s monsters at times.
Paul Naschy wrote that Amando De Ossorio once turned him down for a role in a film because he thought that he was too muscular to be an actor. Considering this and from observing the film, it seems that Ossorio was geared towards set rules and archetypes, which is part of what contributes to the old fashioned feel of NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS. The women seem to serve no other purpose but to scream, panic, and get easily scared, while the macho male lead has all of the answers and is able to keep his head together to figure out how to take the zombies down and ultimately destroy them.
Although harmed from that all too familiar NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD scenario towards the end, I think NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS is still the best Blind Dead film overall. TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD had the best ending, RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD had the most action, and THE GHOST GALLEON was better than I was expecting, but the fourth film is solid all-around and ended up being my favorite in the long run.