Time to finish the eerie journey your Favorite Catgirl took watching the Spanish horror goodie “La Herencia Valdemar” by taking a look at it’s recent sequel, “La Sombra Prohibida” aka “The Forbidden Shadow”. Lots of evil goings on… forbidden lore… twisted freaky monsters… the last film appearance of the great Paul Naschy.. and Cthulhu too!! Yep. It’s a “no brainer”… Neko is sooo there.
Our synopsis? It goes like this: “The disappearance of Luisa Llorente and the Curse of the Valdemars have become the events that will cause the fates of an eclectic group of people to cross and become entangled with the goals of a shadowy Cult of fanatics who seek to unleash on Earth that “Which Sleeps Eternal”… Cthulhu, most evil of the Great Old Ones. At last all will be revealed as the fragile veil between Reality and “the Beyond” is torn asunder by foolish Mortals. Some will live… some will die… when they are forced to look upon “The Forbidden Shadow”.
By now, you are probably wanting to get on with it and see if the wait for this one is worth it… or… as can sometimes happen, they blow it badly and fail utterly to finish the story properly. That’s happened before.. and it’ll happen again. Neko’s seen her share of movie catastrophes… but, please let’s not be the case this time!! Still… as always, the truth is in the watching, so let’s get on with it then… “Read On”!!
When last we left our heroes, they were somewhat scattered about both in location as well as time-line. Starting this one off, we have Ana (played by Norma Ruíz) and Edwardo (played by Rodolfo Sancho), two co-workers of Luisa driving along a deserted highway to get to the remote Valdemar mansion to begin their search for her. They haven’t got a clue where to start, mostly upset that this little task has interrupted their personal lives, nervous about not involving the police like they probably should, and anxious to just plain get it over with. Smart people… they should have followed their instinct… but they didn’t.
Immediately they fall victim to that old horror movie cliché, the sudden appearance of a shadowy figure that runs out into the road just ahead of them, nearly causing the to wreck the car. It’s Luisa of course… on the run from her captors, although Ana and Edwardo don’t get a good enough look to tell that. Before they can really do much of anything, our old friend from the first movie, Dámaso, sneaks up and shoots them with a tranquilizer rifle, but missing Luisa as she slips into the woods and loses him by nearly breaking her neck in a fall down a rocky hillside. Ummm? Wait a minute? Luisa escaped from Santiago and Dámaso’s house? When… and how… the heck did that happen? This gave your Favorite Catgirl that first nasty… uncomfortable… feeling, that not all was going to be good about this sequel.
Unfortunately my uncanny Catgirl instincts were spot on too. Unlike “La Herencia Valdemar”, our sequel, “La Sombra Prohibida”, has a less polished and sensible feeling to it overall. I already knew that Paul Naschy had died following the completion of the first film… and I thought for certain his absence would adversely affect the plot, even though he wasn’t a major character. Apparently, sorry to say… that carried through to the story and continuity here throughout as well… damn.
With the abruptness I’ve come to expect in this tale, we jump to our intrepid detective Nicolás Trémel and his companion, the suspicious Dr. Cerviá who arrive at the Train station and proceed to travel out to the mansion. Meanwhile… Luisa wakes up in the wagon of a mysterious old gypsy lady… and gets her fortune told. Trust me… not a good one. What the heck is an old gypsy doing camping out next to “La Casa De Evil”?…. Well, she’s got a story about her missing son, kidnapped by the same nefarious people that grabbed Luisa. Seems the whole idea is that there’s not just two lunatics on the loose… that would be far too easy… there’s an entire secretive evil cult trying to sacrifice enough people to open up the portal to the Beyond and let their evil otherworldly master, the Great Old One, Cthulhu escape his prison and rule again the world he and his kind once called theirs aeons ago. Crap…. Before she can tell Luisa anything more useful, Dámaso finds her… just as Nicolás and Dr. Cerviá conveniently show up by complete co-incidence. So does our detective get to go all “hard boiled” on Dámaso and save the day? Nope…
Yeah, yeah… it’s a set up. Isn’t it always? Dr. Cerviá turns out to be one of the cultists and whacks Nicolás over the head, the gypsy does her mysterious disappearing act, and Dámaso and the Doctor capture Luisa again. When all our heroes awaken back at the mansion they’ve all been locked in a room together awaiting whatever foul fate our villains have in store for them. While they wait they learn all about Nicolás’ secret deal with Luisa’s old co-worker who had been planning to heist some hidden funds from the cult’s front, the Inmoberance corporation… he never got the chance to go through with it once Orquicia disappeared, but for some stupid reason he never figured that the job finding Luisa might just be a trap. Not the sharpest private eye in the box….. Philip Marlow he ain’t.
