Nosferatu (1922)

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The greatest vampire film of all time is no romance.  It does not star beautiful people with pale skin and delicate seduction.  There is no high-collared regal wear.  There are rats, not bats; and there’s a rodent-like creature in monkish robes who casts monster-like shadows on brown walls.  The greatest vampire film of all time is a filthy Expressionist nightmare, filled with sickly frames, and jagged teeth matching a jagged mise-en-scène. Continue reading

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The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Welcome to October, ye aulde scavengers of doorstep candies and defacers of guileless pumpkins.  This is a month unto itself in the world of film, a sort of embodied actor dictating the atmosphere and mood of its cinematic output with all the gusto of a mad composer.  Where December takes us to the stereo systems, bidding us hear the crooners and choirs in their mystic wonderlands of white, October ushers us manipulatively to dark rooms with dull lights emanating from silver screens.  It is a haunting force, not unlike the specters that inhabit it, simultaneously possessing us and scaring us away.  October is no mere month, it is a phenomenon, beckoning us to consume fear like we would fun-size chocolates and candy corns.  Trick-or-treating, costumes, haunted houses, plumes of dry ice flowing from plastic punch-bowls… none of these exorcise that possessive ghost of October quite like a scary movie.  Indeed, the genre of horror film lies at the very heart of Halloween celebration. Continue reading

Detour (1945)

This is the sort of movie that you would never think belongs on a blog like this.

The negatives are flipped, the fog machines corny.  The actors are transparent, their characters cliched.  The lighting seems artificial, the plot seems incomplete.  The whole thing is cheap in its production , even cheap in its quasi-Freudian metaphors.  It’s the sort of movie that a high-schooler may come up with in about a week. Continue reading

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

The Maltese Falcon (1941): John Huston's Noir masterpiece featuring a ...

“The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.”—Sam Spade, The Maltese Falcon

It is a recipe for disaster in the world of film noir to be incapable of formulating a good, old-fashioned threat.  Continue reading