Lady in White
A curious mix of autumn colored nostalgia for a small town early 1960s childhood and a supernatural fantasy with an icky child murderer sub plot to round it out, Lady in White is something of an anomaly. Released at a time when horror films were gorier than ever (think Freddy, Jason, et al.) this quietly creepy little movie made a virtue of suggestiveness rather than overkill and at least the hint of psychological complexity that works to the film’s favor even if the execution is a little clumsy. Still, the film has a couple of genuinely haunting moments that have some of the visual poetry of the classic Val Lewton horror films that he made for RKO (Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie).
Little Frankie Scarlatti (Lukas Haas) is a sensitive kid and a budding writer who loves to scare people with his monster stories. After terrifying his classmates with a special story he wrote just for Halloween he is tricked by some of his bratty classmates into being locked in the school coatroom after everyone else has gone home. He falls asleep only to wake up hours later, trying not to panic in his little Dracula costume, with the glow of moonlight shining in the window. It’s this scene that stays with you—just a simple, almost completely still shot that speaks artfully of the very real childhood fear of being abandoned, of being lost in the darkness that you are too young to comprehend.Continue Reading
Dust Devil: The Final Cut
Dust Devil has suffered from a bad reputation ever since Harvey and somebody Weinstein eviscerated Richard Stanley’s cut of the film from 108 minutes to 87 for its ill-fated theatrical release. Stanley’s previous feature was the cult hit Hardware, which was noted for having made back its micro budget many times over as a video store hit. Why the Weinsteins chose to lop off 20 minutes and remove all the sense from the film is a bit of a mystery. Hopefully, Dust Devil: The Final Cut will redeem the film in the eyes of those who had seen it previously and introduce this gem to a new generation of horror fans.
Set in an arid, remote region of South Africa, Dust Devil follows an enigmatic serial killer (Robert John Burke), half man-half demon who follows the lonely highway, making love to and then killing depressed women. The killer uses ritual magic, attempting through his murders to transcend the earthly plane so he can return to the spiritual world. The desert setting gives the film a Western atmosphere as does the casting of an American actor in the drifter-killer role. Whether there are supposed to be additional political connotations in an American man using African magic and killing white African women is an unresolved quandary. Wendy, a narcissistic housewife, leaves her brutish husband, eventually crossing paths with the handsome killer. The fact that neither the killer, nor Wendy, nor her husband are likeable characters and the latter two are idiots, makes the final battle all the more enjoyable. By liberating you from sympathizing with the protagonists, Stanley allows the viewers to consider the killer’s motivations objectively and also enjoy the resulting bloodshed more thoroughly.Continue Reading
Legend has it that if you witness the Wendigo today, sometime tomorrow someone will die. This, according to many beliefs held by several Native American tribes, is not necessarily the basis for this Larry Fessenden (Habit, Last Winter, No Telling) picture. But it sure provides a creepy overtone for the haunting tale.
George (Jake Weber), Kim (Patricia Clarkson) and Miles (Erik Per Sullivan) are headed to upstate New York from Manhattan so that George can escape the high strung atmosphere of his job as a professional photographer for an advertising agency. Things turn bleak when George accidentally runs into a deer which prompts a very uncomfortable encounter with three locals. The attention of the audience shifts to Miles. While his character is rather brooding and subtle, Miles is shrouded in innocence. George and Kim are very protective of their young son and this becomes evident as the prolonged contention between the family and the locals becomes more volatile, particularly with the character of Otis (John Speredakos).Continue Reading
For a country not known for redefining or even perpetuating the horror genre, the French are starting to step up to the plate and show the world how it’s done. In recent years, we’ve seen several little horrifying gems come from a place better known for idiosyncratic comedies, dark fairytales and, essentially, the definition of modern cinematic storytelling. Such films include Irreversible, Haute Tension, Inside, and this film – Frontiere(s).
First of all, I have to thank Phil Blankenship for motivating me to check this one out. I had read a really good review in a recent issue of Fangoria yet I wasn’t convinced. Apparently, it was apart of the “8 Films To Die For” festival that takes place in November (that could very well be the reason I didn’t take this one too seriously upon discovery). It wasn’t until my conversation with Phil that I really took notice.Continue Reading
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
A true ‘must-see’ of silent cinematic majesty, Hunchback stars the unbelievably talented Lon Chaney, an innovator of pantomime and makeup artistry. The film is based on the Victor Hugo novel about Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bellringer who falls in love with Esmeralda, a gypsy girl.
It is a classic story that is further accentuated by enormous sets, complex lighting and Chaney’s amazing ability to express suffering, humiliation,and desire for the understanding of a kindred soul. It should be noted that Chaney’s great skill at displaying identifiable human emotions under grotesque disguises can be partly attributed to the need to communicate with his deaf-mute parents. His body language and gestures are the center of this movie. He demonstrated his prowess at making us FEEL the character’s emotions in film after film until his death in 1930 after his final appearance in his only sound film The Unholy Three,a remake of an earlier silent film that he starred in. Anybody even remotely interested in the movies before they spoke should see this.Continue Reading
Witchfinder General is a small classic of English horror that only recently saw re-release in its intended form. Originally distributed as The Conqueror Worm, to capitalize on the Edgar Allan Poe vehicles of its star Vincent Price, Michael Reeves’ film has previously been seen with incongruous narration and extraneous nudity added and its original score excised. A 2007 DVD restoration righted these wrongs, and it can now be experienced in all its chilling glory.
In 17th century England, chaos descends as civil war rages between King Charles I’s Parliamentarians and Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads. “Witchfinder” Matthew Hopkins (Price) roams the countryside extracting “confessions” from accused witches and collecting a fee for each hanging and drowning, abetted by the sadistic torturer and rapist John Stearne (Robert Russell). A young coronet in Cromwell’s insurgent army (Ian Ogilvy) and his fiance (Hilary Dwyer) become entangled with the murderous Hopkins.Continue Reading
From the deranged mind that brought you Bad Lieutenant, Ms. 45 and King of New York comes a horror tale involving drug addicts, graduate students and vampires.
Not particularly scary or even bulging with production value, the film is still great fun for any fan of the vampire sub genre.Continue Reading