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MACABRA (1981)
[aka Demonoid aka Demonoid, Messenger Of Death aka La Mano Del Diabolo]

"What sort of a disturbed person would violate a grave?"
"He did. My husband. The man that you buried."

Director: Alfredo Zacharias
Starring: Samantha Eggar, Stuart Whitman, Roy Cameron Jenson, Narcisco Busquets, Lew Saunders
Screenplay: Alfredo Zacharias, David Lee Fein and F. Amos Powell

Synopsis: A female member of a Mexican devil-worshipping cult has her left hand severed. The still-living hand is imprisoned in a silver casket. Three hundred years later, the woman’s mummified body is discovered by a mine owner, Mark Baines (Roy Cameron Jenson), and his wife, Jennifer (Samantha Eggar). The Mexican workers are terrified and refuse to enter the mine. To prove that it is safe, Mark and Jennifer decide to go as far underground as they can, but Mark slips through loose earth into an underground chamber. Jennifer follows him, and the two find themselves in the chamber once used by the devil-worshippers. They also find a hand-shaped silver casket, which they take back to the surface. Mark tries to convince the workers that everything is safe, but they flee. Later that night, drunk, Mark opens the silver casket and empties out its contents, a mound of dust. While Mark and Jennifer sleep, the dust reforms itself into a hand that climbs onto the bed, crawling over Jennifer’s legs. She wakes and screams and Mark grabs the hand. After a struggle, the hand is absorbed by Mark’s hand. The next day, Mark traps the Mexican workers inside the mine and sets off explosives before running away, Jennifer tracks him to Las Vegas, where he has become a successful gambler. Another professional gambler has Mark kidnapped to learn the secrets of his success, but Mark breaks free and kills the gambler and his girlfriend. Mark dies in a fire; his body is burned beyond recognition, but the hand is untouched. Although Mark’s body is claimed by someone else, Jennifer is sure that it was really him, and travels to Los Angeles where the body has been buried. There, she attempts to convince Father Cunningham (Stuart Whitman) of the truth about the hand, but he does not believe her. They visit the grave and find that it has been broken out of. When they discover Mark's body, the left hand is missing...

Comments: This is an incredibly stupid film, although not an entirely unentertaining one, in a pathetic sort of way. Made in 1979, it was shelved until 1981, when the release of Oliver Stone's The Hand indicated that there might be a market for dumb horror films about murderous disembodied hands. (As it happens, both Zacharias and Stone were wrong about that.) Of the two films, I prefer Macabra. For one thing, it's about thirty minutes shorter, and for another, it doesn't bog down the action with psychological clap-trap. In fact, it doesn't bog down the action with anything - not explanations, or character development, or even a coherent storyline. It just moves briskly from one gruesome set piece to the next without worrying too much whether any of it makes sense. For the record, it makes no sense whatsoever, and I always find it kind of fun watching films like that, and trying to figure out what on earth was going on in the film-makers' minds. Macabra opens with a gratuitous breast shot. Having got that out of the way, the action shifts to modern-day Mexico, where location shooting in Guanajuato and its Museo de las Momias provides the film’s only atmosphere, which is lost once the action shifts to Las Vegas and a mysteriously deserted Los Angeles. There, we settle into a protracted game of "Hand, Hand, Who's Got The Hand?", with the writers wracking their brains to devise new and nasty ways for a human hand to get chopped off. (Since these scenes are all Macabra has by way of highlights, I won't spoil things by telling you what they are.) Finally, everything winds up with a scene so idiotic that it is quite clear that they had no idea how to end the film. Along the way, you can amuse yourself by spotting technical flubs (the disappearing-reappearing car passengers is my favourite, but Stuart Whitman’s equally elusive silver cross is pretty good) and plot inconsistencies (like the hand being frightened off by a cross, but having no trouble demolishing a church. On second thoughts, maybe it was frightened off by the very prominent Puma logo - Product Placement!!), and by working out just what accent Stuart Whitman is trying to speak with, when he remembers to speak with one. Poor old Stuart - after Night Of The Lepus (1972), he probably didn't think that there was anywhere his career could go but up, which just shows how wrong you can be. The script makes some effort to posit him as a doubting priest a la The Exorcist (1973), but it’s pretty perfunctory. What looks like character detail - giving him lead glass work as a hobby - turns out to be an excuse to have a chisel and a blowtorch inside the church when he needs them. Macabra is also an embarrassment for Samantha Eggar, here light-years away from The Brood (1979) (although not quite so far from The Uncanny (1977)). Her character is no better developed than Whitman’s, being particularly irritating during the opening scenes as she totters around the silver mine in high heels, while the "witty" banter she exchanges with Stuart Whitman is likely to set your teeth on edge. In fairness, though, I would have to say that she is one of the least hysterical females in bad film history. She barely bats an eyelid over her husband's death, and is little more distressed when he rises from the dead. She also looks pretty snazzy in men's clothes, which she dons when she gets tired of running around LA in her nightie.