Reviews written by registered user
|107 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Revenge in the House of Usher" is said to be one of Jess Franco's worst film. However, this happens to be one of my favorite works of the celebrated director (well, depending on the cut, that is), and while it will not appeal to everyone, fans of European haunted house films like "Lisa and the Devil" and Franco's own "A Virgin Among the Living Dead" will find plenty to enjoy here. Incidentally, one of the reasons why people hate it so much (or so I think), also plagued the other two films, as the most common version is in fact a butchered recut. Originally released in Spain as "El Hundimiento de la Casa Usher", the film flopped and only resurfaced when Eurocine got it's hands on it, removing some of the original's most startling sequences and substituting them with an new subplot to cash in on the success of Franco's "Dr. Orloff" films, and even adding scenes from "The Awful Dr. Orloff" poorly edited into the mix as flashbacks. To it's credit, this new cut actually does a good job with the new footage, as they are quite atmospheric and interesting, and one can see they actually made an effort for it to look like it belongs to the same film but get tend dull and repetitive after a while. Now, back to "El Hundimiento...", Franco doesn't go for a straight adaptation of the story even though it does have a similar premise and climax. It's faithfulness lies at recreating the themes and mood of Poe's work, taking elements from more than one of his stories ("Ligeia" in particular is referenced throughout) to create something more unique. For my money, this film along with Jean Epstein's superb 1928 take on the same story is the one that actually comes closest to achieve that decadent atmosphere of morbid romance. The Spanish deserts may not be one's ideal location for the house, but here it actually works a lot, and remains close to Poe's description of it although in a rather unconventional matter. The never-ending daylight, a Franco trademark, is used to great effect too, creating a suffocating, feverish atmosphere throughout (also giving the idea that Usher's delusions may have something to do with that oppressive sun). The castle itself is absolutely stunning and is beautifully photographed. The use of shadows and natural light during the interior sequences is excellent, proving once again that Franco always has a great eye for shooting on locations. There are plenty of gorgeous, darkly Gothic compositions throughout, with the architecture always playing an important part. One of the most compelling aspects of this production is that Franco is aiming for a kind of 20's/30's Gothic . Compared to genre works of the same kind made during that period, it may feel helplessly outdated, but that's part of the charm. Unlike what some have grown to expect from him, there is no on screen sex and nudity, with most of the "dirty" stuff implied, which I personally feel is a wise move and works in a Val Lewton kind of way. Everything from the script and particularly Daniel White's non-stop melodramatic score just screams old-school, expressionistic horror. Although these scenes were added in under producer's insistence, some of the film's most interesting additions is that Usher may or may not be be a vampire serial killer. It isn't clear whether these killings actually took place, but they are truly powerful moments. The build-up for the first death scene is particularly incredible, with great use of expressionistic lighting, and the conversation between prey and attacker. The most downright disturbing murder is that of a little girl. The scene itself is already creepy with it's open suggestion of pedophilia, but having him actually kill her and feast on her blood on screen makes it quite difficult to watch. Howard Vernon's totally demented performance also helps in making this bit particularly convincing, as he really does seem to enjoy doing it. Speaking of Vernon, I must say this is his most impressive performance under Franco's direction. He is mostly lonely, introspective and melancholy, occasionally turning (sometimes in the same scene) gleefully over-the-top and hysterical; and also quite monstrous and downright scary. Although Mayans is sadly unimpressive and dull as the narrator/protagonist Harker; Lina Romay more than makes up for it as the servant Helen. Despite the absence of her usual masturbatory fits, Romay's acting is actually one of her all time best, serving as a kind of dead ringer for Helena Boham Carter in Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd". In fact, I find her even more sexy with her clothes on, playfully seducing on the members of the household and oozing a sleazy, "femme-fatale" like charm. She also delivers some of the best lines, as well as the film's few moments of dark humor. Although I can't find her name in the credits list, the actress who plays the ghostly Edmunda deserves special mention as well. From her frightening introduction in a "Kill Baby Kill" inspired scene, she has a strong, ethereal quality on her. As for flaws, the film moves at a very slow pace (it worked for me, but I can definitely see why some can call it boring), and with a rather stiff protagonist. Also, this is a very low budget production, and it shows. The climax in particular suffers from the poor production values, with a very unconvincing "fall". The scene is made up basically from shaky camera angles and falling furniture. Still, this happens right after one of the film's most memorable sequence: Usher's encounter with his victims' vengeful ghosts, which may just be the most powerful moment in the film, akin to the powerful, haunting finale of "A Virgin Among the Living Dead". As a whole, "House of Usher" may not convince Franco bashers of the man's talents, but for more seasoned fans of the director and low-budget Eurohorror in general it is essential viewing.
