Saturday, May 6, 2017

Three Films Make A Post: WARNING: If you've ever been hypnotized, do not come alone!

Devil in the Dark (2017): Tim Brown’s film concerns two estranged brothers trying to rebuild bridges by going on a camping trip in an area that has a dark connection to something strange that happened to the younger brother when they were children. Something monstrous has been calling to them.

This is one of these perfectly decent, competently realized horror films that just never manage to truly capture anything dark, interesting, or insightful, plodding along well enough through its running time without ever hitting the right spot that would turn the film exciting in any way, shape or form. In this particular case, I’d argue this would have been a better film if it had started from where it stops and went onwards from there (probably with strategic flashbacks), because the last minute or so actually does manage to capture the imagination.

The Creature Below (2016): This British Lovecraftian indie is not as slick as Devil in the Dark but felt much more interesting than the US film. While the story isn’t particularly original when you know your Lovecraft pastiches, there aren’t terribly many long-form films going that way. Director Stewart Sparke manages to tell a tale of cosmic horror on a personal scale, trusting in a good performance of lead Anna Dawson to portray her character’s slow descent into properly Lovecraftian madness. There’s some awkwardness with a not exactly ideal sound mix, the special effects aren’t always great (unless in those moments when they absolutely are), and the verbatim quotes from HPL in the dialogue don’t really work, but these aren’t exactly show stoppers in indie horror of the really independent sort. Otherwise, the film is atmospheric and flows well and even ends on a high note in one of its best shot scenes. Okay, and on iffy CGI, but I didn’t find myself caring about that at all.

House of Wax (1953): André de Toth’s film is probably the best wax figure cabinet horror movie ever made (which is actually a surprisingly strong field as sub-sub-genres go), featuring as it does silly 3D gimmicks, what is one of the founding – and thoroughly great - performances of Vincent Price’s career as a horror actor (I do count his radio performances, nit pickers), an early larger – and pleasantly creepy - outing for Charles Bronson before he took that name, comic relief that is often not terribly odious, a wrily presented sense of the macabre, and a use of colour in a period set horror film that to me seems to prefigure things like Corman’s Poe cycle or the part of the Italian gothics that were shot in colour.

De Toth being de Toth, there’s also quite a bit of barely suppressed subtext concerning eroticism and male obsession with an imaginary ideal (potentially sublimated into art) that really shouldn’t work with the gimmicky nature of the kind of cinema that uses ping pong balls swirling at the camera to really prove its 3D merits but does.

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