Monday, 30 September 2013
Dir: Dario Argento. Starring David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia. 1975
I saw this - my first Argento – during the VHS boom of the 1980’s. It had all the gore that I’d come to expect from my beloved Italian horror imports, but Deep Red also had suspense, a plot with entertaining twists and turns, and sequences that have rightfully become classics of the horror genre. What perhaps appealed to me the most, though, was that this is a movie painted with broad strokes – bright colours, a first rate pounding score from Goblin, bizarre close-ups, extreme violence, ripe dialogue, broad characters – all elements that actually serve to showcase Argento at the top of his game as a director. After all, we watch Argento movies to be thrilled, to see where he’s going to take his camera next. Present too in Deep Red are some of Argento’s favourite themes – the outsider/artist involved in a murder investigation, the protagonist struggling to unravel that one piece of information he’s misinterpreted, and murder as terrible beauty. What these pieces add up to for me is the ultimate Dario Argento movie, aided in no small way by his then-wife, star, and co-writer, Daria Nicolodi.
Friday, 27 September 2013
The Cat People
Dir: Jacques Tourneur. Starring Simone Simon, Tom Conway, Kent Smith and Jane Randolph. 1942
Producer Val Lewton was responsible for creating a string of literate horror films in the 40’s that transcended their studio-imposed titles and delivered highbrow chills. For me, The Cat People is the stand out, though all are essential horror movie viewing, especially The Body Snatcher, I Walked With a Zombie and The Seventh Victim. Here, a woman’s fear of sex and intimacy creates the belief that she becomes a wild panther whenever she responds to these impulses. Or does she actually transform when her emotions are heightened? The addition of a few seconds of film required by RKO lessens the mystery, but only does minimal damage to the film. Blurring the lines between horror and film noir, The Cat People features several stand out scenes and plenty of memorable imagery in its brief 73 minute running time.
Thursday, 26 September 2013
Dir: Brian De Palma. Starring Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving and John Travolta. 1976
Basically a contemporary fairy tale, Stephen King crafted a story with Carrie that is so solid and explores fears that so many people share that it feels like it’s been part of literature’s lexicon for centuries. Working from excellent source material, Brian de Palma edited any literary detours and added his own sensibilities to create one of horror’s classic films, featuring outstanding performances by the entire cast, but particularly by Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie. A bullied Carrie unleashes her blossoming telekinetic powers against her high school tormentors and religious fanatic mother in a blood and thunder fairy tale. The prank staged at the prom is one of de Palma’s best Hitchcock influenced montages, using the 1956 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much as its source.
Wednesday, 25 September 2013
Dir: David Cronenberg. Starring Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle and Cindy Hinds. 1979
A significant jump for Cronenberg in maturity as a filmmaker while still retaining his early grotty body horror. In other words, a perfect balance of Cronenberg’s arthouse and grindhouse sensibilities. As a filmmaker, Cronenberg has always been at the forefront of doing what horror does best – making metaphors – and The Brood is a prime example with its vengeful rage-made-flesh children pummelling members of a divorcing household to a bloody pulp.
Tuesday, 24 September 2013
Blood and Lace
Dir: Philip S. Gilbert. Starring Gloria Grahame, Melody Patterson, Len Leser, Vic Tayback and, in an early and brief appearance, Dennis Christopher. 1971
A nostalgic favourite of mine, not to be confused with Mario Bava's terrific Blood and Black Lace. I saw this on the Late Show when I was approaching double digits and it scared the hell out of me. Ellie’s (Patterson) prostitute mom and a john are bashed by hammer then set on fire in a sequence that is very similar to the opening of John Carpenter’s later Halloween. Ellie is sent to an orphanage where a flame-scarred killer is on the prowl, and the directress (Grahame) is carrying out a sick little scam of her own. Orphan murders, dismemberment, frozen corpses, hammer bashings, a scary-faced killer, and stuff I can’t talk about without giving too much away all add up to create a lurid horror flick that holds a special place in my little black heart.