Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Twins of Evil"

“Twins of Evil” came late in the Hammer Horror classic run, about the time when their brand of scares had gotten more than a bit rusty and they were desperately trying to hang on to an audience through dubious means. That translated into more blood and breasts, but even considering these movies are 40 years old these films can seem quaint and tame in the “adult content” department. Most of these late Hammers are devoid of any quality or thought, but “Twins” is surprisingly deep in its content.

For a movie built around the obvious gimmick of hiring a twin pair of Playboy bunnies, it has little titillation. Especially considering that this is the third of the “Karnstein Trilogy” that Hammer created loosely based on the famous vampire novella “Carmilla.” The more potentially “offensive” content is the storyline that pits the evil of vampirism against the just-as-evil religious zealotry.

Faced with the typical deaths running rampant through the community, this one doesn’t just stop at garlic and crucifixes. A band of elders and “religious leaders” in the town have taken to going out at night and burning to death any women they find about at that hour, as they are obviously up to no good. Never mind that their efforts do not stem the tide of “suspicious” deaths (and kill more people in the long run); they have to keep the women of the community in line.

When the leader of this band has his recently orphaned nieces show up, the stage is set for dramatic tension. It doesn’t hurt that one of the twins is an aim-to-please good girl and the other is a hell raiser. Seeing the hypocrisy of the town elders, she rebels and gets herself turned into a vampire. The irony is that this leader is not presented as a predictably evil religious figure. Only an actor of Peter Cushing’s caliber could pull off this role, where a man does terrible, terrible things in the name of good and genuinely comes across as well meaning though misguided.

The other interesting character of this piece is the local school teacher. Claiming to be a nonbeliever in the face of the sort of religion that prevails in his town, he is actually quick to accept supernatural explanations for what is happening in the village. One would have to deny evidence otherwise. He simply prefers for belief to be grounded in reality and not religious leaders or tradition.

The results are all rather predictable. The movie is one of the lesser Hammers after all. But the set up with no real heroes and the exploration of the religious hypocrisy are pretty stunning and well thought out. Keeping in mind that this is a silly, melodramatic, vampire story of course.

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