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The thunder of hooves on cobblestone fills the night. Torch flames lick heavy air as a wave of knights descend on their freehold. Draped over the back of a horse is a young village woman they have taken captive. Faceless knights in hooded cassocks string her up on a cross. Screaming for mercy, she is slaughtered without hesitation. Her blood is collected in bowls to be passed among participants of the secret ritual.

The ancient order of the Templars drink from their sacrifice to appease their dark lord.

The Blind Dead Series

In 1969, Amando de Ossorio directed his first horror film Malenka The Vampire’s Niece. Unhappy with the end result, he conceived a new monster. Taking inspiration from Night of The Living Dead, came a nightmare of vengeful lichens based on the Knights Templar. In 1971 he pioneered Spain’s horror genre with Tombs of The Blind Dead. An unholy birth of mummified ghouls on film, rising to feast on blood and locating prey by the sound of hearts pounding in terror. Though never directly named Knights Templar in the film, they donned the iconic white mantles with red crosses.

blind dead series

The narrative loosely followed the documented history and myths of the knights, having returned from the Crusades with forbidden knowledge from the East. Secrets to immortality: drinking the blood of the innocent. When local townsfolk discovered their dark rites, the knights were hanged. Crows plucked eyes from the corpses still on the gallows. Giving way to their namesake, The Blind Dead.

blind dead series

Following the immediate success of the movie, de Ossorio wrote and directed three official sequels. Return of The Blind Dead, The Ghost Galleon, and Night of The Seagulls. Each featured the vampiric skeleton crew as the only direct reference to the others in the quadrilogy. The rules of their reanimation change throughout the series and historical accuracy became less strict. With little to no narrative continuity, each could be considered a “stand-alone” film. Ossorio made other horror movies, but none were as successful as the Blind Dead series.

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A Legacy Shrouded in Mystery

The Knights Templar were a Catholic military order existing from the 12th-14th century. Forming shortly after Jerusalem was captured to protect Christian pilgrims traveling in the Holy Land. They were a unique blend of monk and soldier, prominent in Christian finances and skilled fighters of the Crusades. These celebrated warriors would hide behind the rumors and myths that followed them, leading to their downfall.

King Philip IV owed a great debt to the Templars for acquiring relics, a status symbol of the medieval era. To avoid paying his dues he capitalized on the rumors and arrested the knights for heresy. They were tortured into false confessions and burned at the stake. This destruction of the order led to speculation and a legacy of secrets throughout the ages. With all sorts of horrors being attributed to them.

knights templar horror

The Templars being burned (British Library/Robana/Rex)

These mysterious legends of the knights continue to this day, inspiring many films and games. In modern works, the Templars generally are portrayed as villains, misguided zealots, representatives of an evil secret society, or as the keepers of a long-lost treasure. As famous relic hunters, many believed they were associated with the Holy Grail and Ark of the Covenant. Several organizations also claim heritage from the medieval Templars, as a way of enhancing their own image or mystique. Such as the alleged historical connections to the Freemasons. These themes appear in puzzle mysteries like The DaVinci Code and National Treasure.

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The Blind Dead series was reimagined by Raffaele Picchio’s Curse of The Blind Dead. Rebooting Ossorio’s revenants in a post-apocalyptic time frame. Legends of the church betraying the order inspired the revenge horror film Night of the Templar. The secret society trope lends itself to multiple war dramas like Ironclad, Kingdom of Heaven, and Arn: The Knight Templar.

— FOUNDATIONS OF HORROR

Further explore these subgenres & tropes. more>>
#Zombie horror | #Relgious horror

scary studies

But not just negative associations of the Templar Knights have served as inspiration. The historical order was once a popular charity that served millions. The literary character Simon Templar sprang from that. Almost a Robin Hood figure in the many faces of The Saint, the character was depicted in a radio drama, comic strip, television series and a few movies by the same name.

It is the darker side of their legacy that remains in debate to this day. The mysteries of secret initiations and heretical acts persist in pop culture. But perhaps the greatest horrors of the Templars were the betrayals of the church they once served. Tortured to false confessions and burned at the stake on Friday the 13th of October 1307. These treacheries are not a novel concept among religious institutions. The deceit continues to modern day, with more revealed as time passes. Reiterating the fact that horror has always been political.

List of Knights Templar-Related Horror Movies

Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972)
Return of the Evil Dead (1973)
The Ghost Galleon (1974)
Night of The Seagulls (1975)
Cross of the Devil (1975)
The Church (1989)
Seasons of the Witch (2011)
Curse of the Blind Dead (2020)

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Last Updated on July 26, 2021.

Krystle Ratticus
Krystle Ratticus is a writer, illustrator, and no-budget film editor. Also involved in independent publishing and performing spoken for over 20 years.

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