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A traveler stays the night at a rural inn, but gets no rest as he is tormented by various spectres and mysterious happenings. The food on the table prepares itself, his clothes leave the room on their own and the room seems to tumble end over end. Several hooded figures dance around his bed, and a demon finally tears away one wall and seizes him. Written by
This sort of trick film, in which a traveler goes some place where things mysteriously happen, was not new when J. Stuart Blackton made it in 1907. Melies was making stuff like it in 1896. and the vim and verve of his performances was a lot better than the actor's here.
Nonetheless, there was a change and advance in the decade and it was in the evolution of a film grammar. In the earlier films, the point of the transformations, appearances, disappearances and things moving on their own was that they were happening. They were the point of the movie and any actor on the screen stood in for the goggling audience. It was a magic act.
This film, however, is more than that. It is a story about a traveler who checks into a hotel and the weird and terrifying things that happen to him. The things that happen -- knives that cut sausage without anyone holding them -- are not the point of the movie, they are means of achieving the point. They have moved from simple shots to film vocabulary.
The vocabulary would remain the same, even though they grammar they exist in -- a cobbled-together pidgin of stage, magic lantern and ad hoc film usage -- would be swept away within half a decade. However, the next time you look at a horror movie, take a look. They're still using the same tricks.
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