• Secta Siniestra (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: September 24th, 2019.
    Director: Ignacio F. Iquino
    Cast: Emma Quer, Carlos Martos, Diana Conca, Concha Valero, Carlos Martos, Óscar Daniel
    Year: 1982
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    Secta Siniestra – Movie Review:

    Ignacio F. Iquino 1982 production Secta Siniestra (or, if you prefer, Bloody Sect), opens with a scene where a retired mercenary named Frederick (Carlos Martos) hops into bed with his mistress, Helen (Emma Quer). Things are going just fine in the bedroom until, unbeknownst to the couple, their maid is attacked by his wife, Elizabeth (Diana Conca), who shows up wearing a garish Halloween mask! After throwing a bad at the maid she makes her way into the bedroom with a two-printed fire poker and stabs poor, horny Frederick right in the eyeballs! We learn that ever since Frederick got wasted and got them into a car accident, she’s been a little unstable. Don’t drink and drive, kids. For real.

    Elizabeth is locked up and Frederick is, well, pretty damn blind. He’s lucky enough that a kindly doctor is able to sew some new eyeballs into his sockets so he doesn’t look like a monster, but the dude can’t see worth a damn. He also can’t impregnate Helen, who is now his new wife, so they take her to a specialist where she’s artificially inseminated. Helen is savvy enough to keep her heels on during the procedure. No one seem to notice that the leader of a devilish cult has snuck into the room and ensured that Helen will be impregnated using the sperm of Satan himself! Meanwhile, Frederick’s obnoxious nephew, Peter (Óscar Daniel), breaks a window and then accompanies his mother on a trip out of town to deal with her pending divorce.

    As Helen’s pregnancy evolves, we learn that this isn’t the first time that this cult has tried their hands at bringing about the Antichrist – but the first two efforts were failures. When they find the abortionist responsible for terminating those efforts, he’s dispatched of, while Helen starts to act weird and grow weird moles on her face. Before you know it, Elizabeth has escaped from prison, the cult has sent a weird lady in a cape to act as Helen’s nursemaid, an unusually foxy telegram delivery girl shows up, uber-brat Peter makes his triumphant return to the story and Frederick is subjected to the goofiest bat attack you’ve ever seen!

    Made when Ignacio F. Iquino (who is credited as Steve McCoy) as reportedly seventy-two-years-old, Secta Siniestra is pretty riotous entertainment. While it’s never particularly scary of even atmospheric, it’s definitely engaging and a pretty great example of just how out there European cinema could get at times. We get abortions, artificial insemination that may or may not be bringing sexual pleasure to the recipient, the aforementioned bats, a fucking amazingly low rent devil baby, and plenty of nudity and splashy red bloodshed to hold our attention. Not enough? Diana Conca is reason enough to see this, her performance is so over the top that you can’t help but love her as she runs around with an unusually small axe, chewing through the scenery in all her cockeyed glory.

    The rest of the performances are also pretty fun. Emma Quer spends a lot of time grabbing her stomach and writing around on the bed groaning a lot. It looks like demonic pregnancies are pretty uncomfortable. Carlos Martos isn’t really ever convincing as a blind guy but he’s fun to watch, while super bratty Óscar Daniel is genuinely hilarious as the token obnoxious kid. The cult members are also pretty great, the ‘satanista jefe’ played by Henry Ragoud has the requisite goatee, so we know he’s seriously evil, and he does a great job of glaring into the camera a lot and looking menacing.

    Oh, and eagle-eyed viewers should keep an eye out for the feet of a guy on the stairs throwing props down on our poor couple and for visible lighter fluid being thrown on an amazing prop in the film’s last few seconds! Animal lovers, however, will definitely want to avert their eyes during a scene involving a ritualistic dagger and an unfortunate frog.

    Secta Siniestra – Blu-ray Review:

    Secta Siniestra arrives on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome in a 1.85.1 widescreen transfer in AVC encoded 1080p high definition taken from a new 2k scan and restoration of the film’s original 35mm negative on a 25GB disc (the feature takes up almost 24GBs of that space). The transfer is a very strong one, boasting excellent levels of detail and very impressive color reproduction. Black levels are also strong and skin tones look nice and natural. Aside from one faint top to bottom scratch that’s only noticeable in one scene and the odd white speck here and there, the image is pretty much pristine, while still retaining the expected amount of natural film grain. There are no problems with any compression nor are there any issues with edge enhancement or noise reduction. This is another very strong presentation from Vinegar Syndrome.

    Audio chores are handled by a 24-bit DTS-HD Mono track in the film’s original Spanish language. There are no problems here, the track sounds good. Dialogue stays clean, clear and easily discernible and there are no problems with hiss or distortion. Depth is about where you’d expect it to be while the score also sounds quite nice here. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary from film historian and author Kat Ellinger, who keeps pretty busy these days, that beings by noting that this was the director’s only horror film and a genuine oddity. As the credits roll, she offers up some information about the pseudonyms used in the picture, noting how the filmmakers were trying to pass the picture off as an American film. She then discusses how Spanish horror has been neglected on home video, how the film belongs to a few different sub-genres, how it’s tough to find anything about the film’s possible theatrical release, the lighting and cinematography featured in the picture, comparisons to Jane Eyre, the exploitative qualities of the picture both obvious (the sex and violence) and less obvious (medical/science based horror like Cronenberg’s output), the unusually passive aspect of Frederick’s character, where other horror pictures likely influenced this one, the gothic elements that creep into the picture and quite a bit more. This track isn’t always specific to the film itself, it sometimes swerves into Spanish cinema and culture in general, but that’s fair enough given how little there is out there and Ellinger makes some interesting observations here.

    Aside from that we get a still gallery, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release, we also get a DVD version of the movie. Vinegar Syndrome has also provided some reversible cover art for this release.

    Secta Siniestra – The Final Word:

    Secta Siniestra is as fast-paced as it is delightfully dumb and exploitative – seriously fun viewing! Vinegar Syndrome has done a great job rescuing this genuine Eurotrash oddity from cinematic obscurity and while it’s light on extras, the disc presents the film in excellent shape. Those looking for genuine scares or serious atmosphere might not get into this one, but those who appreciate the seedier side of Spanish horror cinema should step right up and jump right in.

    Click on the images below for full sized Secta Siniestra Blu-ray screen caps!