The Merits of Sin: Blacker Than the Night aka Darker Than Night (1975) (Mexico)

What am I watching?

I’m sorry. What was that?

Oh. Thank you

A lot can happen when four sexy young women move into a giant estate following the passing of an The elderly aunt of one among them. A frisky fella may have visions of pillow fights and lesbian affairs, a keen observer of human drama may suffer along with the quartet as secrets come to light and friendships are torn apart and, hell, if you just like having a good time the ladies could turn the mansion into a boarding house for wacky college boys rejected by the alpha male fraternities on the nearby campus and with the help of the supportive hotties are given the confidence and support they need to beat those dastardly douchbags at the climatic football game for all the marbles. There’s a few hundred other options but there’s only one direction my brain goes…and it never ends with triumphant nerds gaining ownership of a frat house. It usually ends in tragedy and the danger is always of the mortal variety. This time around our heroines incur the wrath of a dead relative thanks to improper pet care. Inheritance can really fuck ya when it’s all said and done.

Oh shut up Pedro

The living situation for three young women gets a bit more cramped when the cousin of one moves in following a messy breakup. Ofelia returns from some film-shoot to find the young girl sleeping soundly in her bed. She learns from her roomie Aurora about the family relation and that Marta’s modeling career will help her pay for things around the place. Pilar (who is living off the money of her ex-husband) agrees with everyone else that the extra income will be extremely convenient. They won’t have to suffer through a lack of space for that long because Ofelia’s wealthy aunt has just passed away following a heart attack and left her niece her sizable estate. Along with the new digs she inherits her aunt Susana’s loyal servant Sofia and her most prized possession a black cat by the name of Bequer. The only stipulation in the will is that Ofelia take care of Bequer.

Master of the house

She moves into the house along with her friends and although Ofelia exercises the greatest amount of respect she can, the other three seem to believe a gift horse should be eye-fucked in the mouth till things get awkward. Sure they’re gracious about their new living conditions but they also complain about the cat and the housemaid. Two among them have nothing but hate for the feline and treat it like shit. So it is not unexpected the Sofia and Ofelia are the only ones in the house that are saddened when Bequer is found dead.

Yeah. Life can be rough

He was locked in the cellar by accident when the girls were exploring all the junk stored down there and starved to death. Aurora seems outright happy the cat is dead but she may be justified there after discovering her pet canary slaughtered shortly before. This may be why she meets her end first.

Don’t we all?

There’s already been suggestions that Aunt Susana’s presence is still wandering the halls with some strange voices audible to all and odd smells but Aurora comes face to face with Susana as she finishes up her work at the library. She survives the first encounter, rightfully spooked but the second time ends with a fear induced heart attack for the young librarian. Susana’s presence is indeed terrifying and it’s a masterful use of shadows obscuring just enough of the stoic specter to cause shivers down the spine.

Uhm…no…ma’am…the library is closed

After the first victim falls, the phantom madame continues invoking payback. Sofia knows that something malevolent is haunting the place and even though she truly loved Susana, she’s spooked enough to leave the estate she’s called home for many years. Ofelia and Pilar still refuse to believe but Marta is convinced that the ghost is stalking, waiting to pounce. Following Sofia’s exit and another death, we’re down to two girls in the house, a thunderstorm, a secret and a final confrontation with the deceased madame.

We’ll be fine

The simplicity of the haunting (it’s seriously just an elderly woman in an antique dress) somehow makes it all the more terrifying in that “this really doesn’t belong here” way. Every character is given room to breath (even the less than important male characters) and no action feels unwarranted. Well, outside of the “LEAVE THE FUCKING HOUSE!” problem you always run into with a haunted location flick.

If you wanna be my lover…

Carlos Enrique Taboada was an accomplished filmmaker but his work in the horror genre is regretfully overlooked. Harkening back to the atmospheric terrors of Jacques Tourneur but not afraid to add a little cheesecake when it came to his female casts, the man knew how to crank the suspense up to eleven and make it impossible to look away from the screen. This, along with Even the Wind is Afraid, The Book of Stone and Poison for the Fairies are essential pieces of nightmare cinema.

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