I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit, though I come from Brazil, I am not very familiar with my country's cinema, let alone horror films. But if "As Filhas do Fogo" (which translates into "Daughters of Fire") is any indication of the hidden gems that await me, then they get MUCH less credit and admiration they deserve. In fact, this film has not even been released in VHS around here (though ironically, there are rumors it was released as such in the US), and I only came to watch it via a torrent of a television broadcast of it in poor shape. It's a pity really, because not only I found it way better than what I've seen from Coffin Joe, but it's one of the most haunting, ethereal, and downright frightening ghost stories ever made IMO. Akin to José Ramon Larraz's "Symptoms", another forgotten macabre masterpiece, "As Filhas do Fogo" is the story of a lesbian couple staying at a secluded house in the countryside. They become acquainted with a mysterious family friend who claims to record the voices of the dead. Soon enough, these three characters find themselves haunted by the ghost of one of the girls' mother, and the line between this world and the next becomes more and more blurry, escalating to a totally nightmarish finale that echoes Mario Bava's "Kill Baby Kill". Director Walter Hugo Khouri was no stranger to the genre (his 1973's "O Anjo da Noite", though I'm yet to see, is one of the country's most important horror films, and apparently, a strong predecessor to "When A Stranger Calls" and "Black Christmas"), and the atmosphere he creates has rarely been rivaled. Whenever the mother's ghost appears on screen, the mood is often melancholy and sad, with use of some Mozart pieces adding to the gloominess of it all. Much of the horror, however, comes from the dialogue (one scene where the medium describes the afterlife as a place of sorrow and bitterness is a disturbing highlight) and nature imagery, with eerie use of it's locations: the vast, deserted countryside with bleeding trees, howling winds, dark ponds and colorful vegetation. Khouri takes a "Picnic at Hanging Rock" approach by having most of the characters being descendants of European emigrants, and therefore strangers in their own land. Their surroundings seem to stare at them, beckoning, controlling their every move. It is only the governess - a native of the region - who does not succumb to it's mystical powers. There's also a bit of folklore added to good measure near the ending, when the girls stumble across a mysterious celebration lead by a masked stranger. It is possibly the scene most people remember from the film, and a remarkably creepy moment. The performances are excellent all around. Paola Morra and Rosina Malbouisson are great as the couple vulnerable to events that they simply cannot explaim. It is, however, the supporting actors that give the most impressive, scene-stealing roles, particularly Selma Egrei as the mother, who never utters a word and mostly just stands staring, but whose strange, bewitching looks and screen presence dominates every scene she's in. It's simply impossible not to get chills down your spine whenever she's on screen. Overall, this is a magnificent creepy gem I'm glad to have rediscovered, and truly hope more people will seek out and appreciate. If you're a fan of subtle, scary horrors like "The Haunting", "Let's Scare Jessica to Death" or "Don't Look Now", this is the film for you! 10/10
No, this is not another European cash-in on "The Exorcist", unlike what it's title may suggest. It is, however, the most disturbing and shocking Jess Franco film I've seen. Hell, it is one of the most disturbing horrors I've seen, which is surprising considering this is a virtually bloodless film. It's horror relies, instead, in it's totally demented instances of psychosexual hysteria that can also be found in works such as "Possession" or "Dr. Jekyll and his Women". Franco haters tend to dismiss his work as amateurish and crude, and this criticism can be applied, in a way, to this film in particular. However, in this case, it works in favor of the film, coming across as making it's raw, gritty atmosphere all the more authentic. André Bénichou's haunting, experimental score also adds a lot to it. And for those who think Lina Romay has little to do in the director's works other than having to masturbate in close-ups, her performance here is a truly stunning tour-de-force that has to be seen to be believed, up there with other portrayals of sexually frustrated women in horror films, such as Catherine Denueve in "Repulsion" or Mimsy Farmer in "The Perfume of the Lady in Black". Her sex scenes with the equally bewildering Pamela Stanford (the titular villain), though graphic, are anything but sexy, and her final, extended "intimate" sequence is bound to make your jaw drop to the floor, not only because of what is shown, but also because of it's context. And that's not even the film's most shocking bit to begin with (anyone who's seen the film know about THE particular scene I'm referring to, and I dare not spoil it for those who haven't seen it). "Lorna the Exorcist" seems to have some kind of popularity with Franco haters, so I beg you to give it a shot. Even if you don't like it at all, one can't deny it will haunt you for days to follow.
