Night of the Devils (1972) (La Notte dei Diavoli) is a lurid modern day reworking of Leo Tolstoy's gothic vampire novella The Wurdalak.
Gianni Garko who appeared in the highly enjoyable cult Sartana spaghetti western's plays a very troubled soul, who is found wondering around the countryside in bruised and bloody fashion. After collapsing from exhaustion, he wakes up in a mental institution and begins to suffer from horrific visions involving (Cough!) naked women and surreal gore provided by the late special effects genius Carlo Rambaldi.
Slowly as his mind begins to return, in flashback we realise that his ordeal began when his car broke down in the middle of nowhere in the backwoods of Italy. Seeking help, he makes his way to a decrepit looking house in the woods occupied by a very eccentric and superstitious family that is under some sort of curse. The head of the family advises our hero that he must stay the night as there's all kinds of dangerous animals in the woods and that his car will be fixed in the morning. Once inside the house he takes a meal with his hosts and realises that something's a miss when he notices that all the windows have wooden shutters on them. He also hears someone knocking on the front door but the patriarch of the family tells him that it's only the wind!
The next day the family head armed with what appears to be a large wooden stake tells his relatives that he's off to lift the family curse once and for all. But his son tells him that he won't be allowed back inside the house If he returns after 6 pm. Grandfather does indeed return and with a bloody trophy to boot, but is it really Grandfather?
The Wurdalak was also part of a segment from Mario Bava's horror anthology Black Sabbath. That was full of sinister atmosphere and so is this version. The film throws some pretty heavy gore at you within the first five minutes, the next fifty five minutes are a bit of a slow burner but the last half an hour of the film really delivers the goods. Creepy, moonlit giggling vampire children! Eek! And the twist ending is fantastic. I also loved the dreamy score which is absolutely gorgeous. This is unusual and obscure euro horror that really is worth tracking down.