As Naschy, Molina is best known for playing Daninsky, a tragic wolfman in the Universal mode, in a series of films that put the character in a Maciste-like variety of settings and periods, ranging from contemporary Europe to feudal Japan. These films, and others in which Naschy played most of the other classic monsters, have led some critics to describe Molina as a cinematic atavism, obsessively reproducing the horrors of his childhood without the skill of his predecessors while throwing in exploitation elements (nudity, gore) for modern audiences. The same qualities that provoke contempt from some critics, however, have endeared Molina/Naschy to film fans around the world. His admirers see the Naschy films as recreating the experience and meaning of classic monster horror by translating them into a more modern cinematic idiom. At the same time, Molina does bring a distinct personal style to his work. In films like the one I'll eventually get around to describing, which he wrote and Carlos Aured directed, you could describe his sensibility as a sort of Swinging Gothic (compared to the lethal modernity of his Italian contemporaries), in which ancient evil casts its shadow across the modern mundane world, proving it can top our own vaunted decadence, and then some. Also, Molina became enough of an auteur to guarantee himself a following for which each film is like a chapter of the man's life, a story within a larger story in which the audience has a rooting interest. They recognize in him a fellow believer who has the charisma to keep the faith alive.
Two faces of Paul Naschy: Alaric de Marnac (above) and Hugo (below).
The head of Alaric de Marnac supervises the exhumation of his body (above) while his thralls provide more fuel (below)
It looks like we're being set up for a Naschy-vs-Naschy showdown, but perhaps for logistic reasons, or perhaps just to throw folks a curve, Molina eliminates his better self by having the possessed Maurice shoot Hugo in the back after the presumptive hero survives a zombie attack. It'll be up to others to stop Alaric's rampage, and while we've been told how it can be done, whether it can be done is an open question until the end of the picture.
Naschy contemplates mortality.
Naschy is pretty free with a gun when facing the undead, but it's a different story when he's on the receiving end. Isn't it always?
You could easily accept a classic Seventies "evil wins" ending, so overwhelming has Alaric been once made whole. Costuming, makeup and Naschy's pure presence make de Marnac a great movie villain who earned his eventual encore, while Molina throws in enough eccentric elements (particularly the efficacy of Norse religion in Spain!) to make Horror Rises a singular experience. It may not be the definitive Naschy movie, since that would probably have to be a Daninsky film, but it's probably the one you should show to someone who thinks that Naschy only ever went over old ground.
The power of Thor compels you!
To be honest, I haven't seen many Naschy films, but all those I have seen are memorable. I first saw Horror Rises about six years ago, after it was one of my early DVD purchases in those heady days when every video store seemed to have a now-insane selection of global cult cinema. Finally seeing something from Naschy was one of my early priorities, and I didn't regret the purchase. It held up tonight when I watched it again to appreciate what we've lost, as well as what we retain. Jacinto Molina is dead, but in the wild world of cinema Paul Naschy lives on.
I can't forget the trailer, which was uploaded to YouTube by Wildwildwes23. And I can't help but laugh at the narrator's persistent disagreement with the text about the title of the film.