The 1970's were the peak for the lesbian-vampire films. They varied from being more mainstream titles such as Hammer's "Carmilla" adaptation "The Vampire Lovers", to more deliberately artsy, trippy works such as Jess Franco's aptly named "Vampyros Lesbos" as well as basically every Jean Rollin film, such as "Shiver of the Vampires" and "Fascination". They all seemed to have been inspired, one way or the other, by Roger Vadim's exceptional "Blood and Roses", but none more so than "Daughters of Darkness", which is most definitely a cut above your regular Eurotica. But whereas "Blood and Roses" is a lonely, delicate film, "Daughters of Darkness" is a bolder, darker and disturbing slice of the genre. I have a slight preference for "Blood..." if only for it's one of the few films that can make me cry, but that doesn't diminish the impact of "Daughters..." at all - in fact, it may even be the better of the two. As usual for an Eurohorror, this is a visually breathtaking work of art. Harry Kumel's mise-en-scene is simply phenomenal, with almost every shot being a knockout of imagery and aesthetic delight. The first two colorful death scenes are bound to make Dario Argento envious. From the lush but eerily deserted hotel interiors to the breathtaking shots of the Belgium twilight, accompanied by François De Roubaix's minimalistic but effective score, this is a visual and aural feast. Still, so far it doesn't diverge much from the norm. What makes it stand above the titles mentioned above, is that "Daughters of Darkness" is a very well written film with extremely developed characters - a rarity for the genre. Set in a vacant hotel whose sole guests are two young, healthy and happy newlyweds and a mysterious Countess and her assistant. Judging by her name alone - Elizabeth Bathory - it's not surprise that the mysterious aristocrat is a vampire, and the one responsible for a series of murders in the area. She sees the couple as both possible lovers as well as prey. The couple itself soon turn out not to be what they initially seemed, as the husband in particular seems to have more than his share of skeletons in the closet. The Countess begins to realize this and soon, she begins a terrifying mind-game with the two, draining them first out of their sanity and moral values, and then out of their blood. Kumel doesn't seem too interested in fangs and vampire attacks, but rather in creating a claustrophobic, decadent atmosphere of psychosexual madness, that grows tighter and tighter as the story progresses, to the point of becoming almost unbearable, but yet, you just can't take your eyes off the screen. The amazing use of editing, quite ahead of it's time, helps in creating this bewildering, grueling atmosphere of a fever dream, mostly through rough and rapid cuts, or intercuts between different scenes. Another extra point is due to Delphine Seyrig's timeless portrayal of Elizabeth Bathory. Sporting the looks of a once glamorous but now decadent 1930's actress, she is seductive and beautiful, but yet something not quite right with her. Opting for a relatively low-key performance, she relies on her strong screen persona, with her husky voice and enticing body language that lures the characters as well as the audience into her dark, twisted world. Her casting is all the more ideal considering the film's constant references to Alain Resnais' "Last Year in Marinebad", of which she was the star. Danielle Ouimet and John Karlen, while not on the same league as Seyrig, but are quite good. Karlen is particularly convincing as another tortured soul who, like Bathory, possesses a vampire-like fascination with violence, and is driven by madness by his own unwholesome backgrounds. Andrea Rau as the Countess' lover Illona doesn't have to do much other than look pretty, but she gives a hysterical and haunting, if brief, showcase during her particularly nasty bathroom death scene - possibly the film's saddest and most cringe-inducing set piece. The film's two more noticeable flaws are the somewhat silly final scene and the police officer character, which detracts from the story. The latter's death is a somewhat humorous moment that feels out of place with what had been seen before. These flaws, however, are minor and easy to ignore, specially since you consider it's degree of excellency in almost every other level. Overall, this is a fascinating, unique lesbian vampire film that definitely ranks among the very best of it's kind. It may not be for everyone, but those looking for a more psychological, emotionally raw take on this often used theme, you simply can't go wrong with "Daughters of Darkness".
