The Film– Hammer staple and legendary horror icon Peter Cushing stars as Gustav Weil, the leader of The Brotherhood, a ruthless band of witch hunters in the European town of Karnstein. A few corpses have been found with odd puncture wound in their necks, and you know what that means- exactly right, witches. So Gustav and his murderous friends have taken to their horses, armed with the holy cross, and began a crusade of burning anyone they deem a witch in an attempt to stop these “typical witch style killings”… which means they just burn random fine ass women to death; you know, 50/50 shot.
After an unexplained accident that left his brother/sister and his/her wife/husband dead, Gustav and his wife are given custody of his nieces- who happen to be twins. Damn, this couldn’t possibly result in a “one turns into a vampire, I mean witch, and starts a reign of terror while the other remains innocent and pure but the witch hunters accidentally get them mistaken then someone feels like a total dick after the fact” scenarios, could it? Well seeing as how with Hammer you either get lesbian vampires or an evil twin, and there is no win-cest here, that’s exactly where they’re taking us.
The twins are Maria and Frieda, good and evil respectively. While Gustav is no pleasant person to be around, much less live with, Maria finds solace in her kind aunt. Frieda, however, longs to escape to Castle Karnstein, the foreboding home of Count Karnstein, and I’m sure there isn’t any kind of Satanic shit going on there on a given night. Gustav and the Count are enemies, because while Gustav knows he’s hiding some evil plot (and coming from the man who burns women without any real proof of guilt, AKA just for fun, you know this Count must be one bad motherfucker for Gustav to consider him evil), he can’t touch him because of Royalty.
The next witch hunt comes around, and Frieda sneaks out to the castle to see what all the fuss is all about. Well she couldn’t have chosen a better time, because the Count just engaged in a ritual Satanic sacrifice to resurrect one of his ancestors, who he proceeded to bang, and somehow that made him a vampire. I guess I was wrong, there really were some crazy ass ceremonies going on there (and some win-cest too). Well Frieda instantly becomes ready to do anything to please the count (must be his hair, which is rather stunning), and after he converts her to a vampire, she kills his ex-lover by, um, licking her boob. Well, not sure how that works…
The twins begin enrolment in the village school, and while they’re supposed to be studying hems and all other things Christian (or else), they actually spend most of their time ogling the schoolmaster’s brother, Anton (David Warbeck). Anton is pretty much the most badass man in the village, and by that I mean he can hunt like Ted Nugent and write a mean ass hem. Despite his attraction to both the girls, he is particularly attracted to Frieda and her dark, mysterious nature.
As the victims of both Frieda and the Count begin to pile up, more and more innocent women are burned by the Brotherhood. Anton criticizes these brutal acts, insisting if such things as vampires (finally we’re on the same page and not insisting they’re “witches”) do exist, they must be killed with either a steak through the heart or by decapitation- burning will only kill the body, but the spirit will find a new host. Gustav does not listen and continues his Ye Olde BBQe massacre. It’s around this time Frieda is found out to be a vampire. What’s that, did someone just say “fair trial”?
With the life of the evil vampire twin on the line, the Count begins to scheme. As the chance of her burning becomes more and more likely, he suddenly realizes she has a twin (funny how such things can slip one’s mind). With the life of Maria on the line too, Gustav and Anton combine smarts in an attempt to exterminate the Count and save the good twin before it’s too late. But on that note, can anyone tell them apart?
Hammer and vampires go together like beer and cigarettes. If you have one, you want the other- and they go damn good together. Twins of Evil is the conclusion to the Karnstein Trilogy, preceded by The Vampire Lovers and Lust for a Vampire, which are known for the stir they caused because of the heavy lesbian vampire themes. It is very similar to the later Vampire Circus, because these vampires are able to be in sunlight without, you know, spontaneously melting. In short, these films are very different from the popular Dracula series Hammer is renowned for.
Despite the great set-up and actors, Twins of Evil has some flaws- kinda. I really don’t know how to describe it as anything other than goofy, but in a great way. Like if someone said a five year old could kick a boxers’ ass, and he somehow managed to. The idea is absurd as all hell, but still that five year old wrecked some guy. Stuff like the tit lick of death, Gustav refusing to listen to how to kill the vampires, the whole “we’ll call them witches instead” deal, and a few things closer to the ending that I can’t really talk about. But somehow, these clunky moments really add a charm overall, giving enough unintentional humor and daftness to keep you in the story without losing the vibe. The results are highly entertaining.
Now don’t take that in the wrong context, this isn’t a “so bad it’s good” kinda deal, it just has some glaring flaws that create a humorous effect. Now for what works perfectly? Well this is Hammer, so Peter Cushing, atmosphere, Peter Cushing, a decent amount of blood, Peter Cushing, two very attractive leads (who aren’t too bad in the acting department either), and Peter Cushing. Very reminiscent of your standard Hammer fair, but with a few touches of Witchfinder General just for good measure. The only genuine complaint I had was the total lack of ambiguity over which twin was the evil one. Seriously, they just needed to give her a button that said “I kill everyone”.
Without going too deep into the ending, there are a few things that I can’t avoid talking about. One is this hilarious scene where the angry mob of Brotherhood and townsfolk are headed towards the castle, and the Count is all “they know not how to kill us and we will live forever lulz”, then he realizes they have wooden stakes and instantly adds “um, there’s a tunnel out the back from which we can escape!” The villain kinda lacks testosterone, so heads up.
There is one instance of pure “that caught me off guard” and “holy shit I can’t believe that just happened”, and trust me, you’ll know it when you see it. Very few movies have such a ballsy scene, and it’s refreshing to see a film steer as far away from the happy ending as possible. Then it follows it up with two of the dumbest scenes in the whole movie… It’s like having a mix tape of comedians with one George Carlin joke, then two Dane Cook jokes- it’s entertaining on that basic level, but it’s still retarded.
Twins of Evil, while not up to par with the previous entries in the Karnstein series, is a highly entertaining film with great atmosphere, a fantastic performance by Cushing, and some moments of brilliance mixed with some, well, not so brilliant. Regardless of the parts, the whole is damn good. If you think some of the ineptness of the characters will be off putting, then it probably will be. But hey, we’re horror fans, we don’t always make the best decisions (skinny-dipping on Friday the 13th, anyone). If you’re a Hammer fan, then you probably already own this, and if this is your first exposure, it’s easily worth checking out if you want a not so serious bloodsucker flick.
The Package– The guys at Synapse have presented Twins of Evil in a 1080 HD widescreen transfer that looks amazing. There’s the expected noise and minor damage here and there, especially in the darker scenes, but the large majority of the film is full of crisp colors and great detail.
The audio is a DTS-HD Mono 2.0 track that is balanced and distortion free. Some of the thunder cracks (it’s a Victorian vampire film, you can’t expect it to not have at least a dozen thunderstorms) raise a little high, but nothing worth having the remote handy to null out.
Again the basic Synapse Blu-Ray tabs. As always they look and function great, with easy navigation and perfectly legible text.
Kicking the bonuses off is The Flesh and the Fury: X-posing Twins of Evil, an hour plus retrospective on Hammer and Twins of Evil, which touches on everything from the source material (the controversial Carmila novel) to the evolution of British film censors that allowed more blood and sex. Next is The Props That Hammer Built: The Kinsey Collection, a 20 minute look at the best collection of Hammer props you will ever see. Then there’s a deleted scene (a rather pointless schoolroom singing lesson), the double bill and stand alone trailers, T.V. spot, and gallery.