Euro-Horror Project: To the Devil a Daughter

(Peter Sykes, 1976) Many Hammer fans prefer the studio’s earlier films and cold-shoulder later ones produced as it struggled to keep in step with the times. But some of us appreciate this final entry into the original* Hammer pantheon. To the Devil a Daughter has naturalistic acting, a bit of edge, and the need for audience deconstruction — all unexpected positives. But it can’t match Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist and other popular occult films Sykes was emulating, tasked as he was with making Hammer Studios a guaranteed pound sterling. Dependable Christopher Lee is an excommunicated priest who points his faith in a more sinister direction, towards a satanic god. His church raises Nastassja Kinski, who grows up to become a nun marked to bear the seed of the devil. High-jinx ensue when the nun’s father (Denholm Elliott) and an occult writer (Richard Widmark) try to protect her from that destiny. Enjoy some nicely claustrophobic framing shot from very low and very high angles, and a disturbing birth scene wherein a mother’s legs are bound together, sealing off the birth canal. Women will squirm, and some viewers will get a chuckle out of the clerical costumes the Satanists sport, identical to Catholic uniforms. — Ranylt Richildis

* I added the word original, because Hammer Studios climbed out of its coffin in 2008.

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2 thoughts on “Euro-Horror Project: To the Devil a Daughter

  1. As big a horror fan as I am, I do have a giant gap in my knowledge and experiences. This is the only Hammer Horror film I’ve seen. And I love it. I went through a big nunsploitation phase (phase? still love them) and had this film recommended to me. What it lacked in sleaze it made up for with good performances, bold (but expected) anti-Catholic visual rhetoric, and a slow pace like molasses. The only thing I like more than a smart little horror film is a good slow horror film.

    –Well said. — RR

  2. “Bold?” Is that what we call bigotry these days? I think the fact you find anti-Catholic rhetoric not distasteful or hateful but “bold” and a good thing very telling. “Well said?” What a bunch of bigots. And how can it be bold if it’s also “expected?” Isn’t that the exact opposite of bold?

    I guess using your logic, Mein Kampf was not all bad because spouting blatant bigotry that the civilized world had recognized and denounced as evil long ago is “bold.”

    It’s not bold, it’s just hate. Yeah, some viewers will get a chuckle out of it…the same viewers who get a chuckle out of “Birth of a Nation.”

    And when where people like you get over your infantile obsession with “edginess.” You can take your precious ‘edge’ and stick it where the sun don’t shine. Edge is for brain-dead zombies with weak attention spans who can only respond to bright colors and loud noises. I prefer sincerity myself.

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