In spite of it's title, this is not a zombie film, but rather, a vampire film (although the vampires do act a bit zombie-like in a few scenes). Don't let yourself be fooled by it's ridiculously low IMDb rating, for this is certainly one of the best of it's kind, and while obviously not for everyone, will certainly please fans of romanticized Gothic horror ala Antonio Margheriti's "Castle of Blood" or Coppola's "Dracula". While it's not as technically polished as either films, the final product is just as endearing and as powerful. Director Leon Klimovsky was no stranger to the genre, having directed quite a few Paul Naschy vehicles as well as the infamous "Vampire's Night Orgy". This one has same style and flair as seen in his previous works, but he takes it to a whole other level of excellence, and this might just be his best film. "Night of the Walking Dead" works because the romantic angle is treated in a mature, involving way and does not diminish the film's more horrific and exploitive impact. For the more "pretentious" viewers like myself, Klimovsky even does flirt with the idea of making an art-house film, culminating in a deliriously surreal vampire ball scene that looks like a cross between Polanski's "The Fearless Vampire Killers" and Fellini's "Juliet of the Spirits". He never really crosses the thin borderline between horror and art, but these avant-garde touches add a lot to the film's strange, bewildering atmosphere. Set in a remote 19th century village somewhere in Europe, the story follows a young aristocrat (Emma Cohen) suffering from a terminal disease, and whose sister just recently succumbed to the bloodthirsty vampires that roam the region. Soon enough, she finds herself falling in love with the leader of the vampires - Count Rudolph (Carlos Ballesteros), and willingly joins their cult of the damned as a way to escape her lonely life and forthcoming death. However, the Count is so in love with her that he simply cannot allow her initiation to become a horrible creature like himself. The film's biggest flaw, I believe, comes from the rather snail-paced first half. Don't get me wrong, I love slow-moving horrors, but this one is filled with unnecessary exposition to characters that don't have that much of an importance to the film. Thankfully, Cohen (a very underrated actress in my view) manages to carry the first half very well, and creates great sympathy and for her character. Her gradual detachment from her parents' overwhelming repression and care, in order to become a monster, can be read as a metaphor for a young girl's sexual awakening in the 19th century. Ballesteros' Count Rudolph is not quite as impressive, but he is serviceable enough. One could only wish he'd been slightly creepier, specially when you consider how truly scary-looking the other vampires were. Although plot-wise the film can be read as being no different from something out of Hammer, Klimovsky employs a totally different stylistic approach. Reminiscent of José Ramon Larraz's "Vampyres", he makes great use of the autumnal rural landscapes. Grey skies; vast, empty fields; and leaf-less tress blowing in the wind, all become characters themselves, and land a lot to the film's gloomy, saddening atmosphere. The romantic score by Máximo Barratas, on the same vein of Carlo Rustichelli's work in "The Whip and the Body", fits the brooding, lonely imagery perfectly, and most definitely deserve a CD release. Overall, this is a definite must-see for Gothic horror fans, and one that deserves a HD restoration, as well as more recognition
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Antonio Margheriti's 1971 remake of his classic "Castle of Blood" has always been criticized for being inferior in every level to it's predecessor. While I do think "Castle of Blood" is a better film, "In the Web of the Spider" does not stand so far behind. Made on a bigger budget than the 1964 version, Margheriti does a good thing by taking a different aesthetic approach than the candle-lit B&W nightmare that is the latter, and instead lighting up the set with a nice range of deep blues and orange gels to show off the more elaborate locations. It also enjoys a better cast than the original, with a highlight being the presence of Klaus Kinski as Edgar Allan Poe. At first glance, he might not seem very right for the role, but he truly nails it in a absolutely maddening performance. They even made his role slightly larger than the original, by adding a superbly creepy introduction scene in a crypt that sets the tone for the rest of the picture. Albeit not as memorable as Barbara Steele, Michele Mercier (the protagonist from the Telephone segment of Mario Bava's "Black Sabbath") is a good replacement and she has great chemistry with Anthony Franciosa (Argento's "Tenebre"), even more so than Steele and Riviere in "Castle...". Also, I found the film to be somewhat more frightening than it's predecessor, specially towards the ending. The best example of which is the scene where Carmus descends into the crypt and coms across a corpse being reanimated. The effects used in the scene are more subtle, but all the more effective in my view. Riz Ortolani's score is rather uneven. There are some memorable tunes, particularly the hauntingly beautiful love theme and the song that plays during the ball sequence, but the rest is a routine and rather distracting orchestra piece