Andrew Moncrieff’s review published on Letterboxd:
On my quest to watch every Mondo Macabro release, this one stuck out both because of the clips in that montage trailer they stick on every disc, and because of that sexy cover (that kind of hair wet is always hot). Recently I’ve been trying to explore their films about pairs of women (or girls) against the world - Alucarda I loved, and I ordered Don’t Deliver Us From Evil with this but by accident they sent Don’t Open Till Christmas.
The narrative is one of those where a chain of events is set in motion and dread builds until it is released. Here, the literal catalyst is the arrival of Selda back to her home village, on a remote Phillipene island that is alternately like an island paradise and also like an endless desert hell where even the beaches only offer an endless water horizon you can’t walk through. But the less literal catalyst, the spiritual one, comes immediately with the brutal (real) murder of a buffalo under the opening credits. The genuine animal cruelty sucks, I agree, but the death of the animal (narratively, not in real life), and the lecture the assassin gives, sets the tone for the film and a cruel, unforgiving world in which the story takes place.
Early scenes after this sledgehammer blow are quite light - there’s some sex, plenty of nudity, some humour - but a simmering tension between lustful animal passions and paranoid human moralism. This tension is personified by our lead characters (the two on the cover), Tonia played by the stunning Maria Isabel Lopez, and Selda, played by Sarsi Emmanuelle. Selda went to the big city, Manila and made an apparent success of herself. Tonia stayed behind and tries to teach local children about religion and resisting temptation. Her values are Medievally puritan, yet like Florinda Balkan in Don’t Torture a Duckling she is viewed as, at best, an outcast and at worst as a witch. These two aren’t sisters, literally, but may be cousins or half-sisters, or even aunt and neice.
This is a two hour movie and there’s a lot going on between these two and there are quite complex psychologies behind the way their characters are. But it’s all well acted, exciting, quite sexy and the locations are photographed in ways both cinematic and appealing. The only acting decision I didn’t like was Maria Isabel Lopez’ decision to run so gimpy, with her arms out wide and dipping when she steps like a monkey, but it does fit her crazed character - I’m just being selfish because I think she is so hot looking.
Somewhere halfway through the second hour of this, all the various pieces click into place for a greek tragedy ending which is genuinely grim and dour, a true 1970s downer ending (that feels truly Jodorowski, especially a certain pile-on at the end that is not sexy). Such a 70s ending in a very 1980s movie was very unexpected to me and it does leave you depressed.
On a lighter note...What is with the absolutely bizarre mashup of Every Breath You Take and Stand By Me? It’s this I think. There’s also a cover of Like a Virgin here. Between those pop songs, a car and the make up, and t-shirts some people where, there’s not a lot to link this to the 20th century at all, which gives the film its unique atmosphere. This is a village that has not felt the passing of time, with girls in stone age outfits being treated the way women in the stone age were treated.
I won’t lie and say I understand what the director was trying to say (beyond “witch hunts are bad”, “men are jerks”, and that a balance between purity and promiscuity must be met within one’s self - the animal can’t be denied nor the soul), but this is exactly the kind of movie I live for because it is the product of a vision. He certainly captured something here, something far beyond the cheap tits and asses film I was expecting. Well done, everyone.