I thought I was getting witches, but I got vampires instead. That’s not a complaint, but the teaser blurb for Black Sunday (AKA The Mask of Satan) made it sound like a witch revenge movie. However, we’re more than three lines into the narrator’s introduction before the “V word” gets dropped and then its off the races.
Black Sunday tells the tale of two demoniac lovers condemned to death for black magic, Satanic pacts, and vampirism, executed via having a gruesome mask lined with spikes hammered onto their faces. Circumstances prevent the bodies from being properly destroyed and vengeance from beyond the grave is vowed. Three hundred years later, a pair of traveling doctors/professors/scientists take a pit stop at the cemetery containing the “dead” witch vampire, and mistakes are made. Next thing you know, the two vampires are back in action and taking necessary steps to end the noble line that brought about their demise.
The film marks Mario Bava’s credited debut as a feature director and it’s a solid one. Bava would of course go on to direct a slew of Italian horror flicks of varying quailty, including Black Sabbath and Planet of the Vampires, but also MST3k favorites Danger:Diabolik and Hercules in the Haunted World. Black Sunday is a moody film, shot in rich black and white and filled with gothic tropes bound to satisfy anyone looking for a decent classical vampire tale. The film’s cemetery set was the direct inspiration of the one in The Omen, so horror fans will enjoy the familiar depiction of evil’s resting place. The execution masks are a little goofy (they have a bit of a Sleestak vibe going on), but the method of death is gruesome and worth lifting for a horror RPG. I give Black Sunday two-and-a-half skulls out of four.