intended to create a creepy environment, whereas there are more than a few scenes where I think absolute silence would've made it all the more effective. Still, it doesn't really ruin the picture, and as I've said, it wasn't all bad. The film's major problem is the fact that it's virtually a scene-by-scene remake of the original. Surely, there are some slight improvements, such as the shirtless, hunky ghost that was looked silly in the original is now dressed and more menacing-looking, and the ending is also more subtle and tragic. Still, these elements are only a very small portion of the piece, and while they do make a difference, the whole thing failed to impress me story-wise, because I knew exactly what was going to happen next in every scene. There are no big changes and/or improvements to make it essential viewing for those who have already seen "Castle of Blood", which is a pity really, since it does have some great assets and even surpasses the latter in some ways. Also, where "Castle of Blood" felt provocative and ahead of it's time with it's depiction of sex and lesbianism, "In the Web of the Spider" feels way too restrained and tame, specially for a film that came one year after "The Vampire Lovers", which dealt with some similar themes. The sole 'gore' scene we get to see is in the very end, and is restrained to a brief shot of blood flowing from Franciosa's wound. Mind you, I'm not a gorehoud, nor do I think violence is essential to make a horror film good, but in this case I think it was more than necessary, if only to make it stand out from the original. None of these cons stopped it from being a fun and atmospheric slice of Italian Gothic, but it makes me sad to give it a mere a 7/10. If you're a fan of this type of film and haven't seen "Castle of Blood" yet, I think you might better watch this one first, but otherwise I unfortunately can't go as far as calling it the forgotten gem of continental horror it could have been.
Often said to be the unofficial fifth chapter in the "Blind Dead" series, John Gilling's "La Cruz del Diablo" (The Devil's Cross) easily tops his predecessors, and is among the very best horror films to have come out of Spain. The story follows a writer who has a series of drug addicted hallucinations involving the Templars. When he goes to Spain visit his sister, only to find that she died by the time he got there, he decides to investigate, and tries to find a connection between her death and his horrifying visions. While many have called it a mere cash-in on Amando de Ossorio's infamous series, it's actually a much more accurate and throughly superior adaptation of the writings of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, which also served as inspiration for "Tombs of the Blind Dead". Like Béquer, less emphasis is given to the Templars themselves, and the whole affair is more of a character-driven piece, that is not devoid of symbolism and ambiguity. I have to give credit to Ossorio, since his Templars are much creepier than those presented here, but I liked how Gilling went for something different, and kept them more in the shadows. Originally intended as a Paul Naschy vehicle, one can clearly see how this could've become just another 70's Spanish horror, but Gilling's direction makes the total difference. A Hammer Horror veteran, Gilling combines the more sophisticated, polished style of his British contemporaries and combines it with the more raw, grittier appeal of Spanish Gothic. There's a bit of Italian horror in there as well, "Kill Baby ... Kill!" and "Castle of Blood" to be more precise, and one can argue that the black-gloved killer is a nod to gialli. Judging from this combination, it is suffice to say that the visuals are simply jaw-dropping, making great use of the beautiful Spanish locations, which land to the ever-present fairytale-ish aspects of Bécquer's work, as well the use of actual ruins and atmospheric, candle-lit interiors. The sometimes eerie, sometimes romantic score by Ángel Arteaga matches the off-beat yet strangely poetic tone perfectly. The acting is also surprisingly decent, with a cast of familiar faces from the continental horror scene of the 70's. Ramiro Oliveros and Emma Cohen, who already acted together the previous year in Jess Franco's excellent "The Other Side of the Mirror" are particularly remarkable as the drug-addicted protagonist and his ghost lover respectively, although one cannot help but wonder how would Naschy turn out in the former's role. Carmen Sevilla makes for a strong and likable heroine, and Eduardo Fajardo is good too, although he seems to be playing Francis Lehar from "Lisa and the Devil" all over again (ironically, the way his corpse is positioned near the ending is almost exactly the same as in "Lisa". The highlight among the performers is certainly Adolfo Marsillach as the mysterious assistant to Fajardo's character. He has screen presence to boot, and is just so effortlessly creepy in his relatively low-key performance. There are no big flaws in the film as far as I'm concerned, although one could argue to that the final battle between the protagonist and the Templars is somewhat anti-climatic, and the pace might be a little too slow (think "The House with Laughing Windows"). Overall, an excellent and extremely underrated horror film worthy of rediscovery. Fans of Gothic horror and slow-burns just can't afford to miss it.
