The Night of the Hunter (1955)

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A young boy stands like Peter Pan, hands on his hips against the pale background of his bedroom wall.  A light pours through the window before him, casting him brightly despite the darkness in the room.  The intersecting beams of the window pane cast a skewed cross across him, this distorted cross moving downward to the right against the wall.  Suddenly, a large shadow steps into the frame, a personage of darkness that steals most of the light in the room.  The boy is now cast in darkness.  Here we have a filmic sequence derived from an appeal to the literature of images, a distorted religiosity beckoning the arrival of a diabolical presence.  We have a moving picture demonstrating the shrouding of innocence by the waves of a harsh world, a world frustratingly characterized, as we will later learn, by abusers of power and manipulators of morality.  Such flattery and gamesmanship is brought more into the light, as it were, when the light recedes into nighttime.

Not to mention, it’s very scary.

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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

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