Now what did the poor titular Templars of Amando de Ossorio’s horror quartet ever do to deserve their murder at the hands of local peasants? Oh sure they were bowing down before the goat headed god of evil and the occasional “Beast of the Sea” and sacrificing a virgin or 12 in their pathological quest for immortality, but does that really deserve being murdered and having their eyes pecked out by birds or gored out by vengeful villagers (depending on the film)?
While the locals may not have shown the slooooooooooooooooooooowly creeping Blind Dead any love, the four film series has been a staple of low budget horror fiends and early-’80s VHS freaks since their inception. But the question remains: do the skeletal and hooded menace deserve a spot in the zombie cannon? Do the Blind Dead tick off enough zombie touchstones to enter into that unhallowed hall of undead immortality?
The case against: Beginning with their very appearance, the Blind Dead’s skeletal visage would certainly suggest they’ve decayed beyond what’s generally considered kosher for your USDA Grade A zombie and lurking about in coffins between attacks, as is their wont, certainly cribs from the playbook of a whole different creature feature.
Our plucky Templar revenants also demonstrate more, ahem, brains that one would expect from your run of the mill creepy corpse. The Blind Dead, while trapped in gratuitous slow motion through much of the series, are far more animated than their traditional zombie kin. Though they lack vision, we see the Templars heaving swords, using tools and clopping about on zombie steeds.
The most egregious violation of acceptable zombie mores, however, may be in their flouting of one of the genre’s most sacred tenets. In the third film, The Ghost Galleon (aka Ship of Zombies), we also see the Blind Dead violate one of the most basic rules of zombiedom: stalking their hapless quarry, one of the reanimated Templars takes a gunshot square to the face at near-point blank range and keeps on trucking. If there’s one constant to your modern zombie, it’s that a headshot always stops the menace. If we sacrifice that, what do we have left?
The case for: It says it right there in the alternate title of the third film: Ship of Zombies. Case closed? No? Ok, let’s continue.
In the second film, Return of the Blind Dead (aka Return of the Evil Dead), we see our erstwhile survivors hole up in the local church as they vainly try to stave off an assault by the walking dead. Trapped in close quarters the speedily dwindling cast begins to turn on each other – a zombie trope that’s as dated as those granny glasses Romero insists on sporting.
While they seem to have no interest in nibbling on the sweet, sweet brain meat, the Blind Dead are big into fresh blood. Even as run of the mill men in dresses we see them slurping down a cup of steaming corpuscles tapped from a fresh virgin sacrifice as part of that whole Satanic quest for immortality thing. Things get progressively zombie-er, however. In The Ghost Galleon we do finally see the Templars set to snacking on the dismembered corpse of a truly annoying model.
Even if the crabs of Night of the Seagulls spend more time chowing down on choice corpse bits, femur tartare is bound to weigh in their favor.
Verdict: Not zombies by reason of intelligence. Ultimately, the Blind Dead are just too canny, too coordinated and too good with tools to qualify as canonical zombies, but by all means invite them as long lost out of town relatives at your next undead BBQ.