Time for some musing on the disappearance of some 666 travelers, hikers, and other unlucky people in the area… (and not a wee bit of wondering how such a staggering number of abductions could go unnoticed by police…). Ohhh!! And another flashback back to the days of Lázaro Valdemar and how he founded the cult in his desperate search for a way to revive the empty shell of his wife Leonor. We get our last scene with the late great Paul Naschy… as he summons to the estate the one and only H. P. Lovecraft himself to try to talk sense to Lázaro and get him to relinquish possession of the dread book, the Necronomicon and abandon his plans to use it to force Cthulhu to return her spirit to him. But… but… but.. what happened to Aleister Crowley and the other famous cult people from the last movie? Haven’t got a clue… They’re just nowhere to be seen in this movie at all. Grrrrr!!! Don’t you just hate it when they just plain drop a plot thread like a hot potato without any explanation? And poor, loyal Jervás? Well… after a single impassioned speech to his master, he’s summarily dismissed to wander off and be seen no more. Poor Paul Naschy… not the way for a great horror icon to be used in his last film appearance, as nothing more than a cameo using footage obviously made for the first film but never used.
So… anyway… by now it’s no big leap of logic to figure out that Maximilian is High Priest of the little cult of crazies… that Lázaro is still very much alive, although crazy and evil, all these years later, and that our heroes are just the exact number needed to finish the ritual. Luckily for them, although Dámaso is a deadly homicidal sociopath, Santiago his lackey, is a bit… how shall we say… “not right in the head”. He sees dead people… or to put it another way… he talks to mannequins, believing them to be all those dead people he and Dámaso have killed and fed to the ghoul over the years. He decides to redeem himself by freeing our heroes and leading them to safety through a series of subterranean caverns. Unfortunately… those caverns are the home of the ghoul. Crap… and double crap.
Of course, the escape fails. Edwardo gets killed, along with Ana and the cult arrives in short order to catch them for our thrilling finale… the summoning of Cthulhu. It’s supposed to be the highpoint of the film…. But after all this mess of a film, it ends up being nothing more than a few minutes of “angry octopus monster giant guy eats stupid cultists”. Yeah, that’s right…. although “the stars are right”… the cult still manages to blow it again, all on it’s own. Just how Neko’s not going to tell you, but if you watch this one you’ll see it coming from a mile away. After a quick bit of mayhem… weird taloned hands come from the Beyond, grab ol’ Cthulhu and drag him back, presumably until “La Herencia Valdemar 3”.
So… our few survivors get saved by the police, arriving as they always do with a supply of body bags and little idea what actually happened, and naturally some of the “powers that be” turn out to be members of the cult as well. There’s the requisite threats to silence them… our heroes stubbornly counter with threats of exposure… and it’s Mexican standoff time. Roll those credits….
Sigh…. So.. darn… disappointed. There just are no words to express the level of failure in this film. After the amazingly well made first film in this series, this one has almost the feeling of having been thrown together by a bunch of complete hacks just trying to whip something up for a fast buck. There is almost none of the excellence we saw in “La Herencia Valdemar”… it’s as if it was made by total strangers with no connection at all to the original. The story is choppy, rushed, and contrived… too many plot threads are simply dropped and ignored… and there seems to be no effort to have the story make any sense whatsoever. In short… where “La Herencia Valdemar” had the makings of a classic, this has all the hallmarks of a complete train wreck. Neko gives “La Sombra Prohibida” a dismal 2 “Meows” out of 5…. and mostly it wouldn’t have gotten even that without at least managing to keep the excellent cast of the original intact. Maybe, for them, that’s actually the “Dread Curse of the Great Old Ones”…
The DVD is good… but given the 25-40 $US price of the Spanish import… and the overall disappointing completion of the story, I can’t really recommend you rush right out to grab a copy for yourself. If… like a certain silly Catgirl, you just positively have to see this one… wait for it to get released in your very own region, which will probably happen eventually. But keep your “Elder Sign” handy….
Oh well…. And to get you all up to speed… here we go with the Trailer so you can make your own mind up if this one is “Something Man was not meant to know…”