Week 3: A Fight for Horror Supremacy
The week started with a rather odd film in 1971’s Tombs of The Blind Dead. It is bizarrely constructed, and strangely misogynistic at points, but still fun. That was followed up by another bizarre film; the 1977 film Shock Waves. It doesn’t always make sense, but it too is fun, and Peter Cushing and Brooke Adams are great in it.
I had heard a lot of good things going into Jack Clayton’s The Innocents and I have to say I was somewhat disappointed. Visually it is great but the dynamic between Deborah Kerr’s character and the two children is clunky and tedious.
I went off the beaten path for the next film, and picked a film that isn’t necessarily a horror movie, but narrowly passed our criteria. Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder is a sharp thriller that I breezed through with joy. It may not be a horror movie per se but it still feels in the spirit of the season.
Up next was one of my favorite films of all time John Carpenter’s The Thing. The film speaks for itself in its suffocating claustrophobia and paranoia.
The last film of the week was a film I finally got around to seeing in this year’s Let Me In. It isn’t a perfect film, and personally I think it could have used a little more restraint, but it is still the best new horror film I have seen this year.
Justine has certainly hit her stride, and as I write this I believe she is one or two films ahead. I need all the support I can get right now.
I didn’t watch as much as I’d like this week, because I misguidedly prioritized sleep for a couple of days . Still I’m sure I dreamt of it, nightmares of Jason chasing me through my house and through hospitals. Michael Myers might have been scarier in the movies, but the hockey mask stalks my nightmares.
The Val Lewton collection was one of my greatest cinematic discoveries in the last couple of years, and I managed to finish it off this week. Unfortunately, the two films I had left for last are probably the weakest; luckily a weak Lewton is still a good film. Though Lewton often employed soon to be great directors, it is really his stamp that makes his productions so unified and excellent. The Leopard Man is standard, weakened by poor leads and a less-than engaging central mystery. There are still some horrific scenes however, and early on in particularly involving blood pouring out from a closed door is probably the best in any film released by Lewton, and it is truly one of the most frightening moments in all of cinema. Ghost Ship is my least favourite film in the collection, but like nearly all of his productions, Lewton was faced with a near impossible scenario into which he had to make an interesting film from. In this case, he had to use an old boat set and make a film. Unfortunately, the low budget is far more evident here and the storyline simply is not as compelling. I tend to think that Lewton operates best in open spaces that are confined by darkness and the mind, whereas this film is very limited in terms of space and scope.
I don’t remember the last time I willingly watched a straight to video release, but I decided I wanted to watch Lost Boys: The Tribe. I think it was because the dvd cover was holographic… suffice to say, this film was entirely silly. Lots of random film references, and a decent soundtrack makes it almost watchable.
I am not sure if there exists a film that utilizes animation with as much complexity and sophistication as Perfect Blue. Satoshi Kon fractures reality in such a way that you can’t even imagine a live action film attempting to capture perceptive duality in the way this film does. In many ways, this film is ambiguously horror, but it’s twists and turns interplay with fantasy and reality, as well as having a highly self-investigative “mystery” that only moves further away from answers making it fit comfortably within the genre. Most of the film’s most frightening images strangely enough operate on a level that is exploring the nature of creation, especially of the “image”.
Sleepaway Camp is ridiculous fun. Sure it is best remembered for its memorable “reveal”, but the whole build up is so wonderfully disturbing as well. The dynamic between characters is frightening as they all revel in selfishness and their pubescent bodies. It reminds me of an especially upsetting Todd Solondz film.
Best film of the week though, without a doubt, is Dario Argento’s Phenomena. This film actually rivals Suspiria as his best. In many ways both films are similar, and I think they share many of the same strengths, the most notable being a very strong female lead. Jennifer Connelly is entirely compelling as the insect-whisperer beauty sent to a strange Swiss boarding school. I’m not sure if she’s a great actress, but her beauty is enough to entrance and guide the images. It also has a chimp.
Tally at the end of the week: