Amy Hesketh’s BARBAZUL is an effective horror film of great style and insight that would give Hannibal Lecter the creeps!
Based upon the classic serial killer horror of Bluebeard, BARBAZUL presents a new and chillingly effective original version of the tale. Jac Avila skillfully plays Barbazul/Bluebeard with a charming sophistication that seduces innocent and worldly victims alike.
As the advertising promo for the film says, he loves women, he just can’t stop killing them. And some of those murders in the film are written, staged, and directed by Hesketh in such a way that they crawled under my horror movie radar and jumped me from the inside. I have seen so many scary movies, but the kind that play it easy, using gore and jump-out-at-you scenes, fade as soon as the film is through. Others, like the suspense classics of Hitchcock or the shadowy mood pieces produced by Val Lewton, slip up on you and instead of making you react by looking away, keep you watching, even when it begins to feel like you are intruding on something very private that you would really rather not see. But then it’s too late. You saw. It’s in your mind. And it keeps coming back to you at odd moments the next day, and afterward. It is obvious Hesketh impressed me, again.
Each of her films thus far, Le Marquis de la Croix and Sirwiñakuy, have been a unique and strong example of how entertaining artistic films that break the mold and defy convention can be. Being a writer myself, of course I credit the way Hesketh creates the underlying story with how effective the work becomes. And her character in BARBAZUL is a writer whose demise is every writer’s nightmare! “Come on, just give me another minute to finish this, I’m almost done, just a moment more, don’t interrupt me right now, come back later, let me finish!” It is a diabolical scene for a writer to watch. But at least, all of us who have been interrupted while trying to write do not, hopefully, have happen to us what Hesketh has happen to her character! And then, of course, it gets worse.
All of the actors turn in excellent performances. Jac Avila’s stylish interpretation of Bluebeard was aristocratic and cultured even as the sociopath within him does cold-blooded Evil, reminding me of Vincent Price’s best performances.
Roberto Lopez’s Walter is one of the creepiest butlers on film, sinister without being overt, very subtle and effective, one of those “there’s something wrong here but nothing I can put my finger on so it’s probably just my imagination, but–” kind of things…if there were an anti-Batman, this is the anti-Alfred, or even more, “Klove” in the second Christopher Lee Dracula film Hammer Films made, Dracula Prince of Darkness.
Come to think of it, this could almost have been Bluebeard Prince of Darkness! The ride to get to Barbazul’s plantation (castle) over the twisting, turning road (like the one leading to Castle Dracula) emphasizes how far from any kind of help the women he takes there are. And the countryside through which the road passed reminded me of the beautiful, vast emptiness of the high desert of Northern Arizona where I once lived.
Mila Joya’s innocent and noble character totally sells her growing unease and alarm as she becomes more and more aware that she has been trapped by a monster (like Jonathan Harker in Castle Dracula!–and it just occurred to me that Hesketh’s Dracula, if she ever chooses to do one, might finally nail Stoker’s classic better than anyone ever has…).
Another “victim,” convincingly portrayed by Veronica Paintoux as an aggressive and worldly counterpart to Joya’s character’s helpless innocence, makes you believe she can damn-well take care of herself, which makes it even worse, for her, when she suddenly discovers that, no, not really, she can’t handle Barbazul, either.
Original music by Brad Cantor and La Negra Figueroa added just the right touch to the film, reminding me, somewhat, in the best way of a Goblin score for an Argento classic. Finally, “Superb” does not really do this film justice. “Eros and Thanatos” writ large might be a better description, “Sex and Death,” “Beauty and Horror,” like the face of the great Barbara Steele’s “Muriel” at the end of NIGHTMARE CASTLE, or the visage of the Norse Goddess Hel, half beautiful and seductively alive, half dead and nightmarishly decayed.
In BARBAZUL, you can’t have one without the other, see? As if you’d want to, right? And one extra bonus–if you happen to have seen Richard Burton’s portrayal of Bluebeard in that famous old film, Jac Avila will finally make Burton’s face stop flashing into your mind at the mention of the name, “Bluebeard.” So, in addition to this great new film, thank you, Amy and Jac, for that!