Yet another adaptation of "Carmilla", "The Vampire Lovers" doesn't really hold a candle to Vadim's "Blood and Roses" - the excellent 1960 adaptation of the LeFanu novella, nor does it combine violence and eroticism as well as Harry Kumel's "Daughters of Darkness", and yet it remains an entertaining and effectively atmospheric slice of Hammer horror. Lushly photographed and with Gothic atmosphere to boot, it is Ingrid Pitt, however, the real star of the film. Although director Roy Ward Baker seems to be mainly concerned in exploiting Pitt's 'assets' than to recreate the poetic and dreamy tone of the source material, Pitt comes off not only boosting screen presence and beauty, but also as a terrific actress that lands a range of deep, sensible emotions to her rather bitter character. The rest of the cast is quite good as well, with Peter Cushing seemingly doing the Dr. Van Helsing impersonation all over again (something that wouldn't bother Hammer fans, I suppose) and Madeleine Smith as the fragile and child-like Emma. In spite of it all however, the film never gives the impression that it's even trying to be more than a routine Hammer film, and while it's a good one at that, it's hard to differ from the studio's other works made at about the same time, save perhaps for the more visceral sexuality (which, as I've said before, has been done better in other films of this kind). Overall, it's an entertaining film for a gloomy Sunday afternoon, and won't disappoint fans of Gothic horror. In any case, the film should be seen at least once if only for Pitt's legendary performance as the vampire Carmilla.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Marlon Brando's sole horror movie vehicle is a disturbing, eerie and underrated affair that deserves more praise. Intended as a prequel of sorts to Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw", it is often said to be a follow-up film to Jack Clayton's mesmerizing adaptation of the latter, "The Innocents". Thus, people wanting to see "The Innocents" all over again are bound to be disappointed. For starters, "The Nightcomers" is not even a ghost story to begin with, and can be described as being more of a dark drama with horror overtones, with the underlying theme of sexual-repression being one of the few things the two films share. Although Miles and Flora kill the two so they can at least be together, even if after death, the matter is not dealt in a supernatural way at all. In fact, considering how there are no ghostly manifestations of their dead parents leaves the audience to believe (well, at least those unfamiliar with either James' or Clayton's work) that they were simply insane, in a way more akin to Carlos Henrique Taboada's "Veneno para las Hadas". The final scenes gives a sense of hoplesness, rather than the creepy-but-macabre tone some might expect. As it is often said, Brando's performance as Peter Quint is brilliant, and should be compared to his similar work in "Last Tango in Paris" the following year. In fact, I wonder if Bertolucci ever saw this film before casting Brando as Paul in "Last Tango...". In this one, he manages to convey sympathy and melancholy for his rather brute and vicious character. Stephanie Beacham holds up extremely well against Brando, and they a strangely effective chemistry between them. Thora Hird is delightfully annoying as intended, and the younger actors who play Miles and Flora are quite convincing as well for their young age, and come across as being quite creepy. Tame though they are, the scenes where the two start imitating Quint and Jessell are quite disturbing to say the least. The film also benefits heavily from a bittersweet sense of humor and witty one-liners, that thankfully does not ruin the omnipresent sense of dread and sexual frustration, only enhance it. "The Nightcomers" has been often criticized for being dullishly directed, which surprises me since the whole thing was anything but dull in my view. Surely, some scenes go on for a bit too long, but it's not like they ruin the film. Winner goes for a more naturalistic approach as opposed to Clayton's more nightmarish, otherworldly take, and us such, the film is a real marvel to look at. Winner makes perfect use of the locations at the British countryside, landing a lot to the thick, brooding atmosphere. The musical score, though not particularly memorable, fits perfectly with it's beautiful imagery. Overall, while not a perfect film, "The Nightcomers" has plenty to offer to the open-minded. Just do not expect anything close to "The Innocents", or Winner's later, more "hardcore" horror entry "The Sentinel". 