On paper, Hammer Film Productions’ TWINS OF EVIL seems gimmicky and gaudy. But in practice, this 1971 picture from director John Hough is loaded with detail and complexity. Considered the third film in the so-called Karnstein trilogy, TWINS OF EVIL follows LUST FOR A VAMPIRE and THE VAMPIRE LOVERS by trading on Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s pre-DRACULA yarn CARMILLA. In the hands of Hough and screenwriter Tudor Gates, this movie has plenty of fangs.
The action begins with the arrival of twin orphans Maria (Mary Collinson) and Frieda (Madeleine Collinson) to live with their uncle Gustav (Peter Cushing). He’s involved with the witch-hunting Brotherhood and is a violent dogmatist with a good heart. Or something. The twins aren’t fond of their uncle’s airless ways and Frieda takes a shine to Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), who lives in a castle and conducts Satanic rituals.
TWINS OF EVIL may seem like exploitation cinema with the use of Playboy Playmates as the title characters, but the Collinson sisters are game. They take to the Hammer horror iconography with aplomb, personifying the skirmish between innocence and sin with elusive flashes of tooth and nail. They arrive in the “plumage” of birds of paradise, so to speak, and have already grown weary of mourning their dead parents. This immediately sets them apart in Gustav’s stale village.
It’s only natural that the twins would collide with their uncle’s fanaticism. He leads a group of men who stomp through the woods and yank out witches, burning them alive. That these men fail to contend with the Satanic Count is a matter of economics. He’s rich and the locals are frightened. Such capital affords the Jimmy Fallon lookalike the option to hold blood rituals, but his devilish tourism goes a step further. And that sets up the central incitement of TWINS OF EVIL: the fervent suspicion of Gustav and his cronies is, at least in Karnstein’s case, vindicated.