Black Candles (Los Ritos sexuales del diablo) doesn’t seem to be all that highly though of even among fans of the work of director José Ramón Larraz. This 1982 offering isn’t as good as his classic 1974 Vampyres, but it’s still a reasonably entertaining erotic horror exploitation movie.
After the somewhat mysterious death of her brother Carol and her husband go to stay with her newly bereaved sister-in-law in a house in the countryside. They soon notice a few odd things about the sister-in-law. All the candles in the house are black, and she makes very strange herb teas using very unusual herbs. This should have indicated at once that she was a devil-worshipper, but it takes Carol a while to figure this out. The sister-in-law, Georgina, seems to take a great interest in Carol’s sex life, spying on Carol and her husband when they make love. It transpires that there were some sexual tensions involving Carol, her deceased brother, and Georgina, and now another romantic triangle starts to develop.
The other people in the village are a bit of a worry as well, and it’s not altogether surprising that they all turn out to be witches. They take a particular interest in Carol’s husband, since he’s a former priest. Or at least a former trainee priest. Which would make him a prize acquisition for the coven, and since he’s taking a considerable interest in Georgina there seems every chance they might achieve that prize.
Sexual obsessions seem to be at least as significant a motivation for these witches as serving their Dark Lord. Larraz is particularly good at erotic horror so this gives him plenty of scope. There’s a great deal of bedroom action. As in Vampyres the erotic content isn’t just tacked on but is in fact the driving force behind the movie.
The plot isn’t high on originality, and the ending uses a technique that has been used many times before, but the plot certainly works. The atmosphere of sexual obsession is conveyed very effectively. The acting is solid. It’s a very competent and quite stylish little movie, and I was pleasantly surprised by it.
The BCI DVD presentation was a less pleasant surprise. The image quality was acceptable if rather grainy, but the sound is absolutely atrocious. Muddy and distorted, and frequently dropping out altogether.