9/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As poorly received today as it was back in the day, Marcello Allaprandi's haunted-house vehicle "A Whisper in the Dark" is a forgotten classic screaming for the praise that it's worth. On the surface, the film follows a fairly simple story that could have made for a clichéd-driven film: a young boy named Martino, living with his wealthy family at a decadent Venetian villa, creates an imaginary friend named Luca who, as it turns out, may or may not be the vengeful ghost of his mother Camilla's first child, who died almost immediately after being born, and now wants to be loved and cherished like he never was, even if it means by turning this household upside down, and even resorting to murder. However, as the film unfolds, the way Allaprandi handles the matter and the direction he takes is considerably different from the similarly-written likes of "Shock" and "The Sixth Sense", although not in the way most audience members would have desired. The thing is "A Whisper in the Dark" doesn't seem to follow the rules of Italian horror, and is somewhat more akin to British ghost stories such as "Don't Look Now" which were being made at about the same period. Nevertheless, the film is unmistakably Italian with it's gorgeous cinematography and the equally breathtaking score by Pinno Donnagio. One of the best things about this particular sort of Eurohorror is the manner which sights and sounds are crafted so beautifully, and some even might say poetically and romantically, contrasting with the horrors on the screen. Though some have been bothered by this unusual treatment of the scary genre, I think it highlights the more horrific moments by creating this gentle, delicate atmosphere from which emerge the most grotesque sights. Although "grotesque" is not a word that really applies to Allaprandi's film, the shocks are conceived out of the melancholy-ridden tone of the film, making it all the more effective. The writing team takes a "less is more" approach, and by not showing any ghostly image at all, manages create some truly frightening set pieces. Perhaps the most chilling scene is that of the kissing-game, where Camilla, eyes covered, gets kissed on the lips by Luca. Supernatural events aside, another creepy element of the film is Joseph Cotten's portrayal of the mysterious Professor. Though he doesn't have much purpose in the story other than serving as a red-herring, Cotten manages to deliver a relatively low-key, but ultimately eerie impression. John Phillip Law doesn't do much throughout, but is charismatic and charming enough not to be forgotten. Alessandro Poggi, for his young age, is also quite convincing as Martino, and unlike other films with similar plots, doesn't resort to being overly creepy as much as he is likable and cute. This may have just been intentional, as the real star of the film is Nathalie Delon as Camilla. Though bit over-the-top at first, as the film progresses we soon learn the reasons for her strange, somewhat melodramatic behavior. A sad, tormented character, Camilla has gone through a lot and the fragile state of her mind resulted by these happenings have led to a nervous breakdown. Her acceptance and consequent "expulsion" of her son Luca, is truly hearth-breaking. Those who say the ending is anti-climatic, hoping for a big pay-off that never took place did not get the point of the film at all. The film is meant to be, above everything else, about Camilla coming to terms with the death of her infant child - Luca, and whether his ghost truly exists or is merely a figment of Martino's imagination is almost completely irrelevant to the story. Through Martino's creation of an imaginary friend named Luca, it triggers the already unstable Camilla's repressed guilt over the tragic event - a guilt which was probably given weight by her overbearing mother. Near the very end, where she dreams of taking Luca away from the house, and out of their lives for good, it represents her being able to get over it and move on with her life. The following scene, which shows Camilla and Alex making love for what seems to be the first time in years, it seems as though, after getting rid of her own personal ghost, she is able to find bliss once again. At the end, she isn't worried about Luca anymore, having been able to overcome the grief, treating the whole "imaginary friend" thing as something of a joke ... or is she? Can one ever really overcome the pain caused by a loved one's passing? In this sense, the two closest film to "A Whisper in the Dark" is (almost to the point of being called plagiary) the 1944 film "Curse of the Cat People", not "Shock", to which it's often compared to (the similarities are, however, undeniable). "Curse..." is a wonderful study on a child's psyche, completed with Freudian overtones, and also dealing with themes of coming-of-age and letting go (both from the child's and the adult's stand-point). To further enhance the connection between the two, both "Curse..." and "Whisper..." opened to similar criticism, and should be better appreciated when viewed as dark dramas rather than horror films. That being said, "Whisper " has more then enough horror elements to be considered as such, and those willing to look beyond what meets the eye will find this a rewarding and subtly spooky experience. Overall, in spite of its minor shortcomings, "A Whisper in the Dark" still packs a punch to this day, and is not at all deserving of it's bad hype.
|Page 1 of 11:||          |