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John’s Horror Corner: Panic Beats (1983; aka Latidos de pánico), this Spanish horror movie is mediocre 80s Euro-exploitation horror-LITE.

January 27, 2022

MY CALL:  Really just for those of you seeking a serviceably bad 80s Euro-exploitation. It tries at times, succeeds rarely, and mostly relies on empty nudity to entertain.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Panic Beats: This is a tough one… maybe Embodiment of Evil (2008) and its many, much older predecessors dating back to the 60s.

We open with… uuuhhhhhhh, a bloodied naked woman (who spends way too long naked and on screen) running through the woods fleeing a mounted knight (Paul Naschy) who proceeds to butcher her with a spiked flail? Yup. This sure feels like early 80s Euro-exploitation to me.

Then we tastefully cut to present day, when Paul (Paul Naschy; often starring in his own films) must relocate his (shockingly fully-clothed) ill wife (Julia Saly; Night of the Werewolf, Demon Witch Child) to their remote estate in the mountains for her recovery. Mabile (Lola Gaos; Blood Hunt, Furtivos) and her niece (Frances Ondiviela) staff the house and provide us with a history of the foul knight who once lived there, slaughtering his (naked) wife and much of his family before facing trial for murder, witchcraft and drinking the blood of men. Sounds like an interesting guy to me.

Shortly after their arrival to the manor, his wife’s nightmares begin. But after such a wild opening sequence, the movie slows down a lot for the next 40 minutes. Sure there’s a chunky throat gash, gory goop on dining trays, and visions of mutilated zombies. But it’s all very horror-LITE for my taste. Meanwhile, we know that “someone” is trying to drive his wife mad and, with her heart condition, a good scare just may be her end.

The greatest impact this movie had on me was how shocked I was by the amount of bush on screen. Super classy. At one point there were back-to-back scenes featuring different women and, well, all that. And all that bush is foliating the love quadrangle between Paul, his wife, his maid’s daughter, and his mistress (Silvia Miró). It seems that this movie could never decide if it was a horror movie or a sexy thriller, so every 10-20 minutes it switches from one to the other without ever being good at either.

Now I know what you’re thinking. How is it a bad sexy thriller with all this nudity? And the answer is that the nudity is actually rather empty. There are no sex scenes; there’s only we’re “about to have sex” or “almost sexy” scenes. It’s as if the director just wanted to see these actresses naked… a lot… all of them. And the horror side, well, never sticks a landing in the first 80 minutes. But in the last 10, the ax murder was actually quite unexpected and a gory blast of fun. Easily the best scene of the movie—not that we set the bar very high. And the finale includes some exceptional sloppy head trauma gore.

By the end everyone gets killed. I guess it was a sort of entertaining ride. But it’s a ride I never need to go on again. Despite the general averageness of this movie, writer and director Paul Naschy (Night of the Werewolf, The Beast and the Magic Sword, Howl of the Devil) has piqued my interest to try perhaps at least one more of his films… a hazardous decision I very well may regret.

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