Where to begin with the Belgian occult thriller "The Devil's Nightmare" (also known under about a jillion other names, including "The Devil's Longest Night," "Nightmare of Terror" and--inexplicably enough--"Vampire Playgirls")? This is exactly the kind of European trashfilm that delights me even as it shaves off IQ points that I will never, ever regain. A half-witted supernatural chiller, a half-assed morality play, and a bare-assed sexploitation film all rolled into a singularly absurd package, "The Devil's Nightmare" flirts with Satanism, Nazis, the nature of faith and female sexual power while never taking any of those topics in the least bit seriously. It's only shocking insofar as it's startlingly fluffy!
Allow me to explain the opening sequence in order to emphasize my point. It's 1945, and Berlin is having the living shit bombed out of it. A Nazi officer is waiting for his wife to give birth while a fellow military man provides moral support. Upon realizing that the fruit of his fascist loins is of the female persuasion, he grimly STABS A BABY TO DEATH. Pardon my all caps, but this movie opens with A NAZI STABBING A BABY TO DEATH. This should set out to be the most horrifying movie ever in order to justify that content, but... not so much. The effect is gruesomely over-the-top camp.
This movie is understated.
Flash forward to the 1971-present-day. A tour bus full of unlikeable types winds up stranded at a castle in the German countryside, guided to their destination by an incredibly creepy thin man burning unidentified things by the side of the road. If there was ever a type you'd not want to take travel advice from, it would be an incredibly creepy thin man burning unidentified things by the side of the road, and this is only the first of many lessons this movie has to teach us. Included in the tour group is a gluttonous guide, a sexually promiscuous redhead, a greedy rich woman, her cheating husband, a cranky atheist, a pretty blonde, and a priest who looks a little like David Cross when he wears a wig during "Mr. Show" bits.
Not David Cross wearing a wig in a "Mr. Show" bit
Upon the tourists' arrival at the castle, the butler (whose facial disfigurement pegs him as the fellow-officer from the prologue) guides them to their rooms and tells a blood-curdling tale about each space. The owner of the castle shows up and if you guessed he's the baby-stabbing Nazi officer described above, then you are clearly paying attention. Bravo! He regales his guests with a nugget from his family history--namely, that the firstborn female in each generation is cursed to become a succubus (hence the baby-stabbing, but he doesn't really discuss that in polite company, apparently). Meanwhile, a lovely stranger arrives at the house, and then the movie gets down to serious succubusiness with the creative dispatching of the tourists.
Gothickry is doled out in generous servings throughout "The Devil's Nightmare." From the stormy night to the authentically spiky and unwelcoming castle (which comes complete with laboratory and torture chamber) to the heavily symbolic chess match between the priest and the atheist, this movie unrepentantly rolls around nude and cackling in its own cliches. There's plenty of grooviness on hand as well, mainly evident in the parade of sheer, tight, tiny, and strategically chopped-up fashions sported by the female leads.
This movie is so opaque in its moralizing that I don't think it's really worthy of the IMDb "Trivia" label noting that seven is the number of Deadly Sins as well as the number of uninvited houseguests. That's right, our succubus doesn't especially delight in seducing men (I can sense the frowny-faces on the Skinemax fans out there), but she does derive a great amount of succu-glee from offing people in a state of mortal sin.
Fortunately, several of the tourists make up for the non-traditional succu-methods employed by the principal demon. There's a lesbian interlude and an illicit tryst to tide one over between scenes featuring the evil seductress.
The succubus is played by Erika Blanc, who may be a familiar name due to her turns in the also-wonderful "The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave" and Mario Bava's "Kill, Baby Kill." She is absolutely deserving of the "scream queen" label here--her transformation from feline Lisa to her demonic alter ego is accomplished almost entirely through expressionistic facial contortions that would make Conrad Veidt proud.
"The Devil's Nightmare" scores additional points for featuring a great eerie-psychedelic soundtrack. The central theme is a pleasantly creepy complement to the devilish happenings on-screen, with its minor-key fuzzy guitar, booming organ chords and female moaning.
"My travel advice is fucking *awful*."
Unapologetically silly, completely over-the-top and sometimes even a little sexy, "The Devil's Nightmare" has plenty to please fans of 70s occult nonsense. It makes me want to put on a Vampirella bathing suit and make ridiculous faces in the mirror... or maybe that thought was in my brain prior to watching this movie. This is a wonderful second-tier example of the kind of flashy Satanic nonsense that proliferated during the early 70s, meant to be enjoyed as a sort of taboo-flirting cinematic candy bar.