In the first five minutes of watching The Blood Spattered Bride, I thought, “Huh, I’ve already tried to watch this once before.” A newlywed couple speeds down the highway, arriving at a hotel. The groom (unnamed throughout the film) suggests that the bride, Susan, head up to the room while he unpacks the car. Once in the room, a stocking-faced man who looks very much like her husband emerges from the wardrobe, pins her to the bed, and violently rips her wedding dress off. In my initial experience with this movie, it was this scene that made me think, “No thanks, I’m good,” and turned it off.
But it is at this point her husband arrives with all of their luggage and finds Susan sitting on the bed, wedding dress intact, and looking upset. “I don’t want to stay here,” she says, “I don’t like this hotel.”
From there they tootle off to his country estate. In gauging their early interactions, we get the sense that Susan is quite young and inexperienced (he says as much when he refers to her later on in the film as “just a child.” Ugh.) He is an older man, and soon, we learn, aggressive, predatory, and controlling. But Susan is not easily cowed, and often either runs away, defies him, or coldly shuts him down.
It’s this “you’re not the boss of me” spirit that comes across when she demands to know why there are no women featured among the ancestral portrait gallery in the house. He admits that they are all kept down in the basement. Susan, curious, checks it out…and finds a painting of a bride with her face sheared completely away.
This is where things start to get interesting. They walk through the gorgeous autumnal landscape around the castle’s grounds as he tells her the story of the woman in the portrait. Mircala Karstein (!!) murdered her husband on their wedding night and the family found her comatose beside the dead body.
They eventually buried her in the ruins of the cathedral on the property. Susan realizes this is the ghostly woman she has seen from the corner of her eye, ever since they arrived–and even in the hotel parking lot as they were leaving. Susan then begins dreaming of Mircala. In her dreams, there is an antique dagger, and an irresistible urge to kill her husband…
The Blood Spattered Bride, which I initially thought was an exploitation film that really wasn’t in the mood for, turned out to have a bit more going on than that. Although you have to get through the first half of the film first, and I if I am being honest, I found it a bit of a slog. But there’s definitely a psychological depth that I wasn’t expecting, and there are some politics beyond the sexual involved that I wasn’t aware of, and you can read more about here.
I don’t think I can blame it on the flu vaccine/COVID booster combo that I received last night, but if I ever knew that this film was a retelling of Le Fanu’s Carmilla, I had completely forgotten it. It was a delightful surprise because honestly, I could watch a million versions of this sapphic vampire story. I’m not feeling so hot today, I’m clammy and my joints ache and I am definitely having a reaction from the shots, so I think that’s all I’ve got in me for day fourteen.
P.S. If anyone knows the artist for the film poster featured in this blog, please fill me in!
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