Demon Fridges, Killer Ivy, Magicians and Dark Rides — Vinegar Syndrome Unleashes CTHULHU MANSION

Cthulhu Mansion (1990) (also known as Black Magic Mansion and La Manson de los Cthulhu) arrives on Blu-ray March 3rd from Vinegar Syndrome. The English language, Spanish production by notorious Pieces director Juan Piquer Simón gets its moniker thanks to being “inspired by the writings of H. P. Lovecraft”.

Starring a cast of mostly unknowns the film starts out in a flashback where stage magician Chandu (Frank Finlay; Lifeforce), mixes his stage magic with black magic resulting in the tragic death of his wife by burning to death in front of a live audience. We then jump a few decades into the future where an aging Chandu is performing in an amusement park with his daughter, now his assistant. After the most eventful 12 minutes of any low budget film I’ve ever seen that involves not only the aforementioned death, but a drug deal that goes south on a dark ride and a car jacking which results in the brutal beating of a cop, Chandu and his daughter are taken hostage by a gang of punks on the run with a brick of stolen blow.

The film then gloriously morphs into this weird demonic home invasion thriller when Chandu is held captive in his magician’s mansion, where he has been attempting to summon some dark evils from a spell book with the word “Cthulhu” on the front cover. I mean that’s how we know it’s evil. Just for the record Cthulhu never shows up in his mansion. Tied to a chair, Chandu decides to ask the dark evil to try and help him and his daughter out of this bind only to find out, helping people isn’t really what demons from hell are in the business of doing. So we have the thugs taken out and possessed by demonic fridges and killer ivy and in one of the film’s most demented moments we get to see a brick of coke become sentient and scurry across the floor only to jump into a fire. Yup, that’s right. I have to note the gore and practical effects here are actually pretty competent and make for some impressive moments. The dialogue here is also a gift given they manage to shoehorn almost every imaginable 80s cocaine cliche you can imagine into the conversations to keep reminding you these are some bad motor scooters.

While Cthulhu Mansion isn’t necessarily a great film, it is damn right entertaining and has more happening in the first 12 minutes than most films have in their entire runtime. When the punks get into the mansion the story loses a bit of steam, but still somehow manages to maintain a steady insanity as they are picked off one by one in some truly imaginative ways. The film is presented here via a new 2k restoration from 35mm archival elements and paired with a feature length Spanish doc on Juan Piquer Simón, The Simon’s Jigsaw: A Trip To The Universe of Juan Piquer Simón. It’s a solid presentation that definitely gives some context to the director’s previous and post efforts. For a blind watch, Cthulhu Mansion left me wondering why more folks aren’t championing this fun slice of Spanish weirdness, it hit all the marks for me as one of the more memorable VS discoveries and is something I definitely can’t wait to not so casually bring up next time someone brings up home invasion thrillers.

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