Each day in October, three brave souls from our gang of Groovy Goolies (co-editor Paul Childs, Boardgames Master Aaron Nash and Ultimate Movie Geek Nathaniel Jepson) are watching horror films from around the world and across a wide spectrum of the horror genre, so expect slashers, ghosts, cultists, demons, vampires, cannibals, zombies, kaiju, aliens and more!
Aaron’s Choice – Nosferatu (1922)
One of the first Dracula films ever made (I believe it was the third but the first that’s still in existence) Nosferatu broke new ground and is one of the great masterpieces of cinema. The fact it was still early days in terms of feature filmmaking, directors were experimenting with new techniques and were essentially creating a lot of techniques used today.
The atmosphere on show is incredible and is all down to some stunning cinematography and the amazing music (which there have been a fair few different versions of as was the case in most silent cinema). Some of the shots such as the iconic staircase scene just linger in the mind forever and really help create tension and fear. Some of the camerawork is truly incredible even by today’s standards especially considering the equipment they would have had at their disposal as the time.
The acting, unfortunately, has dated pretty badly as with a lot of silent films due to the fact they had to overact to be able to carry across emotion. It’s not the actors’ fault it’s just how it had to be done. There’s lots of open-mouthed shock and large expressions which do detract from some of the onscreen horror.
It may not be as scary today as it would have been in the 1920’s but it’s impressive how well it’s held up being close to 100 years old. It’s worth checking out if just for it’s historical significance in cinema.
Paul’s Choice – Dead Of Night (1945)
Speaking of significant horror films, my final anthology film of the month comes courtesy of the super Sarah Dobbs again. Her 20 Best Black and White Horror Films article on Games Radar has been instrumental in finding some older gems for a couple of years now. Dead Of Night is historically important for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s the only horror film produced by Ealing Studios who as you’ll know were more renowned for their comedies and caper movies. Secondly, it was the first major British horror release after the end of World War II. Horror and H certified films were very thin on the ground during the wars years (although not officially banned to prevent a drop in morale, as some believe) so this film provided a much needed shot in the arm for the genre.
In Dead Of Night we get a pentavirate of short horror stories, all encompassed in one of the best framing methods I’ve ever seen in an anthology film. Last week’s The Monster Club comes close but the framing of that film felt a little gimmicky, whereas here it’s the film’s main drive, with the scary stories each of the characters tells being almost incidental. That’s not to say they’re not good – we get some classic horror tropes on display here – a deadly premonition, a ghostly encounter, a cursed object, a revenge haunting and, most memorably of all, a ventriloquist’s dummy which may or may not be controlling its operator. As with any kind of compilation these elements vary in quality, although it’s The Golfer’s Story which stands out here as the clunker. It’s not terrible but its humorous nature makes it stand out like a sore thumb amongst the creepy and portentous tone of the other four.
Bus as I said, the main narrative is by far the creepiest part. Architect Walter Craig, in an attempt to relieve himself from the stress of a recurring nightmare, takes on a renovation job at the home of a friend in the countryside. Once there he is alarmed to recognise everyone present from his dream, despite having never met them before. This spooky revelation leads to the other guests sharing their own encounters with the supernatural.
It’s all fantastic stuff. It’s properly scary in places (especially The Ventriloquist’s Dummy) and (The Golfer’s Story aside) the humour is natural and unforced. But most of all this is an intricately and tightly plotted film which feels far ahead of its time. Scorcese lists it as one of his favourites and Christopher Smith cites it as the main influence of his 2009 sci-fi horror mindwarp Triangle.
You owe it to yourself to check this out.
Nathaniel’s Choice – 30 Days Of Night (2007)
Our resident YouTuber takes a look at the better of 2007’s two big-budget vampire movies (the other was, believe it or not, I Am Legend). Check out his video review: